Intro: Christianity has been advanced by many great men and women faithfully practicing the gospel of Christ with their lives. Truthfully, no one apart from Christ, has been more influential in the spread of the gospel than Saul (later known as the apostle Paul). After the stoning of Stephen, Saul—a religious scholar and Pharisee—went into a frenzied hunt for Christians in order to stop the spread of the gospel; hating and persecuting Christians was his method of practice and control. At that time, he believed the movement of Christ’s gospel would be dangerous to Judaism. But, one day Saul had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and his life was forever changed. Spiritual blindness left him and he could see how God loved the world and gave his life in order to save sinful humanity from eternity in hell.
Interestingly, from that moment on God used Saul to minister the gospel to non-Jews. Hatred for Christians once filled Saul, but after meeting Jesus, love and mercy led him to become an apostle to the Gentiles [non-Jews]; Christ brought new life to Saul which prompted a great reversal in how he practiced his faith. The greatest testimony he could release was how Jesus had changed him into a new person with a divine perspective. No manmade religion can change a heart, but a relationship with Jesus can fill a person with love and mercy for others, redirect unrighteous motives, and lead a believer into being a minister of the gospel. Once we meet Jesus, he begins to influence and deliver us from everything within us that is not consistent with his loving nature. He makes our hearts his home; that is when he begins to clean house! Obedience is a must with Jesus. Unrighteous and unloving behaviors or practice have to go…
In our passage today, Saul is that changed man; he preaches powerfully about God’s salvation found in Jesus. Now, the Jewish Pharisees are filled with hatred for Saul; he left their cause to follow Jesus. Therefore, they plot to kill him because he no longer agrees with them or their message; Christ’s gospel message offends them, because they are blinded to their own sin. Therefore, Jesus uses fellow believers to make a way for Saul to safely escape the Pharisee’s plan to murder him. Never forget, we can be so blinded by our own desires, agendas, and need for control that we will justify most any measures and even hate the people we are called to love. If there is any animosity in our souls—mind/will/emotions—against another person today, may we ask Jesus to sanctify our hearts, because holding onto unrighteousness will destroy us from the inside and separate us from the love of Christ.
Acts 9:19b-25 NLT Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul stayed with the believers [disciples] in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”
22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. 24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers [disciples] lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the many ways you bring the gospel message to our hearts. May we choose to obey your Word and live our lives in a way that honors your authority. Thank you for saving your children from deception and spiritual blindness. Continue to guide me each day on your path of righteousness and eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.