Saul was a chosen vessel. On the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Christ confronted Saul and revealed Himself. It was this authentic revelation of Jesus in Saul’s life that caused an immediate revolution in Saul’s heart. Saul saw the light. He was forever changed. The old things had instantly passed away, and everything became new. Saul was delivered and God had determined to use this man to be the instrument that would, in effect, change the world.
Saul’s previous life had prepared him for this moment. He was born into a Roman family and thereby a citizen of the most powerful nation of its time. The Roman Empire was noted for its commerce and trade over land and sea, it provided the best schools and learning institutions of its day and the privileges of society were unmatched and only offered to its citizens.
Specifically, Saul was born into a Jewish family of the Diaspora. In other words, as a Jew, Paul was familiar and in touch with secular society. He knew the Greek language, identified Greek logic and understood the influence of Greek culture upon the lives of men. Saul had a clear perspective of the world.
Being a Jew, Saul had a number of insights into the lifestyle of God’s people. Saul was brought up in the synagogue. He had a working knowledge of the Scriptures. For as long as Saul could remember, he had been taught the traditions of old. Even though he had a Greek intellect, he had the training of a rabbi and was inducted into the elite Jewish ruling counsel known as the Sanhedrin.
Now everything was different. Everything was new. Yet God would use all of these personal experiences of Saul to fulfill His sovereign plan. Clearly, Saul was chosen by God to do an extraordinary work of ministry.
Much could be said about this man Saul. I could identify his character and his conduct in order to learn from his example. Excluding Christ, one could argue that there has been no better man to ever walk this earth than Saul. Saul has an amazing story; Saul the murderer of the faithful becomes a miracle of faith. This man that purposely persecuted the church prior to his conversion eventually would proclaim the hope of Christ in like passion. God ultimately elevated Saul well beyond his own comprehension to a place of legendary status within church history. Humanly speaking, Saul would author half the New Testament writings. Therefore, it can be said that no man would make any greater contribution, have any greater influence or be of any greater value to the world than this man Saul.
Clearly Saul was someone special which had something special, but what about the rest of us? Those of us that will never be center on the world’s stage, do we have anything substantive to offer? Does it really matter what we do with our life?
We can lean into the convictions of Saul (who of course would become the Apostle Paul) and learn some pretty incredible things. “There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.” “All things work together for good.” “If God is for us who can be against us.” “We are more than conquerors.” And, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” These are the things that God does for us by his grace and sovereign hand.
We know we can’t do these things. We are limited in our ability and capacity. We need God to do those things because we can’t do them ourselves. Ultimately, we learn that it isn’t about us; it is all about him!
However, this may cause someone to wrongly think that, “it doesn’t matter how I live my life or what I do.” “Can I be a part of something significant and make a difference with my life?” The world is so big and we are so small, as Christians, does it really matter what we chose to do with our own lives?
Yes! Absolutely, positively, bet your bottom dollar, without a doubt walking obediently according to our faith makes all the difference in the world!
Within the midst of this narrative in Acts 9, there is a beautiful illustration of how the working faith of the common Christian faithfully works.
In the text regarding the conversion of Saul, we read of another man- Ananias. Ananias is a quiet unsung hero of the faith. In all my years of ministry, I have never heard a message on the character or the conduct of this brave man of God. Here, we see the example of how God calls the common man to initiate an uncommon movement among men. Notice that…
Ananias is Called to Practical Service (10)
Who is Ananias? Ananias Represents the common man. Ananias was a common name. In fact, there are 3 notable men in this book of Acts alone named Ananias. It is interesting to compare and contrast the three with 3 very different reactions to the gospel. The first Ananias was known for his corruption. In Acts chapter 5, Ananias and his wife Sapphira tried to deceive Peter and the church. Ananias lost his life because of his deceitful corruption.
In Acts 23, we see another Ananias that was known for his condemnation. This Ananias was the high priest. Upon Paul’s return from his missionary journey, he is arrested in Jerusalem and condemned by Ananias the high priest. This condemnation ultimately is the reason why Paul would be handed over to Roman authorities and eventually executed.
This third Ananias is this man in Acts 9 that was known for his commitment. I find it interesting when comparing these 3 men (3 common men, sharing the same common name) that they were all called to serve the Lord, yet, one rejected and refused to serve Christ, one outwardly surrendered yet inwardly lived a lie and only one authentically committed his life to service.
Perhaps we can identify the same 3 today in our day. All have been called. The Lord is, “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. Yet, some flat out refuse and reject Christ while otthers play the religious game, and live a lie. However, there are those that prove to be authentic believers. Not perfect, just forgiven. Not a religious fanatic; simply committed to Christ. The Lord said, “Ananias?” And Ananias responded, “I am here Lord” Ananias was committed to follow Jesus.
I am afraid we have cheapened the gospel by allowing people to buy in without selling out. Perhaps we have made it too convenient, too comfortable. We are giving people just enough of Jesus to be bored, but not enough to feel the surge of holy adrenaline that courses through your veins when you decide to follow Jesus no matter what, no matter where and no matter when. Not so with Ananias- He was committed.
Ananias is Confused by a Perplexing Situation (11-16)
Those in the Lord’s service have a job to perform. In the 16th century, the Renaissance astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the belief that the earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus argued that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth but that the earth revolved around the sun. This created a revolution within the scientific community and turned the scientific world up-side down by making sure that man’s worldview was right-side up.
In the same way, each of us needs to experience our own revolution and grab hold of the right worldview. Our perspective of life alters significantly when we come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around us. The Son does not revolve around us. We are not at the center of the universe; God is! We are to revolve around the Son.
I was almost 20, when I had my revolution. It started with the question, “Lord what do you want me to do with my life? I got tired of calling the shots. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at playing God. I was exhausted! So I stopped trying to “find myself” and decided to seek after God; this decision changed everything.
So let me pause a moment and ask this question? Who is following who? Are you following Jesus? Or have you inverted the Gospel by inviting Jesus to follow you? This could be the reason why nothing is making sense in life and everything is an overwhelming struggle. Your expectations are out of whack. When things don’t go to your plan then life isn’t fair, nobody seems to care and you feel all alone in this world. God doesn’t’ even seem there.
That kind of stinking-thinking is a result of having the wrong idea on how things are ordered in this life! Begin asking the question, “Lord what do you want me to do?” He has something to do for everyone in the Lord’s service. At bare minimum, we have already identified, we are to be his witnesses. Remember this is the whole point of the book of Acts. From the very beginning of the book of Acts, the program of God’s people is to be witnesses of Christ.
Now Ananias doesn’t fully understand it yet, but Saul repented and believed and is on the path pursuing and recovering God’s plan for his life. So Jesus tells Ananias to go find the “great persecutor Saul.” Without a doubt, this brings great anxiety. We notice there is great reluctance on the part of Ananias. The reputation of Saul is clearly known. Saul has done much evil to the church. He is on a mission to do more evil, but the Lord’s commission is not optional!
The Lord said, “Go thy way!” “Trust me! Do your part, I will do mine!” Although confused, remember Ananias was committed. So we see…
Ananias Completing the Particular Summons (17)
I don’t want to wrongly over spiritualize, but I love the language of this text. Where was Ananias to Go? Ananias was to walk straight street. Who was Ananias Going to See? He was going to look in on brother Saul. What a wonderful description in Scripture. What was Ananias to do? He placed his hands on him and restored sight. What an amazing depiction and description of the role of a committed Christian!
Here is my point. This committed Christian changed the world without being the one on the world’s stage.
What would have happened if Ananias was not a committed believer? What if he was like one of the other two that shared his name? If he would have been like Ananias the high priest, he would have rejected Christ’s commission and would have refused to answer the Lord’s call. If he was like Ananias the corrupt church member, he would have publicly sung “I surrender all” while privately hanging on to that which he was not willing to give. However, Ananias was so resolved in his faith that even though the circumstances were confusing and downright intimidating, he was willing to follow through and perform the will of the Lord.
Indeed, Ananias is an unsung hero of the church. Without his commitment to the Lord’s commission, humanly speaking, Saul would not have been positioned for ministry. If it were not for Ananias’ commitment, there would be no 1st, 2nd, or 3rd missionary journey of the Apostle. If it were not for Ananias’ commitment, Saul would still be blinded and without strength we would be missing half of the New Testament. Without Ananias’ commitment, gospel would have never gone to Europe and made its way to America. Without his faithful commitment, it would have never reached you or me!
So, let’s ask the question again. Does your commitment to Christ really matter? Does it really matter what you do with your life?
Yes! Absolutely, positively, without a doubt it does. Walking obediently according to your faith can make all the difference in the world!
So what will be your response to the Acts of Jesus Christ as the church? Your response will be measured by your reaction to the Gospel.