by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Overall Observations
The first thing we shall do is to make some observations on the passage as a whole to attempt to see the forest before we scrutinize the trees. Note the following impressions gained from a reflection on the passage as a whole.
(1) There is the considerable emphasis given to Saul's con-version in the Book of Acts. To put it differently, the account of Saul's conversion in Acts 9 is but the first of three accounts, the other two coming from the lips of Paul himself.
(2) While there is considerable emphasis on the conversion of Saul, there is very little detail given as to the precise time or the details of Saul's conversion. We do not know the exact time when Saul was saved. It would seem not to be there on the road to Damascus. Here, Saul was only told that it was Jesus whom he saw, who was speaking to him, and whom he was persecuting. The details of what was said and done when Ananias arrived are fuzzy. There is no attempt to establish some kind of pattern or formula for evange-lism here, at least as far as methodology is concerned.
(3) Saul's conversion experience was quick and dramatic in one sense, but it also involved a process of at least three days. Blaiklock concludes concerning the time of Saul’s conversion: “Probably the earliest acceptable date for the conversion on the Damascus road is AD 33. This would leave AD 33-46 for a visit to Arabia (Gal. 1. 17) and the restoration of the man after the shatter-ing experience he had known, and for the early ministry in Tarsus, Syria, Cilicia, and Antioch, which prepared mind and method for the major assault on the pagan world. The splendid deliberateness with which God forged His human tool is the great lesson of these years. Impatient men forget that God is not bound by time. His conversion was by far the most vital influence in Paul’s life. Ancestry, Pharisaic training, and Hellenistic education were fused into the character that the Holy Spirit formed and fashioned over the fourteen years of training. At length, the door opened in God’s good time, and the events of half a lifetime assumed final and complete significance.”
(4) More space is devoted to the process of getting Ananias to Saul than is devoted to getting Saul to Damascus and the home of Judas. It almost seems more complicated to convince Ana-nias that Saul is (or will be) a Christian than it is to convert Saul.
(5) There is a good deal of emphasis on the results of Saul's conversion. More is written of what Saul said and did be-cause he was saved than what he said and did result in his salva-tion.
(6) Little emphasis is placed on Saul's reception of the Holy Spirit, and nothing is said about what happened as Saul received the Spirit. In our text, Ananias was instructed to go to Saul and to lay hands on him so that he might receive his sight (9:12). The words which Ananias spoke to Saul indicate he was also to lay hands on him so that he would receive the Holy Spirit (9:17). Despite this, we are not told here that Saul did receive the Holy Spirit or what happened when he did. I do not question that he did receive the Spirit, but merely observe that this receiving of the Spirit (accompanied by the laying on of hands) was not something Luke wanted to emphasize. If Luke had any "ax to grind" on this issue, here would have been a great place to stress this matter, but he did not do so. This silence is instructive, in my opinion.
(7) Those saved by Saul's ministry were convinced by the power of the gospel message he preached and not by miraculous signs and wonders. Elsewhere in Acts, such as with the apostles, Stephen and Philip, the Gospel's message was underscored by signs and wonders that accompanied the message. Nothing is said in our text about any miracles being performed by Saul yet. We are simply told that the message itself was proclaimed powerfully and that peo-ple were amazed at the message and its miraculous impact on Saul's conduct.
(8) Saul was saved independently of the apostles. Ananias was used as God's instrument in the conversion of Saul, but even he had to be pushed to go to Saul. There is not so much a hint that any-one prayed for Saul's salvation or took the initiative to bring it about. It was God's initiative all the way. The apostles had nothing to do with Saul's conversion, and they were reluctant to believe it hap-pened or welcome him into their fellowship. Paul would make much more of this point in the first chapter of Galatians.
(9) On the road to Damascus, Saul did far more than see a bright light and hearing a voice from heaven. Saul saw and heard the resurrected Christ. When one looks at all the references to this event, it was, in fact, a personal appearance of the risen, glorified Jesus to Saul (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:4-11).
(10) Saul's encounter with Christ was not only conversion but also a call to a particular ministry. Saul was told at the time of his conversion that God had chosen him to bear witness to the Gentiles, kings, and Jews (9:15).
(11) Saul's conversion was a watershed event that greatly affected the Church's history. Because three different accounts of Saul's conversion are recorded in Acts, we know this event had to play a crucial role in the expansion of the Church.
(12) The same Saul who played a role in Stephen's execution was to become, in considerable measure, his replacement. Saul, like Stephen, was a Hellenistic Jew. Saul, like Stephen, spoke with such power and authority that his opponents could not refute him. Saul, like Stephen, had a ministry that focused on the Hellenistic Jews. Like Stephen, the enemies of the Gospel attempted to kill Saul when they could not silence him through debate.
(13) As Stephen's death, instigated (or at least assisted) by Saul, resulted in intense and widespread persecution of the churches in Jerusalem and elsewhere, so Saul's conversion seems to have been directly related to the return of peace (cf. 9:31).
(14) There is an exciting symmetry or parallel between the conversion of Saul and the conversion of Cornelius.
"Conybeare and Howson {The Life and Times of Saint Paul, p. 77 (sic punct.)} remark on the symmetry with which Luke sets forth the two stories: 'The simultaneous preparation of the hearts of Ananias and Saul, and the simultaneous preparation of those of Peter and Cornelius,—the questioning and hesitation of Peter and the question-ing and hesitation of Ananias,—the one doubting whether he might make friends with the Gentiles, the other doubting whether he might approach the enemy of the Church,—the unhesitating obedience of each when the Divine will be made known,—the state of mind in which both the Pharisee and the centurion were found,—each waiting to see what the Lord would say to them,—this close analogy will not be for-gotten by those who reverently read the two consecutive chapters. . ' "136
Man Proposes—God Disposes or Saul's Intentions and God's Interruption (9:1-9)
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disci-ples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2. and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any be-longing to the way, 137 both men and women, 138 he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" 139 And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do." 7 And the men who traveled with him140 stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.141 8 And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.142 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
The arrival of Ananias (9:10-16)
10 Now, there was a certain disciple named Ananias at Damas-cus; the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” Moreover, he said, “Behold, here am I, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.”145 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

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