Acts 9The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus SUMMARY OF ACTS 9: Saul's Journey to Damascus. The Lord Meets Him on the Way. Called to Be a Witness to the Gentiles. Baptized by Ananias. Preaches Christ to the Jews in Damascus. They Seek His Death. His Escape to Jerusalem and Meeting with the Apostles. Departure to Tarsus. Peter Heals Aeneas at Lydda. Raises Dorcas at Joppa.Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter. See Ac 8:3, from which the narrative is now resumed. As the great change in the life of Saul is now recorded, it is proper to state what can be known of him before his conversion. Probably about a year before he appears in the history at the death of Stephen. He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5); his father, though a Jew, had been admitted to Roman citizenship, and Paul was therefore a "Roman" (Ac 22:26,28); he was born at Tarsus (Ac 22:3), a Grecian city, the capital of Cilicia; there he had become familiar with Grecian literature, as well as educated in the law; at what time we know not, but while still young he went to Jerusalem to study in the great Rabbinical schools, and had the celebrated Gamaliel for his teacher (Ac 22:3); he had, according to Jewish custom, learned a trade, being a tent-maker (Ac 18:3); he was a Pharisee after the strictest manner of the sect (Ac 23:6). How long he had been in Jerusalem when he appears in this history, whether he was there for the second time, or had not returned after his attendance at the school of Gamaliel, is uncertain, but when we first behold him he is a "young man" (Ac 7:58), prominent and influential, active in his opposition to the church, and a trusted leader of its enemies.Went unto the high priest. Probably Theophilus, the son of Annas, who was made high priest by the Romans in A.D. 37. He was a Sadducee. Desired of him letters. A commission and letter addressed to the rulers of synagogues. The sway of the high priest was recognized in the synagogues of all the East. He was a sort of pope with the Sanhedrin for his cardinals.To Damascus. Situated about 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem, east of Mt. Hermon, in Syria, a beautiful city in a fertile spot redeemed from the desert by the mountain streams, Abana and Pharpar. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, existed in the time of Abraham, and now has about 150,000 inhabitants.Of this way. "The Way" (Revised Version). The way of Christ, a phrase applied to Christianity. Paul's commission, while given in the name of the high priest, was from the Sanhedrin (Ac 26:10). And as he journeyed. It would require six or seven days to make the journey. It was probably made on foot.There shined around about him a light from heaven. Brighter than the sun (Ac 26:13). It was the splendor of the glorified Savior as seen at the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2 Mr 9:3 Lu 9:29), or by John at Patmos (Re 1:16). In order to get the full history of this revelation of Christ and Paul's conversion, we must compare the accounts given by Paul himself in Ac 22:3-21 26:10-20 with Luke's account here. Heard a voice. After he had fallen. Not a sound merely, but words that he could understand.Why persecutest thou me? Observe how Christ sympathizes with his persecuted followers. The blows that fall upon them, fall upon him. If Saul strikes the disciples in Damascus, Christ feels the blows in heaven. Who art thou, Lord? Sure that it was a supernatural communication, though he might possibly suspect its source, he did not yet know that it came from Christ. Perhaps at times he had had misgivings that he might be wrong, but he was sincere.I am Jesus. It is not said, "the Christ", but Jesus, the crucified one against whom Saul was raging. Had the answer been "the Christ", or the Son of God, Saul might still have doubted whether this was Jesus. [It is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Omitted here by the Revised Version, but found in Ac 26:14. The idea is that he is injuring himself, like the ox that kicks back on the goads used to urge him forward. And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, What wilt thou have me to do? The question, to which the remainder of the verse seems to be the answer, is omitted in the Revised Version and the oldest MSS.Arise, and go into the city, etc. He must enter the church just as others. The Lord had appeared to him in order that he might be qualified for apostleship by having seen Christ, but he must learn the way of the gospel from one of its preachers. Christ never told a mortal how to be saved after he gave the Great Commission to the church. And the men . . . hearing a voice, but seeing no man. They were dumb with amazement, but did not see Christ, who was only revealed to Saul. They heard the sound but the words were for Saul and only understood by him. Compare with Ac 22:9. The two passages taken together mean that they heard a sound, but no words. He saw no man. His eyes were blinded by the brightness of the Lord. He who had come with such power to Damascus had to be led helpless into the city. A certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. He is named nowhere but in connection with the conversion of Saul.To him said the Lord in a vision. As in the case of Philip sent by the angel to the eunuch (Ac 8:26), so he is sent by revelation to Saul. A revelation was needful from the fact that Saul was a terror to the church and all would avoid him. Go into the street which is called Straight. This street ran in a direct line from gate to gate, east and west, and was anciently 100 feet wide and celebrated for its magnificence. It is now contracted and mean.Enquire in the house of Judas. Nothing more is known of this Judas.Saul of Tarsus. As the name was not uncommon, he is designated by his native city, "no mean city" (Ac 21:39), a place of 30,000 inhabitants, 20,000 at present, then celebrated for its schools. It was the Cilician capital.He prayeth. An assurance that Ananias would be favorably received. Besides, in his prayer, the vision came that Ananias would come. Ananias answered. In view of the terrible record of Saul the fears of Ananias were not unreasonable. He is a chosen vessel to me. On this account the Lord appeared to him, "for this purpose to make him a minister and a 'witness'" (Ac 26:16). Unless a man is called like Saul to be an apostle he need not expect such a vision.To bear my name before the Gentiles. His mission as the apostle to the Gentiles is pointed out. See Ac 13:46.And kings. He not only bore witness before the Roman rulers, but before King Agrippa (Ac 26:1) and the emperor Nero (Ac 28:19 Php 1:13 4:22). Ananias . . . putting his hands on him. Not to convey a gift, but as a friendly act, significant of God's blessing.That thou mightest receive thy sight. His sight returned immediately after (Ac 9:18).And be filled with the Holy Ghost. There is no proof whatever that any spiritual gifts were imparted, nor that any but apostles could confer these gifts (see PNT Ac 6:8), and Paul always asserted that he received his signs of apostleship, not of men, but of Christ. See Ga 1:1,11,12. The being "filled with the Holy Spirit" took place after the baptism at the hands of Ananias. He . . . arose, and was baptized. The account is more fully given by Paul himself (Ac 22:13-16). Ananias said, "Receive thy sight, and in the same hour I looked upon him" (Ac 22:13). Then, after saying why the Lord had called him, he added: "Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Ac 22:16). Note (1) that "tarrying" for weeks or months before baptism was then unknown; (2) that there would be no necessity of "arising", if water was applied in baptism, but there would be if he had to go to a place suitable for immersion; (3) that the term "wash" (Greek, "apolouo", "bathe") implies more than a sprinkling or pouring; (4) that neither Ananias nor Paul (Ac 22:16) understood that his sins were remitted before baptism. Compare Ac 2:38 and Ac 22:16. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples. In worship and intercourse with them. He must learn more experimentally of the church before preaching. Straightway. Following this he began to preachChrist in the synagogues. "Jesus" in the Revised Version. He preached that the Crucified Jesus is the Son of God. All that heard [him] were amazed. They had heard of his former zeal against the church and of his being sent to Damascus but as yet had not learned of his conversion. Saul increased the more in strength. Grew continually in power to preach Christ. After that many days were fulfilled. A long period, probably at least three years. Luke's narrative is very condensed. He is not writing a history of Saul, but of the founding of the church. We learn from Paul that he spent at this time a long period in Arabia, and after this returned to Damascus (Ga 1:16-18). It was at his return that this persecution broke out.The Jews took counsel to kill him. For additional information, see 2Co 11:32. At this time Damascus was in the temporary possession of Aretas, an Arabian potentate. Less scrupulous than the Roman rulers, he was willing to please Saul's Jewish enemies, who were numerous and influential, by putting him to death. They watched the gates. "The governor, under Aretas the king, kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me" (2Co 11:32). Let [him] down by the wall. As the gates were guarded, there was no escape that way. Houses built against or on the wall, would afford an opportunity of letting him down on the outside. "And through a window, in a basket, was I let down by the wall and escaped his hands" (2Co 11:33). And when Saul was come to Jerusalem. Three years had passed since he left the city, a proud, talented young Pharisee, with brilliant worldly prospects, the honored agent of the Sanhedrin, commissioned to stamp out Christianity at Damascus. He now returns a disciple of him whom he sought to destroy, his bright worldly prospects all forfeited, an outcast from his own nation, persecuted and hated. Why this change? No explanation is possible, save that given in this history and by himself.They were all afraid of him. Little was known in the church of the change. A great part of the three years were spent in Arabia, probably in study and preparation of his great work. They had known so much of his fury in the past that they feared him still. His appearance in the church would be much like that of Robert G. Ingersoll, "the great agnostic", in a Christian convention. Barnabas took him. Barnabas was a Hellenist (Ac 4:36), like Saul. When he vouched for him to the apostles, their distrust ended. Paul gives an account of this visit to the apostles in Ga 1:18. He . . . disputed against the Grecians. The Jews in Jerusalem who had been born in foreign countries and spoke the Greek language.See PNT Ac 6:1. They brought him down to Caesarea. The same class of Jews who had raised the persecution against Stephen now sought the death of Saul. By the aid of the brethren he was taken to the seaport of Caesarea and sailed for his old home at Tarsus. Some think, however, from Ga 1:21, that the journey was made by land through Syria. It is more likely that he sailed from Caesarea to Seleucia in Syria, and from thence made his way to Tarsus.Sent him forth to Tarsus. Four or five years pass before the next mention of Saul in Ac 12:25, an interval passed in preaching Christ (Ga 1:22,23), and resulting in the planting of churches in Cilicia (Ac 15:23,41). Then had the churches rest. After the departure of Saul there was a cessation of persecution for several years. The reason is found in the history of the times. The Roman emperor, Caligula, had ordered his statute to be placed in the temple at Jerusalem for worship, a desecration of the temple, and the Jews were too much engaged in their efforts to prevent this to persecute the church.Edified. Built up.Were multiplied. The result, always, of "walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit". As Peter passed throughout all [quarters]. Visiting the churches of Judea.At Lydda. A town in the seacoast plain, now called Ludd, not far from Joppa. Here he healed a cripple of eight years. Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Observe that he ascribes the power to Christ. All that dwelt at Lydda and Saron. In the plain of Sharon, a term often applied to the seacoast plain between Joppa and Caesarea. See So 2:1.And turned to the Lord. The passage means, not that every soul turned, but that there was a general turning as the result of the miracle. There was at Joppa. The seaport of Jerusalem from the times of David (2Ch 2:16) to the present day, situated in a fertile plain now celebrated for its fine oranges, of which vast quantities are shipped from the port. Here named as the home ofTabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek (meaning "gazelle"), a saintly Christian noted for her deeds of love. Washed . . . laid her in an upper chamber. Prepared for burial. The place was the large upper room on the upper floor of Eastern houses, usually used as a guest chamber. They sent unto him two men. The fame of his miracles was so well known that they probably hoped that he might restore her to life. The widows stood by him weeping. They had been the objects of her benevolence. Peter put them all forth. Compare 1Ki 17:19-23 2Ki 4:32-36 Mt 9:25. Perhaps that his whole soul might be fixed on the Lord in prayer.And kneeled down and prayed. It was on his knees that he was made to feel that the Lord had given him power. In his prayer he called on the name of Christ, was answered, and only needed to say, "Tabitha, arise", and "she opened her eyes". It was the first miracle in which death was overcome at the hands of an apostle. Many believed in the Lord. The knowledge of the miracle worked this result. Tarried many days. Perhaps a year.In Joppa with one Simon the tanner. Joppa was a large city and a favorable field of work. Here Peter was found, at "the house of Simon the tanner" (Ac 10:6) when called to Caesarea by the messengers of Cornelius. It was by the seaside (Ac 10:32) and a house is still pointed out, close to the seashore, as that of Simon, which Dean Stanley believes to be on the original site.
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