On the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapter 9:1-9.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 308 - January 1882


Chapter 9:1-9.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus follows in beautiful development of the ways of God. For en the one hand his murderous unflagging zeal against the Lord Jesus and His saints made him, (arrested by sovereign grace and heavenly glory, in the person of Christ shining into his heart from en high), to be so much the more conspicuous witness` of the gospel; on the other his call immediately thereon, to go as His apostle to the Gentiles, was a new and distinct departure of ministry to the praise of divine mercy. For the blood of Stephen, far from quenching the raging enthusiasm of the young zealot "consenting to his death," had only stimulated him to dare unsparing violence against all men and women who called on the Lord's name; and now his unsatisfied zeal against "the way" induced him to chase the fleeing scattered saints outside the land.

"But Saul, still breathing threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked of him letters unto Damascus to the synagogues" so that, if he found any belonging to the way, both men and women, he might bring [them] bound unto Jerusalem. And as ho was journeying, it came to pass that he drew near to Damascus, and suddenly there shone round him a light out of heaven, and falling upon the earth he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he1 [said], I am Jesus, whom thou persecntest2; but arise and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him were standing speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. And Saul arose from the earth, and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing3; but leading by the hand they brought him into Damascus" and he was three days without seeing, and did neither eat nor drink" (ver. 1-9).

Thus wonderfully was the chief persecutor called, not as saint only but as apostle also. The conversion of the dying robber was a signal display of suited though sovereign grace; that of the living pursuer of the saints to prison or death was higher far. And if Peter followed the rejected Christ .from Galilee to His ascension and heavenly glory, Saul began with His call out of heaven till, himself ever afterwards a partaker of His sufferings, he finished his course in becoming conformed to His death. He was apostle, not through the living Messiah on earth, but through Him glorified after God the Father raised Him from the dead. He began his witness where Peter ended it on his part.

Saul's was an unprecedented starting-point, which gave another and heavenly character to his service. There was a complete breach with Israel after the flesh, no longer a question of the earth or earthly hopes. Man risen from among the dead and gone on high has no connexion with one nation more than another. The cross broke off all possible claims of those who had the law" but therein also was laid the righteous ground for the forgiveness of all trespasses, for taking out of the way the hostile bond written in ordinances. Heavenly associations with Christ glorified were now revealed as a present fact for faith to apprehend, enjoy, and make manifest practically on earth; and of this, both individually and corporately, Saul was chosen to be witness as none other ever had been before; and therein none followed, for the case admitted of no succession.

This was the man who, brimful of deadly hatred, desired the highest religious sanction for war to the death against all men or women that called on the Lord Jesus. Armed with the high priest's letter he approached Damascus, when suddenly light out of heaven flashed round him; and fallen to the earth he heard a voice charging him with persecuting Him whom he could not but own to be the Lord; and the astonished Saul learns to his utter confusion before God that it was Jesus, Jesus persecuted in His own, who were one with Him. Overwhelming discoveries for any soul! For the light, "the glory of that light," the power, the voice even to him were unmistakable altogether; and the more so, for one like Saul confidently and conscientiously embittered against His name, thinking he was doing good service if he captured or even killed His disciples: so stout certainly his will, so ardent his zeal, so unsuspecting his malice, through blinding religious prejudice.

Never was a conversion so stamped with heavenly glory (2 Cor. iv.) and this from the person of Christ speaking thence (Heb. xii). It was emphatically the saving "grace of God" that appeared to him, in total and manifest overthrow of the highest earthly tradition, though it was also the "glad tidings (or gospel) of Christ's glory," as not another even of the apostles could say like himself. Hence he speaks of "my" gospel, and so when joining . others of his companions, "our" gospel. It was not as if there was any object or any saving means before the soul but the one Saviour and Lord; but so it was from heavenly character, as well as the fulness and sovereignty of grace, therein manifested beyond all.

Besides, in Christ's words, from that first revelation, lay the germ of the doctrine of the assembly as one with Christ, His body, which the apostle was called to expound and enforce by his Epistles, as by his ministerial work and life, in a way and measure that surpassed "the twelve," however honoured in their place. And this peculiar manner, as well as heavenly development of the truth, of which the Lord makes him the pre-eminent witness, brought en him unparalleled trial and suffering, from not only without but even within, as his own writings and others abundantly prove.

Saul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Judaism and the world were to his soul judged and abandoned for ever by the certainty of saving grace and heavenly glory in Christ on high; who now manifestly exercised divine power and authority, and at one glance pointed out the new and only true path of patient suffering for the witnesses, in word and deed, of grace and truth, according to His own matchless way on earth, till He come and take us to Himself where He is. On the one hand, not only the Gentiles (Romans, Greeks, and all others) were fighting against God, but yet more keenly the chosen nation, the Jews; on the other hand, the simplest disciple now is one with Christ on the throne of God, and to persecute them is to persecute Him. This and far more such a mind as Saul's read in the revelation outside Damascus—a revelation to go forth in due time over all the earth, and have its power only in faith and love forming a Christlike life to Christ's glory, but not without notable effects even where it was ever so hollowly professed. It may be drowned in blood or obscured with clouds of creature error and presumption, Jewish or Gentile or worse than either when both combine to deny the Father and the Son, but none the less in its objects will rise in heaven with ever durable and unfading glory around Christ, ere He shall be revealed from heaven with angels of His might in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God and those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints and wondered at in all that believed, as well as to be alike the Blesser, and the Blessing, to all the families of the earth according to promise.

It will be noticed that the first effect on his believing and repentant soul was the spirit of obedience. Life was there through faith; and this as ever instantly shews its true character by obedience, which the Lord saw. It is assumed in the latter half of the Text Rec. which forms the whole of ver. 6: `But rise up and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." He lets us know in his own account to the Jews (chap. xxii.) that he had said, What shall I do, Lord? This the inspired historian does not cite here, though he gives it later where it was of importance. But in any case the Lord counts on obedience, even before Saul could be supposed to appreciate dogmatically, and to rest in peace on, the sprinkling of His blood. The new nature lives in obedience, such as Christ's in the consciousness and affections of sonship" and that bleed cleanseth from every sin of which the old man was guilty. Even before the new-born soul knows clearance from all guilt, the heart is made up to obey, not through fear of penalty like a Jew with death before his eyes, but attracted by sovereign goodness and submission to God's word. Obedience is the only right place and attitude of the renewed mind, in contrast with the independence of God natural to man shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. Power comes in the gift of the Holy Ghost, when the believer rests en redemption and knows all his evilness before God. But even an apostle must be told, not discover himself, what he must do.

"The men that journeyed with Saul were standing speechless, hearing the sound but beholding no one" (ver. 7). The word often means "voice," as it is rightly translated in ver. 4, where Saul clearly heard what the Lord said to him. Here his companions did not hear one word articulately, as we are distinctly told in chap. xxii. 9. Yet they did hear that something was being uttered. Hence "sound" appears to be a more accurate representation of the fact intended by the expression. And this is confirmed by a nice difference in the form of the Greek phrase; for the genitive (expressive of partition) is used where the effect was incomplete, the accusative where the words were sent home in power. This distinctness may not seem always preserved, as in John x.; but it cannot be denied in the case before us.

On rising up Saul proved to be without power to see, blinded, we may well say, with excessive light. So they led him by the hand into Damascus (ver. 8); and for three days without seeing he did neither eat nor drink (ver. 9). A deep work thus went en in a soul capable of feeling grace and truth as profoundly as he could judge himself according to the light of God, which had exposed the vain wickedness of religion in its best shape, and brought down the most zealous missionary armed with inquisitorial power, where Job of old was brought,—to abhor self and dust and ashes.



1) 2) The Text Rec, on inferior authority adds first "Lord said," then an interpolation from chap. xxvi. "[it is] hard for thee to kick against goads," and an exaggerated form in the first half of ver. 6 of the first clause of chap. xxii. 10.

3) Or, "no one " which is the reading of most authorities, some of them ancient anti good, though א A pm B Vulg. Syrr. Sah. &c. give the broader sense of the neuter. It may help some to notice the objective. or historical fact in this expression, as compared with the subjective state in the last clause of ver. 7 and the first of ver. 9; objective again in the latter part of 9.