Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment. We’re in the Book of Acts. Last week we began Acts 9. And, Dave, just to refresh ourselves and bring to mind what we talked about, Saul - that is, the Apostle Paul - previous to him being called Paul, he was Saul of Tarsus, and he was after the Christians. He was persecuting the Christians, and he’s on his way to Damascus, and he has a Damascus Road experience. Jesus appears to him. And let me just read a couple verses, and then we’ll pick up with verse 9: “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.” Now, what exactly does that mean, Dave?
Dave: Well, his conscience has bothered him. And I’m sure he was really haunted by what he saw. Stephen said, “Lord, don’t lay this to their charge.” He must have seen other Christians like lambs to the slaughter. And as we discussed it last week, he’s been going over in his mind the Scriptures; there’s so many scriptures that would point to Jesus about the Messiah. And I won’t go back over those again, but he must have been mulling this over. The Holy Spirit has been convicting Saul. There’s a little voice inside of him that says, “They’re right and you’re wrong. They’re right, you’re wrong.” But it’s going to take a powerful experience, and God graciously gives it to him. And the Lord appears to him, because the Lord is going to teach Saul personally. Paul, who was Saul and became Paul, is one of the great evidences that the Bible is true and that Christ really rose from the dead. It’s often said, “Well, here was Saul of Tarsus persecuting the Christians, hating them, and suddenly he turns up a Christian, so he must have had a powerful experience.” Well, yes, he must have had a powerful experience, but that does not prove that he really saw Jesus. Maybe he was hallucinating; maybe it was a guilty conscience, some kind of a Freudian experience or something. How do we know that this really happened? Of course, we’ve proved that the Bible is the word of God and it’s recorded in the Word of God. But Paul becomes the number one authority. He didn’t study with the apostles under Jesus. He has been taught by Jesus Himself. And he is able to rebuke Peter: “Peter, you’re wrong.” He writes most of the Scriptures. He tells us what happened at the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 and he wasn’t even there. But he’s quoting Jesus, what He said. So we have absolute proof - I mean, Paul is one of the great proofs. And we have other proofs, of course, many proofs, that Jesus really rose from the dead, that He died for our sins and He rose from the dead. So this experience is very important in establishing the early church.
Tom: And, Dave, as you mentioned last week, what supported that experience that he had was all that he knew and understood from the Scriptures, that he had such a wealth of knowledge about that, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind and was able to bring this conviction. It reminds me of you. I’ll tell you how: I remember that you said you came to Christ in your teenage years. But prior to that you could quote whole books of the Bible just from hearing it over…
Dave: Well, not quite.
Tom: Not because you tried to memorize them, but because you heard it over and over and over. So when you came to know the Lord, truly came to know the Lord, you had understanding now, not just head knowledge.
But, Dave, when I came to know the Lord, I was totally clueless, okay? I had some romantic ideas about who Jesus was and, you know, from my Catholic upbringing, but certainly not from studying the Scriptures. So I had to start almost from scratch.
Dave: No, I did know the Scriptures, Tom, and I had no doubt that Jesus was who the Bible claimed that He was. It was just a matter of personally putting my faith and trust in Him.
Tom: I think, as we mentioned last week, we see this in verse 6: “And he [that is, Saul] trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” I think this is a commitment of his life to Jesus Christ.
Dave: Absolutely. We mentioned it last week, he’s giving up everything. He’s giving up his future, he’s giving up his hopes, his popularity, and he’s down to ground zero. “Lord, what do you want me to do?” This is starting over again, and Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me now.” So that’s a powerful experience and it’s a powerful example.
Tom: After this experience he’s blind, and he’s led to Damascus, and the Scripture says, v.9: “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 inquire 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.”
Dave: Now, Tom, people could say, “Well, why doesn’t that sort of thing happen today?” Well, I could give you many experiences where I’ve been guided. I wouldn’t say that God spoke to me with an audible voice, but I certainly had a deep conviction that this is what I must do at that particular time.
On the other hand, the Lord doesn’t even have to do that. Tom, you know I could tell hundreds of airplane stories. The Lord sits me next to a woman whose live-in boyfriend has just tried to kill her. I mean, that lady is ready to hear about life and death! He sits me next to a guy that just broke up his relationship with a Mormon girl. He said, “I don’t understand this Mormonism stuff, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. I wish I knew something about it.”
I said, “I’m the guy that wrote the book!” I mean, I could go on and on. Here’s an ex-Marine pilot that sits down next to me - first words out of his mouth: “I want to know God.” And over and over I have these experiences. Now, it wasn’t that God spoke to me and said, “Oh, there’s going to be so and so,” you know, as He did here. He didn’t have to do that. He put us in adjoining seats in an airplane.
Tom: All people have to do, those who know the Lord, is be willing, and God will provide opportunity. Like Saul said, “What wilt thou have me do?”
Tom: Well, it’s not like God’s going to speak through your voice, but you can expect an opportunity to be used of Him in whatever situation He is going to provide.
Dave: Absolutely. Well, Ananias is not too happy with this idea.
Tom: He’s thinking, “This is a dangerous guy. Do I really want to go here?”
Dave: Right. “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man (Wow!, his reputation has gone before him) 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 show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Wow! I don’t know that we could make doctrine out of that. Here’s Saul, who has really made the Christians suffer, he’s going to have to suffer. But it’s going to cost Saul everything. He’s not on the gravy train now; he’s not suddenly going to become popular; he’s not going to have his own private jet, and he’s not going to fly into this city and that city with big advertisements, and he’s going to have a big TV show and he’s going to be popular. This is costing Saul everything. He is going to be hated and persecuted, and eventually they are going to kill him, and the Lord is going to show him that, and yet he is willing: “Lord, whatever you want, that’s what I want to do.” And that’s where we all have to come, Tom.
Tom: But, Dave, I’m glad the Lord doesn’t show me what is down the line for me. I mean, I love the Lord and I want to be willing and so on, but I’ll take ignorance as to what’s coming up, because I’m going to trust Him no matter what, but I just don’t want to know. Is there anything wrong with that?
Dave: No, that’s fine, Tom. Unless the Lord wants you to know, and apparently He wanted Saul of Tarsus to know.
Tom: This is a little aside, but people who want to go to fortune tellers, people who want to know the future, who read their astrology charts and all of that, why would they want to know? How can you live with that? But anyway, that’s another deal.
Dave: Yeah, but that’s not factual anyway, and it really leads people astray.
Tom: Yeah. Verse 17: “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.”
Dave: Well, Saul has already seen this man; although he is blind, he has seen him in his mind. He is expecting him, because God has prepared him, prepared both of them. What a powerful experience, and we have much like this in the Bible. And this is God’s Word, and we trust God’s Word, we can prove it’s true and - wow! - how it teaches us and challenges us!