Development of a New Community #3
Good Questions by Josh Hunt
You might consider using this clip from www.bluefishtv.com: Using Illusion and Magic for Ministry If you are techno-challenged and can't work out how to get that onto a form you can show in your class, you might recruit a techno helper. (This idea actually fits well with today's Big Idea. If you use this clip, you could follow up with some questions such as, "How do you think Tennyson discovered his passion?"
Acts 1:8 seems to be a concise outline for the entire book. Chapters 1-7 describe the gospel being preached in Jerusalem. Chapter 8 shows believers, under threat of persecution, taking the good news of Jesus to Judea and Samaria.
Chapter 9 records a monumental event in the history of the church--the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. --Life Application Bible Commentary
In 1855, A Sunday School teacher, a Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Christ. The clerk, Dwight L. Moody, became an evangelist.
In England in 1879, Dwight L. Moody awakened evangelistic zeal in the heart of Fredrick B. Meyer, pastor of a small church. F.B. Meyer, preaching to an American college campus, brought to Christ a student named J. Wilbur Chapman. J. Wilbur Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player, Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, NC. A group of local men were so enthusiastic afterward that they planned another evangelistic campaign, bringing Mordecai Hamm to town to preach.
During Mordecai Hamm's revival, a young man named Billy Graham heard the Gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Only Eternity will reveal the tremendous impact of that one Sunday School teacher, Mr. Kimball, who invested his life in the lives of others. Makes you think, doesn't it? Everything we do in the name of Jesus Christ has an effect which will be viewed through Eternity.
Question: would you be completely willing, if God had willed it, to be Mr. Kimball, Billy Graham, or anyone in between? Let's pray a prayer communicating our willingness to God.
1. 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
Acts 9:1-19 (NIV)
2. The most important event in human history apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the conversion to Christianity of Saul of Tarsus. If Saul had remained a Jewish rabbi, we would be missing thirteen of twenty-seven books of the New Testament and Christianity's early major expansion to the Gentiles. Humanly speaking, without Paul Christianity would probably be of only antiquarian or arcane interest, like the Dead Sea Scrolls community or the Samaritans.--The IVP New Testament Commentary Series
3. With Old Testament imagery for anger--snorting through distended nostrils (Ps 18:8, 15)--Luke builds up the picture of Saul as a rampaging wild beast in his hateful opposition to the disciples of the Lord (compare Acts 8:3; Gal 1:13, 23). When the NIV renders "threats and murder" as murderous threats, something is lost of the reference to the two-part Jewish judicial process (Longenecker 1981:368) and the highlighting of Saul's violence (Lake and Cadbury 1979:99). Saul does not just make threats (compare Acts 4:17, 29); he helps bring about actual executions (Acts 8:1; Acts 26:10).--The IVP New Testament Commentary Series
4. Had you stopped him and asked for his reasons, he might have said something like this:
"Jesus of Nazareth is dead. Do you expect me to believe that a crucified nobody is the promised Messiah? According to our Law, anybody who is hung on a tree is cursed [Deut. 21:23]. Would God take a cursed false prophet and make him the Messiah? No! His followers are preaching that Jesus is both alive and doing miracles through them. But their power comes from Satan, not God. This is a dangerous sect, and I intend to eliminate it before it destroys our historic Jewish faith!"
--Bible Exposition Commentary - New Testament
5. Saul had nearly completed the six-day journey as he approached Damascus, 175 miles northeast of Jerusalem, the second oldest city in the world still in existence (Tarsus is the oldest). --Holman New Testament Commentary
6. The question, Why do you persecute Me? (cf. Acts 9:5) is filled with significance for it shows the union of Christ with His church. The Lord did not ask, "Why do you persecute My church?" The reference to "Me" gave Saul his first glimpse into the great doctrine of Christians being in Christ.--Bible Knowledge Commentary
7. It would be hard to imagine how these words must have struck Paul. They were a complete refutation of all he had been. He had persecuted Christians for their "blasphemous lie" that Jesus was risen, that he was the Lord reigning in glory. Now Paul himself beheld that same Jesus and the undeniable proof that he both lived and reigned in glory.--New American Commentary
8. This is typical of the way God works. He gives us enough light to see the next exit. When we take that exit, we get further instructions. We must follow the light we have before we receive more light.
9. Some have suggested that the blindness was a physical outcome of psychological stress. That might be inferred from the text, but the blindness may well have been a sign from God, a symbol of the darkness in which this man had been walking so that light to his eyes will soon coordinate with light to his soul.
In any case, Luke painted an accurate picture of a proud and ruthless man now broken and helpless. Although Saul would certainly have been familiar with fasting as a means of developing a spiritual analysis of what had happened to him, Luke does not seem to suggest that as the reason. Quite possibly he was totally devastated by this experience and unable to ingest either food or liquid.--Holman New Testament Commentary
10. "Ananias." He is only mentioned here and in 22:12. Like so many of God's faithful servants, his service for God went largely unrecorded.--Key Word Commentary
The spotlight shifts momentarily to Ananias (obviously no connection with the Ananias of chapter 5) who lived on Straight Street. Leave it to Luke to offer a little chronological and geographical notation to carry along his history. He tells us about Saul's vision not in connection with Saul, but in God's report to Ananias. Straight Street, by the way, is still a main thoroughfare in Damascus now known as Derb Le-Mustaquim.--Holman New Testament Commentary
11. God's Little People
Everyone knows Acts 9 is about the conversion of Saul. It would be inappropriate to minimize that great historical event. We should see here as well two other servants who get almost as much "press" as the rabbi from Tarsus. The hitherto unknown disciple named Ananias seems just as important in verses 10-19 as the one to whom he ministers. The final eight verses focus on Dorcas, another virtually anonymous Christian.
These stories can give us a new look at God's priorities. How caught up North American Christianity seems to be with public visibility and vocal celebrities. How megachurches and syndicated television broadcasts seem to dwarf the dogged faithfulness of people like Ananias and Dorcas or their contemporary spiritual kin. There will be ample time for Paul to thunder his gospel of grace through Asia Minor and on into Greece. Along the way, Luke makes us stop for a moment and look at the little people, the ordinary Christians who make the gospel work in their communities despite the absence of applause and recognition in the wider world.
--Holman New Testament Commentary
12. Ananias wasted no time in expressing reluctance. Saul's reputation had preceded him to the Christians in Damascus; they even knew his mission. We should read no rebuke nor critique of Ananias by Luke or by Jesus in this passage. This normal human response seems no more negative than that expressed by the Jerusalem church later in the chapter. Ananias did not say (like Jonah) that he wouldn't go, simply that he had a few reservations about his safety in answering this call.--Holman New Testament Commentary
13. The key to Paul' success was not Paul. It was God. God had called him. All any of us can do is to fulfill all of the calling that God has given us. To some, God has given a very extensive ministry, to others, to minister in obscurity. We don't choose the calling; we just follow God.
Ananias's protest was met with a divine statement that Saul was God's chosen instrument. What irony that the most zealous Jew and most anti-Gentile would be the chosen witness to the Gentiles. The literal translation of the Greek word skeuos is "vessel, jar, or dish." It pictures an object that can contain, carry, and convey something else. In short, the Christian-hater from Tarsus had been handpicked by God to carry the name and message of Christ before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.--Life Application Bible Commentary
14. He was obedient. Consider these piercing words:
"It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are 'defeated' by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient!
"It might be well if we stopped using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me.
We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little....
"Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God's provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness."
From The Pursuit of Holiness,
NavPress, 1978, pages 84-85
15. "Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is, for delayed obedience is disobedience. Each time God calls upon us to do something, He is offering to make a covenant with us. Our part is to obey, and then He will do His part to send a special blessing. ...... Postponed obedience can never bring us the full blessing God intended or what it would have brought had we obeyed at the earliest possible moment. What a pity it is how we rob ourselves, as well as God and others, by our procrastination!" (From "Messages for the Morning Watch")
16. Though Marine Battalions have been fighting fierce battles in Iraq, they have been thinking about spiritual matters too. After one of bloodiest skirmishes in which one Marine was killed and 15 others wounded, four Marines asked a chaplain to arrange a battlefield baptism for them.
Lance Corporal Chris Hankins from Kansas City said, "I've been talking to God a lot during the last two firefights. I decided to start my life over and make it better." Sgt. Andrew Jones from Indiana said he had been considering getting baptized before he left for Iraq. His combat experiences convinced him that the time was right.
Navy Lt. Scott Radetski is the battalion's chaplain. He says battlefield baptisms are not unusual among front-line troops. The military even has a two-page instruction sheet on how to create a battlefield baptismal. Radetski performed one baptism ceremony when Marines were waiting to move into Iraq. Three Marines at another encampment in Falloujua also have asked to be baptized. Radetski says, "When chaos shows its head, we need an anchor for our faith. You need that rock that God promises to be. I consider it an honor to fulfill their request."
http://news.yahoo.com , Marines Find Faith Amid the Fire, by Tony Perry, Thursday April 26, 2004. Submitted by Jim Sandell. --Fresh Illustrations
17. God nearly always works in cooperation with man. God does what God can do; we are to do what we can do.
18. They both responded to God's calling on their lives. They had different callings, but both responded to what God had called them to do.
19. Following this encounter, nothing more is known about Ananias. Because this faithful man was willing to go where God sent him, he was used by God to prepare a man who would evangelize most of the known world and write a significant portion of the New Testament.--Life Application Bible Commentary
20. One step at a time. He gives us light to see the next exit.