Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews
Acts 9:1-25 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” 7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened.
Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
In today’s text, after his conversion, Saul, who was later renamed Paul, went from being a persecutor of the church to a preacher of the gospel. Because of his training and status, which Paul refers to later in Philippians 3:4-6, where he says: If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Paul was an expert in knowledge of the scriptures, but through the Holy Spirit he gained understanding. In today’s text it says: Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. It was not only Saul’s physical sight which was restored. It was his spiritual eyes which were opened through the filling of the Holy Spirit. The scripture which Saul previously knew, he now understood. The text says: Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”
Here is the part of today’s text which stood out to me, the part I believe we can apply to our own lives. The text says: Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. If we know scripture, we can confound people with our evidence and arguments; we can prove that Jesus is the Christ. But, what Paul learned as he continued and grew in the Lord and in his calling as a preacher of the gospel, is that Jesus wants us to make disciples when we preach the gospel. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” In Mark 16:15-16 He says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” We can confound people with our knowledge and facts and they may still not believe. They may be condemned. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says: When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
We too need to know nothing more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is true that the demonstration of the power of the Spirit is vital to our testimony of Christ. Continuing in Mark 16:17-20 it says: These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. Jesus Himself, when He was here performed many miracles which verified that He was who He said He was, the Son of God. The book of Acts is filled with accounts of the Apostles and the early church performing great signs and wonders through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like Paul, we are to be those who walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. The faith of those we encounter should be in the power of God, not the wisdom of our words or anyone else’s. We cannot though conjure up the power of God. As we have seen, it cannot be purchased or earned. It is a gift from God. How then can we demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit so that the world will see and believe? In Galatians 5:16-25 Paul reveals a vital aspect of demonstrating the power of God in and through our lives. He says: I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. The greatest power, the greatest miracle of the Holy Spirit is to change the hearts of people. If we would demonstrate the power of God, we should do it first and always through the demonstration of a changed life. If we would demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit, we should begin by walking in the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. In Mark 16 it says: They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. If we too will preach everywhere, walking in the Spirit, the Lord will walk and work with us. He says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; may I be one who lives according to Your call and commission. May I preach the gospel everywhere I go, first and foremost may I always demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit by walking in the fruit of the Spirit. Then may I have confidence knowing that You will walk and work with me and through me, that others may be converted not confounded. Amen.