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A Brief Look at Saul's Conversion

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
September 19, 2022 2:00 am

A Brief Look at Saul's Conversion

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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September 19, 2022 2:00 am

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Acts 9, famous for the fact that it contains the testimony of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. I love our tradition here. I love the fact that we have a membership process that people walk through, and they get to know a discipler who takes them through that. Relationships are strengthened and built. And then they come before the congregation and render their testimony. And there's a couple of things that are going on here. One, we're under mandate from Scripture to only take into membership, only receive people into the church who have a credible profession of faith.

And the only way to be able to gauge that is through the process that we have. So their testimony is prepared, they share it with the membership committee, and then they come and share it with the congregation. And I think it builds community in our church. When you hear people's journey in grace and how they've come to Christ and how God has worked, it knits our hearts together, at least that's the sense I get, that we're more and more family through this means that God has given to us. But here's the question tonight. Is that just a beacon tradition, or is there biblical precedence for it?

Is there instruction that undergirds this process that we have? And that's why I've turned to Acts chapter 9 this evening, and in about 20 minutes... Did you hear me? In about 20 minutes, I want to show you seven observations from Acts chapter 9 and some practical help why we have, I believe, biblical precedence for what we do here. Number one, I want you to see misplaced zeal.

And what do I mean by that? Well, Saul of Tarsus was an enemy of the church. He was zealous, but his zeal was misguided. He thought he was serving God, but he was persecuting the church. He was persecuting those who were of the way, and there were those who lost their life through Paul's zeal. He had misplaced zeal. Verse 1 and 2, Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Saul was a man with misplaced zeal. But I want you to see, secondly, a resting grace.

A resting grace. As he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? Then the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

It is hard for you to kick against the goad. So he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do you want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, Arise and go to the city, and you will be told what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but saying, No one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. Then he was there three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. A resting grace.

Question. Four chapters, three chapters earlier, Ananias and Sapphira deceived the church about a piece of ground that they sold and said that they'd given all the proceeds, but they didn't. And God struck them and killed them, Ananias and Sapphira. Why didn't God kill Saul of Tarsus? Why didn't God smote him on the road to Damascus? He wasn't just persecuting believers. He was persecuting Jesus. Jesus took it personal.

Do you have an answer for my question? I have a scriptural answer to the question. God will have mercy on whom he'll have mercy, and he'll have compassion on those he'll have compassion.

It's a mystery to us. It seems that what Saul of Tarsus was doing was a hundred times worse than what Ananias and Sapphira did, but God showed a resting grace to this man. Saul recognized both his sins and the lordship of Christ. He submitted himself to the lordship of Christ, and he said what every person who has been arrested should say. Lord, what would you have me to do?

What would you have me to do? A resting grace. Number three, I want you to see suspicious thoughts, and that's with Ananias. Verse 10, because a vision came to two people, came to Saul and came to Ananias, and that vision was going to bring those together. Verse 10 says, Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias, and to him the Lord said, In a vision, Ananias, and he said, Here I am, Lord. So the Lord said to him, Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire of the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him so that he might receive his sight. And Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.

Suspicious thoughts, legitimate suspicious thoughts. Saul's reputation had gone far and wide. How far is Damascus from Jerusalem, by the way? Damascus is in Syria.

It's 135 miles away. This man's reputation has gone a long way. He was a man to be feared. He was an enemy of the church. So Ananias was legitimate in the concerns that he had. So he had these suspicious thoughts, but listen to the reassuring word in verse 15. But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel, for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake.

Those reassuring words. Now I want you to see in the fifth place, faith verified and testified to. Faith verified and testified to. Notice with me in verse 16. Continuing, repeating what I read just a minute ago, part of that vision, for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias went his way and entered the house, and laying his hands on him, he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Immediately there fell from his eye something like scales, and he received his sight at once, and he arose and was what? He was baptized. He was baptized.

And that's the biblical order. Baptism follows believing faith. Paul is baptized, faith verified and testified to.

There's a lot more I could say at that point, but let's move on, because what follows faith verified and testified to is life endangered. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Saul of Tarsus is no longer the murderous threat to the church. He is an advocate.

He is an ambassador. He is a preacher of the gospel, unashamedly so. Verse 20 through verse 25 speaks of life endangered. Immediately he, that is Saul, preached the Christ in the synagogues that he is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed and said, Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who dwell in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.

Isn't that interesting? He who was seeking to kill is now being sought and has a target on him to be killed. After many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.

But their plot became known to Saul, and they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and led him down through the wall in a large basket. Number seven, faith reexamined. Faith reexamined, verse 26. And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, again, how far is Damascus from Jerusalem?

About 135 miles. If Paul is making good pace, it's going to take him a couple of weeks to make that journey. When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples. So we could say he tried to join the church in Jerusalem.

But, it says, they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple. This man has a reputation. He's a changed man, but they haven't seen it.

They haven't heard about it. And here he's come back from Damascus to Jerusalem with a desire to join the church in Jerusalem. Now, he's been baptized up in Damascus. So, he's not going to be baptized again, but they're not just going to take him into membership at Jerusalem.

He's going to have to give a credible profession of faith, okay? Before the church in Jerusalem accepted Saul into membership, it was important for them to learn of his conversion. They wanted to hear a credible profession of faith before receiving him into membership.

So, they didn't just hear from Paul. Barnabas spoke on his behalf, verse 27. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he, that is Barnabas, declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So, he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. There are a number of parallel passages that are worth comparing with this narrative. Acts chapter 9, Paul defends himself in Acts chapter 22. He renders his testimony before King Agrippa in chapter 26. And it's interesting to read those accounts and compare. One of the interesting things is that we're told here in Acts chapter 9 that there were men that were with Paul on the road.

Did you notice that? Acts chapter 9, it says in verse 7, And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no one. They heard a voice, but they saw no one according to Luke's account here in Acts chapter 9. In Galatians, there's another place where Paul is bearing his testimony. Let's turn there very quickly. I've got an eye on the clock. I've got five more minutes.

You didn't think I could do this. Acts chapter 1, Paul is giving his testimony. Let's break in verse 15.

He says, But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went to Arabia and returned again to Damascus. And notice verse 18, Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem. So three years have gone by from the account of what takes place in Damascus until all Luke says to us in the account in Acts chapter 9 is... In verse 23, Acts 9 verse 23 says, Now after many days were past... Oh, after many days were past, like many days, like three years' worth. Interesting, isn't it? I got sidetracked.

I wanted to show you this point. The men who journeyed with him, that is, Saul, stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no one according to Acts 9 verse 7. Acts 22 says something a bit different. Acts 22 verse 9, Paul's again rendering his testimony. He says in verse 8, So I answered, Who are you, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting. And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of him who spoke to me.

You say, now wait a minute. You're saying the men who were with you did not hear the voice of him who spoke to me, to you, but Luke says they did hear. Well, what's going on there?

This is what I think is going on there. The men heard a general call, but only Saul heard an effectual call. Many hear the general call to come to Christ. The gospel is presented far and wide, but until God, through his spirit, issues an effectual call that cannot be resisted, no man will come to Christ. And that explains why Saul was converted on the road to Damascus, and there's no record of any of the men who are with him being converted on the road to Damascus.

So we need to be very, very, very thankful for the effectual call of God upon our lives. So what again did I turn to Acts chapter 9? Because I wanted you to see the words of scripture that Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle because of the resting grace of God. And after he received his sight and was called and commissioned, we're told that he was baptized. Again, chapter 9, verse 18, Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once, and he arose and was baptized.

Baptized in Damascus. But it's three years or so before he comes to Jerusalem, and when he comes to Jerusalem, they remember who this guy is. This is not Paul the Apostle, the great preacher. This is Saul, the God-hater, the persecutor of those in the way.

And it says in verse 26, And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple. Now, we believe the best about people. People render their testimony. There may have been a time or two where we've heard people render a testimony, and our conclusion was, I don't believe this person is a genuine believer.

There may have been a time or two, but very, very rarely. So we're not suspicious of people's testimony like they were suspicious of this man, right? And you understand why they were suspicious of him because they knew him, not as a believer, but they knew him as a persecutor. But my point is that faith needs to be verified.

It needs to be testified to. And the church was right in not welcoming him into the church because he was a danger to the church as an unconverted man. And again, it, I think, reinforces the biblical teaching that we receive into membership those who have a credible profession of faith. And Paul wanted to join the church in Jerusalem, and he did join the church in Jerusalem after his faith was examined and found to be genuine. So, if we're wondering, is this just a tradition that we have at Beacon, or is there biblical precedence for what we're doing?

There's many principles I think we could go to. I chose to take you to a narrative passage of scripture and show it to you through the life of the Apostle Paul, but there are countless principles in the epistles that justify our carefulness in taking people into membership. Will you bow with me in prayer? We know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin. Father, we are amazed at the work of the Spirit of God in convicting men of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. And we thank you for this examination of the life of the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, and how you saved him through your arresting grace. And as dramatic and as amazing as it is, it's no different than the salvation of any that we've heard tonight.

It's the same work of the Spirit. We thank you, Father, for the quickening power of the Spirit of God. We thank you for the miracle of regeneration. We thank you for the work of the Spirit in birthing people into the kingdom of God. Strengthen our church, our God, we pray.

Add to our number, we would ask. Thank you for those who have rendered testimony tonight. And thank you for all who are in this place and who are listening through other means. And for those of us who are in Christ, Father, cause our hearts to rejoice afresh as we've revisited a bit about what you have done in order to rescue us and what you have done to save us.

We were as hell-deserving as Saul of Tarsus was. And you, in your marvelous grace, have arrested us, have come to us and quickened us to life and made us part of your family. We thank you, our God. We worship you. We glorify you for what you've done. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 10:39:13 / 2023-01-23 10:46:42 / 7

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