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Friday, March 15, 2013

Why Do You Persecute Me?


Acts 9:1-19 NIV

Saul’s Conversion

1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your holy people in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15But the Lord said to Ananias, 
“Go! This man is My chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.”

17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said,
“Brother Saul, the Lord - Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.


Summary

The historian Luke, having given an account of the dispersion of all the preachers of the Gospel at Jerusalem, except the apostles, and of their success in other parts, especially of Philip's, returns to the history of Saul. The great change in the life of Saul is now recorded.

It is proper to state what can be known of him before his conversion. Probably about a year before he appears in the history at the death of Stephen. He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5); his father, though a Jew, had been admitted to Roman citizenship, and Paul was therefore a Roman (Acts 22:26,28).  He was born at Tarsus (Acts 22:3), a Greek city, the capital of Cilicia. 

There he had become familiar with Grecian literature, as well as educated in the law; at what time we know not, but while still young he went to Jerusalem to study in the great Rabbinical schools, and had the celebrated Gamaliel for his teacher (Acts 22:3).  He had, according to Jewish custom, learned a trade, being a tent-maker (Acts 18:3); he was a Pharisee after the strictest manner of the sect (Acts 23:6). How long he had been in Jerusalem when he appears in this history, whether he was there for the second time, or had not returned after his attendance at the school of Gamaliel, is uncertain.

He was a young man (Acts 7:58), prominent and influential, active in his opposition to the church, and a trusted leader of its persecutors when they dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him and they laid their coats at the feet of Saul.  Yet he was not fully satisfied with the murder of Stephen, and with the havoc he made of the church at Jerusalem, dragging them out of their houses to prison, continued not only to threaten them with confiscation of goods and imprisonment, but with death itself.

The phrase here used is an Hebraism; so in Psalm 27:12 , "one that breathes out violence", or cruelty, and this shows the inward disposition of his mind, the rage, wrath, malice, envy, and blood thirstiness he was full of,  and is observed to illustrate the riches of Divine Grace in his conversion.

And wonderful it is, that that same mouth which breathed out destruction and death to the followers of Christ, should afterwards publish and proclaim the Gospel of the Grace of God; that he whose mouth was full of cursing and bitterness, should hereafter, and so very quickly, come forth in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. And this rage of his, who now ravened as a wolf, as was foretold of Benjamin, of which tribe he was, was against the lambs of Christ, and the sheep of his fold, against the disciples of the Lord; not against wicked men, murderers, and thieves, and other evildoers, but against the harmless and innocent followers of Jesus.

And he went to the high priest; Annas or Caiaphas, who, notwithstanding the Jews were under the Roman government, had great authority to punish persons with stripes and death itself.

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