We have been looking at the accounts of people receiving what many call the Gifts of the Spirit, the baptism with Holy Spirit and manifesting the Holy Spirit. So far we have looked at the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and the Samarians, who were considered sort of half Jews. Today I want to begin looking at the man by the name of Saul. This was a man who was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish people. He is first mentioned in Acts 7 in verse 58 at the time of Stephen’s stoning.
And cast him [Stephen] out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
From what I understand Saul was one of the representatives of the Sanhedrin present at the stoning. This is why they would have laid they’re clothes at his feet. Saul was something not uncommon among the Jewish people at the time. He was Christian hater. Chapter 8 opens by showing just how much trouble Saul caused the followers of Jesus Christ.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Behind much of this persecution was the man Saul. The persecution that he brought was not just a small bit; it was enough that man of those in the church felt it they needed to leave in order to protect their families. It is interesting to think that this persecution may have been partly responsible for the spread of the Christianity. I wonder sometimes if this persecution had not taken place if it might not have taken much longer to spread the gospel. Still, this persecution was great and Saul remained very active in carrying it out.
Acts 9:1, 2;
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
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.
Saul was not content to simply rid Jerusalem of these people; he wanted them taken care of an out of the way. Saul did not simply want to bring them back and release them, he want to put them on trail, lock them up and throw away the key. God had other plans for Saul however and took a special interest in Saul as he made his way to Damascus.
Acts 9:3 – 4;
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
What an experience this must have been. It literally knocked him off his feet and took on an attitude of worship and respect for one greater than him. However he is still not sure what is going on at this point, he needs more knowledge.
Acts 9:5 – 6;
And he said, Who art thou Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is heard for thee to kick against the pricks.
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 tee what thou must do.
I can’t even begin to imagine what must have been going through Saul’s mind when the voice identified himself as the man who he had spent so long speaking, teaching and acting against. What must of he been expecting? Was this Jesus going to kill him? Was he going to beat him up or take him to some purgatory hell to suffer for his actions? He had been taking this man’s followers and giving them a hell and purgatory on earth. What must he have been thinking would happen to him?
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
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.
And he was three days with out sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
Saul was not untouched. When he looked up, he was blind. This must have given Saul a great deal of time to reflect on his actions. Being a religious man it is likely he knew a great deal of scripture regarding the Messiah. I’ll just bet he ran it over and over again in his mind and asked himself just how this applied to the Jesus who just met him on the road to Damascus. It must have been a terrifying three days full of introspection and repentance. He may have jumped at every sound wondering what it was. He was in a place where he realized he had been wrong, but what know was to happen?
Next week we’ll look at the rest of this account and see how a simple man was called upon to change the direction of the church. For now I will leave you with him sitting in dark thinking on his past actions and how wrong they had been.