He also knew that men do not face such things for fiction.
The conviction that Steven had was built on truth. And he could not get past all of these things. This is an intelligent man, a man that is used to thinking things through. He's not only a man of action, he's a man of meditation, contemplation.
He's such a good student. Among the Pharisees. And yet here he is, infuriated. He turns to violence.
We are going to consider a fantastic conversion. The title of this message is Brother Saul, verses 9 through 18, if you have your Bibles. The book of Acts, chapter 9. 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. 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 goads. So he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do you want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, Arise, go into the city and you will be told what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing 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.
And he was there three days without sight and neither ate nor drank. 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 at 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. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many from many about this man. How much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name. 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. 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 to you that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales and he received his sight at once and he arose and was baptized. Well, we're out of time now. Let's close in prayer. We are at this point about four or five years after Jesus has ascended to heaven. We look now at verse one yet again. Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest. Then Saul still, yep, still gnawed on by the things that Stephen said, the sermon that Stephen preached. Luke emphasizes this still, then Saul still breathing threats and murder. He's joining that attitude that Saul has at this moment with the preaching of Stephen, that sermon that set all this into motion, that sparked the persecution of the saints, which was very brutal. You can skim past it if you're careful, not comprehending what you're reading, but these were tough times for those first Christians, all because of this man, Saul. And he was so enraged by what he heard that he set out to destroy Christianity. Stephen's sermon completely just unraveled the theology of this man. He could not answer the charges that Stephen made, not just according to reason, according to truth. He could not legitimately say, oh, yeah, well, this is why.
And still ricocheting in his mind are the points that were made. It's not unlike today when we preach the gospel to someone and they are under conviction and they do not want to submit to that conviction, they can become enraged. They have no defense. There's nothing they can say.
So they take to what they can do. Saul heard every word in Stephen's message to Israel. Not only did he hear it, he felt it. He felt that sermon. And to add to that, there was the blood of Stephen that he could not get out of his mind. It's probably you would think that they didn't see many people stoned to death.
It's a violent, a brutal, gruesome experience. I would imagine having not ever witnessed firsthand such an event, but he did and it had to have impacted how he felt and how he thought. And he also knew that men do not face such things for fiction.
The conviction that Stephen had was built on truth and he could not get past all of these things. This is an intelligent man, a man that is used to thinking things through. He's not only a man of action, he's a man of meditation, contemplation.
He's such a good student. He rose in the ranks among the Pharisees and yet here he is infuriated. He turns to violence. Luke says, breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord went to the high priest. This is utter hatred for Christians, no less. Satan really did not need to stir Saul. Saul had enough religious hatred within him that he could move forward without the devil.
That does not mean the devil was not playing his role. Later, Paul would say, giving his testimony about this experience on this road to Damascus in Acts 26, he says, I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. So he remembers that hatred, that venom. When he spit, it was venom.
It's how unraveled he was, unhinged we could even say. I punished them often in the synagogues because that's where the Christians were going. They were going to the synagogue saying the Christ Jesus of Nazareth is our Messiah.
And he says, I'm going to put an end to this. Many Jews were coming to Christ. This makes me mindful of Revelation 12, Satan's hatred for the Jews and for the church. Revelation 12, 17. And the dragon was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. So the hatred for Christians is real. In fact, Satan not only hates Christians, he hates humans.
Add to that the Christians who are trying to get the other humans to believe in Jesus Christ so that they would not face a judgment and perish in their sin. Just to recap what was happening in this man's life. He made havoc of the church as we will read in verse 3. He beat the saints according to his testimony in chapter 22. He compelled them to blaspheme, chapter 26, and it's just an overview.
People were really experiencing these things. He persecuted the church according to 1 Corinthians 15. He persecuted beyond measure to destroy it according to Galatians 1. And then he says, I was an ignorant blasphemer according to 1 Timothy chapter 1. Jacob, the patriarch, one of the patriarchs of Israel, when he is prophesying and commenting on his sons and their future, he gets to the tribe of Benjamin from which Saul was. Saul was a Benjamin. And he says, Benjamin is a ravenous wolf. We see it carried out. Not to say that Saul is completing that prophecy, but you cannot dismiss it.
In verse 2, it tells us that he asked letters from him, that is the high priest, 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. So the Christians are still, again, going to the synagogues and really the identity is being developed. As Christians, they're just not yet fully where they're going to be.
It's this transition period. And they don't want to be known as a sect of Judaism. We talked about the close call Christianity had in Acts chapter 6 where the word was almost made secondary to community needs.
Something that is practiced in many places. Then when we get later on, we come to Paul in Antioch and he has to stand up against Peter and Barnabas. Christianity almost died right there because it would have been known as a sect of Judaism. And Paul says, no way.
I didn't give them, not for one hour did I yield to this. Christianity is the development of Judaism. Development of the Old Testament, that is. Judaism is not always in line with what God says.
The Old Testament is. So here he now, in verse 2, he has warrants for their arrests. Rome is going to look the other way. Rome has control, authority over Damascus and Jerusalem, Syria, all that region.
But long as they're not being challenged, they'll look the other way and let the Jews work this out. And this city, said to be the oldest continuously populated city in human history to this day, Damascus, there were trade routes that would come through this city. The Jews, when they were in captivity, they learned business and they learned it well. And when they were free to go back to Jerusalem, many stayed in Babylon and others dispersed throughout the Gentile world and set up shops, set up businesses, established synagogues and communities and lived there.
Well, there's a large one here in Damascus and Saul knows that and he's targeting those synagogues so that he can flush the Christians out. Here, Christianity is referred to the way. Well, it goes back to Christ saying, I am the way, the truth and the life. It will come up again, but later the title Christian will eclipse the phrase, the way.
In verse 3, not that it's wrong, verse 3, and he journeyed, he came near Damascus and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Remember, he's still seething. He is boiling the hatred. He can't wait to get there. One commentator said, this is noon day incidentally, we were told that by Paul later on.
One commentator said, it doesn't even stop for the noon siesta. He is just in such a hurry. He's traveling 140 miles from Jerusalem, linear miles from Jerusalem to Damascus.
He can't wait to get there. When Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, he says, brethren, again, he wasn't a brethren at this moment, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Remember, he said he was an ignorant blasphemer.
There's a man that knows what he's talking about. He says, for they being ignorant of God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Christ is the end of Judaism. Whatever people we meet in the scripture, whatever they're dealing with, the same is happening somewhere in our lifetime. There are those that have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
And that is where we're supposed to come in. And this is why Bible study is supposed to mean something. At some point, Bible study has to meet the road. There must be this transition from this experience in your study and devotional time to actually facing the temptations and the lost souls. Now when I say we face the temptations, I don't mean the singing group.
All right, let's come back to this where it's safe. And suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Now again, chapter 22 and 26, Paul says it's about noonday. This is the glory of God. This is a theophany. It is an appearance of God in a created item.
In this case, it is light. Remember the Jews were led in the wilderness by a cloud in the day and fire by night. This is the light that shone on him, blinding him. He'll tell us that later.
I might quote it as we move on. But 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul says, who alone, the king of kings, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light. When God wants to turn it on, no one can endure it.
It's too powerful. He told the prophet Elijah and he told Moses, you can't look at me and hide you in the cleft of the rock. Hebrews chapter 1 verse 3, speaking of Christ, and I believe Paul writing this, who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of majesty on high, where he deserved to be. You know, you can't call anyone Lord but Christ and not enter into blasphemy.
You cannot say the Lord Peter, the Lord Michael. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is distinct, it is exclusive, and it speaks of his deity, that he is God the Son. When Jesus prayed in John 17, which is truly the Lord's prayer, because it is him praying, whereas in Matthew 6, when he says, you know, our Father who art in heaven, really the disciples prayed. He's telling them how to pray. But back to John 17, Jesus said, and now, oh Father, glorify me together with yourself.
Who can say that? Who can say to God, put me on the level with you, glorify me with you? This is things that the Jehovah Witnesses don't want to even know about.
All the Mormons, they're the two leading proponents of rejecting who Jesus is. He continues in John 17, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. He came forth from the Father. And this is that light, that is a signature move of God to come with this light into the presence of humans. Light is the one thing that cannot be soiled.
You can't dirty light. Verse 4, Then he fell on the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? So he's intercepted, didn't see this coming. When he got up that morning, he did not.
There was no clue in his mind what his day had in store for him and his future. His conversion is a picture of how the nation of Israel will be saved when Jesus returns. It's a little picture of that. But he says, the Lord does, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
Twice repeated, it's common. Abraham, Abraham, Moses, Moses, Samuel, Samuel, Martha, Martha, Simon, Simon. When the Lord wants to emphasize something, he knows how to do it. When the Lord wants to talk to you or me, he knows how to do that. But he does not say, why are you persecuting them? He says, why are you persecuting me?
This is personal. You touch, you touch the people of Christ, you're touching Christ, whether it is for love or whether you are being hostile. In this very instant, Saul learned that to touch Christ was to touch believers. Matthew 25, Jesus said, I say to you, and as much as you did it to the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me, whether it is good or bad. If you are messing with God's people or if you are blessing God's people, you are doing it to Christ. And it's interesting that you look at the Old Testament and God most often referred to the Jews as my people. But here to the church, he refers to them as me.
Pretty insightful. Of course, the church is Jew, Gentile. There's no distinction. They're one. They're Christians. They're no longer Jews. They're no longer Gentiles. They're Christians now.
And we come back to that. And that's what the whole letter to the Hebrews is all about. You're now Christians. You're not supposed to be engaging in those things that have been made obsolete because Christ has fulfilled them.
Think not how they came to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. In the same way that an oak tree makes an acorn obsolete, it outgrows it. It becomes something else, but not without that acorn. I like when I pull up acorns in the spring, you pull them, there's still saplings, and the acorn is still attached to the sprout. And it always reminds me of what Jesus has done and what he said, think not that I've come to destroy, but to fulfill.
And that acorn has fulfilled its role in bringing life into the world. Verse 5, 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 goads. Instant conversion. Who are you, Lord? At that point, he is saved. What Jesus could not get from Judas in three years, he gets from Saul in three seconds.
It's instant. Others before Saul had spectacular encounters with God, even more so than this, and still died in unbelief. Cain, Balaam, Pharaoh of Egypt, Korah, who rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron, and Judas Iscariot. But Saul's not wasting this.
He's going to take it all. How many people go to church and waste it? I mean a good church. They go to a bad church and not waste any of that. But go to a good church and waste it. Don't even know when they're getting good pastoral care, good Bible studies, but they don't even recognize when the people are genuinely loving towards them.
They have opportunities to serve. It goes right over their heads. It's unfortunate. I don't have an antidote for it, except to press forward and let the Lord sort it out. Then the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. He asked, who are you, Lord? He's submitted completely to whoever this is engaging him and he wants to know. The Christian has to live their life asking Christ, who are you, more and more.
Whatever we learn about him, there's more to learn about him, and that appetite should never go away. So he repeats this. Jesus does. I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
He's repeating this from verse 4 for clarification. It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Goads is plural here. It has been poking him, poking.
You know, Shamgar, the judge, defeated, you know, the enemies of God's people with an ox goad. It's a stick with a point on it. Little variations, but essentially you just poke the ox, and there's not much the ox can do about it. He can kick all he wants. That sticks long enough.
He's going to get poked into submission. Today we use electronic cattle. Well, I don't.
When I say we, people use electronic cattle prods. They hurt. I know that.
I've had a little one zap me when I was a kid, but my mom thought I was a goat or something. Anyway, it is hard for you to kick against the goads. You can't escape the truth.
You know that everything Stephen said is right. You can't get away. This gives the authority. While he is still seething, still wreaking havoc on the church, why is he still at it? It's because the goads, the truth, why fight it so? You can't escape it. He's in a bear hug.
The truth is God, I'm in a bear hug. Ecclesiastes 12, verse 11. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails given by one shepherd.
They're driven in, and they're driven in with care. The shepherd speaks of care. It's not malicious, and Stephen's sermon was not malicious. Which of the prophets did you not kill? I mean, it's nothing malicious.
It's a fact. Verse 6, so he, and I love this part, he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do you want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. He's trembling. He's astonished. He's telling Luke, Luke wasn't there for this. He says, I was shaking like a leaf.
And Luke wrote that down. That's part of this experience. That is the impact Christ had on this man who was boiling over with hatred. And in an instant, it is all redirected. The hatred is flushed, and everything moves into a different zone in his thinking, in his life.
This was fantastic truth and love, like an avalanche on top of it. It couldn't process. It just happens. 1 Corinthians, he says, Am I not an apostle? Am I not free?
Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston, of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit crossreferenceradio.com. That's crossreferenceradio.com. We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at crossreferenceradio.com or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-07 15:38:36 / 2022-12-07 15:47:54 / 9