Acts 9



1  “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of

the Lord, went unto the high priest,” But for and, Authorized Version; breathing for

breathing out, Authorized Version; threatening for threatenings, Authorized Version.

Threatening and slaughter. The phrase ἐμπνέων ἀπειλῆςemponeon apeilaes

breathing out threat - is rather a difficult one, and is variously explained. Schleusner

takes the genitives in “threatening and slaughter” as genitives of the thing desired,

“panting after threatening and slaughter” (compare Amos 2:7). Meyer explains it

“out of the threatenings and murder [in his heart] breathing hard at the disciples” —

an expression indicating passion. Alford, taking nearly the sense of the Authorized

Version, makes threatenings and slaughter” to be as it were the very material of his

breath, whether breathed out or breathed in. Considering that ἐμπνέωνemponeon -  

means “to breathe in,” as distinguished from ἐκπνέωekpneo - to breathe out, and

that these two are opposed to each other in Hippocrates, the Authorized Version

breathing out cannot be justified; nor is it likely that “Luke the physician”

would forget the distinction. The difficulty is to explain the genitive case of

threatenings” and “slaughter.” The high priest; probably the same person

who is so described in ch. 7:1 (where see note). If the year with which

we are now dealing was the year A.D. 35, Caiaphas was high priest. But

Alford, Lewin, Farrar, and others place Saul’s conversion in A.D. 37, when

Theophilus, son of Annas or Ananus, was high priest (Chronicles Table in

Alford’s ‘Proleg. to Acts’).


2 “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any

of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto

Jerusalem.”  Asked for desired, Authorized Version; unto for to, Authorized Version;

any that were of the Way for any of this way, Authorized Version; whether men, etc.,

for whether they were men, etc., Authorized Version; to for unto, Authorized Version.

To Damascus. No special reason is given why Damascus is singled out. But it is clear

from vs. 10 and 13 that there was already a considerable number of Christian Jews at

Damascus. And this, with the fact of there being a great multitude of Jews

settled there, was a sufficient reason why Saul should ask for letters to

each of the synagogues at Damascus, directing them to send any Christians

who might be found amongst them bound to Jerusalem to be tried there

before the Sanhedrin. There may have been thirty or forty synagogues at

Damascus, and not less than forty thousand resident Jews. Of the Way;

i.e. holding the doctrine of Christ. Thus in ch. 18:25-26, the Christian

faith is spoken of as “the way of the Lord” and “the way of God.” In

ch. 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, was the term by which the faith of Christ

was spoken of chiefly, perhaps, among the Jews. The term means a

peculiar doctrine or sect. Its application to Christians apparently lasted only

so long as Christianity was considered to be a modification or peculiar

form of Judaism, and its frequent use in the Acts is therefore an evidence of

the early composition of the book.


The Way (v. 2)


This seems to have been the earliest name for what we now call

Christianity. That it was used as a distinctive appellation of the Christian

religion may be seen by comparing ch.19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22. A

fuller expression is employed in II Peter 2:2, “By reason of whom the

way of truth shall be evil spoken of,” Our Lord had used the term in a very

significant manner, saying, “I am the way:  (John 14:6); and the previous

prophetic figure of the Messianic times — “An highway shall be there, and

a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8) — would be in

the memory of the disciples, and therefore they would be likely to accept the

term if it was first started by their persecutors. Compare the name

“Christian,” which began as a taunt, and became accepted as an honorable

title. In introducing this subject, reference may be made to the interesting

fact that, from this point, Luke s record becomes almost entirely an

account of Paul’s labors, probably because round him centered the

missionary work of the early Church, and he was its greatest

representative. The kind of religious authority over all Jews exercised by

the Sanhedrin, and the limitations of its power to imprisonment and

beating and excommunication, require consideration. Saul probably went

to Damascus for two reasons:


Ø      because in the scattering the disciples were likely to have found

shelter there; and,


Ø      because many Jews dwelt there, and especially those Greek Jews,

who were most likely to become converts to the broad principles

as taught by Stephen’s party.


It was against this particular party that Saul was so greatly incensed. Their

teaching most effectually plucked the ground from beneath mere formal Judaism. Reverting to the term, “the Way,” as descriptive of the Christian religion, and

filling it with the larger meaning of our later knowledge, we may notice that it is:


  • A WAY OF THINKING. It is characteristic of Christianity that it has its

own peculiar way of thinking about


Ø      God,

Ø      man,

Ø      sin,

Ø      redemption.


Its “way of thinking” is placed under the guidance of special Divine

revelation. And the starting-point of its thinking is that God has, “in these

last days, spoken unto us by His Son.”  (Hebrews 1:2)  Probably the exact

reference in this verse is to that “way of thinking” which Stephen introduced

and taught, because that appeared to present special points of antagonism to

the doctrine and authority of the Sanhedrin. There is still a “way of thinking”

characteristic of Christ’s disciples. With a large liberty there are well

defined lines beyond which the thinking, being unloyal to Christ, is

unworthy of the Christian name.


  • A WAY OF FEELING. Every true disciple is distinguished by his

admiration for, his trust in, and his love to, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the

early Church the loyalty and the love were so strong that the disciples

could endure shame and death for His sake. And still our “way of feeling”

about Christ should mark us off from all the world; men should “take

knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus” (ch. 4:13), that He has

won our very hearts, and that to us henceforth “to live is Christ.”

(Philippians 1:21) Impress the important bearing of sustained high

feeling on the power and joy of the Christian life.


  • A WAY OF WORKING. Besides the general modes of working

characteristic of Christians, for the glory of God and the good of men,

attention should be given to Stephen’s way of working against mere

formalism and ritualism, and in favor of spiritual religion; and the need for

similar “ways of working” in each recurring over-civilized period should be



  • A WAY OF LIVING. By their fruits of godliness and charity the early

Christians were known. The Christian “way” is a “way of holiness,” not of

mere separateness, but of consecration; a way of laying all possessions or

attainments on God’s altar, and a way of using all powers and

opportunities for God’s service.


3 “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there

shined round about him a light from heaven:”  It came to pass that he drew

nigh unto for he came near, Authorized Version; shone for shined, Authorized

Version; out of for from, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.


4 “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul,

Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  Fell upon, for fell to, Authorized Version. Some,

as Lord Lytlelton and Lewin (‘Life of St. Paul,’ vol. 1. p. 48), from the expressions,

“fell to the ground,” “fell to the earth,” infer that Saul was himself mounted, and

his followers some mounted and some on foot.  And Farrar also, far other reasons,

supposes that Saul and his companions rode horses or mules. The journey,

he says, was nearly a hundred and fifty miles, and the roads rough, bad, and

steep; and Saul was traveling as the legate or the high priest. Still it is

strange that no one expression should point distinctly to the party being on

horseback, which “falling to the earth,” or “ground,” certainly do not.

While, on the other hand, the phrases, “Arise,” “stood speechless,” “led

him by the hand,” seem rather to point to his being on foot. Lunge well

compares the double invocation, Saul, Saul! with those similar ones,

“Abraham, Abraham!” “Samuel, Samuel!” “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”

“Simon, Simon!” (Genesis 22:11; I Samuel 3:10; Matthew 23:37; Luke 22:31).


5 “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus

whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

He for the Lord, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.  The rest of v. 5 in the

Authorized Version, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” and the first

part of v. 6, “And he trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have

 me to do? And the Lord said unto him,” are omitted in the Received Text. They

have, in fact, no manuscript authority; and not much patristic authority, or from

versions, and are omitted by all modern editors. They seem to be taken from the

parallel narratives in ch. 22:8-10; 26:14.  The proverb, “It is hard,” etc., is only

found in ch. 26:14 (where see note).



The One Question of Conversion (vs. 1-5)


With this paragraph the landmark of the history changes. The conspicuous

figure of Paul is seen, and is not again lost to sight till a certain Lord’s day

morning dawns on the Isle Patmos. The differences that exist in the life and

lot of various men often awaken thought in those who think enough,

oftener envy or murmur in those who fail to think enough. It is a ‘notable

token of the character of such envy that, when excited, it is almost

invariably in those instances which show differences of worldly lot or

providential circumstance. But amid all the differences that might

legitimately surprise, none can for a moment compare in intrinsic

significance with that which gave, still gives, ever will give, undying

renown to Saul — that he is, and is set forth as the type of conversion.

(see I Timothy 1:16)  He stands before us as remarkable in many ways — as

an apostle; as a writer of many Epistles, ever studied, never wearied of; as a

first missionary to the Gentiles, and most bold preacher of the gospel; as the

planter and settler of so many primitive Churches far and wide; and as a man of

such endurance and of so many hairbreadth escapes, that men would say for the

one he had an iron constitution, for the other he wore a charmed life. But

he is most known, he is apparently most intended to be known, by just

what belongs to his conversion. The tale of Saul without his conversion

(which he repeats within our knowledge twice for himself, how many times

more we cannot say) would be an instance, and in the intensest form too,

of the play of ‘Hamlet’ without Hamlet. Would that there were those, and

many of them, who, coveting “the best gifts,” coveted this unworldly

distinction — the thoroughness, the conspicuousness, the ever-enduring

practical results of such a conversion! But how unusual is this ambition!

The prominence given to the conversion of Saul cannot mean less than this,

that it is a sample. Yet is it not put where it is to stand there in solitary

unique grandeur, inapproachable, but that it may be approached, studied,

reproduced. Let us look into it at the moment of its crisis, the moment

when such unwonted words started to the lips of Saul, “Lord, what wilt

thou have me to do?”




a man, not only many other very important things, as time goes on, of

which he had never dreamt, but it surprisingly persuades him of this to

begin with — that he does not know something which he thought he did

know perhaps thought he knew particularly well. What an astonishing thing

to hear Saul asking, of all other questions, such a one as this, “Who art

thou, Lord?” This is a great point to gain. Saul had thought he did know

this, and knew that Jesus was not one to be called his “Lord” or “Lord” at



Ø      He had put his own idea and his own impression on Christ; but not the

right ones, and of the right he was ignorant and destitute. How many do

this! No name, perhaps, better known to them than the Name of Jesus, no

nature less known or more mistaken. It is the darkness which belongs


o        to nature;

o        to willful neglect and habit.


Ø      The very wrongness of those ideas and impressions were the measure of

the persistency with which they were held and the intemperateness with

which they were expressed. Paul afterwards tells us this “I verily thought

with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the Name of Jesus

of Nazareth,” and he developed his “thought” into the acts of violent

persecution. But when Saul utters the cry of the text it is because he is just

beginning the escape the escape of his life, the escape for his life —

from that long dark mistake, that native delusion and ignorance. And

afterwards he does not excuse his wrong “thought,” but condemns himself

with deepest contrition as “the chief of sinners.” (I Timothy 1:15)  Saul was

utterly in the wrong before his conversion; and is not every one else utterly

in the wrong until his conversion? What a solemn responsibility this one

thing is in life, to make up the mind how to think, to speak, to act towards






Ø      Past darkness and mistake (specially in proportion to its moral

blamableness), not only may incur the deep-settled habit, but they generally

do so. They strangle, till they kill, anything like a natural healthy desire for

real light, real knowledge. They seem to be able to go to the length of

destroying the power for its further use on earth. Then what a power it

must be that is needed to speak life, strength, use again into that palsy!


Ø      The one unvarying testimony of Scripture witnesses to one great silent

Power, alone able “to create a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit”

within man. It is that great Power which wakens again in the deep disused

of human nature the keen desire to know, the relish of true knowledge, the

thirst for light and love and the liberty of Christ. As on that day so eventful

Saul journeyed in hot haste over the hot sands to Damascus, but with

raging heart hottest of all, a new future is opening for him, for a new future

is opening in him, ere yet the echoes of his brief question die on the air.

When in the intolerable blaze of that bright light that passed the brilliance

of the noonday sun he fell to the earth, and when the heavenly voice of the

risen One twice summoned him, “calling him by his name,” it may well be

that, if there were anything to waken after too long sleep confessed, it now

should “hear and live.” And it was so. Some power has reached and

touched the vital germ within, yet unextinct, and it owns to the sudden

impulse. There is no more genuine evidence of God’s mighty Spirit being

savingly at work than when every hindrance, every excuse, every delay,

falls back, and you press on simply to ask for Christ. Then human nature’s

want, sin, misery, are arrived at the door of Heaven’s infinite wealth,

happiness, willingness. Keen is the force of human appetite and keener the

edge of passion; keen are our worldly desires and keener our mad wrath;

but keenest of all and ever conquering is the force of the desire TO KNOW

CHRIST when it is the Spirit of God who puts it into the heart and kindles its

flame. And does not this sample-conversion history guide us most closely

to see what are the Spirit’s real ways with our natures, which need:


o        first obstructions removed, and

o        thereupon force and life restored?


The treatment shall be such as reveals to him who experiences it at one

glance the world of darkness and error and sin that has been so long within,

but close upon that tells him of new, strange, and blessed life astir

within also.





they are ready “think” they are ready, have some sort and some amount of

“wish” to be ready, but of whom all the truth is, they are not really ready

to trust Christ! They are not really ready to cast themselves on mercy, nor

to acknowledge that “this is the work they have to do,” namely, “to believe

on Him whom God hath sent.”  (John 6:29)  They are not yet really ready to

believe that salvation is to be had by trust and not by any other way; by trust

in Christ, and trust illimitable. Yet is there no surer, no safer article of all our

faith.  And healthy life and fruit are only where faith is rooted in Christ, and

root to finest tendril and branch to finest twig do all derive their nourishment

and their sap from him. So Saul’s question and the sharp, direct method of

it signify then, evidently enough, both the hopeful and the trustful state into

which he had come, or was ready immediately “by the grace of God” to

come. Men sometimes ask a question indifferent to its answer; they

sometimes ask a question for the sake of the merest information; they

sometimes ask a question for some critical purpose or to block a question

waiting on themselves; but this question was none of these. This is like a

question indeed. Angels listen to it, and listen to its answer too, to ring out

Heaven’s wild “Amen. Jesus listened, and a soul was saved. Travel, then,

the circle of “the earth and the world” and “the heavens,” and there is not a

question we could address to any or all of them which could equal the

momentousness of this, when, at last turning to Christ, a man asks, “Who

art thou, Lord?” To Jesus Saul had borne himself ever so proudly, as many,

many do now — their will ungiven to Him, their trust flitting everywhere

else but not settled on Him, their love and allegiance unyielded to Him; and

when he, even he, asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” it meant the coming down

for ever of pride. So the confession which we have seen to hide here, and

the keen desire we have seen to bud forth here, led to the utter

renunciation of self-trust, and to the simplest and most entire trust in

Christ. None can ask this question for you; YOU MUST ASK IT FOR

YOURSELF!   None can answer it but Jesus, and HE WILL ANSWER IT!.



The Goads of God (v. 5)


There is probably some truth in the familiar saying “If Stephen had not

prayed, Paul had not preached.” The influence of the sight of that

martyrdom, and especially of that magnanimous prayer, may have had

much to do with converting Saul the persecuting Pharisee into Paul the

faithful apostle. For what could our Lord have meant by saying, “It is hard

for thee to kick against the goads, but that, as it is a vain, useless, and

hurtful thing for the yoked ox to struggle against that which is inciting it to

its work, so was it a useless and hurtful thing for Saul to be rebelling

against those scruples, heart-searchings, convictions, which were urging

him to enter a new and better path? This may seem inconsistent with the

language which has just been used (v. 1); but we must remember that

vehemence is never quite so violent as when it begins to suspect itself to be

in the wrong; that persecution is never so passionate, fanaticism never so

fierce, as when it is most impressed with the goodness and innocency of its

victim. Your Legree never strikes so murderous a blow as when he finds

himself face to face with a Christian hero and feels himself to be thoroughly

condemned. So Saul never breathed out such threatening and slaughter as

when the sight of Stephen’s blood-stained body was still before his eyes,

and the sound of his generous intercession still lingered in his ear. But he

was beginning to think that, after all, perhaps those Christians were in the

right and that he was in the wrong, and that he must either shut his eyes

hard against the light or change his course. By violent suppression of these

new thoughts, by stifling all scruples with strong hand, by kicking against

the goads of God, he found himself on the way to Damascus to worry and

harry the servants of Christ. There the Lord whom he was to serve so

faithfully met him and told him he was doing a hard thing in thus struggling

against the Heaven-sent promptings which urged him to take the true and

right path.



pathetic have come down to us from ancient times than that lament of the

Roman poet, “I see the better things and approve; I follow the worse.”

How many have to make the same sorrowful confession now! Around us

are souls struggling:


Ø      with passion,

Ø      with earthly ambition,

Ø      with pride,

Ø      with disposition to wait for some favorable future.


These find themselves urged by the goads of God — conscience, the

sacred Scriptures, human ministry, the Divine Spirit — to take the better

course, but their lower instincts and evil habits cause them to strive against

these higher impulses.




Ø      It is a miserable thing in a man’s own experience to be living a life of

vice, or worldliness, or selfishness, or indecision, when the soul is

conscious of a Divine voice calling it to higher things — to pursue a path

which is known and felt to be the wrong one. This is a wretched life to live;

there is no peace, no spiritual rest, no lasting joy; there is distraction,

discontent, rebellion. It is hard for a human soul to kick against the goads

of God.


Ø      It is a regrettable thing, judged from outside. Those who look on —

“the cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) see with unspeakable sorrow a

human heart spending its powers and wasting its life in battling with its

purer and nobler aspirations. There is no more saddening sight to a

Christ-like spirit than that of a human heart thus striving with the

influences which come from heaven to raise and to redeem it.


Ø      It is a guilty thing, life man can continue to do that without storing up

for himself “wrath against the day of wrath and the righteous

revelation of God!” (Romans 2:5)


  • THE ONE WISE COURSE TO TAKE. There is only one thing for

such a man to do — he must yield himself at once to God’s gracious

forces. He must be the “prisoner of the Lord,” that he may become “the

freedman of Christ.” He must go on whither his Redeemer is urging him —

on to full self-surrender; on to sacred and happy service; and so on to the

heavenly kingdom.



The Considerateness of a Love already Infinite (v. 5)


“It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” [Note:  There is ample

evidence that Paul himself narrates these details of his conversion (ch. 26:14),

and that their proper place is not here. They will, however, be considered here,

and reference made to this place from ch. 22. 10; 26:14.] Saul, when now he was

called Paul, and after he had been some while in the service of Christ, himself tells

us what passed in those wonderful moments when Christ and the Spirit wrestled with

him thrown prostrate to the earth. They are never forgotten by him, nor will he for a

moment try to hide those details describing Heaven’s remonstrances with

him where they might most infer humiliation to himself. The humiliation of

Saul at this time has its counterpart in some sort in the condescendingness

of Christ. The risen Lord will still use human language and human figure,

even to employing a proverb. The proverb needs no explanation, and the

interpretation of it needs only illustration and enforcement. And it may be

led up to profitably by inferior applications of it which none will gainsay.

How, then, will they be able to gainsay that illustration of it and that

application of it which Jesus Himself thinks it worth while to utter from

an open window of heaven?



TO US. That lot is a very complex thing, but it is made up of some very

manifest elements. It is a combination of the date in time’s long calendar at

which our life is placed, of the bodily and the mental endowments which

we own, of the circumstances and surroundings which we inherit, and of

the very dispositions which belonged to those who went before us — our

parents’ and theirs. None can give any account of these elements, but

every man has to use them and to seek to use them to the best advantage.

Some of them no man ever finds fault with or murmurs because of them, or

most rarely. Very, very few ever complain that they live now, for instance,

and did not live long ago — that they live now and not rather a century or

two hence. They see, they feel that to do this were insanity itself: and they

do not kick against their lot in this respect. Yet they often do in other

respects. Well, this is hard — hard as for the bird of plumage to beat

against the wires of its cage; nay, harder far than that. It is hard for loss of

time, for loss of temper, for loss of strength, for loss of trusting loving

obedience, and because no good can come of it, no success can be gained

in the vain, Utopian, and worse than foolish struggle. Let every man

struggle in his lot to improve himself, and he will not fail to improve it

also. But let him never “kick” against it; for so, if hurt at all, he hurts

himself the more. He “kicks against the pricks.”


  • IT IS HARD TO KICK AGAINST DUTY. The discipline of duty may

often be painful at present. There is none, however, more strengthening

and health-giving. Many a heavy burden becomes lighter if borne manfully.

It always becomes more irritating in proportion as it is not willingly taken

up and borne. And duty knows how to take keen revenge. When its

obligations are only partially and grudgingly discharged, the penalty it

assigns is the misery of utter dissatisfaction; and when they are altogether

neglected, the penalty is a forfeiture of unknown amount and kind.



is alive and in full life, to sin against it in both disobeying it and also taking

the offensive, makes its reproach tenfold. If it be already half dead, it

hastens its destruction for the present life; and if it be “on the point of

death,” the death-stroke now falls. 


“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue

                 in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little

                thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience

                can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of blindfolding the

guide which I have chosen and then knowing him to be blindfolded,

I am guilty of the folly of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.”




If it be only greater in degree, the peril lies in the inevitable mercilessness

of the opponent. He holds the vain struggler in his grip. And if it be a

greater force because it is superior in kind, then he who struggles,

struggles “against his own soul,” and drives the deadly disease within.


  • But all these are faint warnings of what hardness may mean, WHEN A


are on the one side; and the man himself, driven in darkness, error, and

recklessness, is on the other.


Ø      It is hard, intrinsically so, hard on every account and in every bearing of

it, to go against the interest of your own soul. The soul is so inestimably

valuable, the injury so inestimably cruel. Eternal life is so unboundedly to

be desired, the loss of it so unboundedly to be dreaded and wailed over.

Saul was doing this very thing, beneath all other guise and disguise, when

his career was stopped. If he could have had his way, his way shut him

right out from “life, life eternal,” and led him to the straightest path to death.

And all the while he had been resisting light and evidence, miracles and signs

and mighty wonders of apostles and of Stephen, which had availed with

others; he was kicking against the highest welfare and interests of himself.

Convictions are some of our strongest friends, and to kick against them is

to inflict some of the keenest of pain and most cruel of injury upon self.


Ø      It is hard, essentially so, to resist the hand as kind as it is strong, as

strong as it is kind, of Jesus. “Strong to save” is, indeed, His truest name

and His best-loved name. But if He is to the last refused in this force, it must

be, alas! He is swift to destroy. It is especially hard to resist Jesus:


o        Because He means nothing but kindness.

o        Because His meaning makes no mistake, incurs no slip nor charge of

good intention only, and He does nothing but kindness.

o        Because He first did so much and suffered so much for one only

purpose — that He might be qualified to show that kindness to the full.

o        Because His is the initiative always, in proffering that kindness to those

whose initiative always is the front of hostility to Himself.

o        Because all His kind meaning and His kind doing are in the train of

perfect knowledge. He knows all that we shall want to bear us through

and to bear us up on high, all that we shall want to save us from falling

through and falling into “the lowest hell.” What folly we often observe

it to be to stand up against or to neglect knowledge superior to our own!

But oh! but what extent and what kind of superior knowledge is this?


“No eye but His might ever bear

    To gaze all down that drear abyss,

Because none ever saw so clear

    The shore beyond of endless bliss!”


“The giddy waves so restless hurled,

The vexed pulse of this feverish world,

He views and counts with steady sight,

Used to behold the Infinite!”


o        Because Him refused, Him lost, there is no other can plead our cause

in our last extremity, there is no other Savior! When such a one

speaks, touches, urges, then the sinner who resists Him is one who

has no mercy, no mercy at all on himself, “body or soul.”


Ø      It is hard, most ruinously so, to resent the persuading address of the

Spirit. Hardening as it is to neglect the lessons of reason, the persuasions

of the affection of others, the call of duty, the dictates of conscience, and

the Word and work and impassioned invitation of Jesus, this is the worst of

all — to resist and reject the Spirit. For He is the life itself. Light and Life

are His twofold name. All round creation light will be attended ere long

with symptoms of life; and nowhere round the whole sweep of creation

does consent to dwell with perfect darkness. They seem almost

synonymous, perhaps, but as they are not the same in nature, so neither

can they be counted the same in grace. And still, therefore, this twofold

name speaks something of the quality and prerogative of the Spirit. He

brings Christ Himself and His truth and His cross to the sinner’s heart,

and if He is refused, then finally all is refused. Hence the awful trembling

emphasis which Scripture lays on the pleading exhortation that we slight not,

grieve not (Ephesians 4:30), quench not, the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:25).

And hard indeed it must be counted to” kick against Him.”


o        He is so silent a Friend.

o        He is so gentle a Friend,

o        He is so close a Friend.

o        He is so sensitive a Friend.

o        He is so condescending a Friend — in Him it is that God dwells

in the humble and contrite sinner’s heart.

o        He is so cheerful and gladdening and sanctifying a Friend.

o        He more than halves our griefs — He dries them up. He more than

doubles our joy — He multiplies it a million-fold, till it is already

“full of glory.” His sympathy is perfect.

o        He is our indispensable Friend, if we are to be loosed from sin,

to be created anew, to take hold of Jesus, and to find salvation.


Against the united, loving, determined, and predetermined force of Jesus

and the Spirit, ‘twas hard indeed for Saul to strive. Love and power, amazing

grace! — have hold upon him nor mean to relax their gracious grasp. If he

struggles, he but prolongs his own fierce inner conflict, multiples his own

subsequent pangs of memory and conscience. So Saul and every converted

            man are in a hand from which no power shall ever pluck them. (John 10:28-29)


6 “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have

me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city,

and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”  Rise, and enter into the city

for Arise, and go, etc., Authorized Version.



The Act of Capitulation (v. 6)


The moment had come for Saul. His conversion is a fact accomplished. He

speaks to it by speaking its reliable evidences. Short, undoubtedly sharp,

and as it now appears decisive, had the conflict within been, but it is now

over. And the fight over finds out the two results — the soldier

unwounded and the victory won. The moment had come also for Jesus.

What preparations His had been! What work He had accomplished! What

“sufferings” He had endured! What shame He had borne! And His mighty

power and mightier love have now triumphed. He too has His victory, has

taken, and without blood, His captive, and has bound that captive to Him, a

willing captive for ever and ever. That moment of double victory — of

Jesus over the human heart, and of a man’s better over his worse self by

the grace of the Spirit — two victories, yet but one, is described by one of

the best of our sacred hymn-writers, and could scarcely be better set forth:


“‘Tis done! the great transaction’s done!

    I am my Lord’s and He is mine!

He called me and I followed on,

    Glad to confess the voice Divine.”


The question on Saul’s lip (in the text) speaks, we say, the sure moment of

his conversion. Much may prepare the way for that moment — thought

and feeling, honest doubt and dishonest, fear and shame and strife,

convictions stifled, purposes dishonored, resolutions broken, and

perversest kicking against the pricks. But these are but the always

mournful, often shameful, last show of sword-play of the wicked one, who

knows no pity for the subject he is so soon to lose, and when he must leave

his old abode would then most discredit it. And therefore in this question,

may we not find in simplest, clearest outline, the suggestions of what are

the real facts involved in conversion? They are:



will mean the surrender of:


Ø      Self-guidance.

Ø      Much more of self-will, the determination that self shall rule and shape


Ø      The works of self.

Ø      The loved ends that have only self or self supremely in view.

Ø      Must of all, the last remnant of an idea that self can procure its own

salvation. For here is a man who possibly less leaned on fellow-

creature than any other man who ever lived. But let him come to

know Jesus, and his first question thereupon is the childlike,

leaning, humble question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”




at sea. That is what he once was, but not what he is now. He has not to

seek and calculate between different and competing matters. That was once

large part of his deep-seated unease and dissatisfaction, when “other lords

many had dominion over him.” But now he knows to whom his undivided

allegiance belongs. That undivided allegiance takes him to Jesus Christ as:


Ø      Unrivaled and undisputed Teacher. He sees, knows, feels, that Jesus has

won this place all His own — the one grand Revealer of the deepest things

of the Spirit in man and of the state of man and of the future for man. And

all other knowledge he feels to be necessarily subordinate to this.


Ø      Perfect Example. No sculptured model so perfect for example as the

delineated character, the written life of Jesus, the impress that is made on

the attentive observer of His work and word and manner. Here is the

sculptor seen, indeed, and his sculpture worth the studying. And Christ’s

true convert will be this kind of true student of Him also. He will well know

the place at His feet, and his own right attitude as he sits there watching.


Ø      Master and Lord. He will feel that his strength and devotion belong to

him. What has he done for me and what for him shall I not do?”


Ø      One alone Savior. Whatever his trust or hope for his own future life and

for his soul may once have been, he finds all now in “Jesus only.” And if

he were conscious of, careful for none at all before, now how earnestly he

clings to Jesus, because of this — “Savior” His dearest name, “mighty to

save” His dearest attraction! Oh, with what passionate adoration of

gratitude and of love did Paul sing, and since him unnumbered millions of

others have sung it, “My dear Redeemer and my Lord”! Thus Saul, in his

first allegiance to Jesus, calls him “Lord,” and asks Him nothing else but as

to what are His instructions: “What wilt thou have me to do?”


  • THE ALTERED PRACTICAL LIFE. Conversion means a changed

heart, changed thoughts, changed feeling, a changed air and light. But it

means nothing if it do not mean also a genuinely, practically changed

career. No sublime enjoyment, no rich experience, no flight of sanctified

imagination, no foretaste in saintly, heavenly communing with unseen

realities, of “the joys” that are to come, shall satisfy Jesus, nor can satisfy

Scriptures conception and representation of the convert of Christ. His life

must be “Christ;” and he must await death to know his full gain. His life

must be a witness to Christ, albeit it be first strong witness against his old

past self, and ever a quiet rebuke of those who live not after the same rule.

The amazement and the solemn dread of those minutes of blindness and

strongest excitement, when Saul lay on the earth, and was already

summoned as it were to the bar of his Maker, did not prevent him, as a true

convert and as type of a true convert, asking for his practical work. “Lord,

what wilt thou have me to do?” In our ignorance, perhaps we should, a

priori, have thought a more reasonable question, a more modest question,

a more reverent question, might have been, “Lord, where wilt thou have

me to go” — go hide myself? “Where wilt thou have me go,” that I may

shed bitter tears and do penance for the past. “Where wilt thou have me

go,” that I may pass through the fires of some purgatory, and be proved by

some solemn ordeal? But no, the question cannot be mistaken,

misreported, or altered. It is, “What wilt thou have me to do? And Jesus

tells him, and does not say now, “This is the work of God, that you believe

on me.” He tells him, and it proves very shortly, how really he had “to do,”

to “spend and be spent,” “to labor more abundantly than they all,” and to

prove his conversion by his changed life and its fruits. For vain,

unspeakably vain, the profession of a changed heart and the hopes of Christ

and of heaven, without the proof that lies in the changed life.



The Power of a Revelation (v. 6)


There are solemn seasons in the life of every man, e.g. birthdays, times of

sickness, first leaving home. Of all such days, perhaps the most solemn, the

one with the wider consequences, is the time of our conversion. It is not

usual for the Scriptures to give us — what we find in modern biographies

— detailed accounts of the precise experiences of such times; e.g. of Lydia

we only know that the Lord opened her heart,”  (ch. 16:14) and of the jailor

at Philippi that, in sudden alarm, he cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”

(ibid. v. 30)  We may, therefore, ask why so full an account is given us of the

experience of Saul of Tarsus? The answer is found in his subsequent prominence

as a Christian missionary, and in the necessity for assuring the fact that so bitter

a persecutor and so zealous a Pharisee was really changed into a disciple.

Some have further suggested that he was intended, in the Divine

providence, to take the place from which Judas by transgression fell, and

that it must be publicly known how he had received his direct commission

from the risen Lord, if he was to be recognized as one of the apostolic

band. The conversion of men is, in mode, as varied as are their minds,

characters, and circumstances. Yet there are some essential things which

may be well studied in connection with this narrative of the conversion of

Saul of Tarsus.



REVELATION. Every true conversion is effected by a revelation of God

to the soul. It need not be a visible revelation, such as was suitable to other

times. It must be an awakening of the soul to the apprehension of Divine

things, and a direct dealing of God with the awakened soul. This cardinal

truth must never be lost sight of in our active use of Christian means and

agencies. The unregenerate man does not know God; he cannot apprehend

the holiness, the claim, or the love of God. These must be unfolded to him

by revelation. As illustrations of what is meant by "conversion by revelation,”

see the vision of God to Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 35), and the voice of God to Samuel in the night hours, when he was but a youth. (I Samuel 3)  But the capacity to receive a Divine revelation depends on previous preparations, and

we have to inquire — How was Saul of Tarsus prepared? In answer the

following things must be carefully treated:


Ø      His education and early associations as a Jew and as a Pharisee. This

involved considerable knowledge of Scripture, and a theory of the

possibility of Divine communications with the individual.


Ø      His naturally impulsive and impetuous disposition, which led him to

undertake things in an intense way, but left him exposed to the peril of

sudden change of opinion and conduct, and to the danger of giving up an

enterprise as suddenly as he had begun it. This disposition prepared him

to be influenced by the sudden surprise on the Damascus road.


Ø      The ideas about Jesus Christ which he gained from the party at

Jerusalem to which he belonged. Those ideas rested altogether on thin

proposition: “The impostor Jesus is not risen from the dead.” If it

could be proved or shown that He was, then the whole doctrine

concerning Him held by Pharisee and Sadducee fell down about them,

as a house built on the sand in a day of storms. And so God overrules men’s lives now to prepare them for His revelations may be illustrated

by the ways in which:


o       the satiety of pleasure,

o       the pollutions of vice,

o       prolonged skepticism,

o       failure of efforts,

o       serious illness,

o       the naturally inquiring mind, or

o       sudden bereavements,


are overruled to become Divine preparations for our "days of grace.”



To his Jewish notions the light from heaven would seem to be manifestly

Divine, and his first thought would be that God was honoring him with a

commission to exterminate the Nazarenes. It must have come to him with

startling and painful surprise that the voice speaking from heaven to him

should be the voice of Jesus of Nazareth. His prejudices were crushed

down in a moment. Jesus was not an impostor; He was accepted of God.

Jesus was not dead; He spoke out of heaven. In Saul’s response there is:


Ø      Conviction. If Jesus is after all the Messiah, then what have I been doing?

Nothing less than fighting against the God I thought I was serving. There

was no need for him to search his life and try to find every particular sin;

for he felt the sin of unbelief. And unbelief is sin against every attribute of

God, against His:


o        justice,

o        holiness,

o        wisdom,

o        love.


Observe that this conviction of sin was felt by one who was outwardly

moral. And the true conviction is not the finding of some dark, polluting

deeds in our life; it is the feeling of:


o        the pollution,

o        the godlessness,

o        the self-seeking of our evil hearts.


Ø      Penitence. Men may be convicted, and go no further. Penitence involves:


o        the sense of sin as committed against God, — illustrated by sentences

of David, Peter to Ananias, and Prodigal Son;

o        sorrow for sin and earnest purpose to forsake it;

o        submission, as in this incident the proud Pharisee becomes as simple as

a child;

o        surrender, a special act of yielding will and heart and life to Christ.


What, then, is essential to a true conversion to God?


o        Not any particular form of experience,

o        not any precise time, but

o        the sense of sin and

o        a full surrender to Christ.


The difference between common faith and saving faith is mainly this —

saving faith is faith with a sense of need and personal application.





Ø      Changed inward life: “Behold, he prayeth!”

Ø      Changed outward conduct. Compare Saul keeping the clothes of them

that slew Stephen, and preaching at Damascus the very faith he had

sought to destroy.


Has God been preparing you by his providential orderings to receive His revelation. Maybe that revelation comes through this message. If so, what

will your response to it be?


7 “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a

voice, but seeing no man.” That journeyed for which journeyed, Authorized

Version; the voice for a voice, Authorized Version; beholding for seeing,

Authorized Version. Speechless; ἐννεοί (or rather ἐνεοί - eneoispeechless;

dumb; dumbfounded) is found nowhere else in the New Testament, but is not

uncommon in the Septuagint (e.g. Isaiah 56:10) and in classical Greek. Here it

means speechless from terror, struck dumb. The description here given by

Luke seems to be contradictory in two particulars to Paul’s own account in

chapters  22:9 and 26:14. St. Paul’s companions are said here to have

“stood speechless;” but in ch. 26:14 they were “all fallen to the earth.” Here

they “hear the voice,” but in ch. 22:9 they “heard not the voice of Him that spake.”

It is obvious, however, that in such descriptions all depends upon the particular

moment of the transaction described which happens to be uppermost in the mind

of the speaker or writer at the time, and the particular purpose in relation to which

he is giving the description. Thus at one moment the spectators might be

standing dumfounded, and at the next they might be prostrate on the

ground, or vice versa. Either description of their attitude would be a true

one, though not true with regard to the same moment. Again, if the

purpose of the speaker was to affirm that the whole company were

conscious of both the vision and the sound of a voice speaking, but that

only Saul saw the Divine Speaker, the description “hearing the voice, but

beholding no man” would be the natural one. Whereas, if the purpose was

to express that Saul alone heard the words spoken to him by the Lord, the

description of his companions, “They saw indeed the light… but they heard

not the voice of him that spake to me,” would be equally natural.


8 “And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he

saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.”

Nothing for no man, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; and for but,

Authorized Version. Nothing (οὐδὲ - oudeno man for οὐδένα [nothing]).

So the best manuscripts and editions The idea is, not like that in Matthew 17:8

that when he opened his eyes the person seen in vision had disappeared, but

simply that his eyesight was gone, “for the glory of that light,” and he could see

nothing, but had to be led like a blind man (see ch. 22:11).


9 “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”

Did neither for neither did, Authorized Version. The same reason, we may

venture to think, which caused the interposition of three days’ blindness

between Saul’s conversion and his baptism, led Saul himself to pass those

days in a voluntary self-abasement.  His sin:


  • in persecuting the Church of  God and its Divine Head,
  • in assisting at the death of God’s saints, and
  • in rejecting the testimony to Christ’s resurrection,


had been very great.  These three days of blindness and of fasting were therefore

a fitting preparation for the grace of forgiveness about to be so freely and fully

given to him (I Timothy 1:12-16). What thoughts must have passed

through Saul’s mind during those three days! Before passing on, it may be

well to observe that it is to this appearance to him of Jesus Christ that

Paul undoubtedly refers when he says (I Corinthians 9:1), “Have not I

seen Jesus Christ?” and again (Ibid. ch.15:8), “Last of all, He was

seen of me also,” where he puts this appearance of Jesus to himself on a

par with those to Peter and James and the other apostles, which made them

competent witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. And so in v. 17 of this

chapter Ananias says, “The Lord Jesus which was seen by thee” (ὀφθείς σοι

ho ophtheis soithe one being seen to you); and Barnabas (v. 27), when he

brought Saul to the apostles, related “how he had seen the Lord in the way.”

And in ch. 22:14 Ananias says, “God hath appointed thee to see the Righteous

One.” Moreover the description in v. 7 of Saul’s fellow-travelers, that they

“saw no man,” implies, by contrast, that Saul did. The reticence of both Paul

and Luke as to what he saw, and what was the appearance of the Lord Jesus,

seems to arise from profound reverence and awe, such as Paul speaks

of in II Corinthians 12:4. It may be also worth remarking how this

appearance of Christ was deferred till he was quite close to Damascus,

according to one tradition only a quarter of a mile from the gates, but

according to Porter, whom Farrar and Lewin follow, at a distance of about

ten miles, at a village called Caueab. So the intervention of the angel by

which Isaac’s life was spared was not till Abraham had the knife in his hand

to slay his son; and Peter’s prison doors were opened not till the very night

before he was to have been brought forth to death. Faith and patience are

thus strengthened, and God’s intervention is more marked.



Saul on His Way to Damascus (vs. 1-8)


  • THE PICTURE OF THE PERSECUTOR. It is almost the picture of a

monster. It resembles the idea of the fearful dragon-monster, which

breathes forth smoke and flame, and threatens to devour the sun and moon

and stars. Saul is inspired by a murderous feeling against the disciples of

Christ. He himself afterwards recognized that to persecute them was to

persecute Him (I Timothy 1:13). Zeal for God without knowledge is

another of his own descriptions of his state of mind (Romans 10:2). It

leads directly to the devilish love of destruction (John 8:44). We can

distinguish pure from carnal zeal only by the effects: the one impels us to

build up, the other to destroy; the one to save men’s lives, the other to

slay, and making a solitude to call it peace. But there are deep problems in

the life of mind. Never is a man madly irritated against an opinion, violent

against a cause or a person, but it is a symptom of a struggle within. The

man is really at war with himself. A conviction is reluctantly forcing its way

upon him; he feels the goads of conscience, and vents his resentment upon

objects outside of himself.



accompaniments of the revelation. They are:


Ø      Outward. A light out of heaven like lightning plays around the

persecutor. He falls to the earth like a thunder-struck man. In this position

the impressions of the ear come in to enhance those of the eye. A voice is

heard calling him by name: “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?”


Ø      Inward. Saul has no difficulty in putting these things together and

drawing the true inference from them. “Who art thou, Lord?” betrays his

suspicion, perhaps his certainty, that the voice is that of the crucified One,

against whose might he has been striving. And the voice returns, “I am

Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Then follows the direction to go into

Damascus and to await further orders. When the outward phenomena and

the inward revelation are so closely interwoven, it is difficult to separate

the one from the other, and unnecessary to do so. But the point to fix

attention upon is this — that revelation is always in the soul. How the new

truth comes to us is not of so much importance as what permanent deposit

it leaves behind it. “It pleased God to reveal His Son in me,  (Galatians

1:16)  The true mystery and wonder lie in the soul; all else is superficial

and subsidiary compared with that. By what passes within we may

interpret what passes without, but not vice versa. This scene is far

more impressive and sheds a clear light on the conflicts of our own

being, if we see in it a man cast down by the sudden splendor and

terror of a conviction against which he had long been struggling.

It is said that we never understand a truth until we have striven

against it. He whom we have battled against as a deadly foe becomes

our lifelong master when we are once fairly defeated at his hands.




Ø      Here was a personal appearance of Jesus. Jesus lives! This is the

thought which comforts his friends, and strikes terror into his foes. “I am

he that is, and was, and is to come.” “I am the living one!” (Revelation

1:4, 18). Never was this revelation of the living Christ forgotten by Saul.

It afterwards became a main subject of his preaching, as it was the core

of his creed. The living Christ is, indeed, the expression to us of the

living and loving personality of God, of the will to save and to redeem



Ø      It was an appearance of Jesus in glory. The splendor and terror which

surround Him bespeak His sovereign might. “Why dost thou persecute

me?” It is vain as well as wrong to contend against One to whose

holiness and majesty the conscience bears its unerring witness. Saul

seemed to think that he was wrestling against flesh and blood when he

harried those defenseless Christians; and that by weapons of flesh and

blood Christianity might be overcome. But behold the majestic figure

of One who comes with clouds.  To offer Him the show of violence is

the extreme of irreverence and of folly. Never was this lesson forgotten.

Our sins against our fellow-Christians are sins against Christ. We insult

the love that suffered for us, and the majesty that rules and judges us.


Ø      Yet it was a revelation of the glorified humanity of Jesus. Saul saw Him

and heard Him speak (v. 17; ch. 26:15). The Redeemer glorifies the human

form and nature which He wore on earth. Here lay a seed of Paul’s

teaching on the spiritual body which glorified saints are to wear. Earth and

heaven, the seen and the unseen world, are for ever joined and reconciled

in the body in which He lived, suffered, rose, and reigns.


Ø      It was a revelation of exquisite Divine love and grace.


o        Towards the persecuted. Their sorrows are the sorrows of Jesus. He

makes their sufferings His own (Matthew 25:45). His exaltation and

glory do not lift Him out of their reach. He reigns to throw the aegis

(shield) of His providence and protection over the defenseless flock

of His little ones. He is the Head, and all the members are in vital

union with Him, and receive from the fullness of His life.


o        Towards the persecutor. Sin in its extreme of violence and rebellion is

here overthrown, and the weapons struck from the hands of the rebel —

not by the tyrant’s force, but by the gentleness of Divine love. “Where

sin had abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

Tis hard to kick against such goads. Condemnation hardens the

rebel in his opposition; gentleness melts his heart and converts him

into an ally and a friend. “O Galilean, thou hast conquered!” The

conversion of Saul is a type of the whole spirit and method of the

gospel. Unlike the kingdoms of this world, which rest on force and

must repel violence by violence, it rests on the negation of force,

the eternal affirmation of love. It is strong in its weakness, and

converts foes into friends by gaining the victory over the

intelligence and the conscience.



The Sign from Heaven (vs. 1-9)


There was a need at that time for someone to take the gospel forth to challenge the

whole world.  The hour was there; but where was the man? Peculiar qualifications

were necessary — intellect; culture; burning zeal; personal experience of the power

of Christ.  The challenge was met when Saul, on the road to Damascus, to persecute

Christians was struck down by a supernatural blow from heaven.  Jesus did not fight

with carnal weapons but smote Saul’s heart and consciene with a voice and  “light

out of heaven.”


The manner of Saul’s conversion was a preparation of his soul for the part he

was to take in the Church’s work. It was greatly independent of human

agency (cf. Augustine; Luther). It was a miracle which to him became the

moral basis of all other miracles. It enabled him to say, “I have seen the

Lord Christ;” and gave him at once an apostolic position.


The overwhelming nature of the evidence and the deep spiritual work of

those few days prepared such a mind as Paul’s for grappling with the

mysteries of faith. The eyes were shut that they might be opened the more

clearly to spiritual realities. It was especially necessary that Saul should

begin his new life feeling that Jesus was able to do all things, that He was

revealing His Divine kingdom in the earth.


There was a wonderful change wrought by the Spirit on Saul: the persecutor

turned into the foremost apostle.  He was a gift to the Church and to the world.

Think of what Paul has been to those who came after him.


  • Learn: 


Ø      There is a gate of grace close by the gate of sin. Paul was going to

Damascus to do evil. Jesus met him to turn him on the path of life.


Ø      The new world may be entered blindfold, yet if we do what the Lord

tells us to do our eyes will be opened at last.



Conversion (vs. 1-9)


We have here an instance and a picture of conversion — of a human soul

pursuing the wrong course, being arrested by the Divine hand, and

submitting itself willingly to the rule of Christ.



was moving with the whole force of his strong and ardent nature in the

direction of active persecution of the friends of Christ (vs. 1, 2, 5). Sin

sometimes takes this special form now. More often it takes the shape of:

Ø      guilty indulgence, or

Ø      utter worldliness, or

Ø      confirmed unbelief and rejection of the truth, or

Ø      indecision and procrastination.

But whatever particular form it takes, its essential nature is this — that the

soul which was created to love, honor, and please God is pursuing another

and an opposite path; it is found in highways or byways of evil. It is not

with God, with Christ, but against Him (Matthew 12:30). It itself is not

in active sympathy with Him, rejoicing in Him, delighting in His truth and

happy in His service; and all the influences, both those which (as in the case

of Saul at this time) are the direct result of conscious effort, and those

which flow spontaneously and unconsciously from the life, are hostile to

His truth and to His kingdom.


  • THE DIVINE ARREST. (vs. 3-5.) Paul tells us (Philippians 3:12)

that he was “apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Christ laid hold upon him

as he was going on his guilty way, arrested him in his own name, and

charged him to turn round and pursue another and a better course. The

Savior’s interposition in his case was unusually sudden, and it was

exceedingly striking in its form (see vs. 3-5). It is seldom that the hand of

the heavenly Lord is laid so manifestly, so powerfully, on the human heart.

Yet it is being continually laid upon us, and we now are being arrested by

Him, with effectual power in redeeming love.


Ø      Christ’s arrest of us is sometimes sudden, but more often gradual.

Sometimes a man who has been proceeding far in some way of folly and of

sin is instantly convinced that he is guilty and foolish; in an hour, in a

moment, the truth of God flashes into his soul and lights up the dark depths

within, and it shines upon and illumines the dreary and fatal path before

him, and he stops and turns. More frequently the Lord of love and power

works gradually in the heart; by degrees He insinuates His heavenly truth,

and gradually makes the soul to see and to feel that the way of selfishness

and of sin is a path which must no longer be pursued, from which it must

escape for its life.  (Genesis 19:17)


Ø      The Divine arrest is sometimes by extraordinary but usually by ordinary

means. Occasionally God comes in power to the human soul, by some

vision of the night or of the day, or by some very remarkable ordering of

His providence, by some experience which is shared by no other or by a

very few; but commonly the hand of His renewing power is laid upon us by

ordinary means, by the gracious influences of a Christian home, by the

appeals of the Christian minister or teacher, by the sickness which brings


compels us to feel that we do need and must secure a Divine Friend who

can succor and console in the drear and lonely hour of life.



result of feeling the pressure of the Divine hand may be, perhaps generally

is, spiritual agitations. We may be “trembling and astonished” (v. 6), or,

if not moved so powerfully, we shall be agitated, earnestly concerned,

exceedingly solicitous; we shall be as those thoroughly awakened who have

been partially asleep, our spiritual faculty of inquiry will be called into

fullest exercise. But the main and all-important result is spiritual

submission — readiness and eagerness to accept the rule of Christ. The

question of Saul will be the question of our heart, now reduced to loyalty

and self-surrender, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Christ will tell

us that He wants us:

Ø      to trust Him,

Ø      to follow Him, and

Ø       to work for Him.

And these three things we shall gladly do. But the victory is gained, the one

supreme step is taken, death is left behind, and the gates of life are before us,

when, responding to His merciful and mighty touch, we submit ourselves to

His sovereign will, when we turn round in spirit and say, “Lord, what wilt

thou have me to do?”



Blind Eyes, Open Soul (vs. 8-9)


Attention is invited to what is suggested by the interesting fact that, after

seeing the vision, Saul remained blind, and so absorbed in thought as to be

wholly indifferent to food, for three days. That there are miraculous

features in the circumstances attending Saul’s conversion can hardly be

denied, but some incline to exaggerate the miraculous features, while

others put them under too severe limitations. We need not assume a

miraculous blindness, or so serious a matter as a lightning stroke. The

phenomena rather suggest a sunstroke of a severe but temporary character.

In the Divine order this was arranged to give the surprised and humbled

man an opportunity for quietness and loneliness, that he might carry on,

and carry out to a conclusion, the conflict which had been begun by

hearing the voice of Him whom he had called the Nazarene impostor

speaking from heaven, and speaking words of power and command to him.

And it was also designed as a continuing physical effect which would

assure Saul of the reality of his heavenly vision. In endeavoring to estimate

the thoughts of Saul’s time of blindness, consider that:


  • SAUL HAD KNOWLEDGE. General knowledge, as an educated man,

belonging to the well-to-do classes. Special knowledge, as trained in the

best Jewish schools; especially as having a kind of collegiate culture, as a

Pharisee, in the highly esteemed school of Gamaliel. And a precise and

wide knowledge of both Holy Scripture and rabbinical tradition, which

must have included the grounds for expecting the coming Messiah the

Prince. Saul would not need even his Bible in those lonely hours, for

memory brought abundant subjects of thought. Thus, the advantage of

early teaching of God’s Word. Thus we become prepared to make the best

of the sudden occasions of life.



key was this — the Messiah has come. He was Jesus of Nazareth. He is

risen, living, exalted.



APPLICATION OF THIS KEY. It had to explain the prophecy that

Messiah should be born at Bethlehem, and be of the lineage of David. It

must explain the figures of the King and Conqueror under which Messiah

had been presented. Saul must think over the grounds on which his

prejudiced opposition had rested, and over all that was involved in the

proved fact that Jesus was risen from the dead and had won God’s

acceptance. For with his eyes blinded, and the ordinary cravings of his

body dead, Saul saw with his soul — spiritual things were gaining

clearness.   He was smitten with conviction; and utilized these quiet times

to full decision and consecration. So much good work begun in souls is lost, proving but as” morning cloud and early dew,” for want of quiet meditative

times following upon convictions and impressions. Seasons of loneliness, meditation, and prayer are as truly needed for newly awakened souls, as

shady, covered times for slips, or plants, newly potted, in order that they

may get safely rooted.  God provided this blind season for the awakened

and humbled Saul.



The Sequestrated Soul (v. 9)


In the wonders of the conversion of Saul we are greatly impressed with the

close regard paid to the needs of human nature. It is not all miracle, nor

must it be so viewed. Amazing is the grace of what cannot be construed as

anything less than superhuman intervention. An adoring surprise is

certainly not diminished when we notice how that intervention condescends

so soon, so readily, to make itself at home with the harmonies of human

nature. It does not affect to disdain them, nor does it dispense with them,

because of the majesty of its own omnipotence, but rather emphatically

“condescends to the low estate of men.” For the experience of intense

excitement through which Saul had just passed is sure, upon the reckonings

of human nature by itself, to be decisive of his future. If it do not make

him, it will most surely undo him for ever. He may “be exalted above

measure” (II Corinthians 12:7) or he may be depressed “above measure.” Either

of these two extremes is a constant result in human life of whatever might come

nearest to such excitement and impression as those here described. In the presence

of a position so critical, it does not follow that nature is entirely helpless

nor that miracles must be implored. In succeeding degrees repose, silence,

even darkness will be prescribed, and we shall be told unerringly that life or

death is the alternative issue of attending upon such prescription or

neglecting it. And this is a principle observed in the marvels of the

conversion of Saul. That which may be viewed as proof of intervention

superhuman does its short, sharp work, to be followed by the immediate

resumption of methods which human wisdom and human experience would

dictate. The experience of Saul here narrated may be regarded as it was:



No doubt the exceeding brightness of the “light that shined

about him from heaven” may be credited with a natural power to infer the

blinding of his eyes. But the same light “fell round about them that

journeyed with” Saul, and they saw that light (see the accounts in chapters

22 and 26.), and yet it had no blinding effect upon them — at all events no

effect of the kind lasting three days. In fact, for Saul it was but the signal of

the light that flashed upon the inner eye that belonged to him. But it is of God,

and it is not below the Spirit of God to assert and to prove the completest

mastery over man — body, soul, and spirit. And the continued loss of sight

and the continuous fast are justly regarded as the result of the deep mental,

spiritual impression now made on Saul. That impression was of the nature



Ø      The shock of inordinate surprise. Not an idea, not a fear, not the vaguest

surmise had come near the strong horseman of such an arresting check.


Ø      The shock of overmatched force. The weak and tender and gentle will

yield and bend. It is a matter of breaking to others, and if the heart break

not, who can imagine the strain? That heart will be rocked to its



Ø      The shock of a flood of mental conviction, and so far forth illumination,

breaking in upon an estranged nature and terrifying by the dark shadows

it casts proportioned to its own luster.


Ø      The shock of the rapid rising of the tides of penitential grief, and grief

that energetically stirs up repentance.                                             


Ø      The shock of compunction for ingratitude and all the past hostility of a

hating heart when mercy began to dawn and love began to be born.


Ø      The shock of one mere glimpse through the merest chink of the

sepulchral soul into the outer and upper and most inspiring light.


Ø      The shock of a real change. What busy but amazed, aching, anguished

tumult within that soul! And who shall stay bodily sense and bodily

appetite from resigning and retreating from that scene and confessing

themselves merely the subordinate and temporary?




impressions, if made very rapidly, may very rapidly pass away. Explain it as

we may or leave it unexplained, the fact is too well ascertained. How very

vivid sometimes the dream that visits us! how exceedingly difficult to

throw it off for the first minutes of waking! but after those few first

minutes are past, no mist climbed the mountain-side, nor morning cloud the

heaven, quicker to vanish than that dream and its impression vanish. And

so it is evident that everything is not necessarily gained or surely gained

when vivid effects, ay, effects howsoever vivid, are gained.


Ø      Vivid impression needs the staying effect of reflection.


Ø      Vivid impressions which are also of the most startling personal character

need the conciliating influences of some calm familiarity with them. They

must be faced, must be looked at so that they may be recognized again,

must be granted the opportunity of revealing their lovely aspects as well

as their bright or powerful aspects.


Ø      The vivid impressions that belong to a heart touched by the Spirit of

God particularly demand to dwell a while with that Spirit, and dwell as

though quite alone with Him:


o        that He may be honored;

o        that He may work His work amid the absorbed and the undivided,

undistracted attention of that human heart. In what ineffable

communion with the Father supreme, with the Savior and Mediator

Jesus, and with eternal realities, will the Spirit then engage the

yielding heart! It is not that the Spirit cannot work apace, but, as in

everything else, it is that man cannot — he is slow, slow indeed, as

compared with that Spirit’s swift power.

o        Strong convictions do none the less need the confirming effect of

deliberate resolution, of some contributing and very conscious effort

on our own side.

o        The most right resolutions need that we summon our whole self, after

carefully “counting the cost,” to prove moral courage and spiritual

vigor by taking some practical step. It is Jesus Himself who lays the

stress on “counting the cost,” for those who would be His followers,

do His work, enter the kingdom of God.”


And to changed objects of life, methods of life, and society in life,

such as those to which Saul — ay, to which any true convert — is

called, needs it not the entrance by unmistakable, confessed self-

renunciation? Of the honesty and thoroughness of such self-

renunciation it is at all events no feeble symbol when sense and

appetite resign their grip, generally so tyrannical. And now in no

parable, but in most literal truth, Saul is befriended by Divine

forethought and care. The strong man is taken out of his own

keeping. When he was his old self, like Peter, he had indeed

“girded himself and walked whither he would;”  (John 21:18)

but now he is too glad to “stretch forth his hand, and that another

should gird him” and lead him whither he had never, never thought

of going. It was the completing so far of God’s great love to him,

and Jesus’ great compassion toward him. He is delivered, fairly

delivered from himself for three days. He sees not, eats not, drinks

not. Neither does he go out to this present world by the beautiful

gate of the eye, nor does the support of the outer world come so

much as to his body. He is sequestered with the Spirit, who

reveals to him the errors of the past and something of the destiny

of the future; who makes him to know Jesus and himself — the

fullness and grace of the one, the poverty and insufficiency of the

 other. The plain facts for Saul again and again speak with lessons

most needed for us and for all time. They suggest to us what meditation

we need, what devotion, what divorce from sight and from appetite

which may so seduce the soul, what grateful and close communion

with God, obedience to the Spirit, and trust in the Savior, and how

the safest augury for the future is that we do break with the past.

Wonderful and fascinating to imagination Saul’s “retreat” of

three days. To the things that then transpired, however, we need

not be and ought not to be entire strangers. We may learn what

Saul learned if we will go where he learned them, and may ere

long say for ourselves:


“There if thy Spirit touch the soul

    And grace her mean abode,

Oh, with what peace and joy and love

    She communes with her God!”



10 “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and

to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am

here, Lord.”  Now for and, Authorized Version; and the Lord said unto him

for and to him said the Lord, Authorized Version. Behold, I am here. The regular

Hebrew answer (Genesis 22:1; I Samuel 3:4, 6, 8, etc.).


11 “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is

called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called

Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,” To for into, Authorized Version,

named for called, Authorized Version; a man of Tarsus for of Tarsus, Authorized

Version. The street; ῤύμη rhumae - lane, usually the narrower lanes in a town as

distinguished from the πλατεῖαι plateiai - or wide streets. So Luke 14:21,

“The streets and lanes of the city,” and the Septuagint in Isaiah 15:3, couple

πλατεῖαι (streets) and ρύμαι - rhumaialleyways (Septuagint). Here, however,

the term applies to the principal street of the city, which runs quite straight

from the east to the west gate, and is a mile long. It still exists, and is called

the Sultany Street; but instead of being the wide and splendid street it was in

the apostolic age, a hundred feet wide, with colonnades separating the two

footways on the side from the central road, and adorned with a triumphal arch,

it is contracted into a narrow mean passage.



The Sight that Jesus Notes (v. 11)


These words, spoken by Jesus Himself from heaven to one disciple of His

and about another, the very youngest of all, single out a fact, and point to

it as a sight worthy to be observed. The fact is in itself a very simple one, in

the judgment of many a very ordinary one, in the unheeding judgment of

most men an exceedingly uninteresting and unimportant one. Nor would it

be easy to find a more clearly outlined illustration of the different estimate

of earth and heaven, of Jesus and of erring man, than that found here. Jesus

points to the sight of a man on his knees as one worthy to be beheld — to

the fact of a man praying as one to engage attention, deep regard, and

practically altered conduct on the part of his fellow-men. This is the

simplest statement of the history that is before us. And it may be objected

that, though it be a true statement so far, it is true only in this instance, or,

if not only, yet that it is to such a degree exceptionally true here, that it

may not be drawn into a precedent. But the burden of proof of such a

position will fall upon those who shall hesitate to admit that one and the

same essential element of noteworthiness attaches to the same situation,

the same spectacle, wherever it presents itself. This, then, which was a

spectacle to the Lord Jesus, and of which He speaks to His disciples in that

very light, may well interest the gaze and devout thought of all generations

“Behold, he prayeth!”


  • Let us consider, first, what different descriptions may be given in answer

to the question, “WHAT IS IT TO PRAY?” since Jesus gives such

prominence to the act.


Ø      It is the first sign of some great change. It betrays something novel that

has been at work, unseen but not unfelt. It portends much to come.


Ø      it is itself the first movement of spiritual life, the new-born infant’s trial

of the spiritual lungs, and first lifting of them up and first breathing of

spiritual air, the first voice of the “babe in Christ.”


Ø      Its form may be a single word, a simplest sentence; one gentlest sigh

may bear it up all the way to heaven, one passionate cry may speed it up;

one upward glance of the eye may reveal it to that benignant eye which is

ever bended down in compassion on us (“The eyes of the Lord are upon

the righteous and His ears are open unto their cry.”  Psalm 34:15);

one big solitary tear, that drops into the earth and can no more be

gathered up, will be “counted” for it by Him who doth “count all our tears.”

(Psalm 56:8)


Ø      The time it takes may be a moment, the twinkling of an eye, or it may be

the exercise of agonized hours.



STATE?” The man who prays is the man who has come into a certain new

state towards God — a state that makes him desire also to come in a very

new attitude into His presence.


Ø      It is the state of one who has discovered a need of a kind, a depth, an

amount, and an urgency he had never dreamed of before.


Ø      It is the state of one who has become ready and anxious to make a

thorough confession. Pride has gone. Self-satisfaction has gone. Trust in

the world’s short resources has gone. Blindness and delusion are dissipated.


Ø      It is the state of one who has been shaken by conviction of sin. The first

prayer is not for mercies temporal, but for mercy — the mercy that a

creature wants who has been growing up a long time, but not growing up

in either perfect or even conscious relations with his Creator-Father.

Conviction is the grandest interpreting exposition of the prophet’s dictum,

“Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).


Ø      It is the state of one who, let him be what he may, let him have been,

have done, what he may, toward God, or toward man, or toward his own

heart and conscience, has been visited by some glimmering ray of light, and

has felt the warmth of some feeble flame of hope. Real prayer and absolute

despair, real prayer and utter darkness, never go together. So prayer is the

pulse of vitality. Its feeblest expression is the radiation of the spark of

God’s light, life, love, not extinct.


Ø      It is the case of one long sore sick, for whom the crisis of fatal danger is

past, the disease stayed, and on whom, with more than the loudest

solicitude of the tenderest parent, the Lord Jesus looks down and

vouchsafes to point out the blessed symptoms, saying, “Behold, he




He is a Jew, well taught, of pious forefathers, of strict Pharisee

school, full of earnestness, free from immorality, given to striving for

superiority and profiting above his equals, and given to saying prayers. So

that, whatever a certain kind of light and moral character and virtue might

avail, he had the benefit of them. On the other hand, “the light that was in

him was darkness;” his zeal was bigotry; his high character was to the scale

of human measurement only; he had never touched deep ground; he was a

sinner and didn’t know it; he persecuted “saints” and didn’t know it; he

kept the raiment, and consented to the stoning, of them that stoned

Stephen, and didn’t know what he was doing or what they were doing, —

till now, in the full career of a very successful “breathing out of

threatenings and slaughters,” he is flung to the ground, and becomes as one

stunned. Yet spoken to, he knows the Lord, and in a moment owns his

rightful Master by word. The prayers of the crucified Jesus, and of the first

martyr Stephen “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge;” “Father, forgive

them; for they know not what they do” — are answered; and he who was

just now breathing out those threatenings and slaughters, now breathes the

deep, earnest, pleading accents of prayer. And there is no mistake,

deception, nor unconscious delusion; for he who knew all says, and hushes

every doubt and objection while he says it, “Behold, he prayeth!”


  • Let us notice, lastly, WHY JESUS SAYS, “BEHOLD!”


Ø      To the risen Jesus, at all events, no real surprise could be possible. Only

a God’s wonder — whatever that may be — might be understood here, if

the charmed words had been words of soliloquy. But they are not words of

soliloquy. They are condescendingly spoken in order to disarm the very

faithlessness of human distrust, which, nevertheless, insisted on expressing

itself. Jesus calls attention to what may teach us a large lesson of liberality,

of charity, but above all of trust in the force victorious and “more than

conquering” of His gospel and His Name.


Ø      Jesus calls attention to what we may think little of, and think amiss

therein. Many are the things we think little of little sins, to wit-of which He

thinks much, to hate them. Many are the things we think little of — little

kindnesses, little cups of cold water, to wit — of which He thinks much, to

love them. And much — oh, how much! — will waken our astonished

attention one day, soon to come, that moves us with not a ripple of either

surprise or interest now. Still, he that hath ears to hear may hear now that

heavenly “Behold!” It speaks in most striking contrast to the “Lo! here,”

and “Lo! there,” of earth and men.


Ø      Jesus says, “Behold!” because He would call attention to a change that

was a pattern miracle of His power and grace. He calls attention to it, not

as unique, but as a model instance. Such a character revolutionized! Such a

life and force of life, and combined elements of life, and characteristics not

all unmingled bad, changed! What, then, shall not Christ and the Spirit be

able to do? Twenty centuries have justified that “Behold!” in both these

aspects — as pointing out a model conversion in Saul’s conversion, and as

vindicating it as but the first of an amazing and glorious series.


Ø      Jesus, in saying “Behold!” teaches us where to look, and so also where

not to look, in ourselves for evidence of real change. All objection, all

inquisition, all human dogma, all ecclesiastical domination and forging of

creed and formula and fetters, — perish they all before the decisive

Behold! of Jesus — “Behold, he prayeth!” Before this sight human

presumption may well be silenced, as before it “Satan trembles.” In

conclusion, still, alas! for once that the gracious finger points while the

gracious lip says, “Behold, he prayeth!” how often must it be said,

Behold, he prayeth not”! Though there be every reason to pray, every

encouragement to pray, how many pray not!, Yet no monarch on the most

powerful and majestic throne, and wielding the mightiest sway, is in very

deed to compare for one moment with the man whose attitude is on his

knees before God. Who can describe the new cheerful readiness with which

in due time that man regains his feet? Though Saul had labored abundantly under the wrong master, after that praying he labored more abundantly,

yet not he, but — the grace of God that was in him,” (I Corinthians 15:10)

and in him through that praying.


12 “And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and

putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.”

He hath seen for hath seen in a vision, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

laying his hands for putting his hand, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.



A Spiritual Wonder (v. 12)


“Behold, he prayeth!” “Behold!” The Church, the world, invited to look on

the sight. The enemy, the Pharisee, the warrior, behold his hands clasped in

prayer, countenance bathed in tears, voice uttering petitions. Look into

that house of Judas; it might have been filled with mourning; it is the scene

of a spiritual victory. We can look back and look forward; what he was,

what he will be. There was great mercy in the blinding stroke, shutting Saul up

in his own thoughts. His cry was, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”




Ø      In the mind. Thoughts of Jesus. Acceptance of Messiahship. Overthrow

of legalism. Satisfaction of understanding in the Divine authority

manifested. Exaltation of Israel. We must be changed in our thoughts.

“What think ye of Christ?”


Ø      In the heart. The persecutor penetrated with the feeling of Divine love.

The perverse will, kicking against conscience, against the reproach which

like a goad was left by the remembrance of Stephen’s death. Personal sense

of sin the root of a true conversion. “I am the man.”


Ø      In the conduct. Obedience to the heavenly vision. Tractable as a child;

led by the Spirit. The prayer recounts that his face was turned towards the

new way. Christianity not a mere change of views or sentiments, but a

proclaimed rule of life. Walk in the way. Obedience.


  • AN EPOCH IN SPIRITUAL HISTORY. Little could Saul foresee his

own future, yet that Peniel was the introduction of a prince of God to his

kingdom. What a step from the chamber in Judas’s house at Damascus to

Rome’s imperial palace!


Ø      Prayer the preparation for activity. All great spiritual leaders do this

before they have gone down into the battle-field.  Jesus set the example

in the mountain solitude!


Ø      Prayer the lifting up of the fallen.  Through:


o        peace with God.

o        reopened eyes.

o        a blotted-out past.

o        the goads of conscience exchanged for the light of a new life,

o        the message of a reconciled Father,

o        the commission of the heavenly King to His chosen ambassadors.


Ø      Prayer the pledge of fellowship. He prayeth; go and pray with him.

Private prayer and public prayer are closely connected together.

Religion is not a secret thing. “Behold!” We should take knowledge

of the state of souls around us. Those that feel prompted to secret

prayer should welcome the visit of the Christian brother, and the

appeal to take the Name of Christ upon them, and the place which

is appointed us both in the fellowship and work of the Church.


13 “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man,

how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:” But for then,

Authorized Version; from many for by many, Authorized Version; did for hath

done, Authorized Version. Ananias’s answer shows his profound astonishment,

mixed with doubt and misgiving, at the commission given to him. It shows, too,

how the news of Saul’s commission had preceded him, and caused terror

among the disciples at Damascus. Little did Ananias suspect that this

dreaded enemy would be the channel of God’s richest blessings to His

Church throughout all ages until THE COMING OF CHRIST!

 How empty our fears often are! How ignorant are we where our chief good

lies hid! But God knows. Let us trust HIM!


14 “And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call

on thy name.” Upon for on, Authorized Version. That call upon thy name.

So also v. 21; Romans 10:12-13; I Corinthians 1:2; and above, ch. 7:59,

this same phrase describes the believer who makes his prayer to the Lord

Jesus and trusts in His Name for salvation.


15 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel

unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the

children of Israel:" A chosen vessel (compare Galatians 2:15; Romans 9:21-22).

To bear my name before the Gentiles (see ch. 22:21; 26:17-18; Romans 15:16;

Galatians 2:7-9, etc.) and kings (chapters 25 and 26; II Timothy 4:16-17, with

reference to Nero), and the children of Israel. The Gentiles are named before

the children of Israel, because  Paul’s special call was to be the apostle of the

Gentiles. But we know that even Paul’s practice was to preach Christ to the Jews

first, in every city where there were Jews.



God’s Chosen Vessels (v. 15)


Take the single sentence, He is a chosen vessel unto me;” literally, “a

vessel of election.” Illustrate by the apostle’s own figure of the “potter

having power over the clay,” and refer to prophetic illustrations taken from

the potter’s wheel and art. Here, however, the meaning of “vessel” may

rather be “instrument,” or “tool.” In every age God has called forth special

workers, fitted for the occasions; “with the hour always comes the man.”

In the ordering of God’s providence, the time had come for the extension

of Christianity to the Gentiles, and now we are directed to Saul as God’s

chosen vessel, or instrument, for this work. From his case may be

illustrated the following points concerning “God’s chosen vessels:”



After showing how Saul was being fitted by his earlier experiences, one can

find further illustration in the earlier careers of Joseph, Moses, David, etc.

Our Lord’s secluded life at Nazareth may be regarded as His preparation-time. Careful observance of men and life and work now brings again and again to

view the wonderful ways in which they have been prepared for the stern work

of their full manhood. The fact is so fully recognized as to have passed into a proverb, and we say, “The child is father to the man.” (William Wordsworth)

Then it follows that the wise training of our children should include the careful culture of any special gift or endowment of which we may see indications.


  • THEY ARE FOUND IN GOD’S OWN TIME. It is not enough that a

man should find out what he can do; he must wait on God to teach him the

time for the doing, and the sphere in which his work is to be done. Saul

had yet to wait some time before his life-sphere was pointed out to him.

But we need have no fear. Willing servants are never left idle, and when

God’s work is ready He will call to it the workmen He has prepared. A

North-country proverb is, “The tools come to the hands of him who can

use them;” and God’s people can tell strange stories of the gracious

orderings of providence that brought their great life-work to their hands.


  • MIGHTY TO DO THE LORD’S WORK. Because the appointment

to a particular service carries with it the assurance that sufficient grace for

the work will be given. Fitness is not enough, if it stand alone; it must be

followed up by daily grace for efficient working. Compare Moses willing to

go on to further journeys only if the Lord would go with him; and the

Apostle Paul “able to do all things through Him who strengthened him.”

(Philippians 4:13)  We can always do what God calls us to do. We are wrong,

as Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah were wrong, if we shrink back or flee from

the Lord’s work.



God’s chosen vessels are found out by the Divine signs which accompany

their labor. There may be temporary prejudice on account of their former

life, as in the case of Saul, or on account of the particular form and feature

of their work; but if God acknowledges a man’s service with His

benedictions, God’s people arc usually ready to acknowledge it too. If in a

very strict sense some only can be called “God’s chosen vessels,” in a large

and comforting sense the term may be applied to all God’s people, for each

of whom he surely finds work and the grace needed for doing it well.



The Choice of Perfect Forgivingness (v. 15)


Ananias demurs to the errand assigned. It was not altogether unnatural that

he should do so. His hesitation, however, does not resemble that of Moses.

And, in expressing the grounds of it, he was only occupying by anticipation

the position which it would become necessary to occupy when any and all

actual interposition of the great Head of the Church should be withdrawn.

Then, as it is to this day, it became among the most critical cares and the

most solemn responsibilities of the Church and of its leaders, its “pastors

and elders,” to consider what prudence may permit, and act as much with

the wisdom of the serpent as with the innocuousness of the dove. The

hesitation of Ananias does not appear to be reproved, but is plainly

overruled; and we are therein reminded still how:



CHOICE OF JESUS. The “things that are highly esteemed among men”

are not only sometimes “held in abomination in the sight of God,”  (Luke

16:15) but the things that are with justice lightly “esteemed among men” are

taken up sometimes by God, that He may in them magnify His transforming power.


Ø      Reputation is an uncertain guide. It is even particularly so, perhaps it

may be said, when it is a good reputation; for how “many that are first,

shall be last”! 


Ø      The tyranny of reputation is not for a moment recognized by Jesus. As

peremptorily as He would bid the worst sinner depart from the error of his

way, as lovingly as He would persuade the most disreputable to “sin no

more,” so graciously does He receive such also; and let the censorious

world say what it will, He discountenances the censoriousness by word, and

here emphatically discountenances by deed, what might contain the germ

of the principle. It is a thing to be much thought upon by the true disciples

of Christ. The world and A WORLDLY CHURCH aggravate the difficulty of the returning sinner. This is the opposite of the way of Jesus. Jesus helps a

man to recover his character; He helps his struggles while he does so; He

shows him sympathy, and, “though he fall” many a time in the struggle, graciously watches him and upholds him again and again that he be not

 utterly cast down for the Lord upholdeth him by His hand.”  (Psalm

37:24)  It is a proverb that the world keeps the man down who is down.

And when the Church approaches anything of the like kind, it means to say

that it is only in name the Church, and is drained miserably dry of the




FROM HIS CHOICE. Ananias did not misstate anything, did not

exaggerate the case against Saul, was not overridden by strange tales

untrue. But he did fear; he had a nervous apprehension; he had not up to

that moment learned, what probably he did at that moment learn, and from

that moment never forgot, the wonderful reach of the power of Christ. How

long it is before any of us attain to the right conception of Jesus and His

heart and His hand! We still think Him such as ourself (Psalm 50:21), He is

only something greater, greatly greater; something better, and very much better. We need to see that He is divinely greater, divinely better, and all that divine means.


Ø      The antecedents of a man’s life may largely betoken its real bent.

Ø      They will largely have made his habits.

Ø      They will almost inevitably color all his future way of viewing things.


But to these three things the answer for Jesus is that He, ay, He alone can:


Ø      reverse bent,

Ø      undo habit, and

Ø      can give to see light in God’s light (Psalm 36:9).




TO JESUS. Genuinely to forgive is acknowledged to be one of the highest

moral achievements of human nature. Nevertheless, there are ascending

degrees even to this virtue; and when some men are satisfied that they have

done their most and their best, all that nature admits of or that God

demands, it must be allowed that these men are but beginning their higher

flight. To forgive the bitterest opponent in these senses — that you love

him again or for the first time, as the case may be; that you sympathize

with him and accept his sympathy; work with him and accept his work and

devotion — nay, select him as your chief man, and set him forth and

forward as your champion; — is a type of forgiveness rarely reproduced.

With sublimity of ease JESUS DOES THIS NOW!  Not Peter, not John, not

James, but this wild enemy, Saul, is the man He called and honored to bear

his Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” His

sins shall not be remembered against him forever. They are, then, really

BLOTTED OUT!   He is not forgiven, but put rather low down; forgiven,

but kept rather down, lest he should not be fit to be quite trusted; forgiven,

but in deepest truth left still a marked man. No; if he is marked it is for honor,

for renown, for grace, and for the unfading crown of glory. In sight of this

proof of the perfection of forgiveness that is with Jesus, we may well sing:


“Mighty Lord, so high above us,

    Loving Brother, all our own,

Who will help us, who will love us,

    Like to thee, who all hast known?

Who so gentle to the sinners

    As the soul that never fell?

Who so strong to make us winners

   Of the height He won so well?”




AND HUMAN RELATION TO GOD. When we ponder this subject, if we

side with the infidel, we ridicule and at the same time we are putting

ourselves nowhere. If we side with the reverent, we are in the depths too

deep for this. The choosing of Jesus is mystery, unfathomable mystery for us.


Ø      It is mystery because He gives no account of it nor will be arraigned nor

questioned concerning it.


Ø      It is mystery, because not all our reason, nor all our reverent study of the

oracles, nor all our diligent search of history, nor all our scrutiny of human

will and character, can trace the law of that choosing. It baffles us in reason

and in fact. Its startling anomalies presented to our view in closest

juxtaposition, its sudden appearance in the most unexpected place, and its

equally conspicuous and impressive absence, speak the mystery of



Ø      It is mystery in the wonders which it reveals of surpassing

condescension, grace, and clinging love. While reason still stands afar off

in cold repulsion and haughty distance, hearts draw near. And for its last

achievement it works out this harmony for all those, without one

exception, who have become the objects of it; they adore the free grace

that has drawn and brought them; they condemn in the same breath the

perverseness and folly and guilt in themselves, which left them so long



16 “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Many for great, Authorized Version; Paul’s whole life was the fulfillment

of this word of Christ (see II Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-27).



Jesus’ Far-Seeing Compassion Appearing in an Unexpected Way

(v. 16)


That Saul, when now called Paul, did indeed suffer many and great things

for Jesus’ “Name’s sake,” is most true. He knew it when he suffered them;

he knew it also by anticipation (ch. 20:23; 21:11) — a kind of

knowledge that to many would be of the most harassing and distressing

consequence; and he knew it as he looked back (II Corinthians 11:23-31;

12:10), not indeed to murmur, nor to repent of having exposed himself

to it, but, while glorying in the suffering, to testify how real it was. That,

therefore, of which Jesus tells Ananias that he will forewarn Saul, did by all

the witness of history come to pass. But it is another question why he is

forewarned of it, and why Jesus assures Ananias that he shall be so

forewarned. Nor can it escape our notice that much significance is intended

to lie in the statement as here introduced. Let us consider this

announcement of Jesus:


  • IN ITS APPLICATION TO ANANIAS. It is intended to remove the

objection of Ananias, by suggesting to him:


Ø      That Christ did not overlook, had not overlooked, the specialty of the



Ø      That Christ would be Himself answerable for the education of Saul for

his work, failing the antecedents that Ananias supposed would have

been of more auspicious promise.


Ø      That that education would not fail to be what, in its character and the

severity of its discipline, would both:


o       attest the reality of the change passed upon Saul and

o       confirm and deepen that change.


Ø      Possibly Christ may, in the mode of His reply, desire also very

condescendingly to still any smallest germ of:


o       personal envy or

o       forwardness to suspicion lurking in the character of Ananias.


It is very certain that the mischief of these two very things

unacknowledged and covered over with finer words, has amounted to a total result of very great disaster during the career of the Church, ever since the personal intervention of Jesus has been absent. How often did Jesus in the days of His flesh stand by the sorry sinner round whom

surged the murmur of the envious multitude! But the half-stifled and cautious envy and suspicion of the wary individual has often proved

itself a more cruel enemy to souls, and must be a more offensive

obstacle, in the eyes of Jesus, to His work making way in some poor

guilty but struggling soul. Certain it is that:


“Since our dear Lord in bliss reposed,

High above mortal ken,”


His Church has, times without number, made to pass through severest quarantine heartbroken volunteers for His service. The effects have

been all deteriorating and disastrous. They would have been ruinous

save for the still steady, if invisible, rule and headship of Jesus Christ.

The Church (whether only so named or so in deed and in truth),

mistaking duty and right, has failed in such cases to note sufficiently

the Divine treatment as here illustrated in the three days’ blindness

and fasting of Saul, succeeded by the confidence and trust of the great Master, given immediately in the kindliest and most unreserved



  • IN ITS APPLICATION TO SAUL HIMSELF.  Jesus bids Ananias lose

no time, but “go” at once to bear to Saul the message, so far as the way

could be prepared for it by human lips; and herein suggests to us to notice

certain relations of this language to Saul.


Ø      Christ, having chosen His servant, apprises him both faithfully and early

of what awaits him. No false, nor tempting, nor too favorable gloss is put

by him on his own “most worthy” service.


Ø      He apprises him also of what is expected of him. If Jesus show to any

one, whether in the ways of apostolic time or in the ways of time present,

“how great things he shall suffer for His Name’s sake,” “how great things” life and circumstance and earthly lot are likely to make him “suffer,” “how great things” His divinest directest call shall impose upon him to “suffer,” — it must be that He is addressing a call to him that shall invoke all his heroism. It is very much as though the condescending Jesus did here introduce the Christian hero into the possible ranks of His own blessed Church. All must come of Him, all does surely come of Him; but

if it be possible, something shall be credited to the range of human virtue.

Manifestly Saul was a good instance by which to set forth this. He had

been conspicuous; he had been a hero of some sort; he had shown lavish

energy, which shall no longer be sacrificed to lavish waste. Thus from

the first Jesus gives a tone to certain of His servants — those, to wit,

who are of the sort to answer to it readily and really. Life and labor and the success of real usefulness do often largely own to original impulse

and early impression. The high-pitched thought and purpose and feeling of youth and of first effort are rarely lost, when they are genuine to begin with. They tell and count and swell to the echo as year and period pass by. Nor can it be denied that many a true Christian life falls under the condemnation of being a feeble and an unfruitful life, because it was

not at the first appealed to with power. It never got the idea of

trenchancy. And indecision — its watchword — was snare and delusion

to it.


Ø      He apprises him of what may be calculated upon, as acting like a certain

and safe check to both pride or vanity and self-confidence. How many have fallen upon the very threshold of what would have been a great spiritual career through one or both of these things!  And the pride ecclesiastical and the self-confidence that “lords it over the faith” of

others are just two of the most pronounced pestilences of human nature. From the fright and the fire and the faintness of the “three days” which Saul had now known, it were well that he should not be brought out at once to the light and “the cheerful sun” and the splendid hopes and prospects of a great career. It is better that a tempering interval find

place. It is safer that his thought and heart find tonic in a Savior’s call

and in a Master’s demand — that he familiarize himself with the outlook of suffering, and great suffering.


Ø      Though lastly, yet most of all, Jesus will connect everything in Saul’s

thought now with Himself. How great, how true, how kind was this

philosophy! Saul has sinned no end against Christ, and he shall suffer no

end for “His Name’s sake.” What healing for Saul’s soul that foretelling

announcement! Saul has persecuted fiercely those who were dear to

Christ unspeakably, and he shall bear the brunt of fiercest persecution

for the sake of Christ and in the service of His loved ones. It is the only compensation for his self-respect, it is some anodyne for his inward smart, and, though an undiscerning world would never have thought it, it is the supreme mark of Christ’s sweet forgivingness, of His delicate considerateness, of His tenderest sympathy. “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.”


17 “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting

his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that

appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that

thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”

Departed for went his way, Authorized Version; laying for putting, Authorized

Version; who appeared for that appeared, Authorized Version; which thou earnest

for as, etc., Authorized Version; mayest for mightest, Authorized Version. The

laying on of hands is the medium of conveying any special grace. Here it precedes

the baptism, and was the channel of restoring sight to his eyes. Doubtless he did not

receive the Holy Ghost till after his baptism (see ch. 2:38.)


18 “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and

he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”

Straightway for immediately, Authorized Version; as it were for as it had

been, Authorized Version; received his sight for received sight forthwith,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; he arose for arose, Authorized Version.

As it were scales (λεπίδες lepides -  scales, or flakes); any thin substance which

peals off; a frequent term in Greek medical writers. And was baptized. It is a

curious difference between Paul and the other apostles that, if they were baptized

at all, which is doubtful, they must have been baptized by Christ himself; whereas

Paul received his baptism at the hands of Ananias. This is one mark of his being

“born out of due time.”  (I Corinthians 15:8)  And yet he was not behind the

very chiefest apostles.



                  Christ’s Treatment of Us and Our Obedience to Him

                                                    (vs. 10-18)



FIRST PERPLEXING. (vs. 10-14.) Nothing which Christ could have

given Ananias to do would have surprised him more than the duty with

which he was entrusted. It filled him with astonishment and perplexity.

Instead of immediately acquiescing, he raised a strong objection (vs. 13-14).

It seemed impossible to him that this should be his mission; nevertheless

it was so, and the obedient disciple of Damascus never did a better

morning’s work than when he conveyed sight to the eyes and

gladness to the heart of the last and greatest of the apostles. We may be

summoned by our Lord, either through the promptings of His own Spirit or

through the instrumentality of His Church, to do work which at first seems

surprising, undesirable, useless. We may be invited to appeal to those we

deem unlikely to welcome us, to address ourselves to apparently

unremunerative toil, to cultivate ground which looks sterile to our eye; but

it may be that we are really called of Christ to do a most needed and useful




SPIRITUAL CAPACITY. (v. 15.) There may be very much more of

spiritual power resident in us or in our neighbors than of which we have any

conception. How many have lived and died with vast possibilities of

good in their nature never realized! Their talent has been buried. Has not

our Master some good or even some great work for us to achieve? May

we not, like Ananias, be instrumental in leading forward some servant of

Christ who has great capacities of usefulness in him? We must make the

most and best of ourselves and of others; only our Lord and theirs knows

how much it is in us and in them to accomplish.




summon us to “suffer for His Name’s sake.” We never reach so lofty an

altitude, never come so near to the Master Himself, never so nobly serve

our kind, as when we willingly and cheerfully suffer for the kingdom of

heaven’s sake; then we may “rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is our

reward in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:12)




SHRINK. (v. 17.) When it is in our human nature to shrink from any

duty, but when, from regard to our Master’s will, we address ourselves to

it, then we do that which is acceptable to Him. It is at variance with our

material interests, against our inclinations, opposed to our tastes and views;

“nevertheless at Christ’s word we will” do what is desired (see Luke 5:5).

Ananias shrinks from approaching the arch-persecutor; nevertheless

at Christ’s bidding he goes, takes a friendly tone and does a brotherly deed.



REDEEMER. (v. 18.) As soon as the scales had fallen from his eyes and

he received sight, as soon as he had been favored with this further

confirmation that he was under the teaching and leading of the Son of God

Himself, Paul “arose and was baptized.” No interval elapsed between the

time when he was free to act as one redeemed and healed of Christ, and his

action of open acknowledgment of conversion to the faith. We do well to

wait till we are thoroughly assured of our whole-hearted reception of Jesus

Christ before we confess Him before men; but as soon as we clearly see that

He is our Lord and that we are His disciples, it is


Ø      our simple duty, as it is

Ø      our valuable privilege, to honor our Redeemer by an open declaration

of attachment to Him, and to join ourselves to His disciples (v. 19).


19 “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was

Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.”

He took food and for when he had received meat he, Authorized Version; and

he was for then was Saul, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Some

commentators would interpose the journey to Arabia (mentioned Galatians 1:17)

between vs. 19-20; and this seems to be the intention of the Authorized Version,

where the clause commencing with Then (v. 19) seems to wind up and close the

preceding narrative. This too is the view strongly supported by Canon

Farrar, vol. 1. Acts 11., and by Lewin. Alford places the journey to Arabia

in the time comprised in v. 22; others before v. 22; Neander, Meyer,

and others, in the time comprised in the “many days” of v. 23. And this

last is undoubtedly the easiest, were it not for the considerations urged by

Farrar with great force as to the probability of Paul seeking a period of

retirement after his conversion before commencing any public preaching,

and the further countenance given to this view by Galatians 1:17,

where Paul certainly says of himself that εὐθέωςeutheos - immediately, after

his conversion he “went away to Arabia.” Taking all things into consideration,

and supposing that either Luke was not aware of the sojourn in Arabia, or

that he omitted from his notes some brief notice of it immediately

preceding the description of Saul’s preaching in Damascus, which

explained the following εὐθέως (anon; straightway, immediately),

it seems best to understand the latter part of v. 19 and all that follows as

subsequent to his return from Arabia; and to conclude that he only stayed at

Damascus ἡμέρας τίνας haemeras tinas days some -  a few days,

after his conversion, and then retired to Arabia. It may be observed, too,

that this interpretation gives a significance to the mention of the “certain

days” which otherwise it has not. There is a further difference of opinion as

to what is meant by Arabia. The most common view is that Auranitis,

bordering upon Arabia Deserts, and reckoned as part of Arabia, not above

two days’ journey from Damascus, is the country meant. But others

understand it in its more strictly Hebrew sense of the Peninsula of Sinai

(Farrar, vol. 1. p. 212, and Exeursus 9.; Dean Howson on Galatians in

‘Speaker’s Commentary;’ Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians 1:17). This

view is decidedly strengthened by the fact that, in the fourth chapter of the

Epistle to the Galatians, Paul clearly means by Arabia the Peninsula of

Arabia, where Sinai was (Galatians 4:25). On the assumption that the

Sinaitic Peninsula is meant, Bishop Lightfoot says, “He was attracted

thither by a spirit akin to that which formerly had driven Elijah to the same

region. Standing on the threshold of the new covenant, he was anxious to

look upon the birthplace of the old; that, dwelling for a while in seclusion

in the presence of the mount that burned with fire, he might ponder over

the transient glories of the ministration of death, and apprehend its real

purpose in relation to the more glorious covenant which was now to

supplant it.” His journey to Arabia need not necessarily have occupied

more than two or three mouths. It seems certain that he did not preach

there, because he says (ch. 26:20), “I declared to them at Damascus

first, etc. (see another coincidence between the Acts and the Epistle to the

Galatians in ch. 13:2, note).



Saul and Ananias (vs. 10-19)


  • THE MINISTRY OF MAN TO MAN. After the direct revelation

through the terror of the lightning and the thunderbolt, comes the mediate

revelation through the familiar voice and manner of one’s fellow-man.

Ananias is not an apostle; he is a disciple, a member of the Church simply,

entrusted with no particular office or position. Possibly the reason for this

was that Paul might not be dependent on any of the other apostles, he was,

he said, “an apostle, not from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ.” But

the general lesson is on the unofficial service of Christians to others.

Officialism often brings Christianity into suspicion. The genuine service of

private Christians is always of value and always an evidence of the Spirit of




is directed to go to Saul, “for behold, he prayeth!” A pregnant word by

which to describe the condition of a converted sinner. He prays; therefore

he is no longer a persecutor of Jesus, but a captive of His grace, subject of

His love. He prays; therefore his heart is emptied of its former hate towards

the brethren, and is filled with meekness and charity. The expression also

betokens the gracious mind of the speaker. The Lord looks down with pity

on the broken heart prostrate before Him in prayer. And the Church are in

like manner to turn to Him, as one though lost yet found, no longer a foe

but a friend. “Behold, he prays!”



the messenger of Christ coming in and laying his hands on him that he may

receive his sight. It is by its associations that any great event in the outward

world or in the mind fixes itself on the memory. Paul was to look back

upon those days as an inexhaustible fund of deepest spiritual impressions.

He shall be able to say, “I received my office as apostle not from man but

from Jesus Christ.” He shall be forever cured of his Pharisaic wisdom and

pride of the flesh. (I like the song by the Del McCoury Band -

Recovering Pharisee, - CY – 2016)  He was not reasoned into Christianity,

but the living Christ was revealed in him, in ways too manifold and various

to be mistaken.



Ananias hesitates. The acts of men are standing evidence

of their disposition. What safer guide can we have? Yet the Divine voice

quells the hesitation of Ananias. Saul is a chosen vessel, instrument, or

tool, fashioned by the Divine hand and for the Divine purposes. In the

mysterious world of the human heart all things are possible to God — even

as elsewhere. The volcanic fire which is working beneath the convulsions

of the earthquake is a formative as well as a destructive agent. The

passionate outbreaks of a man against a principle or a party are often a sign

of internal change going on. Saul was to be fashioned as an instrument for

the greatest work, perhaps, ever committed to manthe bearing of the

Name, i.e. the message and doctrine of Christ to the Gentiles, to confront

and shake the powers of the world with THE POWER OF THE

CRUCIFIED ONE!  Such a missionary must need no common training.

He must have known the depths of the evil of his own heart, the heights

of redeeming grace.  That Christ could conquer the proud and stubborn

Pharisee, and turn Saul into Paul, was a prophecy of the nature of His

progressive conquests over mankind.



Christ will show the newly called, not what things he is to enjoy, what

honors he is to reap, but what things he must suffer. Never was prophet

called of God without some adumbration of future suffering, of struggle

painful to flesh and blood. With us all there is something awful and

repellent in the forms of duty. It is the “stern daughter of the voice of

God.” Yet in obedience alone can we enjoy true freedom and the presence

of God in the soul. And the greater the strength given, the greater will be

the struggles imposed, the pain to be endured, the inner sense of joy and

triumph to be experienced. To follow Christ truly is no soft and sentimental

thing — it is an enterprise which taxes manhood to its utmost. To Him may

be applied the words of the poet:


“Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear

   The Godhead’s most benignant grace;

Nor know we anything so fair

   As is the smile upon thy face.”



Ananias comes with his cheering message and his inspired acts to

emancipate the body and soul of Saul.


Ø      He is to see again. The first view of new truth “blinds with excess of

light.” Presently the scales fall, and the eyes are found to have new powers

of perception. We may find a parable here. The exchange of fleshly wisdom

and narrow views for spiritual insight and wide command of the field of

vision seems at first a loss. We can see nothing for a time; the old horizon

has vanished. Presently the darkness lifts, the dawn appears; we are in a

new scene, and “behold, all things are become new.”


Ø      He is to be filled with the Holy Ghost. The moment of the break-down

of all our old system of thought and life is that of extreme weakness. It is

that self-emptiness which is utterly painful, but prepares for the incoming

and indwelling of Divine power — the Holy Spirit.


Ø      Baptism as an epoch of life. It closes one era, it opens another. The

putting on of Christ — the essential thing in baptism — involves

renunciation on the one hand, fresh choice on the other. God sets us free

that we may serve him.


“I myself commend

Unto thy guidance from this hour.

Oh, let my weakness have an end!”


To live out in our own experience the call, and conversion, and initiation of

Saul is to get to the heart of human nature and of the relation of Christ to

that nature.



Baptism of Saul (vs. 10-19)


While the conversion was independently of human agency, the new life

awakened was immediately called up by Divine appointment into

fellowship with the life of the Church. The baptism is here plainly a Divine

seal upon the individual, an invitation to the privileges of the Church, a

consecration to higher life and service.


As a “chosen vessel” (v. 15) Saul was marked out by the Lord!  The

sympathy of an experienced Christian with a young convert is unspeakably

precious. The introduction to Ananias was an introduction to the Church at

Damascus, which, while no doubt wholly Jewish, was yet prepared by its

training in that city for the reception of such a man. They would be less

startled then at the announcement that he would go to the Gentiles. Thus

God works all things according to the good pleasure of His will. The

converted Saul opens his eyes in Damascus.


His baptism was an acceptance on Saul’s part of the Lord’s commission. He knew

that he would have much to do for Christ. He was aware of his past and desired to

make up for it by entire devotedness to Him whom He had persecuted.


The Holy Ghost especially consecrated Saul with gifts to higher service.

Extraordinary conversion is a preparation for extraordinary service.

Grace abounding to one who has felt himself the chief of sinners becomes

abounding strength to do the Lord’s work. The special gifts of the Holy Ghost

were bestowed through the ministration of Ananias. A miraculous power at once

descended on Saul, and he felt himself lifted out of the ordinary current of his life

and set in a higher level of experience and faculty.



A Parable in Things Spiritual (vs. 17-19)


We entertain no doubt that we have here a simple history of what actually

occurred. We doubt no less that the chief interest and significance of the

record lie in the spiritual history that underlies it. Nay, more, though we

read facts of outer life, they do nothing more than outline those of an inner

life, which Jesus notices, loves, helps, and even makes. Notice


  • THE CHANGE THAT PASSES ON SAUL. He receives his sight. For

three days he had been blind in a bodily sense, but for probably three and

thirty years he had been blind in the other sense. And this is just what he

had been. He had not been vicious, immoral, sottish, nor an infidel, nor

irreverent toward all religious truth and feeling. But he had been blind —

blind to the very type of human nature. And his blindness is but the type of

that of every one of us, till he “receives his sight from the Lord Jesus.”



BLESSING IS CONVEYED. If Jesus had been in a literal sense upon the

earth, He would have spoken to Saul, He would have laid His own hands

upon him. The actual ministry, the visible ministry, is passed, however,

now into human agency. This was a plain-spoken statement of it. How

great the honor laid on men! and how great their responsibility by this

devolution of the highest and holiest functions! How full of solemn and

inspiring suggestion, too little traced out in devout thought by us — that

the actual work which for a space of time Jesus’ own voice and hand had

attended to, are now to be attended to by man, fellow-man.


Ø      That work, that ministry of service to the soul of a fellow-creature, finds

out very soon and very surely all that is of the nature of sympathy. It tries

sympathy it wakes it, it increases it. The fearful Ananias and distrustful of

one hour ago finds, and no doubt honestly, the word “brother” now on his

lip — “ Brother Saul.”


Ø      Jesus Himself became genuinely a Brother to those He came to save, not

by virtue of His Divine power and practical pity only. That His might be the

very type of brotherliness, He took our nature on Him, and made Himself

Brother (Hebrews 2:11, 17). And when He ascended, His representatives

are to be found in those who were men alone. That what might seem the unnecessary thing is here done, in a man being sent with the mere message

of re-given sight, and the mere formality of “laying on hands” where no

virtue could pass, must mean all the more to set honor on the spiritual work which one man should do for others.





Ø      Jesus sends Ananias. He has directed him, and where necessary corrected

him also. He has fixed the time, and hastens the lingering step of Ananias.


Ø      Jesus, who “began the good work,” perfects it. The Jesus who met Saul

in the way and preemptorily reined up his career is the Jesus who gives him

now light and liberty and his commission. The miracle is the miracle of

Jesus; His the power, the will, the love, the sovereign grace. Nor can this be

too well remembered by the servants of Christ, in all they do now toward

the salvation of a fellow man. Those who will most readily admit that the

touch of their hand can do nothing to work sight for the blind, are not

always quite so clear that their voice, their wisdom, their persuasion, their

mental influence on a fellow-being’s mental state, are correspondingly

impotent in and of themselves. Yet it is so. The love of Jesus and the

command of the Spirit, and these alone, make dead sinners LIVE!” Of one

thing we may be convinced, that, had Ananias only spoken a hollow word

of respect to Jesus, and flattered himself that the healing and sight-giving

were going to be his own, the miracle would have broken down in the

middle, if it had got so far, as Peter sank in the middle of his walking upon

the sea. Does the preacher, does the teacher, does the pastor, remember

this principle constantly enough? Do they possess an unfeigned humility of

faith in it?




Ø      The work of the Holy Ghost is announced.

Ø      The presence of the Holy Ghost is announced as the result of the

sending of Jesus Christ (John 16:7).

Ø      The commanding need of the Holy Ghost for a renewed man and an

enlightened man, that he may remain surely so, is strongly enough implied:

“That thou mightest be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Nothing so hinders the

spread of Christianity, the force of Christian life, the conversion of souls, as

the neglect or the indifference shown to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christianity is in the fullest sense “the dispensation of the Spirit,” and yet

prayer for that Spirit, dependence upon Him, understanding of Him, arc

often all of the vaguest. The power and persuasion and grandeur of Christ

and the cross of Christ only move into vitality as the Spirit takes of them

and brings them to men’s hearts. We do all and always need the Holy Spirit

for both conversion and for sanctification, and for knowing and doing

acceptably any service for God, for Christ, in man’s heart and life.



OF THE HANDS OF ANANIAS. They followed just as though it were by

his own “power and holiness” that this miracle was wrought. So in our

spiritual work, we should look for results. We should feel their cheering

effect. We should delight in them. We should be grateful and honored

exceedingly that we are permitted to be instruments in the “mighty hand”

for doing them. But, meantime, we are bound never to forget how fearful

the robbery and the guilt if we give not all the glory to God, to Jesus, to

the Spirit.


20 “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is

the Son of God.”  In the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus for he preached Christ

in the synagogues, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. The preponderance

of manuscript authority, and the ὄνομα onomaname of v. 21, and the

ὅτι οϋτός ἐστινΞριστός hoti houtos estin ho Christos – that this One is

the Christ  of v. 22, seem conclusive in favor of Jesus rather than Christ. As

regards the expression straightway, we must understand it as descriptive of Saul’s

action upon his return from Arabia. Is it possible that Luke uses it with

the same meaning as he may have heard Paul use it in when speaking of

his Damascus preaching, in the same sense as Paul actually does speak

in Galatians 1:17, viz. as expressing that he did not wait for authority

from the apostles, but at once, fresh from the Divine call, and having a

direct commission from Christ Himself, entered upon his apostolic ministry?

If the Epistle to the Galatians was written A.D. 58, it would be just about

the time that Luke joined Paul, and might be commencing to collect

materials for his history. So that the phrase in the Galatians and the phrase

in this twentieth verse might really be the expression of one thought

committed to paper by Paul on the one hand, and uttered in the ear of

Luke on the other. It is a confirmation of this view that in II Corinthians,

written about the same time, there is also an account of Saul’s escape from

Damascus. In the synagogues; the very synagogues (v. 2) to which the

letters of the high priest were addressed, empowering him to arrest either

man or woman who called upon the Name of Jesus, and bring them as

prisoners to Jerusalem to be tried before the Sanhedrin. No wonder they

were amazed.



Saul’s First Sermons (v. 20)


Revised Version, “And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus,

that He is the Son of God.”  The point to which all the effort of the apostle

was first directed was naturally the Messiahship of Jesus, and that in the

higher view in which Christianity exhibits the Messiah, namely, as the Son

of God. Very different ideas are entertained as to the advisability of encouraging

young converts to begin preaching at once. The difficulty arose in the China mission field, and the new convert earnestly pleaded to be allowed to tell the little he did

know, and so grow to know more. This principle Saul followed, beginning at once to preach the faith which once he destroyed,” and he made the opportunities just

where he was, going into the synagogues, and using his privilege as a rabbi to read

and expound the Scriptures. The text briefly indicates what truth Saul had

gripped, and, taken with v. 22, it shows how large his grip was, and that

it concerned the very basis-truth of Christianity. He saw that:


  • THE CHRIST HAD COME.  Christ is the Greek equivalent of the

Hebrew word “Messiah,” and would often be wisely changed for the Hebrew term.


Ø      the foregoing prophecies of Messiah, showing how they had given tone

to the national and religious sentiment;


Ø      the actual expectation of the coming of Messiah about that time

seems to have possessed both the Jews and the Gentiles. The practical

question dividing public opinion at the time was the question which divides

the Jew and the Gentile up to this present hour; it was this — Had Messiah

come, or had He not come? Saul was now able to deal with this question,

and he proclaimed openly that Messiah had come. This was an important

step, as it narrowed the field of inquiry for all those pious souls

who looked for redemption in Israel.”  (Luke 2:38)



The better manuscripts give the reading, “preached Jesus.”

If Messiah had come, had He been recognized, and acknowledged? Saul

firmly answered, "Yes; Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth, the Prophet,

Teacher, Healer, holy Man, who was crucified, had risen from the dead,

and was exalted to heaven.” Surely this was a great theme for his

preaching, one demanding explanation, argument, evidence, and the

“accent of his own conviction.” But Saul had seen more than even this, and

so further proclaimed that:


  • JESUS THE CHRIST WAS THE SON OF GOD. Explain that term



Ø      compared with “Son of man;” and

Ø      as gaining to the apostles its deeper and fuller meaning.


To Saul had evidently come an insight into the glorious mystery of the

Incarnation. He realized:


Ø      that Jesus was the Christ in a high spiritual sense;

Ø      that Jesus was entrusted with a present power to save and to sanctify;

Ø      that Jesus had Divine rights, and made Divine claims to the immediate surrender to Him of the heart and will and lives of men.


So it is evident that Saul grasped at once the very essence of the gospel, and the very center of that doctrinal system which, urged by the necessities of the Churches, his genius developed. There is still no more searching test of our religious condition than can be found in the question, “What think ye of Christ?

Whose Son is He?” (Matthew 22:32)  If we feel that we must say, “He is the

Son of God,” then we are bound to:


Ø      bow our souls before Him,

Ø      seek His grace,

Ø      accept His salvation,

Ø      acknowledge His authority, and

Ø       bind on our whole lives the livery of His service.


21 “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that

destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came

hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief

priests?”  And for but, Authorized Version; that in Jerusalem made havoc of for

that destroyed them (which called on this Name) in Jerusalem, Authorized Version;

and he had come hither for this intent for and came hither for that intent, Authorized

Version, differently stopped; before for unto, Authorized Version. The chief priests.

The plural seems to mark how the high priesthood at this period was passed from

one to another. Caiaphas, Annas, Jonathan, and Theophilus would all be

included under the term.



Amazement’s Opportunity (v. 21)


The amazement of the disciples of Jesus, and of others also who heard

Saul preaching at Damascus, may be pronounced natural enough under any

circumstances and in any view of it. Yet distinct and emphatic mention of it

asks for a somewhat more careful observation and scrutiny of its nature

and peculiar features. Notice:




Ø      That Saul, a bitter opponent heretofore of Christ and His truth, now

preaches Christ, the whole Christ, and nothing but Christ. He preaches “the

whole Christ” in this sense, that, as we are told, he uplifts the central and

so to speak crucial fact about Christ, “that He is the Son of God.” This

once granted with the heart,” all else follows. He has not yielded upon

some side aspects of the matter, and for some political reasons joined a

remarkable movement. But he has yielded the stronghold of his own

unbelief, and has acknowledged the impregnable character of the

stronghold that he had been striving to batter down, to under-mine, to

“utterly” destroy.


Ø      That Saul, a notorious opponent of Christ, comes now to preach in the

places where his change of front would also become most notorious

confessed, and where it in turn would be the mark and butt of keen

opposition. He preached Christ “in the synagogues.”


Ø      That, with the most unreserved and apparently even unconscious self=forgetfulness, Saul mingles in this work side by side with men, for the

apprehension of whom, and for the conveying of whom “bound to

Jerusalem,” he had in his pocket official authorizations.


Ø      That Saul does this “straightway,” without finding delay a possible thing,

without waiting for anything of the nature of diplomatic introduction.

There is something or other fresh in his heart, and it comes with all

promptness and naturalness and force, full of its freshness, into his life.




Ø      They were in part disciples. It is impossible to say that all those who

were amazed were of the number of either disciples or non-disciples. It is

said “all” that “heard him” were amazed. These must have consisted of

both disciples and non-disciples. The one had not left off entirely to

frequent the synagogue, and the others would, as a matter of course, be

found in some sort of number there. So far as they were strictly disciples,

their amazement marks no doubt, on the one hand, grateful and adoring

impression; but, on the other, it is not altogether free from the imputation

of betraying that the glories of the Spirit’s power in conversion, and the

force of the truth and call of Jesus, were at present only dawning upon

their minds. We still speak of remarkable conversions, chiefly because they

are so rare. We have had enough instances of them to satisfy us as to what

the force of conversion is on every kind of sinner, in every kind of nature,

and in every “nation.” We are ever to magnify Christ and the Spirit, and

gratefully to acknowledge their triumphs in conversion, but the expression

of amazement may sometimes derogate from their honor. Perhaps the

conversion of Saul was not only the most remarkable conversion that had

yet taken place, but was the only one that, all things together, had stood

out uniquely enough to compel attention individually.


Ø      They were in part unconvinced Jews, who, dead in formality, still

frequented the synagogues in Damascus. The lingering and somewhat

feeble faith and knowledge of the disciples finds something to

counterbalance it, perhaps to some little degree, in the quickly aroused

criticism and spirit of observation on the part of others less enlightened

than they. The indirect influences of Christ and of His truth are many and

effective. His enemies, and the force and the violence and the cruelty of

their opposition, He often makes tributary to the advancement of His cause.

Many who had hitherto willingly spread opposition, and opposition only,

now become the means of spreading tidings of how the chief of the

opposition had thrown up the contest and joined heart and hand to help.

And they spread this ominous fact in the most contagious manner. It is by

the manner of wondering, excited question, and question that wraps up in a

sentence or two the salient and really telling aspects of the whole matter.

The astonishment of the godly is often deep down in their own souls or

sacred in the converse of one another; the astonishment of the ungodly is

sure to be loud on their lip. But when this latter largely reinforces the

former, both advantages are secured, and the march of victory advances to

the step of both friends and foes. It was so now, and throughout the whole

people far and wide notoriety was as the consequence given to the

conversion of Saul — a notoriety which had its share in bringing on the

“Churches’ rest” spoken of in v. 31.




Ø      A very wide hearing was gained irresistibly, not for the truths of

Christianity alone, but for its triumphs as well. One triumph is itself a

sermon better than a thousand merely spoken sermons. And now this

triumph-sermon, this sermon of sermons, is proclaimed and repeated by

thousands of lips.


Ø      Even when first impressions had died away, substantial increase of faith

and hope was left in the character of all “disciples.” They had without

doubt known already striking instances of changed opinion and feeling and

life among those to whom Christ had been preached, and for whom His

mighty works had been done. But this was not what is generally meant by a

remarkable conversion. The grand feature here was not the reform from an

unholy life, but the reform from an uncompromising antagonist into a

devoted and very powerful champion. This would be a comparatively new

and a most refreshing testimony to disciples of the nature and the force of

the new treasure they had in the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Ø      Slumbering enmity and indifference to Christ in those who were not

disciples were brought into the shape in which they would be best dealt

with — malignant enmity and active resistance. Now “the sinners” and

“those who were at ease” wake themselves. Here is found a foeman worthy

indeed of their “steel,” if they had weapon of the make. But they had not.

They, therefore, conspire and “watch day and night,” to learn how vain the

attempt to take those whom Christ holds so safe in His hand and love. The

fruit of confessed amazement and undoubted amazement at the mighty

deeds of Christ must ever be either:


o        hearty obedience to Him, or

o        an understanding more blinded and life aggravated to perverseness itself.


22 “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews

which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”

The Christ for very Christ, Authorized Version. The repetition of the phrase

ὅτι οῦτός ἐστιν (that this One is - vs. 20 and 22) is remarkable. As already

observed, it presupposes the mention of Jesus, of whom it is thus predicated

that He is both “the Son of God” and “the Christ” (compare ch. 2:32, 36; 4:11,

etc.). Observe the incidental proof of the general expectation of the Jews

that Christ should come in this description of the apostolic preaching as

directed to the one point that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.



The New Convert Proving His Sincerity (vs. 19-22)



Characteristics of Saul appearing in the new phase of his life.


Ø      Intelligence. He is ready to grapple with subtle antagonists, he seizes the

great central truth of the gospel — the Messiahship of Jesus. He employs

his vast knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures.


Ø      Boldness and energy. Not even waiting for opportunity, but making it;

entering the synagogues, producing amazement by his vehemence.


Ø      Self-surrender to Christ, as before consuming zeal for the Law. Where

he was expected as the persecutor, there he appears as the convert. All

sense of shame swallowed up in devotion to Christ.



“increased the more in strength.”


Ø      Conviction deepens by speaking. Many lose strength by remaining silent.

Work for Christ lifts up the heart. The idle ones doubt; the active ones are



Ø      The sense of victory a great help, both to individuals and the Church. A

bold aggressive policy specially demanded. In proving the doctrine, we

must advance into the midst of the opponents. Especially should those that

can speak of great grace not be ashamed of Jesus. Personal testimonies

have remarkable power. Let the world be amazed.


Ø      The gifts of the Spirit should not be restrained.  There is something for

each one to do. If we cannot speak, we can proclaim Christ by the active

life of benevolence. The disciples at Damascus gained great strength

from the example of Saul. An earnest Church creates an earnest minister,

and an earnest minister an earnest Church.


23 “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to

kill him:” When for after that, Authorized Version; took counsel together for

took counsel, Authorized Version. The phrase many days is quite elastic

enough to comprehend whatever time remained to make up the three years

(Galatians 1:18) which Paul tells us intervened between his

conversion and his visit to Jerusalem (see v. 43; ch. 14:3; 18:18; 27:7).

Luke frequently uses ἱκανός hikanos - for “many” (Luke 7:11; 8:27;

23:8). So in Hebrew, יָמִים רַבַּים, many days, is applied to considerable

portions of time. In I Kings 2:38-39, it is applied to three years.




24 “But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the

gates day and night to kill him.” Their plot (ἐπιβουλή - epiboulae - ) became

known for their laying await was known, Authorized Version; to Saul for of Saul,

Authorized Version; the gates also for the gates, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus; that they might for to, Authorized Version; a colon instead of

full point at end of verse.



The New Faith Exposed to Trial (vs. 23-24)


All manifestations of God’s Spirit stir up the opposition of the evil one.

The bold faith drives back the enemy into ambush. Conspiracy against truth

always means confession of weakness. The false Church takes counsel to

kill. But God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.  (II Peter

2:9)  (Don’t forget the next clause in the same verse.  He also knows how

“to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”CY – 2016)



on his future, on his spirit, as preparing him for suffering and humiliation

for Christ. We never know what our religion is to us till we suffer for it and

feel what it is in suffering.



The persecutor persecuted. The faith of the new convert shown to be

strong enough to stand such a trial. The seal of the Lord put upon His

servant. He was dealt with as many of the prophets. We must remember

that we “fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for His

Body’s sake, which is the Church.”   (Colossians 1:24)  Be patient.


25 “Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall

in a basket.”  But for then, Authorized Version; his disciples for the disciples,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; through for by, Authorized Version;

lowering him in for in, Authorized Version. Lowering him, etc. The Authorized

Version gives the sense freely; and combining the verb καθῆκαν kathaekan

they let him down - with the participle χαλάσαντες chalasanteslowering

him, translates both by the one word “let him down.” The by of the Authorized

Version seems preferable to the through of the Revised Version, as

through suggests the idea, which cannot be intended, of making a hole in

the wall. The escape of the spies from Jericho, as described in Joshua

2:15, was exactly in the same way, except that they had only a rope to

descend by, whereas Paul had a rope-basket. In the description of his

escape given by Paul to the Corinthians (II Corinthians 11:33), he

uses the same word for “let down” (ἐχαλάσθην echalasthaenI am lowered),

tells us he  was let down “by the wall,” Revised Version, with the additional

particular that  he got out through the window, διὰ τοῦ τείχους dia tou teichous -  

and that it was a σαργάνη sarganaewicker basket, a basket made of ropes

(which describes the kind of basket somewhat more accurately than the σπυρίς

spurisbasket; hamper - here used) in which he was let down (see note

on v. 20). The passage in II Corinthians gives us a further interesting

account of how the Jews went about to accomplish their purpose of killing

Paul. It seems that at this time, either in revolt against the Romans or by

permission of Caligula (it is not known certainly which), a certain Aretas,

or Hareth, King of Arabia Petrea, included Damascus in his dominions for

a time, i.e. through the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. He appointed an

ethnarch, who was doubtless a Jew, to rule the large Jewish population

according to their Law, and who was the ready tool of the unbelieving

Jews, using his power as governor to have the gates kept day and night so

as to prevent Saul’s escape. But he that keepeth Israel neither slumbered

nor slept (Psalm 121:4), and by His watchful providence Saul escaped from

their hands.



Saul at Damascus (vs. 19-25)


  • HIS PREACHING. In those very synagogues where he had determined

to make victims of the followers of Jesus, he was found owning and

proclaiming His Name. And his proclamation was that Jesus was the Son of

God. This was, perhaps, a new truth to the Christian Church — or at least

in the clear recognition and definite expression it has now — and must

have come with extraordinary power from lips that were learned and

eloquent and charged with the profound conviction of one whose thoughts

had undergone an entire revulsion. “I believe, therefore have I spoken.”

The Divine Son; His life and love, His work for mankind;this is the

heart of all Christian preaching.


  • THE EFFECTS OF HIS PREACHING. Astonishment at the change of

feeling and of conduct in Saul. Astonishment breeds curiosity and gives rise

to inquiry and information. Wonder at the extraordinary phenomena of

nature is the parent of science. Wonder at the extraordinary phenomena in

the kingdom of God gives birth to conviction and to reverence and piety. A

change of heart and life is the standing moral miracle. When he whom we

have known as passionate, proud, and fierce is seen to be meekly giving up

all worldly advantages for the sake of a despised cause, counting things

that had been good loss for the excellency of a new knowledge, it is an

evidence not to be resisted. “Fool!” must have been the verdict of his

friends of the Sanhedrin on his conduct. “For Christ’s sake” was the secret

in the breast of Saul.


  • THE GROWTH OF SAUL IN POWER. Mighty is the energy of truth

newly found and grasped, with power to nerve the will and impart

influence over others. The man of convictions, and with the courage of

them, is the true conqueror. Second-hand opinions and inherited prejudices

cannot stand against original force in the moral sphere. THIS IS THE

CHRIST!  One man believed it with all his soul, and triumphed over the

world in its hatred and ignorance. But the growth of moral power in an

individual calls up the dark shapes of envy and jealousy. Secret and cowardly

opposition is the compliment which passion offers, the testimony it bears to

the forms of clear, calm truth. Malice lurks and lies in wait to destroy what

it fears to encounter in the open field. Energy in diffusing light and truth

will be certain to evoke a corresponding energy out of the kingdom of

darkness to obscure and to destroy. So did the storm gather about Saul’s

devoted head. But the servants of God bear a charmed life until their work

is done. Already the promise of the Savior, that Saul must suffer many things,

is being fulfilled. In trouble and the deliverance out of it God is made known

to our spirits as our God and our Savior.



The Beginning of Perils for Paul (v. 25)


To this beginning of “perils” Paul will often in later days of life have looked

back. He did not live to any prolonged period, but if he had, there is not a

length of life so long nor charged with changes so violent as to be able to

cut off from us the effects of the touching comparisons and the telling

contrasts of beginning and ending. Many a broken portion of life offers us

such effects; but how much more moving those of life itself! Long was the

list of perils and sufferings, varied and sharp the discipline of them; but

when the rehearsal of them comes (II Corinthians 11:16-33), it speaks a

perseverance unbroken, a courage unquenched, a heart, fidelity, love,

stronger and more determined than ever. That rehearsal somewhat

remarkably closes with the mention of the first peril of Paul, as here given

us, as though his memory, deliberately traveling backward, reached last

that which life brought to him first. The opportunity may be seized for

considering at least one side of the great service of suffering. It must be a

ministry full of expression, full of meaning, full of deep feeling, and, if not

made full of use also, it must be of all loss “most miserable.” In the present

connection let us observe that:


·         IT TESTS A CAUSE, OF WHAT SORT IT IS. With rare exceptions, it

may be said that the cause which bears the test of suffering, and of much

suffering, will be a cause alike great and good. Human hearts, strong

though they be, are not strong enough to bear gratuitously a vast amount

of suffering. The vast amount of the worst sort of suffering that sin entails,

that comes inevitably in its wake, is of course not in the place for a test,

and cannot operate as such. (“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted

for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?”  - I Peter 2:20) The abundant

presence of it, therefore, where it is, does not invalidate the position. The

cause that asks suffering to espouse it, to sustain it, to carry it to completion,

is self-hedged around as with some sovereign safeguard. The frivolous will

not come near it, and the great multitude will pay no court to it. But:


Ø      If it arrest the attention, kindle the enthusiasm, win the practical

confidence of a few, and those, perhaps, the thoughtful, the useful, the

unselfish, it is a considerable augury of something substantial and

substantial good in it.


Ø      Enthusiasm can do very great things for an hour. It will encounter and

even court any amount of suffering. We cannot, therefore, consider taking

service in a cause that imposes suffering any decisive test. The test,

however, becomes much more decisive when that service is persevered in,

still entailing suffering, year after year, and on to the maturity of life.


Ø      The highest kind of human test is reached when the cause is one

persevered in to the very end of life, through suffering all the way and

almost every step. The enterprise that can secure this allegiance says as

much for itself as any enterprise on earth can, and the best. And this is

abundantly the case with Christianity. When Saul embraced it, it meant

peril, and labor, and privation, and much direct suffering. But, “being

persuaded of it, he embraced it,” and was faithful to it through the

succeeding periods and phases of his own earthly career, and up to the very

last. Then in old age, beaten and weather-beaten, in prison and in chains

and bonds, he does not dream of repenting or of recanting, but says, “I am

not ashamed,” and bids others follow in his steps (II Timothy 1:12). If it

had been a flowery path and an easy career, Paul’s perseverance would

have been no argument for it. But because it was a suffering career, his

perseverance spoke, not his praise alone, but that of his Master’s cause yet

more. How many a cause will waken enthusiasm! how few will sustain it!

How many will beg it! how few reward it! There is the difference of a

world, ay, of two worlds, between the two.



persevere in fighting a suffering battle, it is certainly so far forth an

argument for the object of the battle. But if he do not fight the battle, or

beginning do not carry out to the end the struggle, it by no means

condemns the cause. The question will have to be settled whether blame lie

with the cause or whether it do not rather lie with the person.


Ø      Suffering for the individual tries high moral quality and improves it.


Ø      Suffering tries many individual virtues and graces — those of faith, of

hope, of perseverance, of love that fires cannot burn away nor death

destroy. And it unfailingly improves them.


Ø      Suffering certainly tends to fix and give clear “evidence” to an unearthly

type of character.


Ø      Suffering lends distinctness to conviction, to purpose, to achievement. It

is a disinfectant, an alterative, and a tonic all in one. Pleasure and

indulgence enfeeble, that is, they tend to enfeeble and to enervate, once

past a very moderate amount. Suffering, short of an excessive amount of it,

makes keen the faculty, the sight, the soul itself! Wonderful is its bracing

effect on body and mind, on heart and life.




suffering in the good fruits it produces on individual character; and beside

its use as a test, whether of worth in an enterprise or of strength in a

person, it cannot be denied that it lends itself to special moral service, often

on a large scale and in a wide theater. Against it all nature rebels. For that

very reason, when it is voluntarily encountered, patiently borne, and

embraced even to the cross, to stoning, to torture, and the stake, the world

has no help for it but to notice what is transpiring. An unwilling world is

put into the dilemma that it is either convinced or convicted. The

confession is wrested from all beholders that there is something present

which begs and deserves close scrutiny and respectful attention, or that

they are in any given instance deserting precedents that in all others they

have observed. When the testimony of suffering is shown forth in one, the

force of it will partly depend on the notoriety that his conduct may win,

and it may undoubtedly be weakened by the suspicion of individual

eccentricity until this again be rebutted. But when the testimony is borne by

many and for a length of time, it is equivalent to the presence of a new and

very real moral force among mankind, many of the grandest and most

impressive triumphs of Christianity have been owing to this, and many of

its most significant impulses have been due to it. Men and suffering have

calmly faced one another, have measured the force of one another; neither

have shrunk from the wager — men have not fled and suffering has not

yielded up its sting. And yet they have made common cause, and have

made also most wonderfully effective fight. Something in man, given him

from without and from above, has made him fearless of what all nature

made him to fear. It is an exhibition in the arena of the world; it never fails

of having witnesses; it always leaves its traces. And the Paul of perils and

sufferings ever stands one of the clearest and noblest illustrations of a great

and effectual moral display.


26 “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself

to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not

that he was a disciple.”  He for Saul, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

and they were for but, etc., Authorized Version; not believing for and believed not,

Authorized Version. The narrative thus far exactly agrees with Galatians 1:17-18,

which, however, supplies the motive of the journey to Jerusalem, which is not

here mentioned, viz. to see Peter. It seems strange to some commentators that

the news of Saul having become a zealous Christian should not have reached

Jerusalem after an interval of three years. But first, we do not know. how

much of those three years was spent in Arabia, nor how much the unsettled

state of Damascus may have interrupted the usual communication between

Jerusalem and Damascus, nor how suspicious of evil the poor persecuted

disciples at Jerusalem may have been. They knew of the fierceness of Saul’s

zeal as a persecutor by their own experience; they knew of him as a disciple

only by report. It may have been only an instance of the truth of Horace’s

maxim, “Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures quam quae sunt occults

subjecta fidelibus.”


27 “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and

declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that

He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus

in the name of Jesus.” How at Damascus he had preached boldly for how he

had preached boldly at Damascus, Authorized Version. As regards the

statement that Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, which

some have thought inconsistent with Galatians 1:18-19, it is obvious to

remark that Luke’s account is fully justified by the fact that Paul did, on

Barnabas’s introduction, make the acquaintance of Peter, and, as it seems,

pass fifteen days as his guest (Galatians 1:18); and while there, did also

see James the Lord’s brother. The other apostles were probably absent

from Jerusalem during that fortnight; but Barnabas did, it seems, at a

Church assembly, in the presence of James and, no doubt, the elders of the

Church, give the astonishing narrative of Saul’s conversion. This removed

their suspicious and their fears, and he was freely, during the rest of his

brief stay, admitted as a brother to their assemblies, and took part in

preaching the gospel in the synagogues.


28 “And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.”

Going in for coming in, Authorized Version.


29 “And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed

against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.”

Preaching boldly, etc, the and of the Textus Receptus is omitted, and this

clause connected with the preceding one; the Lord for the Lord Jesus,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; he spake for he spake boldly,

Authorized Version. (The παῥῤησιαζόμενος parraesiazomenos -  

(translated preaching boldly) ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Κυρίου – en to onomati Kuriou

in the name of the Lord, is in the Received Text separated from ἐλάλει

elaleihe spake); the Grecian Jews for the Grecians, Authorized Version,

as in ch. 6:1; to kill for to slay, Authorized Version. The Grecian

Jews; or, Hellenists (margin).  Stephen was a Hellenist, and it was

among the Hellenists that his evangelical labors chiefly lay and from whose

enmity he met his death. Saul showed his dauntless spirit, and perhaps his

deep compunction at the part he had taken in Stephen’s death, by thus

encountering their bitter and unrelenting enmity.


30 “Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea,

and sent him forth to Tarsus.”  And when the brethren knew it for which

when the brethren knew Authorized Version.  Paul gives another reason for

his hasty departure from Jerusalem in his speech from the castle stairs

(ch. 22:17-21).  Caesarea, when standing alone, means Caesarea Stratonis,

or Παράλιος Paralios - , or Sebaste, the seaport and Roman garrison of

that name, as distinguished from Caesarea Philippi, and is always

so used by Luke (ch. 8:40; 10:1, 24; 18:22; 21:8, 16; 23:23, 33;

25:1, 4, 6; 27:1, 2, showing it was a seaport). There is no reasonable doubt

that it means the same place here. A seaport, near to Jerusalem, and with

Roman protection, affording access to Tarsus either by sea or land as

should seem best, was the natural place for Paul’s friends to take him to. If

further proof were wanting, it could be found in the phrase, “brought him

down,” as compared with the converse, “gone up” (ch. 18:22),

“ascended" (ch. 25:1), when the journey was from Caesarea to

Jerusalem. To Tarsus. A glance at the map will show that, starting from

Caesarea, a person might either go by land along the sea-coast of

Phoenicia, through Acre, Tyre, Sidon, Beyrout, Tripolis, Antioch, Issus, to

Tarsus; or by sea to any of the intermediate ports between Caesarea and

Tarsus; or rather the artificial harbor at the mouth of the Cydnus which

formed the seaport of Tarsus. It is not improbable that Paul landed at

Selcucia, since he says (Galatians 1:21) that he came at this time which

is exactly what he would have done if he had landed at Seleucia, the

seaport of Antioch.



The Texture of Human Life (vs. 19-30)


Of how many threads is this human life woven! Through what changeful

experiences do we pass, even in a short period of our course! In the brief

period — possibly three years — covered by our text, we find Paul

undergoing various fluctuations of good and evil. It is suggestive of the

nature and character of our common human life. We may gather them up



  • THE PLEASANT. Paul had the pleasure of:


Ø      Congenial fellowship. He was “with the disciples… at Damascus

(v. 19); “he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem

(vs. 27-28). Few things shed more sunshine on our earthly path than the

genial society of those with whom we are one in thought and aim.


Ø      Conscious growth in moral and spiritual power in dealing with men. He

increased in strength (v. 22).


Ø      Fearless action on behalf of the true and right (v. 29). These are joys,

deep and full, to a human spirit — to be growing in influence, and to be

playing a brave and noble part in the strife of life.




Ø      The distrust of those with whom we are in sympathy. Paul “assayed to

join himself to the disciples: but they were afraid,” etc. (v. 26). It is a

very painful wound to the spirit to be distrusted by those to whom we

really belong. To have our sincerity doubted, to have our purity

questioned, to be looked at with suspicion rather than with kindly and

gracious eye, — this is one of the keen, cutting miseries of life.


Ø      Persecution for conscience’ sake (vs. 23-24, 29). This may go far

short of “seeking our life to take it away;” it may not pass beyond the

sneering word or the curling lip, and yet it may introduce great

bitterness into the cup of life.


Ø      Humiliation. Paul never seems to have forgotten the incident of his being

let down in a basket (v. 25). He felt the humiliation of it. Anything which

wounds our self-respect makes a lasting, often a lifelong, scar on the soul.




Ø      Solitude. It is not stated in the text, but we know from his letters that at

this juncture (probably between vs. 19-20) Paul went into Arabia

(Galatians 1:17); there he spent much time alone with God; there he

communed with his own spirit, “looking before and after;” there he

re-read and read anew the Scriptures which he imagined he understood

before, but now found to be other and more than he had supposed. We

urgently need this element of solitude. We are not enough alone; more

of quiet meditation, of communion with the Father of spirits, of reverent

contemplation, would calm, steady, purify, ennoble us.


Ø      Social activity. (vs. 20, 22, 29.) Whether or not we “preach Christ,”

“confounding” and “disputing,” we must come into contact, and

sometimes into collision with men. We need to know how to do this

wisely and rightly, at times showing the fearless spirit, at times the

spirit of discretion, at times the spirit of conciliation, always the

spirit of Christ.


  • THE ELEVATED. (v. 30.) This chapter simply tells us that the

brethren brought Paul to Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus. But Paul himself

elsewhere informs us (ch. 22:17-18) that the Lord Jesus Christ

manifested Himself to him and desired him to leave Jerusalem. We do not

look for such trances and visions now, but we do look, or should do so, for

manifestations, indwellings, influences of the Divine Spirit of God, so that

we ourselves and our whole human life may be guided and sanctified of

God. Of such elements are all our lives woven. We must gratefully accept

and so sanctify the pleasant, meekly and cheerfully endure the painful,

wisely employ the necessary, and reverently avail ourselves of the elevated;

thus will our lives be blessed of God, thus will they speak His praise and

spread His truth, thus will they lead to His presence and glory.



Saul’s Visit to Jerusalem (vs. 26-30)



welcome at Jerusalem, no confidence, but distrust. It is hard to live down

the records of past life. And never was the proud former Pharisee

permitted to forget his lesson of humility. Well might this be the meaning

of the thorn in the flesh.” Our impression of the man is that of a fierce and

impetuous temper, the force of which, having been used for the devil, was

now to be used in the service of Christ. The genuineness of his conversion,

Calvin remarks, is shown by the fact that, having been himself a persecutor,

he can now endure persecution with calmness.


  • COMFORT IN A FRIEND. Yet Saul had a most sensitive and loving

heart, yearning for sympathy, grateful for kindness and love. How full of

meaning on another occasion his words, “God, who comforteth those that

are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus”!  (II Corinthians 7:6)

Then the affectionate Barnabas takes him by the hand, and performs the

offices of friendship on his behalf. The scene carries its teaching on the

nature and offices of friendship.


Ø      The friend takes us by the hand in the hour of need. His loyalty and

courage compensate us for the coldness of the world. Who so self-reliant

as not to need a sponsor on occasions? One draught of true human love

will refresh us in the desert of others’ coldness. And doubtless, if we have

been true to love, love will be found for us at the hour of need.


Ø      He will say for us what we cannot say for ourselves. Barnabas tells

Saul’s story when Saul himself is not believed. The ideas of the

Paraclete, or Advocate, of the Friend that sticketh closer than a

brother, of the Witness on our behalf, are found again in the highest

Christian relations.  Christ fulfils to the soul the highest ideal of

friendship. (What a Friend We have in Jesus! – CY – 2016)  Let the

recollection of our dependence on ministry ever incline the heart to

humility and correct the excess of self-reliance. Through Barnabas,

Saul is received as a brother, and the old enmity and distrust is

forgotten. To be obstinately set against old sinners, to refuse a kindly

oblivion to the past, is to ignore the grace which delights to heal and

to forgive.


  • FRESH DANGERS. Following in the steps of Stephen, Saul disputed

with the Hellenists. There was a resurrection of the martyr’s spirit in the

martyr’s murderer. Enmity is again aroused; again Saul’s life is in danger;

and again, through friendly providence, the way of escape is opened. Thus

through early combats, the Christian soldier’s courage is tried and

experience is gained for future struggles.



The Church’s Seal upon the New Acquisition (vs. 26-30)


There was a natural doubt of the change of Saul in the Church of Jerusalem.  There

was a perceived difference between the character of Saul and that of the leading

apostles.  Barnabas was fitted to be the mediator, both by his loving disposition and

 large-mindedness as a Cypriot.   Brotherly sympathy may accomplish much in times

of perplexity, both in helping us to overcome natural feeling and in facilitating

personal fellowship.  In time, the true Christian laborer will prove his own work.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Preach boldly, and all must acknowledge




An Ill Odor and Its Remedy (vs. 26-30)


The odor of character and “ill report” are two very different things. The

character of most fragrance may be in worst “report.” Was it not true of

Jesus? The noblest personages that have graced the world have often been

temporarily of ill report, but not, correctly speaking, of ill odor. Of all ill

odor none is a hundredth part so bad as the ill odor of character. Notice:




Ø      It is an intrinsic shame to the person of whom it is true. It is the result of

what he is and what he says and what he does, and not of the mistakes

others may possibly make respecting him in any of these particulars.


Ø      It is a virulent disintegrating of human society and love. It turns the place

and opportunity of attraction into those of repulsion, and substitutes for the

union of trust the disunion of suspicion.


Ø      It is cruelty to all those who are of the same kind by nature. Some kind

of sin, beside all the black front it shows as such to God, adds the

aggravation of widespread and keenly felt domestic misery.


Ø      It is a very fountain of fear to an indefinite number of others. The

character that is correctly answerable to the description of one of ill odor is

an offence to those who have to come in contact with it, and to those who

fear lest they should come in contact with it.


Ø      It is constantly diffusing its noxious and malarious influences, and not

least when perhaps for a brief while least observed.


  • THE REMEDY. There is one remedy, one only, that goes to the root

of the matter. That character must be changed. Come what may, let what

may seem risked, through whatsoever experience of suffering and anguish

of a new birth, nothing short of a real and penetrating change will avail.

Nothing partial, no outside improvement, no mere mitigation of his style of

word or deed, could have reconciled “disciples at Jerusalem or anywhere

else to Saul, had there not been proof patent of radical change. The source

of the old ill must be cut off, and in such wise that it comes to be the

natural thing to men to feel convinced that it is really and undoubtedly cut




BROTHERLY CHARITY WITHAL. Men who go by the name of

Christian do often suspect when they should not, and distrust too long. The

example of Jesus is clear against such conduct and such a disposition. To

the worst sinner He was prompt to give the hand of hope and the hand of

help, and to shield them from the glance and the pointed finger of taunting

drawn from the past. We may admit that the eye of Jesus recognized

genuineness, and His lip could pronounce upon it with a certainty shut out

from ourselves. None the less must we recognize His principle, and honor it

by using it. Barnabas now took Saul by the hand, and showed him the

brotherly kindness the spirit of which the great Master first gave to the

Church. And it is agreeable to observe how “apostles” and “brethren”

thereupon believed in Saul, and acted as though they believed in him.

Grateful is it at one and the same time to see how the trust reposed in

Barnabas quite sufficed to counteract the distrust that had been so naturally

felt towards Saul. Broad as is the line, therefore, that separates the

repentant man from the sinner; uncompromising as our conduct must be in

having no fellowship with darkness; and trenchant as our fidelity to

doctrine as it were; — yet for all this amount of reason, the more

promptly, gladly, and trustfully must we give heart and hand to the

repentant, whatsoever they have been heretofore. From the moment Jesus

pardons, receives, and sets to work one who has long and deeply insulted

Him, we must pardon, “receive as a brother beloved,” and welcome as a

fellow-laborer that man. Nor ever forget that to suspect and distrust a

moment too long, or to wonder past believing, is to put ourselves into the

last position that we would wish or mean to occupy. For our immovable

and gladdest creed is that Christ can do all things in human heart and

human life.


31 “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and

Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and

in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”  So the Churchhad peace,

being edified for then had the Churches rest,and were edified, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; was multiplied for were multiplied, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus. It is thought that the attention of the Jews to the

progress of the faith of Jesus Christ was diverted at this time, and their

active hostility stayed, by the still greater danger to the Jews’ religion

which arose from Caligula’s intention of placing a statue to himself as a

god in the holy of holies. Thus did God’s gracious providence intervene to

give rest to His harassed saints, and to build up His Church in numbers, in

holiness, and in heavenly comfort. Especially Paul had another breathing-time,

which may have been the more required if, as is thought, one at least

of the five scourgings mentioned in II Corinthians 11:24 had been

inflicted at Damascus, and one of the three shipwrecks alluded to in the

same passage and been undergone in the dangerous coasting voyage from

Caesarca to Scleucia.



The Ethiopian Changes His Skin (vs. 1-31)


Of all the remarkable events in the history of human psychology, probably the

most remarkable is the conversion of Paul, the memory of which is continually

celebrated in the Church on the 25th of January. It may be viewed:



lived. He preached the gospel with astonishing vigor and success.

Numerous Churches were founded by him in Asia and Europe. These are

facts as certain as facts can be. He wrote Epistles also to different

communities of Christians, and these writings are extant at the present day.

By these writings we can form an accurate judgment of Paul’s

intellectual faculties, of the force of his character, of the extent of his

knowledge. By these writings we can form an estimate of his moral

qualities. We can judge for ourselves whether, on the one hand, he was a

fanatic, an impostor, or a knave; and, on the other, whether he was one of

the noblest, sincerest, and most high-minded men with whom we have ever

come in contact. These writings, besides exhibiting an unquenchable zeal

for the Christian faith, lasting through years of toil and suffering, tell us

also distinctly, though incidentally, of a time when the writer was as

vehemently opposed to the Christian faith as he afterwards became

attached to it. They contain, too, clear evidences of that education in the

Jews’ religion, and that impregnation with Jewish doctrine and tradition,

which were likely to have had the same influence upon his mind which the

same causes had upon the minds of so many of his ablest and most learned

fellow-countrymen. They also display those qualities of disinterestedness,

courage, and decision, which make it to the highest degree improbable that

he should have changed his mind lightly or without conviction or due cause

for doing so. But he did change from a vehement and fierce persecutor to a

preacher of unrivalled zeal and power, and a daily martyr of unsurpassed

patience and constancy. But these same Epistles also tell us, still

incidentally but also still distinctly, the cause of this change. It was nothing

less than the visible appearing and the audible voice of the Lord Jesus

Christ Himself, of Him whom he knew to have been crucified, but whom he

now saw and heard in HIS EFFULGENT GLORY, living and potent IN

INEFFABLE MAJESTY!   It was that sight, too bright for mortal eyes, and

that voice of exquisite tenderness in its complaint, which had in an instant

overborne his unbelief and melted his obdurate heart, even as his body was

swayed in terror to the ground. Did Paul know, or did he not know, the cause

of his conversion? Did he invent a lie, or did he speak the truth, when he

wove this history, or allusions to it, into his Epistles to the Galatians, the

Corinthians, the Philippians, and Timothy? But even if it were possible to

doubt the man whom we know as we know St. Paul, we have his account

corroborated and developed by a contemporary writer of unimpeached and

unimpeachable accuracy and truth. He gives us in this chapter his own

account of this wonderful conversion, and he reports to us two several

accounts of it given by Paul himself — when on his defense before the

people at Jerusalem, and again when on his trial before King Agrippa at

Caesarea. Did Luke write a lie when he reported these utterances of his

noble and saintly friend? or did he speak the truth which he had such

abundant opportunities of accurately knowing? There is no fact in history

more certain than Paul’s conversion, and there is no more unanswerable

evidence of the truth of Christ’s gospel than this same conversion

grounded upon the revelation in the way to Damascus.




arrested the persecutor in his furious course, which turned back the whole

current of his thoughts, which wrought in him that noble inconsistency, that

holy apostasy from his previous convictions, which have placed him at the head

of Christian teachers and confessors? It was the clear knowledge conveyed to

him by his own senses of sight and hearing that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was

risen, was alive, was glorified.  He knew that He had been tried at the bar of

Pilate, condemned, crucified, buried. He had thought that sentence a just one.

He had thought that that life, closed in ignominy and shame, was closed for

ever, and that his own Jews’ religion had thereby triumphed and been confirmed.

Now he knew that God had reversed that sentence, and had raised Jesus from the

dead, and declared Him in so doing to be His own eternal Son, both Lord and

Christ. His previous convictions were thus refuted by the fact of the life

and glory and Godhead of the Lord Jesus. The truth of the mission of Jesus

Christ was thus in an instant established by irrefragable proof. Henceforth

Jesus Christ was his Lord, his Guide, his Teacher, his Master, his almighty

Savior. Henceforth his own body and soul, his life, and all his powers, his

whole capacity of doing and suffering, were Christ’s, wholly and only

Christ’s. Here then we see, as in a glass, what our own religion must be. It

must consist in a full assurance of faith that Jesus Christ is risen and lives

for ever in the power of His Godhead, and in the consecration of ourselves

to His service in the power of a personal love, devotion, and attachment —

those of a person to a Person — to last while life lasts, and to be perfected

in the life beyond the grave.




THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST.  (II Corinthians 4:4) This is Paul’s own

view of it: “For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ

might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should

hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:16). We have

here a pattern of the infinite, eternal mercy of God. The threatening and

slaughter of the persecutor are met and overcome by love. The ignorance

and unbelief which caused the blasphemies and injuries are taken note of,

and these are weighed in the scales of mercy and are forgiven. The electing

grace, the predestinating love, brushes aside these obstacles, and the

blaspheming tongue is made eloquent with adoration and praise, and the

breath which was once all threatening and slaughter now breathes nothing

but the word of peace and salvation. Such is the mercy and wondrous

grace of God our Savior.



real. Prejudices, blinding prejudices, may be real, and unbelief may have

some excuse, or at least some palliation. It is not, indeed, blameless — it

never can be, because the single eye of a pure heart ought always to

discern the true light from Heaven wheresoever it shines. Still, it may be

that, with real conscientiousness, and under a mistaken view of duty, and

with a blinding devotion to certain tenets of philosophy or religion which

have been received without due care, and concurrently with a zeal for God

and for supposed truth, a man may reject and even hate the truth. He may

mistake his own opinions for Divine truth, and so be bitterly opposed to

whatever opposes them. And he may misconceive of the truth and

ignorantly believe that it sanctions this or that error inconsistent with the

fundamental principles of righteousness and godliness. Had Paul from

the first really known Jesus Christ, and had he known the worthlessness of

Levitical or Pharisaic righteousness, he would never have been found in the

ranks of the enemies of Christ. But he acted in ignorance and in unbelief.

When the scales fell off the eyes of his understanding, the rebound of his

spirit toward his Lord was instantaneous. From this we learn a lesson of

caution in judging even the unbeliever. There may be some cause of his

unbelief which we know not of, but which God knows, and will perhaps

some day remove. Then the skeptic will come with a bruised and humble

spirit to Christ, and the Ethiopian will change his skin.



     The Opportunity and Obligation of the Church (v. 31)



PERIOD OF PROGRESS. “The Churches had rest .... and were edified,

were multiplied.” The time of rest is too often one of inglorious repose, of

unworthy indulgence, or even fatal luxury and corruption. But when the

molesting hand of persecution is taken away, it is possible for the Church

to put forth all its strength — to enter on a path of unflagging activity, of

holy enterprise, and of gratifying enlargement.



SENTIMENT OF SACRED AWE. It should always be walking “in the

fear of the Lord.” Love, trust, joy in Christ, should be the element in which

it lives; but it must never take leave of its deepest reverence and awe. It

must walk “in fear,”


Ø      realizing the near presence of its observant Lord, the Lord of

righteousness and purity (Revelation 2:1);


Ø      remembering that it is held by Him responsible for the extension of His

kingdom, for the conversion of the world (II Corinthians 5:19);

recollecting that, if it should lose its sanctity, there is no human power

by which it can hope to be restored (Matthew 5:13).




DIVINE. “Multiplied by the exhortation [comfort, ministry] of the Holy

Spirit.” No perfectness of machinery, no eloquence of human oratory, no

promptings of emulation, no pressure of authority, no earth-born influences

of any kind or number, will suffice to sustain a Church in living power. It

must be multiplied by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It must secure the

teaching which is animated by the Spirit of God; it must be listening to the

doctrine which is communicated By the Spirit; it must have the indwelling

of the Spirit in the minds and hearts of its members; it must be looking to

the ever-living power of the Spirit to make all its agencies and operations




AS A DIVINELY ERECTED STRUCTURE. The Church “was edified.”

built up; it rose as a structure rises — gradually and in due proportions.

The Church of Christ should, in the increase which it makes, possess the

characteristics of the best building — it should


Ø      attain to a stately, should “multiply,” grow in numbers and in the extent

of ground it covers;

Ø      become more beautiful in aspect; and

Ø      acquire increasing strength.



The Relation between Edifying and Multiplying (v. 31)


For the precise meaning and the New Testament use of the term “edified,”

consult the Exposition. The “rest” secured for the Church at this time

followed partly on the removal of Saul from the party of the persecutors, in

which he had been the most active member; none seemed ready to take up

the work which had so completely dropped from his hands, and by his

secession the whole party was depressed and disorganized. But it followed

chiefly on the fact that the attention of the Jewish rulers was turned away

from the disciples to resist an attempt made by Caligula to have his statue

erected in the temple at Jerusalem. The importance of resting-times for

nations, Churches, and individuals should be shown, and the ways in which

they usually come may be pointed out. Their value is illustrated in

connection with our text, from which it appears that when, in a time of rest,

the Church was edified, it was found to be also multiplied; or, to

express it in other forms, internal culture is the best guarantee of external

success. We dwell on two things.



Christian point of view, is a new and spiritual life, with which our souls are

quickened by the Holy Ghost. But in its beginnings it is young, feeble,

untested life, like that of the young seedling or plant. Culture is demanded.

The young life must be nourished into strength; and while the expressions

of the life, in leaf and branch and flower, need to be watched and guided

aright, the gardener’s supreme anxiety is to maintain and to increase the

vitality. And so, while apostles give good counsel for the ordering of

Christian conduct, their supreme anxiety concerns the culture of the soul’s

life. They would have their disciples “grow in grace and in the knowledge

[experimental] of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is to such forms of

"edification” that Churches are directed in their quiet resting-times. Two

signs were given as indicating that this “edifying” work was healthily



Ø      There was holy walking. “Walking in the fear of the Lord.” Christian

conduct and conversation was “as becometh the gospel of Christ.” The

relations of the members to each other were kindly and brotherly, and the

character of the disciples was increasingly satisfactory.


Ø      There were signs of heart-joy. The disciples were evidently enjoying the

“comfort of the Holy Ghost “ — the inward sealing of the Spirit; the power

of His impulses to righteousness, and that happy sense of adoption which

He gives. When the soul is efficiently cultured, its signs are apparent in

these two things:


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