- Sermon Notes
That the Blind May See
In Acts chapter 9 we come to perhaps the most famous conversion in the New Testament. You remember from chapter 8 that when Stephen was dragged before the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin, he accused them of being stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit. Immediately the place erupted in anger.
Stephen was dragged out of the city and stoned to death. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” When they looked at his face it was as the face of an angel. Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”
As they were stoning Stephen, they laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. He was in hearty agreement with putting Stephen to death.
This event touched off a firestorm of persecution against the church, led by none other than Saul himself. Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house and dragging off both men and women, putting them in prison. Saul became enemy number one of the church.
When Stephen accused the Sanhedrin of being hard of heart and resisting the Holy Spirit, he was including Saul. What a contrast; here was Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, his face like the face of an angel, seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God and asking that God not hold this against them. Then there was Saul, resisting the Holy Spirit, so hard of heart he even dragged out women from their homes and had them stoned as well.
Saul is spiritually blind. He is resisting the Holy Spirit, he’s kicking against God, he is hard of heart and no light can enter his soul. You have to wonder what impact Stephen’s death had on Saul. Would he keep seeing Stephen’s face over and over in his mind? Clearly God was trying to get his attention.
When we come to know chapter 9, the church has been scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria and beyond, but Saul is pursuing them even in these other cities. He asked for letters of authority from the high priest to the synagogues at Damascus so he might find anyone belonging to the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem.
It’s on this journey to Damascus that Saul will get knocked off his high horse. It’s here on this road he will he will have a “come to Jesus meeting.” That’s because he will meet Jesus Himself who will literally blind him with light.
There are many who are spiritually blind and one thing is for certain, God is trying to get their attention. Many are resisting the Holy Spirit, they are kicking against the goads. But when God is on the move and pursuing by the Holy Spirit, you can become even harder of heart by greater and greater resistance to God, or you relent and give your life to the King.
This is the story of an amazing conversion. The number one enemy of the church is himself going to become a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Here’s one of the great lessons of the story, no one is beyond the reach of God. You might know people you think are impossible, you can’t imagine them actually becoming believers, but this story from Acts 9 tells us to not stop praying for them. No one is beyond the reach of God.
My dad was one of those impossible people. I never thought I would see his shadow cross the threshold of a church. He was an alcoholic; abusive, and I will admit it, I hated him. But did a work in him and in me. God gave me the privilege of leading him to faith in Jesus Christ and to baptize him my own hands.
Saul is going to meet Jesus. The pursuer is being pursued. The great antagonist will become one of the greatest advocates for the name of Christ. Saul, later named Paul, will write more than half of the New Testament.
I. Open the Eyes of Your Heart
- Saul was born in Tarsus, of the tribe of Benjamin, probably named after King Saul, who was also from the tribe of Benjamin.
- He was also called Paul, which means “little.” That was more than likely the Roman form of his Jewish name. He was born a Roman citizen, but Jewish.
- He was trained by Gamaliel, one of the greatest teachers in all the history of Judaism. No doubt Saul would’ve been one of his top students.
Galatians 1:14, I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
- What Saul learned was religion, but what he needed was forgiveness and a personal relationship to the Son of God.
- When Saul was knocked from his horse he heard a voice in Hebrew saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” This is a great question. Why?
- This is a good question for all of us. Why do you do what you do? What drives you? What motivates you? What are you trying to accomplish? What is the purpose and significance of your life?
- Saul was driven by anger. It was the core of his existence. He said so himself.
Acts 26:11, “And I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities”
- But all of Saul’s zeal and all of Saul’s anger was wrong. Wouldn’t it be terrible to hold on to anger and to bitterness and then find out it was wrong?
Romans 10:2-3, I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
- Somebody might say in response, “But he didn’t know, the Jewish leaders didn’t know.” It’s true that if they would have known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:8, If they had understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
- But here’s the point, they should have known. God was trying to get their attention the whole time, but they were hard of heart and dull of hearing.
Illus – They are like children that hold their hands over their ears and close their eyes and starting making noises so they can’t hear or see.
- Stephen said that they were just like their fathers, always resisting the Holy Spirit and uncircumcised in heart and ears.
Matthew 16:3, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
Acts 26:14, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Psalm 32:8-9, I will instruct you and teach you in the way with you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check.
Illus - You know what a mule is famous for; stubbornness.
- Saul was blinded and was led by the hand into Damascus where he was three days neither eating nor drinking, but he was certainly praying.
- What would he pray? I have to believe it went something like this, “My Lord God, I am so sorry. When I think about what I did to those people who were only trying to love and serve You, I am so ashamed. Please forgive me. I don’t deserve to live.”
- There is a brokenness that is good. When God is breaking your heart, then He is on the move and good things will come.
2 Corinthians 7:10, Sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation…
- When you think about the great forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, it is amazing. None of us deserve it. God’s grace is seen because He gives us what we do not deserve.
Illus - There is a story of a soldier in Napoleon’s army that deserted him and received a sentence of death. His mother came to Napoleon and begged for mercy. “He does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon responded. “If he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy,” the mother cried. Mercy was given.
- Paul understood that he received what he didn’t deserve, and it forever changed his life. As it should ours as well.
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Philippians 3:13-14, Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Love is the answer. Paul received God’s love and was going to live in response to it. Too many people are held captive by what has happened in the past.
- Why do you live the way you do? What motivates you? What gives meaning and significance to your life? Love is the answer; God’s love poured out through you to everyone around you.
II. It’s Worth it All!
- Jesus told Saul to get up and enter the city and that it would be told him what he must do. Being blind, he was led to Damascus, where he waited for three days, praying.
- The Lord then speaks through a vision to a man named Ananias and told him he must go to Straight Street in Damascus, find Saul and lay hands on him that he might regain his sight.
- Ananias doesn’t want to do it because it’s Saul, the enemy of the church. But the Lord responds, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
- I can almost hear Ananias responding, “Did you say that he would suffer much in Your name? I’m in.”
A. You are a chosen instrument
- The Lord told Ananias that as a chosen instrument, God would do many things through him to touch many people’s lives.
- We may not be called as Paul was to bear His name before kings and nations, but we are called and chosen so that God, through us, would touch people around us.
- If you want significance, purpose and meaning in your life, it’s found right there. Touch someone’s life with the love of God; make a difference.
1 Timothy 1:15-17 “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. But I found mercy has an example for those who would believe.”
Illus - When I look out at the people of this church, I see so many, especially young people, with such potential; that God would use you as a chosen instrument to be a champion for the purpose of God. It’s worth it all!
2 Chronicles 16:9, The eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the whole earth in order to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are perfectly His.
- Saul was told in advance how much he must suffer for the sake of His name. It’s good that we also know this in advance. A true follower, used of God, will face antagonism, mockers and scoffers.
- Somebody might respond, “Well that’s a real encouragement; that’s something to look forward to.”
- But here’s the point, to be used of God, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be a chosen vessel that gives God glory; it’s worth it all!
- What’s the opposite? All the pleasures the world has to offer? That’s not worth it.
Illus – There is a famous story about the sons of Isaac, the twins, Jacob and Esau. When Esau came in from the fields and was famished, Jacob offered him a bowl of red stew in exchange for his birthright. It wasn’t worth it.
- David understood very well. He captured the value of living for God when he wrote…
Psalm 84:10, One day in Your courts is better than thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God then dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Acts 9:1-31 NASB
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30 But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.