What’s in a Name? (1)
Pray Psalm 17.6, 7.
I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.
Sing Psalm 17.6, 7.
(Park Street: All You that Fear Jehovah’s Name)
When I have called, You answered me, Lord; hear now my fervent, seeking word!
Let kindness flow by Your command. Keep and preserve me by Your right hand,
keep and preserve me by Your right hand.
Read Acts 9.1-9.
1. Why was Saul going to Damascus?
2. What happened to him along the way?
Acts 9 stands out because of the many names used to carry the narrative. It’s a kind of hinge, opening the door to the next phase in the ongoing work of the Lord. Luke begins with the story of Saul, who was a formidable challenge for the followers of Jesus.
Saul’s story is familiar and wonderful. Jesus has borne with this raging, murderous zealot long enough. It was not Christians Saul was persecuting, but Christ (v. 5), Who identifies so closely with His Body that He sees us as one with Him! He lured Saul out of the safe confines of Jerusalem to blast him to life on a dusty desert road. Paul would later say that his conversion was a kind of pattern for all conversions (1 Tim. 1.16).
“Get up and move along; I’ll tell you the rest later.” Saul is helpless under the irresistible and converting grace of God. All his bluster, all his zeal, all his power to resist Jesus, blown away in a flash and Word of instruction. God is sovereign in the Gospel. When He shines His love on someone, all that person can do is obey.
Saul the Pharisee was captive to unbelief, sin, and blind religious zeal – just like his namesake, Saul the son of Kish. But whereas King Saul died in sins, persecutor Saul was delivered from them. Jesus took him captive to truth, grace, and life, and gifted him for the ongoing work of the Kingdom (Eph. 4.8).
As a historian, Luke is constrained by space tell us about the ongoing work of Christ. He will select his stories to press a point, connect some dots, or set a trajectory to guide others in taking up the work of the Lord. Here we are reminded that, though powers of various kinds be arrayed against us, they cannot overcome or prevail against the power of the Lord.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Luke wants us to get a taste for the person Saul of Tarsus was. He didn’t leave it to our imaginations to wonder about a person who would stand there while Stephen’s murderers “laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7.58). We have already been told that “he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8.3). But here he adds the ominous words that Saul was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” so that if he “found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9.1, 2).
Saul was a Christian’s worst nightmare. He was not your run of the mill antagonist. No. He ate, drank, slept, and dreamt about imprisoning and murdering the Body of Christ. He breathed hatred toward the Way, as if he had been wronged and was now determined to extinguish this Light. Or maybe he was strictly zealous to protect Judaism. Either way, he was a scourge to the people of faith.
I wonder, did he forget Exodus 20.13? In all his eagerness to stamp out Jesus did he omit from his thoughts, “You shall not murder”?
That’s the thing about ungodly zealotry, it never actually remembers God. For “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3.18; Ps. 36.1).
Understanding the horrible person that Saul was makes us see the glory of God’s forgiveness. And His persistence to “save to the uttermost those who come to” Him through Jesus (Heb. 7.25). And then appreciate His persistence and forgiveness. Because at some point in our own lives we surely could have heard Jesus say to us, “…why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9.4)
If God could reach Saul of Tarsus, and us, He can reach and save anyone!
The Light has knocked us off our horses, as it did Saul, and we are instructed to “Arise and go”. And because we can read His Word, we know what we must do (Acts 9.6), and the Good News that we must share.
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom [we are] chief” (1 Tim. 1.15).
Knowing that: “Eye has not seen (Acts 9.7), nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2.9).
These beautiful words were penned by the man previously known as Saul of Tarsus.
1. In what ways is Saul’s conversion a model or pattern of your own?
2. How should the conversion of Saul encourage you about the lost people in your Personal Mission Field?
3. What does the conversion of Saul tell us about the sovereignty of Jesus Christ in carrying out His ongoing work?
Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ’s discoveries of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves. For three days Saul took no food, and it pleased God to leave him for that time without relief. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 9.1-9
Pray Psalm 17.13-15.
Pray for those around the world who persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that God will shame them (Ps. 83.16), restrain them, and turn many of them from enemies into friends. Pray for persecuted believers – and for yourself – to see Jesus and the glory in His face (2 Cor. 4.6), and to be bold as His witnesses.
Sing Psalm 17.13-15.
(Park Street: All You that Fear Jehovah’s Name)
Rise up, O Lord, and bring them low! Brandish Your sword, and save my soul!
With children they are satisfied; treasures fulfill their hope and pride,
treasures fulfill their hope and pride.
But as for me, Lord, save and bless! Let me behold Your righteousness.
Your face in glory I would see, and thus forever blessèd be,
and thus forever blessèd be.
T. M. and Susie Moore
You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.
Saul of Tarsus
- T.M. Moore
- February 28, 2022
Jesus comes to Saul, who comes to Jesus. Acts 9.1-9
What’s in a Name? (1)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore