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Monday, November 24, 2008

Acts 9 - Conversion of Paul


Acts 9 Conversion of Paul

Chapter 9 picks up where chapter 7 leaves off (or at least 8:1). Saul (the future Paul) continues his persecution campaign against the followers of Jesus.

1. "Breathing threats" actually is breathing in rather than breathing out. This suggests that threatening and murder had come to be the very breath that Saul breathed.

Paul requests letters from the high priest to have permission to enter the synagogues of Damascus to hunt down the followers of the Way. This is an description of the early Christians. They had not yet been called Christians. The term the "Way" illustrates that this is not an ideological movement or some new school of interpretation. Christianity is primarily the Way. The Way that Jesus blazed ahead which culminated in the cross. It is the Way of the Cross.

As he journeyed toward Damascus, he was overcome with a light that caused him to fall to the ground. He then heard the voice of Jesus speaking.

5. Jesus told him that he was kicking against the goads: goads or prods used to herd animals; rather than being directed by the master Paul was kicking against it.

You can imagine the shock to him to hear that Jesus was God.

He arose and went to Damascus to a man named Ananias on a Street called Straight. This street still exists in Damascus and it is on this street that you can find the home of our Antiochian Patriarchate. It may seem strange that the Patriarch of Antioch is in Damascus, but the Patriarchate was moved from Antioch to Damascus in the 1300s due to the Western Crusaders.

Ananias baptizes Paul and restores his sight.

18. Life of St. Ananias: Commemorated on January 4 The Holy Apostle Ananias of the Seventy was the first Bishop of Damascus. The Lord ordered him to restore the sight of Saul, the former persecutor of Christians, then baptize him (Acts 9:10-19, 22:12). Saul became the great preacher and Apostle Paul. St Ananias boldly and openly confessed Christianity before the Jews and the pagans, despite the danger.

From Damascus he went to preach at Eleutheropolis, where he healed many of their infirmities. Lucian, the prefect of the city, tried to persuade the holy one to offer sacrifice to idols. Because of Ananias' staunch and solid confession of Christ, Lucian ordered that he be tortured. Harsh torments did not sway the witness of Truth. Then the torturers led him out beyond the city, where they stoned him. The saint prayed for those who put him to death. His relics were later transferred to Constantinople.

19. Paul offers his first sermon to the Jews in the area, which was to become his normal practice when entering a city for the first time. The Jews became angry with his teaching and he had to escape Damascus with his life.

25. There appears to be a gap her as referenced by Gal 1:17,18. There was a three year period here where Paul spent time in isolation and study. It is difficult to know if this was with a Christian community or if he was totally isolated. Based on what we know about the early church, my guess is that he was with a small community. It is perhaps this time that he experienced visions of heaven and of Jesus speaking with him.

After this three year period, he heads to Jerusalem and meets the apostles due to the kindness of Barnabas. He is accepted as part of the community, and sent back to his hometown of Tarsus.

The remainder of the chapter beginning in verse 32 is a wonderful story of Peter traveling to Joppa on the coast of Palestine to minister. It is here that he raises the woman Tabitha from the dead.

36. Tabitha (Dorcas): October 25 St Tabitha is considered the patron saint of tailors and seamstresses, since she was known for sewing coats and other garments (Acts 9:39).

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