Conversion of Saul of Tarsus: Acts 9:1-9.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was one of the great events in the church history. Saul was leading the persecution against Christians. He wanted to arrest the disciples who are in Damascus and bring them back to Jerusalem. Saul thought he was doing God a service by persecuting the church. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia and a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Act 22:3; Phil3:5). He was educated in Jerusalem under Gamaliel and a son of a Pharisee (Acts 22:3, 6). Saul was also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). But in spite of his great learning, he was spiritually blind. Self-righteous people do not see their need for a Savior. As Saul approached Damascus, suddenly a brilliant light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”. Saul asked “Who are you Lord?” And he heard, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”. Saul asked,”Lord, what do you want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (9:5, 6). Saul was blinded by brilliance and his physical blindness allowed him to see himself. Saul recognized his own powerlessness and humbly accepted his weakness. He was ready for his restoration. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Soul's friends led him to the city where he fasted and prayed for three days (9:11). No one is beyond the reach of God. He can convert his enemies and make them instruments of the gospel of grace.
Saul Meets Ananias: Acts 9: 10-19.
Ananias was a devout Jew who believed in Jesus Christ. The Lord spoke to him in a vision and said “Go to the house of Judas to meet Saul”. Ananias was afraid of Saul but was obedient. He laid his hands on Saul and prayed and he received his sight. Saul was a chosen instrument to take the gospel to the gentiles (9:15). Paul later made reference to his calling (Gal 1:15-16). He got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate food and was strengthened. God used his humble servant to minister Paul. When God calls, we should never be afraid to obey. We should never underestimate what God can do through his servants. Saul of Tarsus became Apostle Paul and Simon became Apostle Peter. Saul was at his worst when Jesus met him but he became the leading figure in church history. He preached the gospel in Jerusalem. Later he was sent to Tarsus for a season. Paul learned that discipleship is not a calling to comfort but it requires a willingness to lay aside temporary comfort this world offers. Paul himself would later teach that "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God". Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame on the cross.
Soul Facing Opposition: Acts 9:20-31.
Following Saul’s conversion, he boldly preached boldly that Jesus is the Son of God (9:20). All who heard him were amazed at his preaching. Jews in Damascus could not refute his message. Jewish leaders decided to kill Saul. When Saul came to know that Jews plot to kill him, believers let him down in a large basket through an opening in the city wall. Scholars suggest that after this, Saul visited Arabia (Gal 1:17). During those three years he was alone with the Lord and probably was instructed in the word of God (Gal 1:10-24). Then he went to Jerusalem. When he reached Jerusalem, the church was afraid of him and did not receive him. Barnabas befriended Saul and brought him before the apostles. He convinced the church that Saul was genuinely saved by the grace of God and he had spoken boldly of the Lord Jesus in Damascus. Then the apostles accepted Saul into fellowship. Jews plotted to murder him in Jerusalem. The Lord spoke to Saul and reminded him of his commission to take the gospel to the gentiles (22:18). We will not meet Saul again until Acts 11:25. When believers heard about the plot to murder Saul, they took him to Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus. Then the church experienced a time of peace and it grew in strength and number. Throughout Paul’s ministry, he was persecuted by Jews (2 Cor 11:24-26). Paul counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ. Christian ministry is not a ministry of comfort (Acts 14:22). God never promises to keep us out of danger but he does promise to help us in our difficulties.
Peter’s Healing Ministry: Acts 9:32-43.
Peter appears to be engaged in the ministry in Judea (8:25). He decided to visit the believers in Lydda, a city about 25 miles from Jerusalem. There he encountered Aeneas, who was crippled and helpless for eight years. Peter said to him “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise and make your bed”. Immediately he was healed and those who saw the miracle believed in Christ. From there Peter went to Joppa. Joppa was a coastal city about 10 miles of Lydda. Today Joppa is known as Jaffa. Peter heals a paralyzed man. There was a believer named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was known for her good work and helpful to the poor. She became ill and died. Peter said “Tabitha, arise”. She opened her eyes and when she saw Pete she sat up. This news spread throughout the whole town and many believed in Christ. As the gospel is preached, God ensures that the hears understand that the heavenly power at work through signs and wonders by the apostles (14:3). Peter stayed in Joppa for many days with Simon, a tanner. It is significant that Peter was willing to stay with a tanner, who was unclean in the sight of Jews. God was preparing Peter for a greater ministry. Pray for those who are suffering and in need of God's help to sustain them in this troubled world.