This Week's Focus Passage

Acts 9:5 ‘And he said, who art thou, Lord?’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Acts 9:5

‘And he said, who art thou, Lord?’ 

                Who is Saul? Why has he received so much attention from the church? Why has he, in fact, received so much attention in the Scriptures? What is the big deal about Saul of Tarsus; who even knows where Tarsus is, or was? Well, the apostle himself describes his origination as being from Tarsus of Cilicia; Acts 21:39; 22:3. Cilicia is in the southeast of what is today the country of Turkey, or perhaps we might argue that it is the present confines of ‘Kurdistan.’ Nonetheless, this man, Saul, is first spoken of by name in the seventh chapter of Luke’s book of Acts, in the close of that infamous chapter where the ‘proto-martyr,’ Stephen is stoned to death for his defense of the truth, we meet Saul with regard to those who actually carried out the stoning, when we read in verse 58; and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. But in this very first mention of his Romish name, he is found in collusion with assaults upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. ‘Here, I’ll hold your jackets so you can be freer to throw chunks of rock at this young disciple’s head until he is dead.’ Saul of Tarsus was complicit in the murder of Stephen. If anyone wishes to oppose this statement, it is clearly stated in Acts 8:1, And Saul was consenting unto his death. That verse should likely conclude the 7th chapter rather than open the 8th. But the fact is, Saul had a hand in the death of Stephen, the faithful martyr. Subsequently, we read of his continuance in this persecution of the followers of the Lamb of God. In 8:3, we find in Saul’s activities, that Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison.

                A great change; The Great Change, subsequently takes place; so great a change that our Saul becomes Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. As Acts 9:1 begins the narrative of this change, advising us that such persecution continued to be prevalent in the heart of this man, Saul of Tarsus; we are told,

But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

These ‘letters’ amounted to being warrants for the arrest of any he might find that were ‘of the Way.’ Or else, they were letters of introduction to the local authorities to the same effect. He was diligent in making use of every incidental that would allow him to satisfy his vehement hatred of these usurpers. How could such a man, so filled with hate and malice toward this people of the Cross, ever be saved? If we look at it through the eyes of our flesh; through man’s eyes, it is impossible. But as Jesus has said—and it is recorded in each of the synoptic gospels, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.Mt. 19:26; Mk. 10:27; Lk. 18:27.

                So that in the sequel, it is demonstrated that God took action. Even as Saul was storming with his eyes set upon Damascus and his heart set upon persecution, his path was intersected by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the record of that glorious event as recorded for us by Luke in Acts 9:3-6;

And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutes: but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

So a now blinded Saul arose, and he was led by those with him to Damascus where he was three days without sight, neither did he eat or drink. We know that he was, not only fasting, but he was also praying, for when the Lord sent Ananias to him, he told Ananias how he would recognize Saul, behold he prayeth. This Ananias obeyed and followed the directions given him. He evidently also recognized the truth of what the Lord had told him in a vision, that he is a chosen vessel unto me, for when he found Saul, he called him Brother Saul,

The Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.—Acts 9:17.    

Simultaneously, Saul’s eyes were opened and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Was this the occasion of the regeneration of his heart? Perhaps. The important thing for us to keep in mind, and in our hearts, is that it was the sovereign work of God alone. Had God informed Saul of the gospel at all before this miraculous event? Did God work this work without the proclamation of the gospel to Saul? Perhaps the words spoken by Stephen were embedded in the channels of his ears, so that he would cry out when Jesus spoke to him through that light out of heaven, who art thou, Lord? Our Lord’s answer, I am Jesus, did not bring another question, who is Jesus. It even seems that when Christ had said, I am Jesus, Saul knew Who he was dealing with, or Who was dealing with him. When we, and Ananias, are told, behold, he prayeth, may we not infer his repentance being confessed during those three blind days?

                Paul certainly did repent and confess his egregious sins. His confession is recorded twice in Acts, 22:4 and 26:10ff, and at least once in his first epistle to the church at Corinth, and once in his epistle to the church in Galatia. Especially clear is his confession in Acts 26, when they were put to death I gave my vote against them.

This last was likely a reference to his casting his own vote against Stephen. He spoke harshly against himself in both 1 Corinthians 15:9 and in Galatians 1:13. In the former, he claimed to be the least of the apostles because he persecuted the church of God, and in the latter that he persecuted the church without measure, and made havoc of it. Surely, these provoked him to declare himself the chief of sinners. How can such a sinner be redeemed? The same way that sinners such as ourselves are saved; through the blood of Jesus Christ, and the sovereign gracious love of God.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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