Acts 9

Acts 9:1

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

(a) Saul; see entry for Acts 7:58.

(b) Murder. Saul was complicit in the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and actively engaged in the arrest, imprisonment, and execution of Christians (see entry for Acts 8:3).

The man who hated the church became the man who wrote the chapter on love that is read at many weddings. Such is the transforming power of God’s grace.

(c) The high priest was probably still Caiaphas. Although old Annas is identified as the high priest in Acts 4:6, Annas was a former high priest who retained his title and considerable influence within the Sanhedrin. The actual high priest at the time of Christ’s death and in the years following was Caiaphas.

Acts 9:2

and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Men and women. See entry for Acts 8:3.

Acts 9:3

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;

(a) Damascus. The Damascus Road conversion of Saul is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, and the story is told no less than three times (Acts 9:3-6, 22:6-11, 26:13-18).

(b) Light. This light was brighter than the sun and left Saul blind. See entry for Acts 26:13.

Acts 9:4

and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

A voice. The Lord spoke to Saul in his native language, that is Hebrew (Acts 26:14).

Acts 9:10

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

Ananias was a Christian living in Damascus and one of the bravest men in the Bible. While others were running and hiding from Saul, he went and prayed for him.

Acts 9:15

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

Kings. God told Ananias that Saul would carry his name to kings or rulers. This prophecy came true. Saul (a.k.a. Paul) preached to kings such as Herod Agrippa (Acts 25:22), Roman governors and proconsuls (Acts 13:12, 24:24), and the emperor himself (Acts 27:24).

Acts 9:21

All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”

(a) Called on his name; see entry for Acts 2:21.

(b) The chief priests; see entry for Matt. 2:4.

Acts 9:26

When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.

(a) Afraid of him. The disciples had good reasons to fear Saul. See entry for Acts 8:3.

(b) Not believing that he was a disciple. They thought Saul’s alleged conversion was a ruse designed to expose them.

Saul was God’s chosen instrument (see Acts 9:15), yet the apostles shut him out. They probably had a meeting to discuss the rumors coming out of Damascus. “We’ve heard he’s changed and is preaching about Jesus.” But they didn’t believe what they were hearing. “It’s a trap.” They made a judgment based on their own fear and understanding and in doing so they put themselves on the wrong side of God’s purposes. They walked by sight rather than by faith. Even mature believers can be tempted to walk after the flesh.

Acts 9:27

But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.

Barnabas was the first Christian in Jerusalem to recognize the hand of God on Saul’s life. Joseph Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36). He became one of Saul’s closest friends and most important coworkers.

The Bible doesn’t explain why Barnabas alone received Saul. It’s possible that Barnabas and Saul already knew each other. The former was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36) while the latter was from Tarsus across the water.

Barnabas was of the priestly Levite tribe, while Saul was a Pharisee. They were both devout Jews who had moved to Jerusalem. Perhaps they met at the temple and became friends. Then Barnabas became a Christian and the friendship was strained. But after Saul met the Lord, the friendship was restored and Barnabas introduced Saul to the apostles. This is all speculation, but what we cannot dispute is that the “son of encouragement” was quick to believe the best in Saul and we should all be glad he did.

Acts 9:35

And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Turned to the Lord. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a turning to God (see entry for Acts 26:20).

Acts 9:43

And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

Simon the tanner was one of nine men named Simon in the New Testament; see entry for Matt. 4:18.

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