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Saul's Conversion

Acts 9:1-19, English Standard Version

· Teaching

Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

Ephesians 1:16–19 (ESV) — 16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

Powerful prayer right?!

  • Who wrote this prayer? Paul! 
    • Paul wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and about 32% of the text
  • Do you think He believed this prayer?
  • Had Paul experienced supernatural wisdom and Revelation Himself?

This next passage shows us how Saul, also known as Paul received the spirit of wisdom and revelation directly from Jesus. In Ephesians 1:16-19 Paul is praying for the church Ephesus to receive revelation and wisdom just like he did in his own conversion experience.

Acts 9:1–19 (ESV) — 1But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

Before we move forward, let’s review our working hypothesis for the purpose of Luke’s authorship of the book of Acts.

In John Mauck’s book “Paul on Trial: The book of Acts as a defense of Christianity” He articulates the thesis that Luke is Paul’s lawyer literally writing Acts as a legal brief under Roman criminal trial procedure in 61-62 A.D. to the non-Christian Theophilus, a Roman official, probably either in the “office of a cognitionibus(investigator)”. Luke is set out to prove the legitimacy of Paul’s faith in Christ and mission from Jesus Christ Himself. As an evangelist, Luke is undoubtedly using this legal brief to simultaneously evangelize readers.

The account of Saul’s conversion gives compelling evidence that Saul’s faith in Christ was indeed supernatural and legitimate. Additionally, Saul was clearly called by Christ Himself and not on a rogue mission of his own authority.

Before we dig into the particulars of Saul’s conversion. Let’s look at Saul’s own commentary on His conversion in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians:

Galatians 1:11–17 (ESV) — 11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

This passage supports that Paul attributes his conversion to a supernatural encounter with Jesus Himself.

Saul’s Supernatural Conversion:

1)His conversion was radical

PEOPLE STILL MEET THE RESURRECTED JESUS, JUST AS GENUINELY, IF NOT AS DRAMATICALLY, AND THIS ENCOUNTER STILL RADICALLY CHANGES PEOPLE.

  • What does the account of Saul’s radical conversion rule out?
    • He didn’t wake up one morning and decide he needed to be a nicer friendlier person and chart a self-motivation program.
    • He didn’t lose a debate with some smarter pharisee thus abandoning his previous way of thinking.
    • Saul conversion was not gradual. Saul was radically committed to the persecution of Christians all the way up to the very moment he was struck down by the light from Heaven.
      • Prior to his conversion Paul, known as Saul was Raging like a madman
        • Acts 26:11 (ESV) — 11 And I (Saul) punished them (Christians) often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
        • 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1,2)
        • Saul’s role was not one of executioner but of arresting officer. His intent was to stamp out the new movement; and when it did come to a question of the execution of Christians, he did not hesitate to vote for the death penalty (cf. 26:10).
      • Saul was literally in transit to Damascus in order to arrest Christians.
      • Jesus asked Saul in the present tense. “why are you persecuting me?”. This means that the Saul was in the act of persecuting. Jesus was therefore not referring to a past life or action that happened in the past. Saul was literally on the Road to Damascus with the express purpose of persecuting Christians 
        • 4And falling to the ground, he heard a voice (Jesus) saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) 
  • Three days in Darkness
    • Apparently, his damaged eyes oozed over during the three days of waiting, and a crust formed over both eyes. Given the enormous amount of abuse he would endure over the coming years, he needed this level of encounter. It would strengthen him in the dark hours that lay ahead.
    • After a radical encounter with Jesus, Saul was blinded. These were undoubtedly days of shock and mourning. At times he may have wondered if this had been a dream, only to try to open those eyes and see, but discover he was indeed blind. No, it hadn’t been a dream. And then he must have seen the faces of those he’d beaten and watched die because they had refused to deny Jesus. His own evil must have just overwhelmed him. Yet Jesus hadn’t killed him. Instead He’d said something about serving Him. How could that be?

2) Saul’s conversion was an encounter with Jesus Himself

  1. Saul literally saw the resurrected Jesus, in His glory, and it blinded him.
  2. Saul’s conversion cannot be attributed to some other prophet or influencer. 
  3. Saul encountered Jesus Himself.
    • Acts 22:14–15 (ESV) — 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.
    • Acts 26:16 (ESV) — 16But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
    • Galatians 1:12 (ESV) — 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

3) Saul’s conversion was authenticated by witnesses.

  • Saul’s traveling companions served as authenticators that what happened to Saul was an objective event
    •  not merely a rumbling of his inner psyche.
    •  They heard a sound, but they did not see the vision of Jesus.
  • As Saul approached Damascus, Saul saw a light from heaven and heard a voice from heaven. 
    • In 9:3 the light is described as simply “a light from heaven,” 
    • while in 22:6 it is “a bright light from heaven” and in 
    • 26:13 it is “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun.”
  • Light was midday enough to blind Saul. 
  • Corroborated by his traveling companions
    • At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, (Acts 26:13)
    • The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9:7)

How long did it take for Saul to be converted?

So how long did it take to change Saul from a violent persecutor to a passionate disciple? Three days from start to finish.

1) Sure he still had a lot to learn.

- He would soon take time to travel to the deserts of Arabia to meditate in the Scriptures (Ga 1:17). He had to go back and re-read all the passages he had misinterpreted. But that’s not when he changed. This was a paradigm shift if I’ve ever seen one.

2) And no, he wasn’t mature enough to be the great missionary he would someday become.

- That would have to wait for at least another 14 years. But his heart was changed in a moment. His spirit was set free by a miracle, not a process…and that miracle still happens today.

This is why we pray today for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Paul’s conversion was a dynamic encounter through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul himself described it in Galatians 1:12 “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Paul undoubtedly encountered Jesus radically and was given the Spirit of revelation and wisdom to change his heart and actions. But Ananias, a respected Christian himself from Damascus, needed the spirit of revelation as well:

Acts 9:10–19 (ESV) — 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;

We all need the Lord to meet us with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Revelation and wisdom are not something that is not worked up from within yourself, but it is the glorious and gracious breaking in of divine wisdom and knowledge beyond our own.

I heard of a team going to minister to Harvard, one of the most influential campuses on the globe, known to be inhospitable to Christians and the biblical worldview. The Lord spoke to one of the members on the team and told him “Harvard is not too hard” This singular revelation from the Lord filled the team with boldness to minister out of confidence that Harvard though historically hostile to the gospel message is not too hard for God. They then went on to minister to a college student on the bus who as a result received Jesus right then and there, come to find out he was a student from Harvard.

So, let us therefore pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Lord! As we seek God, and remain available to Him, like Ananias, I believe we all will see more and more gracious outpouring of the spirit of wisdom and revelation in our own life and others.

Like Ananias, the Spirit of Revelation is needed in the Church today to help us think beyond our own frustrations of lack of effectiveness and trust God that He indeed is drawing people to Himself today on the earth, that He welcomes us to partner with him in.

I encourage you to pray this prayer regularly and see how God begins to respond.

Ephesians 1:16–19 (ESV) — 16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

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