Changing Names and Calling Names

July 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | Posted in Acts | 13 Comments
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In Acts Chapter 9 Saul of Tarsus meets Jesus Christ. When this happened Saul was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Why was he angry? His conscience was being pricked. He was under conviction. He had seen the witness of Stephen. Saul was very intelligent. He was very well-educated. He was very zealous for the Jewish faith, and very angry about anything that threatened it. He was very focused on his job, as a hunter of heretics. He was very self-righteous.

Saul had “wasted” many churches.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

Acts 9:21

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Galatians 1:13

But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

Galatians 1:23

The Jewish council trusted him to go as far as Damascus. The Gospel had spread to Damascus – possibly because converts had fled there to escape persecution in Jerusalem. Saul had no doubt in his mind that Jesus of Nazareth was dead. In his heart? We don’t know.

Saul is commonly portrayed in Bible story books and church art as riding a horse just prior to his Damascus road experience. The fact is, the Bible does not tell us that Saul was riding a horse to Damascus, but if he was, the Lord knocked him off his “high horse,” so to speak.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Acts 9:3-4

This light was so bright that it was bright at midday (Acts 26:13). All the men with him heard the sound of speaking, but only Saul understood the words. Now he knew that Jesus of Nazareth was alive. He had to re-think everything he believed in – everything for which he stood. In an instant, Saul became a new creation.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

Acts 9:8-9

He went from being an angry bull to being a docile lamb. For three days he fasted and prayed – and probably tried to sort out what this meant.

The Lord sent Ananias to him. (This is a different Ananias than the one who was killed for lying to the Holy Ghost.) All the Christians knew who Saul was, and feared him. He received his sight back, and he received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:15 sort of summarizes Saul’s/Paul’s life and ministry: “But the Lord said unto him [Ananais], Go thy way: for he [Saul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:”

Now the hunter became the hunted. And the hunter of men became the master soul-hunter.

Saul was at first rejected by the Jewish Christians because of his reputation and because of their experience with him. Also, by the time he was presented to them as a Christian, it had been three years since his conversion. He had probably been in Arabia during this time, being taught of God, witnessing, and suffering persecution.

Barnabas was the one who convinced the Jewish Christians that Paul really was an Apostle. Paul began to witness to the same Jews who had killed Stephen – so they plotted to kill Paul.

In Acts Chapter 10 we meet Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a “God-fearer.” Cornelius wanted to please God, so God sent him an angel. The angel told him to go and see Simon Peter.

We might ask ourselves why the angel didn’t just give him the Gospel message himself. The angels can carry God’s messages, but they have not experienced God’s grace in the same way that Christians have. The Gospel is not the same good news for them that it is for us. They have not been redeemed, and it is God’s plan that men share and preach the Gospel, not angels.

Peter was living in the home of a tanner, a person who worked with dead animal skins. This was remarkable for a Jew like Peter.

It is humorous to see that Peter was hungry, and he had a vision about food.

And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

Acts 10:10-15

Peter preached the Gospel to Cornelius, and he believed, and immediately the Holy Ghost fell on all them who believed. This was a special event. Now the Holy Ghost had been given to the Jews (Pentecost), the Samaritans (when Peter went after Philip preached), and the Gentiles. Peter the Apostle went to all three ethnic groups, and was the instrument through which God gave the Holy Ghost. Peter is the one to whom Jesus had given the “keys to the Kingdom.”

Note that these Gentiles received the Holy Ghost before they were baptized in water.

The other Apostles and Christians were a little upset with Peter when he got back, but he told them the whole story.

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Acts 11:18

And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

Acts 11:20-21

Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome itself and Alexandria. The movers and shakers of Rome came for business and pleasure. This was the only city where the streets were lit at night (which would turn out to be kind of ominous for the Christians.) Antioch had a main street paved with marble. In such a cosmopolitan locale, you might expect the preaching of the Gospel to fall flat. Yet the witness of the Holy Spirit, through Godly believers preaching the Word, was very effective.

The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas (whose name meant “the son of encouragement”) to encourage these gentile believers.

And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Acts 11:26

“Christian” has become such a common word today that it has lost some of its valuable impact. The people in Antioch used it the way we might call someone a “Little Christ.” It was a combination of the Hebrew Word for “Christ” with the Greek suffix “ian,” meaning “belonging to the party of.” It was an insult back then, but it was not a “vulgar” (common) term like it is today. When non-believers called them “Christians,” they knew that they had repented of their sins, believed the Gospel, and believed in the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, and as the One True and Living God. Today, “Christian” is a vulgar term: It just means somebody who goes to church, at best – or somebody who is not a pagan, agnostic, or professing atheist, at worst.

Barnabus got Paul to help, knowing that he had been called to preach to the Gentiles. With a famine affecting Jerusalem, the gentile Christians in Antioch sent a special love offering back to the church in Jerusalem, from which had come the message that saved their souls. We need to remember to always try to provide for the physical needs of those who reached out to us when we were lost, and those who helped us grow in the faith.

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  1. […] The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report 8. Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth 9. Changing Names and Calling Names 10. Preaching, Pressing, and Pushing On 11. The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough […]

  2. […] we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the […]

  3. […] Apostle Paul’s personal testimony is given three times in Scripture: Acts 9, 22, 26. In Chapters 22 and 26 he gave his testimony when he had been taken prisoner and was about […]

  4. […] of the early Christian church, and one day he was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Suddenly, he suddenly felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been prodded by the Holy […]

  5. […] needed to be saved. Their attitude was, “Saved from what?” This was mirrored in Paul’s life. Before he was converted he believed the Gentiles were at enmity with God, but not the Jewish people. The Israelites believed […]

  6. […] 9:4: “Saul, Saul” (at the time of the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to […]

  7. […] could have called gentiles to be apostles, but he chose Jews. The manner in which the Apostle Paul was saved is a picture of the way that Israel will be converted to a Christian nation and a Christian […]

  8. […] of the early Church ministered to the Jews. Then the Gospel went to the Samaritans. And finally the Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles can worshiped together and served together. Nevertheless, brethren, I have […]

  9. […] The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report 8. Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth 9. Changing Names and Calling Names 10. Testing Your Testimony 11. Preaching, Pressing, and Pushing On 12. The Life of a Missionary: […]

  10. […] message of Paul was given to Him directly by Jesus. It was “certified” by Paul’s mission, his ministry, his methods, and the contents of the […]

  11. […] of himself as the least. He didn’t even think he deserved the name “Apostle.” Before Jesus saved him, he had been a relentless bounty hunter of […]

  12. […] Paul’s conversion teaches us these truths: […]

  13. […] journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit […]


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