Tuesday 12 July 2022

Bible Book:

But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.' (v. 15)

Acts 9:1-20 Tuesday 12 July 2022

Psalm 5:1-8


The 'Acts of the Apostles' is generally thought to have been written by Luke, as a sequel to his Gospel. It is a beautifully crafted account, beginning in Jerusalem and rippling out until it ends in Rome – the centre of the known world and the point from which ‘the ends of the earth’ (1:8) might be reached. The later part of Acts follows Paul on his journeys, and this focus on one individual invites a simple chronological structure.

The earlier chapters, however, of which today’s passage is a part, describe events in different locations, with different characters involved and potentially overlapping time frames. In other words, Luke had to choose where to place this story among the many others, and he is a very skilful storyteller, who knows how to structure a narrative! Let us take a closer look at how this passage fits within its context.

We first met Saul looking after the coats of the vigilantes who executed Stephen by stoning. He very quickly began to take on a more active role in opposition to this new messianic sect (7:58-8:3). But then his story was paused, and we heard instead about the spread of the gospel beyond Jerusalem (an unintended consequence of the persecution – 8:4) – firstly to Samaria (8:5-25), then to Ethiopia, via an official who may be a Gentile, or at any rate on the margins of Judaism (8:26-39).

So, the stage is set for Saul’s story to begin in earnest, with his conversion and baptism, and the beginning of his preaching ministry, followed by his escape from Damascus. And during this account, note that he is declared to be a means of proclamation to the Gentiles (9:15). But then once again our attention is drawn from him – this time, to the conversion of Cornelius and the acceptance of Gentiles into the community of believers, in chapters 10 and 11.

Chronologically and geographically, the narrative jumps around. But I would suggest that Luke is being very methodical here, in building the main plotline of the drama – the account of how God’s great self-giving act reached beyond a specific place and time, ‘to the ends of the earth’.

To Ponder:

  • It was Krister Stendahl, a Swedish scholar and Bishop of Stockholm, who first raised the question of whether Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road should be described as a ‘call’, rather than a ‘conversion’. What do you think? What is the difference? Have you experienced either?
  • Ananias is often overlooked in this story, but his response must have taken extraordinary faith and courage. Where in today's world do you see great risks being taken for the gospel, by people of faith and courage? What can you do to support and encourage them?

In the darkness of our own prejudices and presumptions, give us light.
In the darkness of our misunderstandings, give us light.
In the darkness of our deeply held belief in our own righteousness, give us light.
God of light, lighten our darkness.

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