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Acts Chapter Nine, A Miraculous Transformation

In our study of Acts chapter nine, we look at the miraculous transformation of a murderer into an apostle. This can help us to understand that God can use anyone and, in fact, wants to use everyone to fulfill His plan.

Acts 9:1 & 2

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the High priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Even as the gospel was spreading, there were those that wanted to keep the people from hearing the truth. Saul, who will soon become Paul, was one of those people. He was not content with driving the gospel out of Jerusalem. As we see in this passage, he even got authority to hunt Christians down in other countries (Damascus is in Syria).

Acts 9:3 & 4

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'

As Saul (Paul) was headed to Damascus to hunt down Christians, God intervened. Notice that when Jesus talked to Saul that He said "why do you persecute me?" We all, as Christians, will be persecuted but we must keep in mind that it is really God that the people are rejecting and not us. We must also trust that God takes care of His own just as He stepped in to keep Saul from harming His people in Damascus.

Acts 9:5-9

'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

The first thing we see from this passage is that, when someone persecutes you as a Christian, they are not persecuting you but Jesus. Notice in the first part of the passage, that Jesus asks Saul why he was persecuting Jesus not the individuals he was searching for. We also see that God can step in and take care of the situation. It probably gets your attention when Jesus speaks and you lose your sight. Another important thing is that some people can be right next to the working of God and see nothing. You see, the men with Saul heard a voice but saw nothing. There are many people today that are so near but yet so far from God and his working.

Acts 9:10-14

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!' 'Yes, Lord,' he answered. The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.' 'Lord,' Ananias answered, 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'

What is your answer when the Lord calls? We see, in this passage, an example of Jesus telling someone to do something and He is answered with excuses. When the Lord gives us instructions (which He still does today), we must be ready to act without excuses. Ananias answered the Lord's command with fear but we are called to trust and not fear anyone of this world.

Acts 9:15 & 16

But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their Kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'

Ananias had questioned God's selection of a servant. His protests did not sit well with the Lord. Jesus explains to Ananias that Saul/Paul was chosen by Him and that he would suffer much for sharing the good news. How many times do we, as Christians, fall into the same thing and question God's decisions. We must understand that God is sovereign and He does not have to check his decisions with us. It is not like His choices for leaders must go through a confirmation process. He says it and that has to be good enough just because of who God is.

Acts 9:17

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'

Although he was afraid, Ananias was obedient and went to the house where Saul was staying. Then, he calls the man who had been persecuting the church "brother". He explains that it is Jesus that has sent him and why he has come. Have you been in any situations where it was tough and scary to obey the Lord? If so, take comfort in the fact that God will take care of you. Remember this story of Ananias and the man that would become the apostle to those of us who were not Jews.

Acts 9:18 & 19a

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

When Ananias was obedient, God's plan was carried out. In this passage we see that the change in Saul/Paul was immediate. When he was touched by the power of Jesus, he was changed. The same pattern should be evident in our lives. When God touches your heart and you accept His grace and mercy, there should be an immediate change in your life. As we see in Saul's case, that change was then followed by an act of obedience (he was baptized). We are all called to the same immediate obedience when God touches our lives.

Acts 9:19b & 20

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

In this passage, we see another immediate change in the life of Saul/Paul. After accepting Christ, we are told here that he immediately began to preach the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. Once again, the same thing should apply to our lives. When you truly come to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will share (preach) that good news.

Acts 9:21 & 22

All those who heard him were astonished and asked, 'Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?' Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

After Saul/Paul's encounter with Jesus, his actions changed but people didn't want to believe that he was a different man. Therefore, you get the questions in this passage. The people knew what Saul had been but they couldn't explain what they were seeing now. Not only that, but now this esteemed student of the law was arguing successfully that Jesus is the Christ. Do you have old friends or relatives that see the change in you but do not want to believe it? That is basically the same thing that happened with Saul/Paul. Like him, we are all called to be that example and to speak the truth that Jesus is the Christ even if those around us do not want to believe it. We must trust God to show them and to change their hearts.

Acts 9:23-25

After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Since the Jews could not beat Saul/Paul in debating the scriptures, they decided that they must kill him to shut him up. We are told that they watched the city gates to catch him coming and going so that they could kill him. But, he learned of their plan and escaped the city. We may be asking ourselves what this has to do with us today and think that stuff like this does not happen anymore. The sad truth is that it happens even more today than it has in the past. You see many people, including well known religious leaders, have distorted the truth for profit and have much to lose by people getting back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can take comfort from this passage in the fact that God took care of his servant Saul/Paul and He will take care of us as well.

Acts 9:26

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Imagine the thoughts going through the disciples heads as Saul, the man who had so severely persecuted the church in Jerusalem, came to join in their fellowship. They judged the state of his heart by his previous actions. The same is true of the "church" today and also probably in most of us as individual believers. We, as followers of Christ, do not have the right to exclude anyone who wants to follow Jesus from the fellowship. It is God's fellowship and not ours and He knows His sheep. We must trust in Him to protect us and not lean on our own understanding or past experiences.

Acts 9:27

But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Have people noticed a major difference in your life since you came to know Jesus? This verse is a great example of what should take place when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Barnabus noticed a major change in Saul/Paul and was able to testify to the apostles of the change that he had seen.

Acts 9:28-30

So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Once again, Saul/Paul debated the Jews and they didn't like the words that God gave him. They lost the argument and so tried to kill him once again. As Christians, we can expect some of the same type of persecution. When those who try to argue with God's Word get frustrated, they lash out.

Acts 9:31

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

In this verse, we see that God gave the church a period of rest. We are told that, during this period, the church was strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The same can happen in each of us as well as in groups of "the church". We must strive to keep in mind that this time of rest had a purpose (strengthening by the Holy Spirit) and realize that it is a temporary period and not get too comfortable. It is easy to stay in a period of rest and not go back to work and that really describes most of the "church" today.

Acts 9:32-35

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 'Aeneas,' Peter said to him, 'Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.' Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

This passage gives us a great example of faith. We see Peter exhibit his faith by boldly proclaiming "Jesus Christ heals you" to Aeneas. Peter simply believed in the power of Christ and put it into action. We also see faith in Aeneas who also believed that Jesus could heal him and so he immediately got up. The passage is also a good example of what happens when people exhibit their faith in Jesus Christ. We are told that all who saw Aeneas after he was healed "turned to the Lord". Because of the faith of Peter and Aeneas, those in the area were able to see God at work. When people see God at work in His children, they turn to the Lord because they want God to work in their lives as well. We must each look around us to see if our faith is being exhibited. Just like Peter and Aeneas, if our faith is being exhibited, people will be turning to the Lord.

Acts 9:36-38

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, 'Please come at once!'

In verse 36, we see faith in action as Tabitha is described as both a disciple and one who "was always doing good and helping the poor". If you are a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ, it will be evident in your actions just as it was for Tabitha. The rest of this passage gives us an example of faith as the other disciples believed that Jesus would use Peter to bring Tabitha back to life. A question comes to mind as to whether she would want to come back to this life. The other disciples assumed that she would and sent for Peter.

Acts 9:39

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

In this passage, we see that Tabitha (Dorcas) was mourned by the widows. She was remembered for her skills at sewing. This brings us to a question that we should all ask ourselves: What will we be remembered for? Will we be remembered for material things or for eternal things and which is more important?

Acts 9:40

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, get up.' She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

In this verse, we see an example of how to tap into the power of God. We see that, before Peter told Tabitha to get up, he knelt in prayer. Peter knew that without God he could do nothing but through prayer he could even call a woman back from the dead. We, as Christians, can also wield the power of God but, like Peter, it starts with humbly bowing in prayer.

Acts 9:41 & 42

He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

We notice in this passage the reason for this healing. Because of this miracle, many people came to the Lord. When we come to Christ, our every action should be focused on this same purpose. We, like Peter, are called to be the salt and light of this world.

Acts 9:43

Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

At first glance, we may not see much to this verse but God was really working on Peter. God had Peter stay with a tanner which was a person that worked with the skins of dead animals. You see, Peter was Jewish therefore staying with a tanner would really not be something he wanted to do because Jewish law said that touching dead animals or people made you unclean. Have you been in situations where you were very uncomfortable? Did you think that maybe God had you there for a specific purpose?

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