The story of the spread of Christianity in Acts 8 is juxtaposed with Saul’s persecution of the church in Acts 9. Paul is heading to Damascus to round up Christians to take them back to Jerusalem. Little does he know that he will return to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26) but not to bring these Christians to justice. He will be preaching their message in Jerusalem! Their message will become his message. Their “heresy” (from Saul’s perspective) will become his dogma.
Notice the connection of Jesus with His church – “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul hadn’t inflicted physical harm on Jesus but he had on His church. This was a direct attack on Jesus. Saul is blinded by Jesus in order to open his eyes to the truth and to teach him dependence on God in order to get his eyes opened back up. He will have to listen to the voice of Jesus and obey the one he persecuted in order to regain his sight.
Meanwhile, Ananias also hears a word from Christ. Obviously Ananias is reluctant to go and see the one who had been persecuting Christians. God responds, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16). Ananias obeys the Lord as does Saul. Saul is baptized, regains his sight and eats some food for strength (was he fasting?)
Saul spends time in Damascus and Jerusalem preaching Jesus and easing his skeptics’ fears. Ironically the Jews begin to look for ways to kill Saul (9:23) and the Christians save his life! Another bit of irony takes place in 9:31 – the church experienced a time of peace and now lived in fear of the Lord (not in fear of Saul).
God certainly has a sense of humor but that is not the point. God is powerful and able to accomplish His purposes even in the most unlikely ways. He can get His purposes done whether we like it or not, whether we resist Him or not. God can use the most unlikely people to accomplish his purposes. That gives us hope that he can use us too because we all have been unlikely in the whole scheme of things. I wonder how many times I have passed by people and discounted them wihtout thinking about all the ways God could use them. How many people do you deal with who are as oppossed to Christ as Saul was? Probably few to none. How able is God to use even His critics to spread His message? Very. I wonder how much need I have to really have my eyes get opened again to see things more like He sees them.
I enjoyed your take on this text. Sometimes it’s necessary to step back from the words for perspective, and you’ve helped me do that. Thank you. Your last point reminds me of my friend John in high school. He is a Paul of sorts, and I thank God for that every time I remember him. I hope someday I will get back in touch with John. He’s a hard dude to track down.
Nice to have you stop by. I hope you are able to connect back up with John . I just love to see God work in people’s lives.
(the comment I left after yours over at my blog)
Matt, I really enjoy your blog too. And I KNOW you put a lot of time into your posts as well. Thanks for all you do for the Kingdom! You’re a great example for me, and I will try & encourage you in any way I can.
God does use those we least expect as well as humble those who need humbling.
God bless you brother.
Thanks for stopping by Preacherman. Glad you are feeling well these days.