Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Paul Meets Jesus on the Damascus Road - Acts 9:1-19

Paul Meets Jesus on the Damascus Road - Acts 9:1-19

Through the salvation of Saul of Tarsus, we know that no one is outside hope of the Lord saving them. Besides the appearances of Jesus in His resurrection to His apostles and disciples in the 40 days after His suffering (Acts 1:3), this transformation of Saul of Tarsus is the most convincing proof of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Question: How did the most militant, violent opponent of Jesus become the most fervent advocate of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

So who is Saul of Tarsus? He is a scholar, very well-educated as a theologian, and already introduced by Luke as a great persecutor of the church (Acts 7:58, 8:3). About 2 years have elapsed from the time of that introduction to Acts 9:1 when he is still breathing threats against Christians. He goes to the high priest and gets official documentation with the authority to apprehend Jews in Damascus who believe in Jesus (Acts 9:2). Paul thought that he was serving God, but in fact he was dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

Don’t miss the significance of what Jesus is doing when He appears in His resurrection to Paul, saves him, and makes him a personally sent apostle. Jesus is making Paul a revelatory spokesperson on par with the other prophets and apostle (Cf. Gal. 1:11-17 - Paul is saying that he was personally instructed by Jesus through many personal appearances, beginning at the road to Damascus).

Persecuting Christians was not some peripheral thing for Paul. It went right to the core of who he was as a Jew in the theological camp of Pharisaism. Christianity, with its message of salvation by grace alone, through faith in Jesus, apart from works was a direct threat to everything Paul stood for (Cf. Phil. 3:2-9). This is who Paul is on the road to Damascus, but suddenly God acts with supernatural light from heaven (Acts 9:3, 26:13), knocking him to the ground (Acts 9:4). The Savior, in mercy speaks directly to Paul’s sin, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” That repetition of the name shows the Lord’s tender concern for Saul. Paul, trembling asks, “Who are You, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). What happened to Paul’s heart in that moment? This was sovereign grace. Jesus had set Paul apart from birth (Gal. 1:15-16) and now calls him to Himself. This was not just a private, internal, religious experience for Paul (Acts 9:7, 22:9).

Paul is now an utterly changed man, filled with a holy fear, praying, and so traumatized he doesn’t eat or drink for 3 days (Acts 9:8-9). Jesus then involves another Christian, Ananias (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias knew about Saul’s desire to persecute Christians, and thus was fearful (Acts 9:13-14). Jesus’ response (Acts 9:15-16) is good enough for Ananias and so he obeys the supernatural vision (Acts 9:17). Ananias lays his hands on Paul and calls him “brother” - that’s the body of Christ. The man who 3 days ago wanted to kill Ananias is now his brother because of Christ. Paul was now born again, and went public with his confession of faith by being baptized (Acts 9:18).

Paul’s unlikely conversion to Christ should bring great encouragement to us. No one would have ever thought Saul of Tarsus would come to Jesus. What about people in your life who are wayward, making no apparent move towards the gospel, or are even vicious in their attitude towards Christians? Is there hope for them? Paul’s conversion gives us hope (see 1 Tim. 1:13-16).

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