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Bible Study: Acts, Chapter Nine

  • RHM Bible Study, Acts, Chapter Nine from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

    Transcript: Today we are going to study Acts chapter 9 in depth. You can follow along in your own Bible if you like. I will be reading from the World English Bible because it is the only modern English translation that is copyright free, and I can read the entire Bible on video without any legal drama or breaking anyone’s rules. After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching quiz that I have prepared for you on the website. Thanks to everyone that has participated so far. Let’s get started:

    First, let’s set our location and do a brief catchup. In Acts chapter 8, we followed Philip the deacon through a revival in Samaria, and then baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch in the desert, who went on to become the first missionary to Africa. When they came up out of the water, Philip was translocated, instantly teleported to the city of Azotus. That is where we begin our story today.

    Acts Chapter 9 beginning in verse 1, reading from the World English Bible: But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

    When Stephen was stoned to death, the executioners laid their shirts at the feet of a young man named Saul, who watched the execution and approved of it. He was a strict Pharisee from the city of Tarsus and was probably born around 3-5 A.D. At this time, Saul would have been around thirty years old.

    Saul, the Christian hunter, was a callous, self-righteous, bigoted murderer set on a full-scale inquisition. His goal was nothing short of the complete extermination of the Way. Saul later told Agrippa in Acts 26:9–11 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (ESV).

    Saul was “inspired” by the execution of Stephen and wanted to help clear out the follower’s of the “Way” completely. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Because of this, the early followers of Jesus became known as “The Way” long before they were ever known as Christians. Saul hunted down members of the the Way and brought them in chains to prison, where many were tried and executed. After his prey began to flee Jerusalem and his hunting became scarce, bloodthirsty Saul went to the high priest to get letters of permission to expand his search to Damascus, which is the capital of Syria today. There he hoped to find a fresh batch of believers to persecute.

    Saul was from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, but was living in Jerusalem and trained under the famous Rabban Gamaliel. In his zeal to wipe out the Way, Saul made the 150-mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, which would have taken him about a week. He would have gladly traveled a month for the opportunity. Damascus was a beautiful white city located on a green plain.

    3 As he traveled, he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him.

    Saul had no idea that the hunter, was now being hunted by the Divine Hunter. While on his way to Damascus, Jesus suddenly appeared to him in an intensely bright light. The glory around Him was so bright that it blinded Saul and caused scabs to form over his eyes like scales. It was worse than looking at an arc welder through a magnifying glass, and Saul fell to the ground trembling. 

    4 He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He said, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6  But rise up and enter into the city, then you will be told what you must do.”

    Everything in Saul’s life had opposed the Way, but now he suddenly knew that Jesus Christ was alive and that he was not merely attacking those belonging to the Way - he was persecuting Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus had said in Matthew 25:40 “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’ (ESV)” 

    That is a pretty scary thought, and very, very, real. Jesus asked Saul “Why do you persecute Me?” when Saul did not even believe in Jesus until then. He had been persecuting people, believers of the Way. This means that when you do something bad to a fellow believer, when you insult them, cheat them, hurt them, you did it to Jesus Christ Himself. There is a warning of partaking in the Lord’s supper “unworthily” in 1 Corinthians 11:27, when we fail to discern the body of Christ, and then come asking for His mercy for ourselves. Because when we treat brothers and sisters in the body badly, we did it to HIM, for it is HIS body. We are to repent first.

    So now Saul was faced with some serious questions. He was at Stephen’s execution and saw him pray for his murderers with “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. He had seen men and women who bravely refused to deny their Lord and would rather face imprisonment, or even death first. He had to have moments where he asked himself “Why would people suffer like this if it was all a lie?” Now Jesus appears to him personally on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:17 and 1 Corinthians 15:8, indicate that Saul actually saw Jesus Christ appear to him, and it became part of his testimony.

    7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. 8 Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.

    The great hunter of the Way, who was going to wreak havoc on the Damascus church now entered Damascus led by the hand- blind, weak, frightened, and in despair. This was the midnight of his soul. Saul had seen Jesus Christ, and also gotten a really good look at himself. His life was utterly wrong. He was a criminal before God. Saul wrote later in Romans 7:18 “Nothing good lives in me”.

    What can we learn from all this? Jesus Christ is always the Soul Chaser and He still seeks sinners out today. No one is beyond His reach, nor beyond His forgiveness. Even when we are seeking Him, it is because He touched us in someway first, just as Stephen witnessed to Saul by praying for those who murdered him.

    Saul was so shaken by the experience that he was unable to eat or drink for three days. All he could do was simply sit in blind silence. This was a humbling experience. God gave him time to think over his life and his past actions, to count the cost, to rethink who God was and what was pleasing to Him. Saul had zealously been practicing a religion, without God in it. He had lived his life as an anti-christ, warring against the body of Christ.

    10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, 12  and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

    Little is known about the disciple Ananias but that he was he was just a common Joe. Ananias was an ordinary man - he was not an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist, an elder, or a deacon. Yet God used him just as He will use us, because He loves working through His people that are willing. Ananias was a willing servant. God spoke to Saul and Ananias both in a vision and it was very clear. Look how detailed Ananias’ vision was. The Holy Spirit told him:

          •      A specific street (the street called Straight)

          •      A specific house (the house of Judas)

          •      A specific man (one called Saul of Tarsus)

          •      A specific thing the man was doing (he is praying)

          •      A specific vision the man had (in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias)

    By Ananias response, he did not know that “Saul the Terrible” had arrived in Damascus, but he had heard what Saul had been doing to the believers in Jerusalem. God was asking Ananias to do something very dangerous so He gave him very detailed instructions.

    13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

    You can imagine Ananias listening to the Lord and nodding affirmatively, then asking a question or two. “Go to Straight Street… Okay, Lord … A man from Tarsus? Fine… Saul? Saul the Terrible? Hey wait a minute, that’s the guy who has been tearing up the church. Lord, are you sure about that…?”

    15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 16  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

    Oddly enough, “Saul the Terrible” was a chosen vessel to carry the name of Jesus. All he needed was a course correction. The Lord had let Saul go his own way long enough, and now He called him to work. Brother Ananias, got up, straightened his clothes, and headed for Straight Street. The Lord’s answer was good enough for him.

    17 Ananias departed and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized.

    Ananias laid his hands on Saul, his sight was restored, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then he arose and was baptized. Again, we see that someone was first filled with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, then they were baptized in water.

    Small acts of obedience have far reaching power. Philip the deacon left the revival in Samaria and went into the desert when the Lord asked him, and there he baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch who became the first missionary to Africa. Here, the disciple Ananias went to Straight Street when the Lord asked him and baptized Saul the Terrible, who became the Apostle Paul and wrote much of the New Testament. God is the General in charge. We are just the foot soldiers and do what we are told. He takes care of the rest.

    19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 20 Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!” 22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

    Saul did a 180-degree turnabout, and instead of persecuting Christ, he began proclaiming Him. He did not know much Christian theology yet, but there were two things that he was sure about: “Jesus Christ is alive, and He is the Son of God.” Of course, the people knew him as “Saul the Terrible” for all the things that he done against the church, and they were a little slower to accept him. If you stay around church long enough, you will learn that God’s people are not as quick to forgive as He is.

    About three years pass between verse 22 and 23. It reads “When many days were fulfilled” and Galatians 1:15 covers the same time span. Saul became known by his Roman name Paul, and he wrote:

    “But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didn’t immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.” Galatians 1:15-18 WEB

    So Paul traveled to Arabia then back to Damascus. He spent time with the Holy Spirit, learning and sorting out his life. This was wilderness of Sinai, where Moses had spent forty years and Elijah had came from.  At Sinai, Moses received the Law. Now at the same place, Saul learns about grace. Moses had been highly educated and raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Saul had been highly educated and trained for his journey as well.

    There is a tendency in the church to promote famous new converts like actors or musicians that become saved. Anything to attract some buzz or attention to the church. So they put people up there that literally know nothing yet about walking with the Lord, to tell us about Him. In that pattern, the path for Saul would have been promotion, but God’s plan was seclusion for three years. For Moses, it was forty.

    In 1 Timothy 3:6 Paul warns about promoting a new believer to a position of responsibility. The Amplified Version reads: “He must not be a new convert, or he may [develop a beclouded and stupid state of mind] as the result of pride [be blinded by conceit, and] fall into the condemnation that the devil [once] did.” 1 Timothy 3:6 (AMP)

    Saul needed to get over being Saul. He was named after King Saul, Israel’s very first king who was head and shoulders above everyone else. He was proud of being a Benjamite because they were always the tribe that went into battle first. A frequently used battle cry was, “After you, O Benjamin!” Saul was also “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee. Because he had outdistanced his contemporaries, he was a proud man. He needed to get over that, and he did while in the desert.

    Saul became known by his Roman name “Paulos” or Paul, which means: “Small”.  God always takes us to the end of ourselves before he uses us. Saul received his Dr. of the Desert degree and was now moving toward his calling.

    23 When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket.

    He was an amazingly sharp sword for the Lord. He was highly educated under the most respected of teachers, Rabban Gamaliel. His immense intellect, his razor-sharp lawyer’s mind, and his Pharisee’s knowledge of the holy scrolls made him, though a novice, a formidable enemy. He could argue with the best of them and speak their lingo for he was raised as one of them. In Acts 26:4 Festus told him, “Your great learning is driving you insane!”

    You could hear the crowds in Damascus murmuring: “Converted Pharisee tells all!” Up till now, Saul had been the hero of the Jews that had persecuted the church, crucified Jesus, stoned Stephen, but now they considered him a turncoat, a traitor, a heretic. They decided, as usual, that it was best to just kill him. So they watched the gates day and night waiting for an opportunity.

    Winston Churchill once said, “Nothing is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” One of his disciples apparently had a house that was part of the city wall, and they let Saul down over the wall in a basket in the middle of the night. Someone wisely said, “God ruthlessly perfects those He royally elects” and our man of the hour had to make a speedy exit from Damascus. There is nothing triumphant about sneaking out of a city by night hiding in a large basket, but Saul lived to preach another day, and he traveled to Jerusalem.

    26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.

    Saul came to Jerusalem but they thought that he was a spy, secretly infiltrating the church leadership. This was perfectly understandable, but it must have been crushing for Saul. A glorious conversion and three years of preparation, then frustration in ministry, and now, even worse, he was rejected by the mother church.

    27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

    Barnabas, “the son of encouragement,” threw caution to the wind, sought out Saul, heard him out, and was convinced of his faith. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and they later traveled together extensively. The Greek implies here that Barnabas took Saul by the hand and led him among the apostles. “Hey, men, he’s for real! It’s all right, Philip - you can come out from under the bed.”

    Barnabas was an interceder, a reconciler, an enabler in the best sense. He was able to forgive and put aside the past, to trust Saul despite his past sins and dangers. Sometimes we Christians are evangelical in our theology and yet distrust others, but not Barnabas! He always saw the best in others. As a result of Barnabas’ stepping in, according to Galatians 1:18–19, Saul got to know James, the Lord’s brother, and spent two weeks at Peter’s place. That had to be an amazing time.

    28 He was with them entering into Jerusalem, 29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him.

    Saul made some more friends with the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews), and they thought it was best to just kill him as well. So the brothers decided that was best to send him off to his hometown of Tarsus. Tarsus was especially known as an university city, being one of the three great educational cities of the Mediterranean world along with Athens, and Alexandria.

    30 When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the assemblies throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

    During Paul’s ministry years, sometimes there were successes, sometimes there were failures, and sometimes there were quiet times. We do not hear from Saul again for eight to ten years, until Barnabas comes to Tarsus to ask him to help with the work in Antioch.

    In the service of Christ, no one is indispensable. We may think we are the only ones who can fill a certain hole, like pastoring a particular church, or teaching an adult Sunday school class, or directing a kids’ program, or whatever. The simple fact is that the church will go on with or without us and we will leave no more of a hole than pulling your hand out of a bucket of water. God sometimes lets us know that by putting us on the shelf for a while as He prepares us for even greater service. Saul would eventually shake the world, but for now, the focus now shifts to Peter.

    32 As Peter went throughout all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” Immediately he arose.

    We should take a moment to see the importance of this. Now Gentile basically means “non-jew.” Peter was heir to a strong tradition of prejudice that went all the way back to Abraham and was exemplified in men like Jonah, who resisted preaching to the Gentiles at Nineveh and actually became angry with God when they repented and escaped judgment. During Peter’s time, Jewish midwives were forbidden to aid a Gentile woman in childbirth, for that would help propagate Gentile scum. This attitude even permeated the Hebrew-Christian community.

    Jesus had commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news. His final words had instructed them to be witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But somehow in running all this through their Jewish grids, they had missed the point. Maybe they thought it meant that the gospel would go to the Jews wherever in the world they might be.

    At any rate, six years after the cross, the Christian movement remained distinctly Jewish. In Peter’s case, despite all of his love and devotion for Christ, his unfortunate attitude could have strangled his ministry and could have reduced Christianity to just another sect of Judaism, like the Pharisees or Sadducees. God could not allow that, so He began to “help” Peter develop a proper attitude toward the rest of the world - the whole world. This has just as much to say to us as it did to Peter and the apostles then. How we look at those around us is crucial.

    35 All who lived at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

    Lydda was a town about thirty five miles from Jerusalem, and is today called Lod,  and is the site of the modern Tel Aviv airport. Peter found and healed a man there.

    36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did. 37 In those days, she became sick, and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39 Peter got up and went with them. When he had come, they brought him into the upper room. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter sent them all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

    Peter knelt down and prayed, then told the dead body to get up, and it did. He called her by her Hebrew name Tabitha, which means “gazelle”. Dorcas was her Greek name but also had the same meaning.

    41 He gave her his hand, and raised her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 This became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 He stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

    Both Aeneas and Dorcas were Jews, but the cities they lived in were primarily gentile. Peter was expanding, reaching out from Jerusalem and relaxing of some of his strict Jewish upbringing. Peter stayed with “Simon the Tanner” which was very unusual. Jews would not enter the house of a tanner. It was highly unpleasant and smelly, and animals were slain there. Tanners were required to live fifty cubits outside of town.

    Rabbinical law stated that if a betrothed woman discovered that her fiancé was involved in tanning, she could break the engagement off. However, Peter had met a Jewish tanner who loved Jesus, and he was willing to stay with him. God was at work in Peter’s heart. The old prejudices were wearing thin. God has a way of softening our prejudices if we are the least bit willing to learn. Peter’s attitude toward the world was mellowing, but a much bigger change was about to come.

    That concludes our Bible study on Acts Chapter 9. Thank you for watching and being a part of Refreshing Hope!

    Click here to take the Acts 9 quiz, or scroll down for the text version!

    Quiz Questions on Acts Chapter 9:

    1. But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of _____, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
    2. As _____ traveled, he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him.
    3. Saul fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He said, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am _____, whom you are persecuting.
    4. The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise up and enter into the _____, then you will be told what you must do.”
    5. The men who traveled with Saul stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw _______.
    6. They led Saul by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. He was without sight for _____ days, and neither ate nor drank.
    7. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named _____. The Lord said to him in a vision, “_____!” He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.”
    8. The Lord said to Ananias, “Arise, and go to the street which is called _____
    9. The Lord said to Ananias, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of _____ for one named Saul
    10. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at _____. Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
    11. But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go your way, for he is my ____________ to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
    12. Ananias departed and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately something like _____ fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized.
    13. When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall, _________________.
    14. When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But _____ took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
    15. Saul was with them entering into Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the _____, but they were seeking to kill him.
    16. When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to _____. So the assemblies throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
    17. As Peter went throughout all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a certain man named _____, who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “_____, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” Immediately he arose.
    18. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means _____. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did.
    19. Peter sent them all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “_____, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
    20. This became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named _____.

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Sylvia Todd likes this
3 comments
  • 1
Deng Tembreza
Deng Tembrezaedited: May 21

Thank you very much For Chapter Nine book of Acts. Question Pastor.  What is a tanner?  What does he do for a living during those days?  Just curious.

May 21
  • 1
Sylvia Todd
Sylvia Todd

Hi Deng :)! A tanner is someone who works with animal hides - messy work, indeed!

May 22
  • 1
Deng Tembreza
Deng Tembreza

Thank you for the answer Sylvia. I even have to  look for the meaning of hides.  Fully understood.  Thank you

May 22