Here are my notes for the sermon I preached on Acts 9:1-19 “Saul’s Conversion,” preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville, Illinois.
Acts 9:1-19a “Saul’s Conversion”
Intro: To become a Christian is to experience a supernatural work of God’s grace in your life, drawing you to faith in Jesus.
-Some conversions are more talked about then others: like today’s example of Saul becoming a Christian, Augustine, Constantine.
-But all conversions are remarkable & worth celebrating: child in Christian home who professes faith in Jesus, college student, etc.
-At conversion a person experiences the supernatural act of God’s converting grace!
-Spiritual dead are made alive; Spiritually blind see; those from far from God are brought close.
-Enemies of God are made friends of God.
-This last aspect we especially see this in today’s passage: Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends!
CONTEXT: Acts tells us about how God has brought about the establishment and expansion of his kingdom on Earth through the church, as God’s people—filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the apostles—bear witness to Jesus and those called by God respond in saving faith.
-Jesus gave his followers a mission in Acts 1:8
-Believers filled with the HS have bore witness to Jesus in Jerusalem and thousands are brought in
-Now, kingdom is expanding outside: Samaritans, an Ethiopian eunuch.
TODAY: We see God powerfully convert a man named Saul, a great opponent and persecutor of Christianity.
–Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends!
1. Through Christ, God SAVES His Enemies (1-2)
If we’re honest, we tend to have categories of people we think are likely to become Christians and those unlikely.
-Unlikely: Vocal opponents of Christianity: Islamic extremist, fanatical atheists, promoters of other religions
-Here in Naperville: Our neighbor who has it all together and seems completely uninterested in God.
-Conversion of Saul corrects our understanding. God often saves those we least expect: even his enemies!
-Saul: Opponent of Christianity (1-2)
-Fierce persecutor of Christians (1-2)
-Christians called “the Way” at this point.
-SHOCKING NATURE OF WHAT HAPPENED IN ACTS 9: God is going to make an enemy of Jesus a devoted Christian!
-Bible teaching: we ALL come into this world opposing God (Titus 3:3; Eph 2:1-3; Col 1:21)
-SHOCK OF GRACE: God saves his enemies, not because we deserve it, but in love and grace: Romans 5:6-8Application: God STILL saves his enemies and those we least expect.
-Do NOT write off those who seem furthest from God or most indifferent from it (our apathetic, spiritually indifferent neighbor)
*Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends!
2. God Takes the INITIATIVE (3-9)
To take the initiative is to be the first person to act or bring up an action: (social setting game night)
-This passage reminds us that God that FIRST takes initiative in someone’s salvation
-God, in grace and mercy, comes to us first, which then leads us to placing our faith in Him.
-Saul Encounters the Risen Jesus on the way to Damascus (3-9)
-A Bright Light from Heaven and Saul falls to the ground (3-4a)
-Dramatic encounter with the risen, glorified Jesus
-Light was brighter than the sun, for it was noon (Acts 26:14)
-Remember Jesus at transfiguration (Luke 9:29)
-Jesus is more spectacular and glorious than brightest light, sun, and stars combined!
-A Voice from heaven (4b): “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
-The voice of Jesus confronting Saul for his sin: to persecute Christians—who body of Christ—is to persecute Christ.
-Jesus reveals himself to Saul (5-7)
-Saul’s Question answered (5b): “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
-Jesus has instructions for Saul (6): “But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do”
-Those who accompanied Saul did not see Jesus heard a sound, yet did not understand (9:7 [22:9])
-Saul is physically blind and led into Damascus (8-9)
-Saul has become physically blind and is led into the city (8)
-Saul is humbled and spends next 3 days without sight, food or drink (9)
-We learn that is spending that time praying.
Application: God took the initiative to save Saul.
-No room for us to boast in our works: it is ALL grace and mercy
-Takes pressure off in ministry: we can save no one, but God must save those we share gospel with.
-Brings joy: Praise God that He drew near to us and saved us!
-All GRACE AND MERCY (1 Tim 1:12-14)
* Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends and he does by first taking the initiative to save us!
3. As God SAVES, He Works through Other People (10-17)
Saul’s conversion is unlike most other people: Jesus physically appearing, physical blinding then sight.
-But also similar in some ways: God saves and works through other people to bring about his salvation.
-Here, we see that God worked through a Christian named Ananias
-Jesus and Ananias (10-17)
-Ananias was a Christian at Damascus (10a)
-Jesus appears to him in a vision (10b)
-Jesus has unexpected instruction for Ananias (11-14)
-Jesus wants Ananias to go to Saul and directs him where to go (11)
-Ananias will lay hands on Saul, who will then have his sight restored (12b)
-Saul is in prayer and had a vision seeing this take place (12a)
-This is an unexpected and challenging task for Ananias (13-14)
-Probably very scary and seemed really impractical
-God also calls us to things where we need courage and to walk by faith.
-We need God’s grace to do what is right even when we are afraid.
-Jesus reassures Ananias (15-16)
-Saul has been chosen by God to be saved “chosen instrument” (15a)
-God has a mission for Saul: ministry to “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel” (15b) -Saul will be saved, but he will also suffer (16)
-Christian life involves suffering: let us not forget this.
-Ananias Obeys Jesus (17)
-Ananias went to Saul to lay hands on him and pray for him.
1. “Brother Saul”: Ananias received him as a brother. (FAMILY OF GOD!)
2. “the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me”
-Jesus is gracious to Saul, and sending Ananias is expression of his grace
3. “so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
-Physical restoration of sight
-Filling with the Holy Spirit
-Unusual case: usually one receives H.S. at conversion, not when hands laid on
-Commentators: this (and other 2 examples in Acts) to confirm reality
APPLICATION: Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends and usually He works through other people.
-He uses us as we share the gospel and pray
-He uses us as we invite other to consider and hear the good news of Jesus Christ
-Aren’t you glad for the people who shared Jesus with you?
-Who might God be calling you share the gospel with?
4. Through Christ, God Makes Not ONLY Makes His Enemies His Friends, But He Transforms Them (18-19a)
Jesus changes us, makes spiritually alive, turns our lives around and gives us spiritual life and sight; He brings us into family of God!
-We witness the beginning of this in Saul.
-Saul Regains his sight (18a)
-Scales fell from his eyes and he could see again!
-Supernatural blinding and Supernatural healing!
-Not just physical sight, but conversion there is a spiritual SIGHT of Christ
-I experienced this: saw the truth about Christ in a way I never knew.
-Saul was Baptized (18b-19a)
-Baptism is the proper response for those who have placed their faith in Jesus.
-Here we see Saul publicly express faith and devotion to Jesus
-Saul’s life has been transformed!
APP: Through Christ, God Makes Not ONLY Makes His Enemies His Friends, He Makes Them New People!
CONCLUSION: Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends!
UNBELIEVER: There is not a middle ground, you are either God’s friend or his enemy. Because of sin, we stand as his enemies. Place your faith in Jesus today and become a friend of God.
BELIEVER: Let’s remember the shocking grace of the gospel! Through Christ, God makes his enemies his friends!
-May God empower and embolden us to share the gospel with us here in Naperville.