Acts 9:1-6 NIV
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.”
Saul had no love for Christians or for Jesus, none at all. Recall in Acts 8:3 Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Now he was going to expand his area of persecution of the church to Damascus after receiving a letter of authority from the high priest. Obviously, the good news of Jesus had spread far enough that there was a sizeable number of Christians in Damascus, about 130 miles from Jerusalem.
Notice Christians were called followers of the Way, a name used five times in Acts. Likely this came from the time Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me and what He said in Matthew 11:27: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”. Those who would know the Father would follow the good news Jesus had brought with Him through His teachings, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. He would reveal His Father to His followers.
Saul’s encounter with Jesus began when suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and Saul would recognize the light as being from God as there are a number of references in the Old Testament of God as light or the light of fire. Two examples are Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? And Isaiah 2:5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. Thus it is no surprise he responded to the question Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? with Who are you, Lord? His question to the ‘Lord’ expresses a clear acknowledgement of God’s divine authority and his confusion in his need for the Lord to identify Himself because Saul believed he was doing Lord’s work. How could he possibly be persecuting the Lord? He understood perfectly as soon as he heard the reply I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Of course Saul was not persecuting Jesus directly, but through the persecution of Jesus’ bride, His church. Saul had believed Jesus a fraud and a pretender, but now He was revealed in His blinding wonder and glory and in being alive! Saul’s beliefs about Jesus and His followers had just been totally upended and destroyed. Jesus had indeed risen and had spoken to him. So without question Stephen was speaking the truth when he described in Acts 7:56 seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Reading just a bit further in this chapter we find Saul was now blind, perhaps symbolic of how spiritually blind he was when persecuting followers of Jesus. He remained blind for three days, again perhaps symbolic of the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection. On the third day Saul not only had his sight restored, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized as related to us in verses seventeen and eighteen, Then 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.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.
As a result Saul became known as Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles, taking at least 4 missionary journey’s to spread the good news of Jesus. Paul was God’s chosen vessel to spread His good news to us and for that we should be eternally grateful.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton