Tuesday 16 May 2017

Bible Book:

“… for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the peoples of Israel.” (v. 15)

Acts 9:1-20 Tuesday 16 May 2017

Psalm: Psalm 5:1-8


In the remaining passages this week from the Acts of theApostles, we explore the theme of being 'sent to the nations', thatis the process by which it comes to be understood that the gospelis not just for the faithful people of Israel, but includes thewider gentile world as well. We begin with the famous account ofSaul's conversion on the Damascus road.

The story starts inauspiciously, as Saul was on his way there tocontinue that persecution of Christians (or 'followers of the Way'as they were known) which began following the stoning of Stephen atthe beginning of chapter 8. But this all changed when a light fromheaven flashes around him, he fell to the ground blinded, and hearda voice asking him, "Saul, Saul, why do persecute me?" (v. 4) anddiscovered that the one addressing him is none other than Jesus(verse 5).

The account of his conversion is told in vivid and dramaticterms. But it's worth noting that those accompanying Saul heard avoice but saw no-one else around; while as for Saul, he was blindedand could see nothing at all, and had to be led by the hand intoDamascus (verse 8). However, while Saul remained sightless, therewas another man, Ananias, one of the Christian community inDamascus, who had a vision in which he is asked to go to the placewhere Saul was staying and to lay hands on him so that he mayrecover his sight (verses 11-12).

Not surprisingly, in view of all that is known about Saul'spersecution of the saints, Ananias' initial response is to demurfrom this task (verse 13). However, God persists in the request,telling Ananias that this man will be "an instrument to bring myname before Gentiles and kings and all the people of Israel". SoAnanias did what God told him and visited the house. He laid handson Saul and told him that he has been sent by the Lord Jesus sothat he may "regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit"(v 17). This is just what happened, as scales fell from his eyesand his sight was restored. Saul was also baptized, and began toproclaim his new-found faith in Jesus in the synagogues, sayingthat "He is the Son of God" (v. 20).

Much is rightly made of the dramatic conversion of Saul from apersecutor of Christians to a proclaimer of Christ and it is aremarkable story. But equally remarkable is the faithful responseand willingness to take a risk of Ananias. It would have beenunderstandable and easier for him to refuse God's request and seekto protect his fellow disciples in Damascus. Yet in obedience tohis vision, Ananias is willing to take that chance, to restore Saulto sight and so to enable that new start which will transform thestory of the early Church.

To Ponder

  • How did you first come to faith? Was it a dramatic conversionlike Saul or a more gradual process?
  • Have you ever felt called to take a 'risk' for the sake of thegospel?
  • What happened when you did - and how did other peoplerespond?
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