And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.Acts 9:1-22
This chapter marks a shift in focus, as Luke begins to trace the conversion and subsequent ministry of Paul. We were introduced to Saul back in Acts 7:58-8:3. There we see him consenting to the martyrdom of Stephen, and then proceeding to ravage the church; this resulted in the early church being scattered throughout the region. Which leads us to Saul’s vendetta to hunt down Christians throughout the land of Judea and Samaria; he’s authorized by the high priest (Ananias) to hunt down followers of Jesus (both men and women)in Damascus, and then drag them back to Jerusalem.
While nearing the completion of the 150 mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, Saul is met by the Lord whom he had been persecuting. Stephen had proclaimed that he saw the Son of Man at God’s right hand, and now the Son of Man reveals himself to perhaps the staunchest opponent of His Gospel. What did Saul’s companions experience? They heard the voice speaking in Hebrew (Acts 26:14), but saw no one, which seems to indicate the specificity of the Lord’s purpose to convert Saul and send him out as a witness to the Gentiles.
The Lord revealed His glory to Stephen and he saw; whereas the Lord showed his glory to Saul and he was blinded. Once in Damascus Saul fasts and prays for three days, as one would likely do in such extraordinary circumstances. There are similarities here with some of the callings of OT prophets (cf. Ez. 3:15). And right on schedule we have the prophetic figure of Ananias arise. It’s worth noting that there are two Ananias’ in this story: one is the high priest authorizing the persecution of the Lord and his people; the other is a devout man according to the law (Acts 22:12).
The upshot of Ananias’ conversation with the Lord is that the man named Saul has been chosen by the Lord Jesus to be a witness to the Gentiles and to Israel, and Ananias is to go and lay hands on him that his sight might be restored. Ananias obeys the Lord’s instructions. He greets Saul with a greeting that is quite a wonderful instance of faith, calling Saul “brother.” Saul’s sight is restored, and we should note while he had been blind the Lord had shown him what his calling would be (Acts. 9:16).
But the Saul we met at the beginning of this chapter and the Saul we see in verse 22 are not quite opposites. The new Saul is just as vehement, if not more so, as he was before, but he is now zealous for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. We also see this in the contrast between his ravaging believers “house to house” in Acts 8:3, and his description of his ministry to the Ephesians teaching them the Gospel “house to house” (Acts. 20:20). Saul’s conversion heightened his zeal and diligence, not diminish it.
One of the clearest “take-aways” from this passage is that the exalted Lord Jesus is able to turn the fiercest enemy of the Gospel into its most able and loyal defender. And that gives extraordinary confidence to us in ministering to even the most stubborn of sinners. We also see that conversion is glorious. It takes a dead man and makes him live, resurrecting all his giftings and talents rendering them useful to a new master: the Lord Jesus.