Saul and Ananias Acts 9:10-22

Before and after. We thought last week about the difference Jesus makes, changing sinners from saints and atheists to missionaries, the transforming power of God which can save from the guttermost to the uttermost.
When a person becomes a Christian they become a brand new person inside.
They are not the same any more. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
And we thought particularly about the life of one man, Saul of Tarsus, whose life was turned upside down when he met the Risen Jesus Christ on the Road to Damascus. Or perhaps we should say that his upside-down life was turned the right way up again when Jesus appeared to him. This is how Paul describes his life BEFORE that day in his letter to the Galatians.
1:13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
But then Jesus appeared to Saul.
Acts 9 5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’
And this life-changing encounter did more than bring Saul forgiveness of sins and new birth to eternal life. Because Jesus has a job for Saul to do.
I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. … I am sending you to (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins.’” (Acts 26:16-18)
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven and then commissioned to God’s service. This is what Saul’s life became AFTER he saw Jesus.
Galatians 1:22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ 24 And they praised God because of me.
Before – persecuting the church, rounding up Christians and putting them into prison. After – God’s greatest missionary, the Apostle to the Gentiles. The transforming power of God.
But there was an obvious obstacle to this masterplan. Saul was the church’s greatest enemy. Christians would hide away whenever he came along. Nobody would possibly believe that he had changed sides. Christians would assume it was just a trick so that he could identify and persecute more of them. How on earth could Saul come to be accepted by other Christians?
God’s answer to this problem rested on the shoulders of a man called Ananias. Paul tells the crowd in Acts 22 that Ananias was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. Ananias was also a Christian, and God gave this one man two vital tasks. First, he was to deliver God’s message to this surprising new convert Saul, and then he was to introduce Saul to the church at Damascus. God’s plan for the salvation of the Gentiles would be centred on Saul. But Saul would only be able to fulfil that mission if Ananias was obedient to God.
To begin with, God’s plan relied an Ananias,
LISTENING TO GOD
Acts 9 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.
11 The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
Ananias was open to God speaking to him. He was ready to be guided by visions and dreams and prophetic messages. We have seen before how dreams and visions had become part of the life of the first Christians right from the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Holy Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions.
Your old men will have dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on those who serve me, both men and women. When I do, they will prophesy,
This promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit who inspires dreams and visions and prophecies is not just for special Christians, but for all Christians.
Acts 2: 38 Peter replied, “All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children. It is also for all who are far away. It is for all whom the Lord our God will choose.”
We saw different examples of dreams and visions and prophecies in the first 8 chapters of the Book of Acts. In Acts 7 Stephen saw a vision of Jesus. At the end of Acts 8 God spoke to the evangelist Philip through an angel. And here in Acts 9 we see that at the same time as God spoke to Ananias in a vision, he also spoke to Saul in the same way.
‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’
God will speak to us in our Bible readings, as we study the Bible and meditate on it and listen to sermons. But sometimes God will also guide us very specifically, as he did here for Ananias. “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul” Visions and dreams and prophecies aren’t just for special Christians but for every Christian, because we have all been given the Holy Spirit who inspires prophecy. But they are especially important in this story. Ananias was listening to God – and we need to make space for God to speak to us by prayer and meditation. If Ananias had not been listening to God, the story of Saul would never have happened. But then Ananias needed to
COUNT THE COST
Acts 9:11‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’
13 ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’

No wonder Ananias was scared. Countless Christians in Jerusalem and elsewhere had been thrown into prison. And Saul was the man bringing that persecution to his doorstep. Maybe Ananias would be the first Christian in Damascus to be imprisoned. Yet here was God commanding Ananias to walk right into the enemy camp.
He could be jailed – or even worse! Ananias could well have been afraid because he had heard the story of what had happened to Stephen. He was a prominent Christian in the Early Church in Jerusalem and he was one of the first to become a martyr for preaching the gospel.
Acts 7 55But (Stephen) was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory. He saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. 56“Look!” he said. “I see heaven open. The Son of Man is standing at God’s right hand.”
57When the Sanhedrin heard (what Stephen said), they covered their ears. They yelled at the top of their voices. They all rushed at him. 58They dragged him out of the city. They began to throw stones at him to kill him. The witnesses took off their coats. They placed them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While the members of the Sanhedrin were throwing stones at Stephen, he prayed. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” he said. 60Then he fell on his knees. He cried out, “Lord! Don’t hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died.

And here is the chilling thing.
Acts 8:1 Saul was there. He had agreed that Stephen should die. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem … 3 … Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

No wonder Ananias was scared. He could well turn out to be the first Christian in Damascus to become a martyr. Who in their right mind would line up for that honour? God has called many Christians through history to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus. Think of what it cost Christ to die for us. What does it cost us to live for Him? If God had asked us to do what he asked Ananias to do, would we have been obedient. Or would we have run away to hide? Ananias had to count the cost of obeying the vision and going to meet with Saul. In fact, it took another message in the vision to convince him to go!
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’

So Ananias heard God’s voice and next we see him OBEYING GOD
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’
There are so many bits of that short passage which are amazing! Not just the courage of Ananias walking into the lion’s den. But did you notice his greeting to Saul? “Brother Saul”. The man who had been responsible for such fierce and persecution of Christians, and Ananias greets him, “Brother!” That’s the difference Jesus makes! Because God had forgiven Saul, Ananias could forgive him too. Because of Jesus, Ananias no longer saw Saul as his enemy, but as his brother. What wonderful words those must have been for Saul to hear! The Christians who he had been persecuting were prepared to forgive him and accept him as a brother in the Lord. The fact that Ananias was prepared to take the risk of going and meeting Saul in was a demonstration of God’s love which was even more important than the message he was going to deliver And this was all because of Jesus, Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me.”.
Saul hadn’t been shouting to the world that Jesus had appeared to Him. God had revealed that to Ananias to prove to Saul that God had sent Ananias to him.
Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
All this was part of God’s masterplan for Saul’s life and for the future of the church. God was going to restore Saul’s sight and then equip him for the ministry he had called him to. Right at the beginning, on the Damascus Road, the Risen Jesus had given Saul a job to do. We read earlier,
I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. … I am sending you to (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins.’” (Acts 26:16-18)
And God had confirmed Saul’s calling to Ananias as well in the vision he gave him.
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
So Saul would need to be equipped for this task – he would need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. God has tasks for each one of us to do. Works of mercy and service and mission which only we can do.
Ephesians 2: 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Like the skittles in 10 pin bowling all set up waiting for us to knock them down.
MESSAGE God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
There are friends and people in our street who God is waiting to save. He is just waiting for us to talk to them about Jesus. There are people God is waiting to heal – he is just waiting for us to pray for them. There are people God wants to comfort and encourage – he is just waiting for us to show them His kind of love. Good works prepared in advance for us to do. But like Ananias we need to be listening to God. We need to count the cost – because doing God’s will and standing up for Jesus will not always be easy. But then like Ananias we just need to be obedient. To step into the lions den and deliver God’s message. To be prepared to show God’s kind of love and to forgive people. To welcome strangers and even enemies as brothers. What is the secret of that kind of Christian living? Just like Ananias who heard God’s voice. Just like Saul as he embarked on his missionary journeys. We need to be filled with the Spirit.
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
Acts 9:17
Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul was miraculously healed. The first thing Saul did next was get baptised as a believer, there and then!
But even before that, it was as Ananias laid his hands on Saul and prayed for him, that God filled Saul with the Holy Spirit. Just as the apostles had been on the day of Pentecost. Just as all the ordinary Christians in the church were in Acts 4
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

God wishes that every Christian could be filled with the Holy Spirit all the time. Filled with His love and His power and His holiness. Living our lives for His glory as Jesus shines through us. If this has ever been your experience you will know what I mean. But some Christians may not have known what it means for God the Holy Spirit to fill your life. To take over every corner. Some Christians have never experienced the overflowing joy and peace which is God’s gift to all of us. Sometimes that is because unlike Ananias they aren’t listening to God, hearing His voice every day. Sometimes it is because Christians count the cost of following Jesus in every part of their lives and it turns out that God expects more from them than they are prepared to give. And sometimes Christians aren’t filled with the Spirit because unlike Ananias they aren’t prepared to obey what God tells them to do. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Keep on being filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). God longs to keep pouring His Holy Spirit into our lives. We only need to ask. Listen to the difference the power of the Holy Spirit made to Saul straight away.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately God began to use him to preach the gospel. And he went on to fulfil God’s calling as Apostle to the Gentiles, planting churches and writing his letters which make up a quarter of our New Testament. But that was only possible because one ordinary believer called Ananias was listening to God and was obedient to God’s call. God has good works lined up for us to each one of us to do for Him. But for that to happen we all need to be listening to God, counting the cost, and obeying God’s call. And above all we need to be filled with the love and the power of the Holy Spirit!

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