May 02, 2022
The ninth chapter of Acts opens with Saul of Tarsus, on the road to Damascus, eager to kill the Lord’s followers. “As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, lord?’ Saul asked. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!’” (v.3-5) This moment changed the course of Saul’s life for eternity and as a reminder God changed his name, and so Saul became the Apostle Paul. Through Paul, God penned almost half of the New Testament, which continues to change the course of many lives.
On the road to Damascus, Saul chose to become a Christian. Jesus tells us to, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) This is the first step to Christianity; we come to Jesus, we bring all of our sinful baggage, He takes it, and He provide us with His rest. Saul did this in the beginning of chapter nine, and now he begins the next step of Christianity, which Jesus tells us is to “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:29) So, we become a Christian by coming to Christ, and then we must learn how to live as a Christian by taking Christ’s yoke upon us. If you don’t know what a yoke is, I suggest using Google so you can see one. It serves as a reminder that when we take on the yoke of Christ, we are submitting to allow Him the full leadership of our path, and the ultimate Lordship of our life.
It might appear from the first part of today’s scripture that Saul came to Christ and within that same timeframe that he was on his way to leading many to Christ. But he too was being taught how to take the yoke of Christ upon himself, and his own time and plan for his life was not the Lord’s time and plan. We see where the Jews are plotting to kill him, and even when Saul arrived in Jerusalem, and he tries to meet with believers, they are afraid of him. Barnabas had to vouch for Saul with the apostles. So, although Saul might have thought that his influence would be best served to convert the Jews because of his past and his own conversion, that was not God’s plan, He wanted Saul to be the apostle to the Gentiles and that would take time. When the apostles sent Saul home, we find in other parts of scripture where that time at home was about a seven-to-ten-year period. So, God allowed Saul time to take His yoke upon him, and Saul…or now Paul, learned the essential lesson, that without Christ he can do nothing, and so he says that “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) Paul also says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So, I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) Friends, never forget that Christ gave Himself for you and me, just like Paul.
Acts 9:18-31 (NLT)
18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul stayed with the believers 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 lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.
31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the many lessons we learn from our brother, Paul. Help us, Lord, to allow You full leadership of our path, and the ultimate Lordship of our life. May we submit to Your timing and plan for our lives. We ask this in Your Holy Name, Jesus. Amen.
Written by: Jennifer Auer, Pastor Mary Haley’s Assistant