Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Acts#8: When Lightning Strikes To hear this message and others download our free App in the App Store: Search The Gathering Connect.
THE WAY Acts 9:1-2, Philippians 3:4-6, Proverbs 14:12 We look today at a proud man who is on his way to persecute those who belong to The Way (Christians). Saul, a religious Jew of the highest order. A teacher of the law, a Pharisee. Of himself he said that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and as far as practicing the Jewish law—he was “faultless”! (Philippians 3:4-6). He would come to realize the loss of these things as he followed Christ (vs. 7).
The Bible tells us that there is a way that seems right to a man but it ends in death (Proverbs 14:12). God has the true way, but we must ask for directions…better yet, move over and let Him drive! Jesus said He is the Way but sometimes we mistakenly think that our way is better. We should not think so highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3).
The Way. The terms “Christians/ Christianity” had not yet become common (Acts 11:26). Believers were known as “the Way”. Followers were called “disciples” (Acts 19:23,30). Jesus himself provided “The Way” as a name for his church and his faith. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
What are you doing your way today? Are you fixed on a course that you have devised on your own without seeking direction from God? Are you moving forward on pride?
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
Saul might as well have been riding into a lightning storm with a metal helmet on his head. We do the same thing when we go our own way without the direction of Jesus. Paul had letters of authority from the high priest in Jerusalem and also likely from Rome (although unmentioned) because he was out of his jurisdiction. Roman authorities would have been eager for a Jew to round up “trouble making” disciples of The Way and take them back to Jerusalem to be killed or persecuted.
THE TRUTH Acts 9:3-19, Matthew 23:15, 24-28 Sometimes the truth hits hard, like a bolt of lightning, and knocks you flat. Some call this “a moment of crisis”, “the end of ones self”, or a “reality check”. For Saul it was “the moment of truth!” Yet God showed mercy towards Saul because if He had given this “Christian killer” what he deserved that bolt of light would have killed him! It was an interesting thing that God did in blinding Saul. For on many occasions Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:24). Jesus rebuked Pharisees more than any sinner He came in contact with. This was because they led people in a lie with God’s name attached to it. They misrepresented God. A warning for we who may do the same.
In direct contrast to Saul’s “own brand of truth” was Ananias’ (not the one who died in chapter 5) following God’s truth even when it was difficult to comprehend (Proverbs 3:5-6). Ananias didn’t want to take Saul in, let alone pray over him. Saul was a well known persecutor of Christians, but Ananias couldn’t deny the direction that God was giving him. He did as “the Truth” dictated. As a result he witnessed the miracle of Saul’s new birth!
Speaking of the “truth” I must address the issue that some raise regarding the three differing accounts of Saul’s conversion found in Acts (Acts 9:1-19, Acts 22:3-21, Acts 26:12-18). Upon close inspection all accounts are in fact true and when put together they give the full story without contradiction. The full story says: Saul and his companions were on the way to Damascus to make disciples of The Way prisoners and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished. Near Damascus at about noon a bright light flashed around them and they were all knocked to the ground. Saul’s companions got up and stood speechless while Saul remained on the ground. A voice sounded but only Saul understood it (Acts 22:9), because He spoke in Aramaic (Acts 26:14). The voice identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus told Saul to “Get up and go into Damascus” and wait for further instructions. Saul’s companions led him to the house of one named Judas on Straight Street (Acts 9:11) because he had become blind. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything and then a man named Ananias laid hands on Paul and he received his sight and was converted and baptized.
THE LIFE Acts 9:20-22, Romans 10:14-15, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Saul became a “new creation in Christ”, not because God magically zapped him into submission, but because Saul was persuaded to change through events that caused him to take a hard look at himself. God brought those events into Saul’s life, but Saul repented and was baptized. (Which is the act of turning away from sin, asking forgiveness and walking in a new direction with a new purpose (Romans 6:3-4). Saul was preached the gospel by Ananias (Romans 10:14) and “born again” into a new life in Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
As people we can be self-centered and walk our own way. We can develop our own sense of right and wrong. In our selfishness we are a detriment to our families and everyone else we come in contact with; however, this is not the life that God intended for us. Jesus said He is life (John 14:6), but that life is not possible without following His way and truth. Are you born again! (John 3:3)
PERSISTENCE Acts 9:22-31, Galatians 1:17-19, 2:1-9, Philippians 3:14 Saul the Pharisee was now a disciple of Jesus and followed “The Way”. Saul the persecutor was now the persecuted. After escaping from Damascus in a basket Saul would experience a long waiting period for acceptance among the Apostles and disciples. Between verses 25 and 26 of Acts 9 there is a period of three years, not mentioned here in Acts, but found in Galatians. Saul spent some of this time alone in Arabia being taught by “revelation from Jesus Christ”, then returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:17). After this three years Saul went to meet Cephas (Peter) for fifteen days and met also with James (Galatians 1:18-19). It is likely at this time that Saul “tried to join the disciples but was rejected. In their opinion he had not been a believer long enough to be trusted. Between verse 26 and 27 of Acts 9 passes another eleven years , “then after 14 years” Barnabas brought Saul before the Apostles where he was finally accepted and given the “right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:1,9). Here we learn that God forgives, trains and even uses us in ministry but there are always consequences to our sin. Saul “presses on” with persistence and so should we. Philippians 3:13-14, 17
Saul later took the name Paul (Acts 13:9). Saul of Tarsus, a Benjaminite (Philippians 3:4-5), was named after another Benjaminite—the first king of Israel (1Sam 9:15-17). He wore that name with pride. The name “Paul” comes from the Latin for “little. ” This name change reveals his humility. Paul realized the error of his ways and lived the rest of his life as a servant of Christ. May we all do the same.