Saturday, June 11, 2022

2022.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 9:1–5

Read Acts 9:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was still  doing what (Acts 9:1)? Against whom? To whom did he go? For what did he ask (Acts 9:2)? To where to do what? What was he doing in Acts 9:3? What happened? What does Saul do (Acts 9:4)? What does he hear? Whom is he persecuting? What does he ask (Acts 9:5)? What does the Lord answer about himself? What is Saul doing to himself?  

How does the Lord save even a zealous persecutor of the church?  Acts 9:1-6 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus saves sinners by ordering their lives, proclaiming Himself to them, and subjugating them. 

Acts 9:1 ties us back to the beginning of chapter 8 and back to the subject of persecution. In that place, we saw how the Spirit used persecution to spread the gospel via the persecuted. Now, we see how the Lord uses the persecution to apprehend the persecutor himself. Saul is going to Damascus to eradicate the church (Acts 9:2); but before he leaves Damascus, he will be irrefutably preaching Christ (cf. Acts 9:20-22). What happened?

Jesus apprehended him. Jesus is more diligent to save sinners than any persecutor is to destroy Christians.

Jesus apprehended Saul by ordering the events of his life. He gets Saul literally right where he wants him (near Damascus, Acts 9:3), then He makes a light to shine on him from heaven. The Lord doesn’t always do this so supernaturally. Sometimes, He brings an elect unbeliever to circumstances that undo him. Sometimes, He just brings them into contact with someone full of zeal for the gospel. Sometimes, He puts them into a covenant family where they’ll hear the gospel on a daily and weekly basis.

Jesus apprehended Saul by addressing him. At first reading, it doesn’t sound like much of a gospel presentation, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me” (Acts 9:4) and then “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). But there are so many glorious things there: 

1. Jesus is alive! Dead people don’t get persecuted. He is risen.
2. Jesus is in heaven! The light shone down upon Saul to indicate the heavenly location of the risen Lord—just as Stephen had said.
3. Jesus is God! Mere men from heaven are not heard on the earth.
4. Jesus is united to His church! The question was not “why are you persecuting them?” but “why are you persecuting Me?” This is how we come to be saved, by being united to Christ. But it is also the ongoing reality of believers’ lives; our everyday experience is so shared by Christ that our suffering is His. And by the same union His inheriting and glory will be ours (cf. Romans 8:17). 

Jesus apprehended Saul by subjugating him. Saul had been resisting Jesus, in some ways, more than anyone else on earth. But now, he is brought to subjugation by conviction, emphasized by necessity. 

Saul becomes subject to Christ by conviction, the fact of the matter is that Jesus is God. When Thomas discovers this, he falls down and worships. Saul has the advantage of already being on his face. Everything that he has known about the LORD from the Old Testament is now heightened by the fact that He is Jesus. It is one thing for Jesus to say “I am the Lord.” But here, Jesus speaks by virtue of His divine nature with a sound that only Saul can interpret (cf. Acts 22:9, John 12:29), saying “I am Jesus.” What a moment for the Pharisee of Pharisees, to learn that the LORD is Jesus! Suddenly, Jesus is the object of his worship as the divine LORD, as well as his allegiance as the Messiah, the King. Saul becomes subject by conviction.

But Saul’s subjection is emphasized by necessity. What is Saul going to do now? His self-serving, Christ-opposing purpose in life has just been dashed to pieces. And how is he going to do it? He can’t even get around without being physically led by others. We’ll consider the Lord’s leading of this new convert in the next passage, but for the purposes of seeing how Jesus subjected Saul, we observe that He brought Saul quickly to a place of extreme weakness and dependence. Often, Christ brings us into a greater subjection to Him by bringing us into a moment—or even extended season—of intensified weakness and dependence. This is a glorious mercy to liberate us from our rebellion!

Jesus is still saving sinners by apprehending them—by proclaiming Himself to them and liberating them from their rebellion. O that you would know Him to have done so for you, dear reader!

Have you been apprehended by Christ? How do you know—Whom do you know Him to be? What is your relation to His lordship? How does union with Him factor into your present and future life?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You Who rule and overrule all things for the purpose of bringing to Yourself each one for whom You have died. Open our eyes so that we may see, and open our ears so that we may hear, the wonderful truths about You in Your Word. Make us to know union with You and submission to Your lordship as the great realities of our life now and forever, for we ask it in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23A “The LORD’s My Shepherd” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

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