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Saul’s Persecution and Conversion (8:1–9:30). A great persecution entered Jerusalem that very day, causing a dispersion of everyone except the apostles. Philip, one of the seven travels to Samaria, where many accept the Good News. Peter and John are sent to Samaria, lying “their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (8:17-18) shortly thereafter, an angel sends Philip “south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (8:26) There, Philip finds a court official of Ethiopia, a eunuch, riding in a chariot, and reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip is sent to witness to him, offering him the meaning of what he was reading, and then baptizes him.
In the meantime, Saul, “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord … asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Suddenly, light flashes from the heavens, blinding Saul, he falls to the ground. He hears a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” To which Saul responds, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (9:4-6) In one moment, the one who was persecuting the Christians would then spend the rest of his Christian missionary life, being the persecuted.
A Period of Peace (9:31). The Christian congregation “now throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
Based on Acts 9:1-19
Acts 9:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
 I.e. the apostle Paul prior to his conversion. Saul is his Hebrew name and Paul is his Roman name.
Travelers heading for Damascus were still breathing threats, seeking to wreak even more havoc on the fledgling Christian community. Their objective was to pull the Christian disciples of Jesus from their homes, damaging their dignity publicly as they bound them, and then take them by force back to Jerusalem to face the vengeance of the Sanhedrin.
A Pharisee named Saul, who had already given his approval as others stoned the first Christian martyr, Stephen, led this large of an unruly crowd of radical Jews. (Acts 7:57–8:1) Saul was not satisfied with the terror being inflicted up the Jewish Christians within Jerusalem. Saul was zealous to no end, seething with rage, seeking to persecute this sect, known as “the Way.” The phrase “‘breathing out threats and murder’ is an idiomatic expression for ‘making threats to murder’ (see L&N 33.293).” Luke helps his readers of the book of Acts to understand the ferocity of Saul, as he sought to go after “men or women.” (Ac 8:3; 9:2; 22:4)
Acts 9:3-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 Now as he was traveling and nearing Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Unexpectedly, intense light from heaven overwhelms Saul. Those who were traveling with him had seen the light but were so stunned by the event, it left them without words. Saul was unable to see, but he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Shock, but still able to respond, Saul asks, “Who are you, Lord?” The words that came next had to be very much unexpected, and wrenching to his heart, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
What we notice about Jesus words should comfort every Christian. Jesus did not ask Saul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my disciples?” Rather, he asked, “why are you persecuting me?” Yes, for Jesus, his disciple’s pain is his pain. (Matt. 25:34-40, 45)
Acts 9:6-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 But get up and enter into the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. And leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 Or sound (See footnote on Acts 22:9 below)
When light from heaven blinded Saul, did those with him hear the voice that Saul heard? Acts 9:7 says, “The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice.” Yet, a restatement of the same account at Acts 22:9, Paul (Saul) says, (UASV) 9 Now the men who were with me saw the light, indeed, but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. (LEB) 9 “(Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.)” (ESV) 9 “Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”
 Do we have a discrepancy with Acts 9:7? No. The Greek word for “voice” (phone) at Acts 9:7 in in the genitive case (phones), which has the sense of hearing the sound of the voice, but not being able to understand it. At Acts 22:9 phone is in the accusative case (phonen), which means that the men did not hear the voice with comprehension or understanding. In other words, they heard the voice but did not understand the words. Therefore, this is not a discrepancy. Some newer literal translations preferred to sidestep their literal philosophy for a more interpretive translation. At Acts 22:9 NASB reads, “And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.”
Ananias Sent to Saul
Acts 9:10-12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 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, 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.”
It was nice of Luke to give his readers, a little chronological and geographical note to move the historical account. A Jewish Christian, converted by Jewish Christians, named Ananias from Damascus, received an unexpected and amazing assignment. “The Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying.” (9:11)
“Straight Street” is actually one of the main roads going through Damascus (the cardo maximus), the main east-west route through the city.” (Arnold 2002, 293) It was about a mile long. Looking at the sketch, we can picture what the street may have looked like about 34 C.E. when Ananias received his assignment. It may have taken him quite some time, as he went along searching for the house of Judas.
We should note, “The dialog throughout this part of the chapter indicates that conversations with both Saul and Ananias are coming directly from Jesus, not from the Father. That becomes particularly clear in verses 14–16.” (Gangel 1998, 141)
Jesus is telling Ananias that Saul/Paul “has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him.” In the Old Testament, we see Jehovah instructed Moses to commission Joshua as his replacement, by laying hands on him. (Num. 27:23) Jesus laid his hands on people before he healed them, “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” (Lu 4:40) Here we have Ananias being instructed to lay his hands on Saul, to heal him, as Saul/Paul was about to be commissioned an apostle to the nations and kings and the children of Israel, having a greater impact toward the growth of Christian than all the apostles combined.
Acts 9:13-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your holy ones at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 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 the sake of my name.”
We are told numerous times throughout the New Testament that the world will hate Christians and Christianity. However, we need not prejudge the individuals who make up the world alienated from God. Verses 13-16 are an evident demonstration that circumstances can change a person’s heart and mind. Clearly, Saul of Tarsus was a vehement enemy of Christianity, going from an opposer and persecutor to one who walked with God and became the most faithful and effective evangelist of the first-century.
Ananias says, “I have heard from many about this man.” There was probably no Jew in the whole of Palestine, who was not aware of Saul’s violent persecution of the Christians, all the time thirsting for more opportunities. Therefore, one can certainly appreciate Ananias’ pause about visiting Saul. Ananias had no knowledge that Jesus had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. We notice that Jesus did not admonition Ananias for his reluctance to take on this assignment. Another thing we might note is Ananias not being surprised at Jesus speaking with him, as he engages the conversation, as if he were talking with some friend in the congregation. It would not be too much of a stretch to suspect that Ananias actually saw Jesus in this vision, while they carried on this brief exchange.
Ananias speaks of “how much evil [Saul/Paul] has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” (9:13) “This is the first time that this expression is used to refer to Christians.” (Arnold 2002, 294) The Bible refers to holy ones, or saints. God is spoken of as “the Holy One [Greek, hagion].” (1 Pet. 1:15-16; see Leviticus 11:45.) Jesus Christ is described as “the Holy One [hagios] of God” when on earth and as “holy [one] [hagios]” in heaven. (Mark 1:24; Rev. 3:7) The angels too are “holy.” (Acts 10:22) The same Greek term is applied to numerous ones on earth.—The New Greek to English Interlinear New Testament
This writer does not prefer the term “saints.” Dr. Don Wilkins, the head of the New American Bible committee writes to me in an email, “I do not see a problem with using ‘holy ones.’ My camp doesn’t like “saints” that much either (even though it’s in the NAS). Also, I don’t see ‘saints’ listed as an option for hagios in BDAG. About the only time I use the term is when I’m formally designating one of the apostles, and even then I don’t really like it; it’s just a matter of convenience.” The three dictionaries below help us better appreciate this,
|1||somebody honored by church after death: a member of a religion who after death is formally designated as having led a life of exceptional holiness|
|2||somebody in heaven: somebody who goes to heaven after death|
|3||virtuous person: a particularly good or holy person, or one who is exceptionally kind and patient in dealing with difficult people or situations|
VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY
In the plural, as used of believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of “saintliness.”
MOUNCE’s EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY
233x. hagios is an adjective that means “holy,” but it is used at least 45x as a substantive to designate “saints.” Esp. in Paul’s letters those who name Jesus as their Lord are called hagioi (“saints”; lit., “holy ones”).
In all likelihood, the humble Christian servants who are given that term, would not like it, based on the way it is thought of today.
Verse 15 is the most important verse of this chapter because Paul’s witness to Agrippa fulfilled the prophecy that he would carry Jesus’ name before kings, but it also identifies the intended purpose of taking the Good News to the nations, not just the sons of Israel. (Rom. 1:1, 5; 9:24; Gal. 1:15–16; Eph. 3:7–13) Ananias was made aware of God’s will and purposes before the older men of Israel down in Jerusalem. Paul was Jesus’ chosen instrument to carry his name.
Jesus also informed Ananias that the greatest persecutor of the Christian Way was about to ‘suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name.’ He will experience the hatred of the Jews, the pagans, and the Roman government throughout the course of his ministry. However, Saul/Paul is quite pleased with the privilege of suffering for the name of Christ. (2 Cor. 11:23–33)
Acts 9:17-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight and got up and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Saul Proclaims Christ in Synagogues
Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus.
The general rule of the Holy Spirit being passed on was that it took place through the apostles lying on their hands. However, this was the exception to the rule, as it appears that Jesus approved Ananias to transfer the gifts of the Spirit, to Jesus’ chosen instrument, Saul. Ananias’ laying his hands on Paul had a threefold purpose, (1) demonstrating that Saul/Paul was now being accepted as a fellow believer, this was no ruse, (2) to restore his sight, and (3) to transmit the Holy Spirit. As Ananias carried out his commission, as he spoke to Saul, this scale like substance fell from his eyes. Saul rose up, as he could now see once more, and was immediately baptized by Ananias. Thereafter, he was given some food to eat, as he had not eaten for some three days. As to Saul’s baptism, New Testament scholar Clinton E. Arnold writes,
In later church tradition, there is a one- to three-year delay for baptism, which follows a long period of instruction. The New Testament pattern appears to be that the rite is performed in a short time after a person professes faith in Christ. It is also important here to observe that Paul experiences the work of the Spirit in his life prior to his baptism. (Arnold 2002, 295)
The account at Acts 9:19b-25 says that Paul ‘for some days he was with the disciples at Damascus, and immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues.’ Luke goes on to inform us of Paul’s preaching activity, until he was obligated to leave Damascus, because “the Jews plotted to kill him.” However, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul tells his readers that after his conversion, “I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” (Gal 1:15-17) One can only infer where the trip to Arabia fits within these events.
It may be that Paul went to Arabia immediately after his conversion. If this were the case, Luke’s use of the term immediately would mean after Paul “returned again to Damascus,” he immediately spent some time with the disciples and began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues. However, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is making the point that he “did not immediately” go to “Jerusalem.” In other words, Arabia was the only place outside of Damascus to which Paul traveled. Thus, his going to Arabia need not necessarily have to come right after his conversion. It may simply be that Paul spent a few days in Damascus, renouncing his former crusade against the Christians, and expressing his newfound faith in Christ, in the synagogues. He then went on his trip to Arabia (why we do not know), “and returned again to Damascus,” to continue his preaching work in the synagogues.
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 Was not Rome over this region of their Empire? Where did Saul’s authority come from, empowering him to travel to a foreign city? The Sanhedrin had moral authority (in essence, legal authority) over every Jew, regardless of where they resided. This power carried with it the high priest’s authority to extradite criminals. Therefore, the elders of the Damascus synagogues would honor letters from the high priest.
 Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ac 9:1.
 Acts 22:9 (LEB) 9 (Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.) (ESV) 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
When a light from heaven blinded Saul, did those with him hear the voice that Saul heard?
 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1981), pp. 541–42.