- Sermon Notes
Answer the Call
Illus. Who will it be?
This morning we are going to look at the circumstances surrounding God’s call to a man name Saul of Tarsus who up to this point had resisted any and every opportunity to turn to Jesus and answer His call, but as we turn to Acts 9, we will see him finally answer when the Lord makes His call of Saul unmistakable.
We were introduced to Saul of Tarsus back at the end of Acts 7 and beginning of Acts 8. There was a young man named Stephen who was stoned to death after preaching before the most powerful Jewish leaders in that day, showing that Jesus Christ was the only way, but they had murdered Him and rejected the Holy Spirit. The Jewish supreme court decided to do away with Stephen. They ended Stephen’s life by stoning him immediately, those doing the stoning laid their robes down as the feet of Saul, and we know from Acts 8:1, he had given his approval of putting Stephen to death.
Next, we see that the situation set off some very severe persecution, so much so, that the church fled Jerusalem and scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:3 reads, Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and he would drag away men and women and put them in prison.
As Chapter 9 begins, we understand that Saul is still breathing out murderous threats…But by the end of the chapter, Saul’s life will be completely redefined. Saul answers the call of Jesus Christ!
Illus. His testimony.
Despite is background, despite his determined disposition of hostility and hatred toward Jesus Christ, He would ultimately give his life to Christ. He would answer the call. The chief antagonist against Christianity becomes the chief protagonist for Christianity. The chief opponent becomes the chief proponent.
Saul of Tarsus would later go by the name Paul. And Paul the Apostle, he would be the man responsible for writing almost half of the books in the New Testament. But at the time of his conversion to Christ, there would have been a great deal of difficulty with anyone being able to believe someone like Saul would ever receive Jesus Christ as the Lord of His life.
It is an unlikely scene based upon what we have seen, it is an unlikely end based upon the way chapter 9 begins, but Saul answers the call. As we look at the detail of his life and story, we will understand that if Saul can turn and answer the call, there is hope for us all. Saul’s life was headed one way, but Jesus had something different to say!
Read: Acts 9:1-4
As Saul continued in his oppositional direction, Jesus comes with a question addressed to him personally, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” That his name would be repeated twice displays deep emotion and intention. Saul, why are you doing what you are doing? It is a question of the direction his life was headed in, and as we look at answering Jesus’ call, an analysis of one’s current course, is important for us all.
- Consider Your Current Direction
- From verse 1 we understand that Saul is “still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.”
- This paints a powerful picture of the direction and disposition of Saul’s life. He was consumed by the persecution of Christians; it had become his life.
- The picture portrayed is that the very air Saul was breathing in was that of threats and murder against the followers of Jesus.
Acts 8:3, Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and he would drag away men and women and put them in prison.
- Interestingly, it was his intense persecution in Jerusalem that had pushed the church out of Jerusalem, and it began to spread to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Earlier this month we saw Philip preach to an Ethiopian eunuch who received Jesus and was baptized. Christianity was beginning to spread rapidly and was moving northward.
- It seems that Saul had heard that there were Christians in Damascus, about 140 miles north of Jerusalem.
- Hearing of this, Saul went to the high priest and asked for letters from the high priest to the synagogues in Damascus so that he could go there and arrest any who were belonging to “the way.”
- “The way” was what the early Christians were called, be believe this was due to their association with Jesus as “The way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
- Letters from the high priest would give Saul the full authority to stop all witnessing going on for Jesus in that city.
- His desire was to stop the movement of Christ, so, he headed in the direction of Damascus to arrest any Christians who were there and bring them back to Jerusalem in shackles and chains.
- His desire? To exterminate Christians. That is what persecution is, it is a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a particular group or people; and Paul’s persecution was centered on followers of Jesus.
- Paul would later come to deeply regret his persecution of the church:
1 Corinthians 15:9-10, I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.
- The direction of his life was centered on an objection to the people of Christ. Despite that direction, our gracious God met him.
- Paul did not seek God, but God sought him, Saul was clearly decided against Jesus, but Jesus was decidedly for Saul.
Acts 9:3-5, Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
- Headed full steam for Damascus, Saul is stopped suddenly.
- Jesus gives a question associated with his direction, “why are you persecuting me?’
- Saul asks a question in return, “who are you, Lord?” and he receives a response, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
- Saul of Tarsus hears those words. He understands something. And there is also something he is experiencing. There is a light brighter than the sun.
- There is an audible voice speaking to him who knows his name– the double intonation– Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me. And Saul is told who is speaking, “I am Jesus.”
- Saul’s life had been centered and focused on the persecution of those in Christ…Jesus asks why?
- Paul recounts this story in Acts 22 and Acts 26 as well. From Acts 22:6 we know that it happened at about noon, and from Acts 26 we understand some more specifics:
Acts 26:13-14, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
- The light that was seen was brighter than the sun, and Saul heard a voice speak to him personally… “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It’s hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Illus. The goads.
- Jesus asks Paul why? Why is persecuting Christians the disposition of your life? Why is the direction? Your kicking against me, why?
- And this is an important question for you and I, “why?”
- To reality is, the Lord had plans for Saul, and he has plans for us all. Will you surrender your plans into His hands.
- Ask Jesus What He Desires You to Do
Acts 9:6-9, Get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 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. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
- Paul opened his eyes, but he could not see anything. He would be led to Damascus by those who were with him. He would wait there for three days without seeing, eating, or drinking.
- From Acts 22, we understand that prior to Jesus giving this direction to get up and enter the city, Saul had asked Jesus a question that is important for our consideration.
Acts 22:10, I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything that has been appointed for you to do.’
- Saul’s question came after his previous question, when he made sure he knew who he was speaking to. First he says, “who are you?” and after knowing it was Jesus, it was the Lord, he then asks “what do you want me to do?”
- Let us be a people continually reminded of who Jesus is, and what He desires for us to do.
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 6:20, You were bought with a price…
1 John 3:16, We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…
Acts 4:12, There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.
Philippians 2:10-11, At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- When we realize who Jesus is, and what He has done, we should response with a desire for His will to be done!
Illus. What do I owe you?
Philippians 3:12, Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
- Paul uses an interesting word in association with Jesus taking hold of Him the word for “take hold” here in Philippians is the Greek word that means to arrest, seize, or take possession of.
- So, Saul going to arrest Christians, but on the way, Jesus Christ “arrests” him. Seizes him, takes hold of him, gets his attention, puts him down on the ground– this bright light, this voice from heaven.
- Paul says my purpose for pressing on is wrapped up in the fact that I want to lay hold of– I want to seize– I want to grab a hold of the reason that Jesus Christ originally grabbed a hold of me.
Illus. Wakeup call!
Ephesians 5:14-17, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
- In response to Saul’s question, “what do you want me to do?” Jesus starts simply, with his next step.
- Pursue the Path He Points You To
- Saul answered the call, he began to pursue the path Jesus had pointed him to, and as his story continues, we are introduced to another man who had a part to play, and a path to pursue.
Acts 9:10-12, Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 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.”
- Here we are given a couple pieces of information, first, there was a disciple in Damascus, so what Saul had heard about there being disciples in Damascus was true.
- His name was Ananias, and in Acts 22 Paul would define him devoted to God and the law, while also one who was well spoken of.
- The Lord speaks to Ananias after Saul’s arrival and tells him to go to the street called Straight in Damascus and ask for Saul of Tarsus at the home of Judas.
- The Lord also tells him that Saul is praying, and that he was given a vision that a man named Ananias was going to come lay hands on him to regain his sight.
- Saul then, was waiting for a man named Ananias to arrive, and knew that at some point he would regain his sight.
Acts 9:13-14, But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.”
- Lord, I have heard about this guy. He has authority to arrest people like me. Many people have spoken about this man…
- Essentially, he says, “Lord, do you know what you are asking?”
- Ananias answered the call to go to Saul and was responsible for providing the first experience Saul of Tarsus would ever have with Christian fellowship.
- He was the guy who heard the word of the Lord, was reluctant, but went anyway, he was the first person to approach Saul of Tarsus and called him brother.
- He was the one who saw something like fish scales falling from his eyes. God had given Saul eyes to see both spiritually and physically.
- Ananias certainly could have had his doubt, he had heard of Saul, he understood his wrath toward Christians, but pursued the path the Lord pointed him to. Comes.
- He tells him that he knows Jesus had appeared to him, and that he was sent so that Saul would receive the Holy Spirit and regain his sight.
- Both Saul and Ananias had responded to the call, and the Lord received glory in it all!
Illus. Pursue the Path!
Ephesians 2:10, We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Illus. Respond to the call.