In this message we shall begin to consider the conversion of Saul.
Acts 9:1 says, “But Saul, still breathing threatening and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest.” Saul approved of Stephen’s killing (8:1), and those who stoned Stephen laid down their garments at the feet of Saul (7:58). Saul, a persecutor, was a young man with a very strong sense of purpose.
Saul was born in Tarsus, a highly cultured city, and received his Greek education at the university there. In 22:3 he says that he studied “at the feet of Gamaliel, having been trained according to the strictness of the law.” This indicates that he received his religious education from Gamaliel, a great rabbi. No doubt, Saul was a scholar in both the Greek and Hebrew languages, and he was trained in both Greek culture and in Hebrew religion. Furthermore, he was a Roman citizen. With him we see the three main elements of Western culture: Hebrew religion, Greek culture, and Roman politics. He was taught according to the Hebrew religion, he was trained in Greek culture, and he was a citizen of the Roman Empire. His parents or grandparents may have become Roman citizens, and Saul himself was born a Roman (22:25-28). Therefore, Saul had a threefold qualification—in Greek culture, Hebrew religion, and Roman politics.
The Lord is sovereign and all-knowing. Stephen seemed to be better educated than Peter and John, who were unlearned Galilean fishermen. But Stephen was not as qualified in the three elements of Western culture as Saul was. In Philippians 3:5 he describes himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews,” for he was born a Hebrew and was well educated in the Hebrew religion. No one else was as qualified as he to bear the commission to bring God’s New Testament economy to the Gentile world.
Before the Lord gained Saul, he was gained by Satan. Satan must have known that Saul was an important person. Satan not only gained Saul; he also instigated him to take a leading part in persecuting the followers of Jesus. When the persecutors were stoning Stephen, Saul took care of their garments. After the death of Stephen, “Saul was devastating the church, entering house after house; and dragging off both men and women, he delivered them to prison” (8:3). It is significant that Luke purposely uses the word “devastating” to indicate that Saul wanted to destroy, to demolish, the entire church and all the followers of Jesus.
Saul was not satisfied with persecuting the believers in Jerusalem. He went to the high priest and “asked for letters from him to Damascus, for the synagogues, so that if he found any who were of the way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (9:2). According to 9:14, Saul had authority to bind all those who called on the name of the Lord Jesus. Saul wanted to go to Damascus because a number of the scattered saints were there. He intended to go there to arrest all those who called on the Lord’s name.
Acts 9:2 says that Saul’s intention was to find those “who were of the way” and “bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Here the way denotes the Lord’s full salvation in God’s New Testament economy. It is the way God dispenses Himself into the believers through Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s anointing; it is the way the believers partake of God and enjoy God; it is the way the believers worship God in their spirit by enjoying Him, and follow the persecuted Jesus by being one with Him; and it is the way they are brought into the church and built up into the Body of Christ to bear the testimony of Jesus.
The way in 9:2 includes the way of truth, the straight way, and the way of righteousness spoken of in 2 Peter 2:2, 15, and 21. The way of truth is the path of the Christian life according to the truth, which is the reality of the contents of the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:4; 3:15; 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:15, 18; Titus 1:1). It is designated by other titles according to its various virtues, like the straight way, the way of righteousness, the way of peace (Luke 1:79; Rom. 3:17), the way of salvation (Acts 16:17), the way of God (Matt. 22:16; Acts 18:26), the way of the Lord (John 1:23; Acts 18:25), and the way (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). It was slandered as the way of heresy (Acts 24:14).
© Living Stream Ministry All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.