Study No. 9 The Chief of Sinners Chapter 9:1-31
When Stephen was answering the charges brought against him (ch. 7) and was experiencing the extreme hostility of the mob, Luke mentions a young man by the name of Saul standing by (7:58). Luke goes on to tell us that Saul was ‘consenting’ (KJV) or ‘giving approval’ (NIV).
We are told that a great persecution broke out upon the Jerusalem church as a result of Stephen’s death. Apparently his challenging defense to the Jewish Elders lit a fire that would continue to burn for a long time.
Saul was a leader in this persecution. Some questions: Why was he merely standing there, watching while others threw the stones? Why does Luke say he was ‘consenting’ to the action of the mob? And finally, why is he able to be the ring leader of the persecution directed against the church?
Saul, in our chapter today, becomes a believer in Jesus Christ. Amazing! And because of his conversion we have a record of things he said about himself that allows us to learn a bit about who he is and where he came from.
He said, in Acts 22:3 ¶ "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
And in Acts 22:27 The commander went to Paul (Saul) and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am," he answered
A Jew and a Roman citizen. Saul says that he was free born. This means either he was a half Jew … his Father being a Roman or … Saul’s father, a Jew, received Roman citizenship (we don’t know how) and thus Saul would be born a Roman citizen.
You will notice the verse above referred to him as Paul. We will read about his name change later in Acts.
We learn a bit more about Saul-Paul in Philippians 3:4 ¶ though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Now it’s time to read about his conversion to Christ. (9:1-9)
Jerusalem Christians (believers, actually … they are not called Christians for another couple of chapters) scattered everywhere. Some as far as Damascus. Saul travels to Damascus, authorized to arrest all believers.
God (Jesus) speaks,
- first to Saul and then to a man named Ananias
The Call of God – v4
- God speaks to Ananias
God works all things together. Paul later would give us this verse: Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
A disciple named Ananias – (v10)
This is all we know about him. He probably lived here in Damascus. He is a new believer in Christ (everyone was at that time) but probably was a long-time believer in God. Whether he EVER had an experience and privilege of hearing God’s voice prior to this, is very unlikely.
God talks to him about Saul
Saul is called a chosen vessel – (15) σκευος can mean a container. Often means equipment and tools i.e. sails and ropes on a boat. Paul is a piece of God’s equipment. Each one of us is also a ‘tool’ in the master’s hand. In our cases the purpose for which we are chosen may be far less spectacular, but .. God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 1Co 12:18
Ananias Calls him brother’.
Lays hands on Saul – This is the first recorded incident of a non-apostle laying hands on anyone. Ananias adds … “and be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the earlier chapter the responders to Philip’s message were said to have ‘received’ the spirit. In the case before us it clearly says that Saul would be filled with the Spirit. So, there are three words with reference to the Spirit and believers.
Baptized, received, and filled.
Baptized clearly is the word surrounding the happening at Pentecost. It is a descriptive word. Baptism means a complete immersing. According to 1 Corinthians, we were completely immersed ‘into Christ’ and another way of saying it … we were completely ‘indwelled’ by Christ. Terms like, ‘… Christ in you, your hope of glory’. Col 1:27
Because Christ is ‘in’ us, we know we are His. We know we will be raised from the grave in glorified bodies.
So ‘the baptism’ is completed action … placing us in the body and placing Christ in our hearts. Scriptures that use the term ‘received’ the Holy Spirit are another way of saying ‘baptized’. The baptism or receiving of the Spirit have nothing to do with the ongoing power that we need from day to day. This we get through the filling(s). This is more like ‘fuel in a gas tank’.
Ananias says something about the Holy Spirit. v17
Saul’s sight is restored v18 - (Acts 22:11, 2 Corinthians 12:1-7)
Saul is baptized in water.
Saul IMMEDIATELY begins to preach. 9:20
In the synagogues of Damascus
He is growing ‘in grace’. (22) 2Pe 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our
Lord Jesus Christ. To Him [be] the glory both now and forever. Amen.
… “Now after many days …” v23.
Here we need to go elsewhere and insert some events that Luke does not record. Galatians 1:9-24
Three years in Arabia, then the return to Damascus where an attempt is made on his life. (23) We are not told how Saul became aware of the plot. The believers help him escape. It interesting to make note of who ‘escaped’ in the book of Acts .. and who did not.
Stephen did not escape.
James did not escape.
Peter did escape.
Saul did escape.
Preaching in Jerusalem 26-29
Barnabus (of Cyprus) is mentioned for the second time (First mention is 4:36).
Wise counsel v30. Go home. – Galatians 1:21
Churches edified during a time of rest.
While the intense persecution was going on, new churches continued to spring up everywhere. Church growth is not stopped by persecution. But now we read that the churches are edified. These two elements (growth and edification) make for a ‘healthy body’ of Christ.
- Extra Study -
Read the account of Peter and Dorcus 9:36 – 42.
Compare it with Mark 5: 23 and 35-43
Think about the method Peter used. Why did he do what he did? Why would the men seek him out to begin with? Has Peter ever done this kind of thing before?
 Acts 1:5 "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Ac 11:16 "Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
 1Co 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--
 Eph 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
Ga 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.