Sermon: Christ’s Enemy Conquered (Acts 9:1-9)

Christ’s Enemy Conquered

Acts 9:1-9

Introduction

Last time we were together, we looked at Philip and the conversion and baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch.  This man was, by all human standards a least likely candidate for conversion.  He was unclean, cursed, and not among any of the religious elite.  God took the initiative at every step and sent Philip to this man and he was taught Christ, saved, and baptized on the spot…what an unexpected event!

If the salvation and baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch was unexpected, our account today was completely unfathomable.

Last week I asked you to notice all the things God did in the salvation of the Eunuch, how at every step God was taking the initiative and taking the first step.  In out text today see with me that Jesus Christ overpowers Saul, His worst enemy and throws him to the ground in utter power and majesty.  There is no choosing Jesus, as so many modern day tracts ask us to do.  In fact, Saul hated Jesus and all His followers right up until our Lord overwhelms him with power and majesty.  Jesus, as it were, grabs Saul in a death grip and body slams him to the ground and saves Saul of Tarsus, the archenemy of the church.

Notice with me that the only interest in Jesus that Saul had was to kill everyone associated with Jesus.  Then our Lord answers!

TT

Human need met by text

Acts 9:1-9 (ESV)
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Each point must move primary claim forward

1.  Christ’s Enemy Attacking His Bride

1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Verse one begins with a very powerful Greek idiom.  Eti empneo  still breathing out…Paul’s life mission was to stamp out Christianity.  He was the most vicious and violent persecutor the church had known.  The saying still breathing out means that his every breath was breathed to accomplish this task.  Every inhale fueled his wicked heart and every exhale was breathing out threats and murder.  Paul was as wicked as any mass murderer.  He was as bad as any modern day terrorist.  He thrived on driving the Christians out of Jerusalem.  Driving them out of Jerusalem  wasn’t good enough because once they were driven out, he tracked them down in order to imprison and kill them.

Saul goes to the High Priest and gets letters that authorize him to have jurisdiction over the local synagogues in various cities.  His soul purpose was that if he found Christians there he could bind them beat them and put them into prison in Jerusalem where they would be tried, convicted and executed.   Notice the wording of this passage, so that if he found any.  He was going and not going to leave a stone unturned.  He was going prepared that just in case there was a family praying in their home behind close doors, he could burst in and chain them all and drag them back to Jerusalem and place them in prison to be tried and executed.  He was out to conquer Christianity or as it was called back in the day…The Way.  They were called The Way because of Jesus’ saying I am the Way the Truth and the Life…

Saul set out to the city of Damascus to end Christianity.

We have heard of Damascus in the news lately being the capitol of Syria.

2.  Christ’s Enemy Completely Conquered

3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Saul was almost to enter Damascus when he saw an intense light.  What was this light.  In the past, whenever God has come down to earth, whether it was at creation, during the Exodus on the mountain or in Ezekiel’s visions, He comes in the form of fire, flashing light and lightening.  This light was Paul coming in contact with the glory of Jesus Christ.

Let’s hear from Paul’s own lips what happened that day…

Acts 26:9-18 (ESV)
9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.
11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Just as Luke reports in Acts and then later from Paul’s own lips we see that the light was in fact, the glory of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord’s power sends Saul to the ground…every knee shall bow to King Jesus!
Jesus then emphatically demands to know…Saul, Saul…why He is being persecuted.  Saul then asks Jesus who He is and His response is the same…I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  Literally, Jesus replies…ego emi Jeshua.   I am Jesus!

This is the same response that sent the Romans to their knees in John’s Gospel.

John 18:4-6 (ESV)
4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

So, somewhere in the seconds between the light from heaven and Paul asking, who are You Lord, he was converted.  In a twinkling of an eye Saul of Tarsus went from rebelling against Jesus to submitting to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t ask Paul if He could be His Savior, He just saved him.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  When our Lord identifies himself, Saul’s belief system is completely turned upside down.  He thought he was actually serving God by persecuting the Christians.  He thought by stamping out this unorthodox sect he was keeping Judaism pure.  The truth was, his very soul was at risk.  If Jesus had not saved Saul that day, Saul, as devoted as he was to Judaism would have died in his sin and sent to hell.  He was living a life in the midst of a works religion.

Even though Saul is blind, he sees more clearly than he ever has.

 

3.  Christ’s Enemy Completely Submissive
6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now, there is no more rebellion and persecution.  Jesus had accomplished all He wanted to by using persecution now it was time to transform His enemy into His friend.

Get up and go into the city.  What does Saul do?  He gets up and goes into the city.  From now on, Paul will be the greatest preacher and church planter in the history of the Church.  The very one who tried with all his might to destroy Christianity became its greatest missionary.

Conclusion

Why did Jesus save Paul?
Let’s also turn to Paul’s words.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 (ESV)
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Paul clearly states that Jesus saved him as a display his perfect patience.  Paul states that he was the foremost sinner.  He means that he was the wickedest of all sinners.  Paul is marveling at the grace of God in saving him.

But he says something here that we should see…to display His perfect patience.  So, how did Paul’s conversion display Christ’s patience?

One answer might be that Jesus was patient with Paul during the time of Paul’s persecuting of the church.  You would partially right.  But I think we could go back even further, even as far back as Paul’s birth.

Galatians 1:15 (ESV)
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
God had set Paul apart and had His calling on Paul from his birth.  So, every moment spent in self-righteous endeavors in Judaism was rebellion against God and against his call.  Paul spent his entire life pursuing his own glory rather than God’s glory.  When Jesus came along Saul’s very worldview was drawn into suspicion and he hated everything about the Messiah.  He hated that Jesus was saving people who were not working like he was.  He hated Jesus for healing those who had never lifted a finger to seek righteousness.  He spent his entire life in utter rebellion against God.  So, he could also marvel all the more that when God saved him He was showing perfect patience.

Jesus loved Paul even while Paul hated Jesus.  Even though he had rebelled all his life, Jesus still loved him.  The time came in God’s sovereign plan to change Paul from a persecutor of Christians to a teacher of Christians.  Paul saw the glorious light, met Christ on the Damascus Road and was now ready to begin fulfilling his call.
Exhortation to godliness
Have you been running away from God’s call?  Have you been sensing God’s call to a certain task lately?  I pray we would not run away in rebellion but rise and go like Paul did.
Jesus saved Paul that day and Paul’s life became a wonderful picture of a loving follower of Jesus Christ.

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