Opening prayer: Lord Jesus, please help us to marvel at your mercy. Give us power from your Spirit to grasp again your outrageous mercy. Introduction: Love your enemies. Jesus shows it, Jesus does it, Jesus prays it. Jesus is still doing it. If you are a Christian, it is because Jesus pursued you and turned you around. Saul/Paul is our chief case study. 'God's rescue of Saul replaces some of what was seemingly lost with Stephen's death.' This all happened within 1-3 years of Jesus' death. All this happens during AD 36-39. We know this from the dates of Aretas' reign. Big idea: Jesus converts Saul, who experiences opposition, suspicion, and acceptance 9.1-2 Saul's agenda was to eradicate 'the Way' V2 'belonging to the Way'. The Way. A great name. Draws on the OT; the way of the righteous etc. Communicates status/place, along with activity and progress. [there are just two roads; what matters is not how fast you travel it, or even how enjoyable it seems to be, but being on the right one] 9.3-9 Jesus' agenda was to call, save, and send Saul What happens here is remarkable - that's the point! A light from heaven, a voice speaking, and his own name being repeated. All truly remarkable to a Pharisee/someone familiar with the OT...it is very similar to Moses' call! [by the way, no mention of falling off a horse!] Once again, the 'Acts of Jesus'...He is the One will all authority, the One ruling on the throne for the sake of His church. 'the reason Saul reacted when the Lord appeared to him must rest in part on the preparation God had engaged in when faithful people such as Stephen preached to Saul even though he opposed the church. One never knows when God may open a heart to heart God's message and see how God acts in history.' Let' not misunderstand this account and make it normative for conversion [it can't be anyway - going blind? Someone else getting a word from God about you? Scales?]. I.e., we don't wait to become Christians until there's some amazing experience. Saul had been suppressing the truth, he had nagging doubts. God was working on him. Maybe something just nagged at him from the way he say Stephen die. [key application to children: being a Christian is probably like the air you breathe, and that's great. Sometimes people have amazing experiences, but most people don't. If you've been raised to know the gospel from a young age, there's no need to expect you'll have something like this. I hope and pray that all of you TCC kids will reach a point where you can say for yourself that you want to be baptised - but there is no hurry, and don't think you need some incredible story to tell]. V4-5 it is breathtaking how Jesus identifies absolutely and personally with His church; why are you persecuting Me? And again, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Let us never forget the love and union that Jesus has with His church. [think about this...how you treat the church is the key proof of how you regard Jesus. Persecute her - lie to her (Ananias/Sapphira) - are cruel and selfish towards her (sheep/goats) - are always critical and self-righteous and never generous - are casual and non-committal - are tender, generous, forgiving, long-suffering, like Barnabus is] Is there a contradiction between 9.3-7 and 22.9? No. The larger group heard a sound but nothing intelligible, whilst seeing a light but not Jesus Himself. But Saul sees His glory, and hears His voice addressing him. Probably his gentile call is given here, since it's mentioned to Ananias in 9.15, and see chapters 22 and 26. 9.10-25 Saul is welcomed and opposed in Damascus Damascus, 135 miles north northeast of Jerusalem. [so a bit further than Edinburgh is from us] Ananias shows us how to welcome an enemy who comes to faith. [takes God at His word; Saul is now a friend, a brother] V6-18 God's chosen instrument. What obedience and courage from Ananias. [if God had said beforehand, no one would have believed that this Saul could be His chosen instrument. His ways are not our ways, His wisdom unsearchable - we can trust Him!] [e.g., surprising choice of person/instrument - tennis player picking a ball/surgeon wanting something so specific/] 'brother' Saul (v17), something Paul quotes in Acts 22. Must have been so precious to Saul. Spirit given through Ananias, not one of the apostles. V20 the work of the Holy Spirit; now Saul is saying, Jesus is the Christ! 'Saul the persecutor with a letter from the high priest now is Saul the witness with a commission from Jesus. The heavenly calling has trumped the original earthly mission.' Irony. The first place Saul preaches is Damascus, where he had gone in order to bind and persecute Jesus-followers. He preaches, telling people to become Christians. And then he himself has to flee persecution! Paul's work parallels Jesus; both in a synagogue; both have an astonished audience that questions their past (Jesus due to his family roots, Paul since he was a persecutor). Rejection the result for both. V25 great reversal for Saul; now he is the target of murderous threats. Humanly he has lost everything, as he is lowered - with nothing - out of the city wall. cf 2 Corinthians 11 . Basket. Like a hamper basket. [imagine this! And yet this is like Paul's trump card of being qualified. Have you lost things, been humiliated for the gospel (not your offensiveness or wrongdoing)? It is actually something to boast in] 9.26-31 Saul is welcomed and opposed in Jerusalem True conversion always leads to local church membership V26 never noticed this before. What must it have felt like to Saul to lose everything, flee for his life, and then be rejected by the only brothers he has in Jerusalem! Many Christians have felt this same...suspicion, or a question-mark hanging over them in others' eyes. Other Christians don't want 'shame by association'. Praise God for people like Barnabus, who simply extend love and acceptance. He knows there is no more shame for those in Christ, which frees him to be relationally generous. V27 but Barnabus. Kingdom-minded in his ways. Father, give us more Barnabuses! Barnabus is not only generous with his resources, but generous in his relationships. Barnabus, 'taking him', has the sense of 'taking him under his wing'. [are you prepared to stand with brothers, even if it brings you shame? I really hope we have a reputation for that at TCC] Saul engages with the Hellenists, who were the ones who had killed Stephen while he watched their cloaks. [quite probably the very same people!] V30 another murder threat. Already Saul is learning how much he must suffer for the Lord (v16). V31 glorious summary statement. The church (singular) in all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was being built up. It 'was being multiplied' as it walked in i. The fear of the Lord and ii. The comfort of the Holy Spirit. It's almost i) knowing the awe and glory of the Living God but also ii) knowing Him as Father. [Let's pray this for the North East] Glory of God - calls His enemies to be His 'chosen instrument'! FCF - opposition to the gospel. Overt like Saul pre-conversion [islam, militant atheism, etc]. Overt like his subsequent opponents watching day and night to kill him. Or covert in the form of suspicion and arms-length relations [coldness]. Nature - it comes naturally to oppose the unknown. This is why gospel ministry encounters conflict and opposition, since it calls for change. But it's also why our default stance towards Christians from other 'camps' is simply coldness. [Our problem is actually not so much doctrinal disunity, but relational disunity. Because we won't treat other Christians as brothers, we never get to the point of talking in love, with an open Bible, and reaching one mind on things. We assume the worst! We make caricatures] Choice - this is a choice we make; it's the easy way out. We choose a sinful default of viewing people according to worldly lenses, rather than first of all through the theological reality of Christ and His church. Barnabus is the model to us of viewing people as Jesus sees them; if someone is a Jesus-follower, then love them, no matter how unpopular that is. Person of Jesus - He shows us to love His followers, no matter how slow they are to get up to speed, how messy, offensive, or eccentric. His followers, even then, were such a mixed bag - educated and uneducated. Different territories of Judea, wealthy and poor, headstrong and timid. What you did to the least of these, you did to me. Even Jesus was mocked for whom He chose to associate with - prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors. [Isn't it possible that sometimes Jesus throws people and situations across our path as if to say, 'You believe in grace? Show me that you do']. Have you been opposed or shamed? Know that Jesus stands with you. In Christ, there is no longer any shame. Work of Jesus - Jesus loves His people, to death. Jesus bleeds and dies to purchase eternal life, forgiveness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. So of course we stand indebted to one another to love richly. Barnabus gets this; Jesus died for Saul, so I will love him. Simple. Jesus endured and exhausted our shame outside the city, in the place of shame. So now there is no shame in generosity to others. What is specific repentance & faith -if you are opposed to the gospel, change sides -if you are suspicious of Christians out of cynicism, arrogance, or laziness, stop. In Jesus, be charitable and generous. -if you have suffered mockery and shame for whom you have stood by, be encouraged - you walk in Jesus' footsteps. -if you feel ostracised or shamed by other Christians, then seek refuge in Jesus. Of course you must examine yourself and repent of sinful actions, attitudes, and manners. But beyond that, rest in that fact that He sees and knows. His love for you is enough. Conclusion: 'Heaven has reached down to call someone on earth.' 'Saul the persecutor with a letter from the high priest now is Saul the witness with a commission from Jesus. The heavenly calling has trumped the original earthly mission.' 1 Timothy 1.12-17 Paul said this, writing in later life to Timothy: I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV Closing prayer: Thank you for coming into the world to save sinners. Thank you for your patience to us. Thank you for giving us mercy. Please help us to be merciful people, since we follow the Way, your Way. Response time notes: 1 Timothy 1.12-17 2 Timothy 4.6-18 2 Corinthians 11.21-12.10 Lord's Supper links: This is a meal that shows mercy. In preaching, we tell and hear of God's mercy. The bread and wine show it. The bread pictures Jesus' body broken and killed, so that we could be given life. The wine pictures His blood poured out for us so that we could be forgiven and restored. This is a meal that shows mercy. Jesus gave it to His church for our spiritual nourishment. So come to Him with faith this morning.
9 1 Ὁ δὲ Σαῦλος ἔτι ἐμπνέων ἀπειλῆς καὶ φόνου εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς τοῦ κυρίου, προσελθὼν τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ 2 ᾐτήσατο παρʼ αὐτοῦ ἐπιστολὰς εἰς Δαμασκὸν πρὸς τὰς συναγωγάς, ὅπως ἐάν τινας εὕρῃ τῆς ὁδοῦ ὄντας, ἄνδρας τε καὶ γυναῖκας, δεδεμένους ἀγάγῃ εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ. 3 Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐγγίζειν τῇ Δαμασκῷ, ἐξαίφνης τε αὐτὸν περιήστραψεν φῶς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ 4 καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἤκουσεν φωνὴν λέγουσαν αὐτῷ• Σαοὺλ Σαούλ, τί με διώκεις; 5 εἶπεν δέ• τίς εἶ, κύριε; ὁ δέ• ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς ὃν σὺ διώκεις• 6 ἀλλʼ ἀνάστηθι καὶ εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν πόλιν καὶ λαληθήσεταί σοι ὅ τί σε δεῖ ποιεῖν. 7 οἱ δὲ ἄνδρες οἱ συνοδεύοντες αὐτῷ εἱστήκεισαν ἐνεοί, ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φωνῆς μηδένα δὲ θεωροῦντες. 8 ἠγέρθη δὲ Σαῦλος ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, ἀνεῳγμένων δὲ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτοῦ οὐδὲν ἔβλεπεν• χειραγωγοῦντες δὲ αὐτὸν εἰσήγαγον εἰς Δαμασκόν. 9 καὶ ἦν ἡμέρας τρεῖς μὴ βλέπων καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲ ἔπιεν. 10 ῏Ην δέ τις μαθητὴς ἐν Δαμασκῷ ὀνόματι Ἁνανίας, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν ὁράματι ὁ κύριος• Ἁνανία. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν• ἰδοὺ ἐγώ, κύριε. 11 ὁ δὲ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν• ἀναστὰς πορεύθητι ἐπὶ τὴν ῥύμην τὴν καλουμένην Εὐθεῖαν καὶ ζήτησον ἐν οἰκίᾳ Ἰούδα Σαῦλον ὀνόματι Ταρσέα• ἰδοὺ γὰρ προσεύχεται 12 καὶ εἶδεν ἄνδρα [ἐν ὁράματι] Ἁνανίαν ὀνόματι εἰσελθόντα καὶ ἐπιθέντα αὐτῷ [τὰς] χεῖρας ὅπως ἀναβλέψῃ. 13 ἀπεκρίθη δὲ Ἁνανίας• κύριε, ἤκουσα ἀπὸ πολλῶν περὶ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τούτου ὅσα κακὰ τοῖς ἁγίοις σου ἐποίησεν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ• 14 καὶ ὧδε ἔχει ἐξουσίαν παρὰ τῶν ἀρχιερέων δῆσαι πάντας τοὺς ἐπικαλουμένους τὸ ὄνομά σου. 15 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος• πορεύου, ὅτι σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς ἐστίν μοι οὗτος τοῦ βαστάσαι τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐνώπιον ἐθνῶν τε καὶ βασιλέων υἱῶν τε Ἰσραήλ• 16 ἐγὼ γὰρ ὑποδείξω αὐτῷ ὅσα δεῖ αὐτὸν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματός μου παθεῖν. 17 Ἀπῆλθεν δὲ Ἁνανίας καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν καὶ ἐπιθεὶς ἐπʼ αὐτὸν τὰς χεῖρας εἶπεν• Σαοὺλ ἀδελφέ, ὁ κύριος ἀπέσταλκέν με, Ἰησοῦς ὁ ὀφθείς σοι ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ᾗ ἤρχου, ὅπως ἀναβλέψῃς καὶ πλησθῇς πνεύματος ἁγίου. 18 καὶ εὐθέως ἀπέπεσαν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ὡς λεπίδες, ἀνέβλεψέν τε καὶ ἀναστὰς ἐβαπτίσθη 19 καὶ λαβὼν τροφὴν ἐνίσχυσεν. Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐν Δαμασκῷ μαθητῶν ἡμέρας τινὰς 20 καὶ εὐθέως ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς ἐκήρυσσεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. 21 ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες οἱ ἀκούοντες καὶ ἔλεγον• οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πορθήσας εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ τοὺς ἐπικαλουμένους τὸ ὄνομα τοῦτο, καὶ ὧδε εἰς τοῦτο ἐληλύθει ἵνα δεδεμένους αὐτοὺς ἀγάγῃ ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς; 22 Σαῦλος δὲ μᾶλλον ἐνεδυναμοῦτο καὶ συνέχυννεν [τοὺς] Ἰουδαίους τοὺς κατοικοῦντας ἐν Δαμασκῷ συμβιβάζων ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός. 23 Ὡς δὲ ἐπληροῦντο ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, συνεβουλεύσαντο οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν• 24 ἐγνώσθη δὲ τῷ Σαύλῳ ἡ ἐπιβουλὴ αὐτῶν. παρετηροῦντο δὲ καὶ τὰς πύλας ἡμέρας τε καὶ νυκτὸς ὅπως αὐτὸν ἀνέλωσιν• 25 λαβόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ νυκτὸς διὰ τοῦ τείχους καθῆκαν αὐτὸν χαλάσαντες ἐν σπυρίδι. 26 Παραγενόμενος δὲ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐπείραζεν κολλᾶσθαι τοῖς μαθηταῖς, καὶ πάντες ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν μὴ πιστεύοντες ὅτι ἐστὶν μαθητής. 27 Βαρναβᾶς δὲ ἐπιλαβόμενος αὐτὸν ἤγαγεν πρὸς τοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ διηγήσατο αὐτοῖς πῶς ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶδεν τὸν κύριον καὶ ὅτι ἐλάλησεν αὐτῷ καὶ πῶς ἐν Δαμασκῷ ἐπαρρησιάσατο ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. 28 καὶ ἦν μετʼ αὐτῶν εἰσπορευόμενος καὶ ἐκπορευόμενος εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ, παρρησιαζόμενος ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου, 29 ἐλάλει τε καὶ συνεζήτει πρὸς τοὺς Ἑλληνιστάς, οἱ δὲ ἐπεχείρουν ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν. 30 ἐπιγνόντες δὲ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ κατήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν καὶ ἐξαπέστειλαν αὐτὸν εἰς Ταρσόν. 31 Ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐκκλησία καθʼ ὅλης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Γαλιλαίας καὶ Σαμαρείας εἶχεν εἰρήνην οἰκοδομουμένη καὶ πορευομένη τῷ φόβῳ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ τῇ παρακλήσει τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος ἐπληθύνετο.
The Conversion of Saul 9 1 But Saul, b still c breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to d the high priest 2 and asked him for letters e to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to f the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 g Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting h me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, h whom you are persecuting. 6 But i rise and enter the city, and you will be told j what you are to do.” 7 k The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, l hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, m he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named n Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, o “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man p of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and q lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, r how much evil he has done to s your t saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from u the chief priests to bind all who v call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for w he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name x before the Gentiles and y kings and the children of Israel. 16 For z I will show him how much a he must suffer b for the sake of my name.” 17 So c Ananias departed and entered the house. And d laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and e be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and f he regained his sight. Then g he rose and was baptized; 19 and h taking food, he was strengthened. Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues For i some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, j “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who k made havoc l in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul m increased all the more in strength, and n confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving o that Jesus was the Christ. Saul Escapes from Damascus 23 p When many days had passed, the Jews 1 plotted to kill him, 24 but their q plot became known to Saul. r They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and s let him down through an opening in the wall, 1 lowering him in a basket. Saul in Jerusalem 26 And t when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But u Barnabas took him and v brought him to the apostles and declared to them w how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and x how at Damascus he had y preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went z in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against a the Hellenists. 1 But b they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when c the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off d to Tarsus. 31 So e the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And f walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, g it multiplied.