Sermon: The Birth of a Disciple (Acts 9:10-19)

The Birth of a Disciple

Acts 9:10-19

Introduction

We have already seen the amazing encounter the Apostle Paul had with the Risen Lord.  Paul was immediately changed.  He was changed from being one who hated Jesus and His followers to one who loved Jesus and His followers.  We also saw last week that all this took place, as it were, against Paul’s will.  In other words, he was traveling to Damascus to kill more Christians, not to start a preaching service.

Today, there are various ideas about how to change our society for the better.  Humanistic and secular authorities tell us that society can be improved by various means.  We must understand that nothing will aid society except the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Bible has a very accurate assessment of the human heart.  Mankind is wicked and sinful, not because of some outward reality like a poor childhood or unresolved conflicts.  Man is evil from the womb and there is not a thing he can do about it…
Jeremiah 13:23 (ESV)
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
The Bible is very clear that there is nothing within man’s power to fix himself of his sin problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
The human being is not good at first and then polluted by outward influences but evil on the inside in the beginning.  Because of Adam’s sin every person is born with Adam’s sin nature from day one.
When the Bible uses the term heart like this, it means the very core of the person, who the person is at his or her very essence.

God further assesses man’s condition in Isaiah…
Isaiah 1:5 (ESV)
5 Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
Again in the Book of Proverbs…
Proverbs 27:22 (ESV)
22 Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.
Man is so connected to sin and folly that you could, as it were, crush him with in a mortar with a pestle and you could separate his from everything except his sin.

Sin cannot be done away with or separated from a person by any method known to man.
He cannot be washed clean enough to be rid of sin…

No matter how hard you scrub and how many showers or baths you take, you cannot wash away sin.
Jeremiah 2:22 (ESV)
22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.
Some think that the answer to man’s ills is reform and correction.  Our prisons are over run with guilty felons and some are even released because there’s not enough room to house them all.  Their method is reform.  We can correct and reform murderers and rapists by teaching them skills and giving them secular counsel and therapy.

Some say reform and correction is the answer…
Jeremiah 2:30 (ESV)
30 In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction;
Others claim that the answer to man’s problems is education.  If we just get everyone to read and write, go to college then we will have a well-ordered society.  The problem is with education only comes new ways to sin.  Through secular knowledge only comes more ways to sin.

Increased knowledge does not lead to salvation…
2 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,
7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

So then, how is it that one who is sinful can be cleaned, forgiven, reformed, and taught spiritual truths?  Can the Ethiopian change his skin color or a leopard his spots?  No!  There is nothing a person can do to save himself.

Yet, we are commanded to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the ones who strive so hard to be righteous, namely, the Scribes and Pharisees.
How is it possible to change from a sinner to a person who loves Jesus and hates sin if we can’t do it ourselves?[1]
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

 

 

TT- Only Jesus Christ alone can change an enemy of the Church into a faithful disciple.

Human need met by text

Acts 9:10-19 (ESV)
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,
12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.
14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
1. 
A disciple at Damascus named Ananias

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,
12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
Who was Ananias?  Many scholars believe he was the pastor of the church in Damascus.  He was at least probably a significant leader within that congregation.  If, in fact, he was the pastor, he was one who would have been on Saul’s hit list.  In other words, he was why Saul of Tarsus came to Damascus. 

Luke simply reports that he was a disciple.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus?  A disciple means a follower or a learner.  As disciple we are learning how to pattern our lives after Jesus’ life.

I think we can all relate to Ananias’ reluctance when God gave him his task…

13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.
14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
Lord, hold on a second…do You realize what You are asking me to do?

Have you ever felt a bit of fear or reluctance when God has called you to do a certain task?  We have probably felt apprehension and even unworthiness before when we have sensed God’s leading.

We might immediately think of Moses and the burning bush.  Remember what Moses told God…
After Moses had responded that they would not believe him, who shall I say has sent me, and I am not a very good public speaker, God simply commanded him to Go!

Beloved, we can learn a lot from these examples in the Bible.  Ananias is a man I’d like to sit down with sometime over coffee and have him tell me the story.  I can learn a lot from a person like this.  We can’t relate to people who seem to have it all together all the time and are never afraid or reluctant.

This would be equivalent to going to the head of the Muslim brotherhood in Syria or Egypt and asking them if you can tell them how to become a Christian.   Our response would not doubt be… fear and trembling much like our friend Ananias.

God had work to do and Saul was the one He had chosen to do it.  But before God could use Saul for this task He had to make Saul a disciple like Ananias.

2.  But the Lord said to him, Go!

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Much like Moses, Go finally had to get somewhat firm with His beloved disciple.

The Lord Jesus tells His disciple to Go and then very mercifully tells him why he must go.  Notice the reason…

for he is a chosen instrument of mine

The terminology of election is significant here.  We know from the Scriptures that God elects people to salvation.  Luke often uses phrases like this referring to God’s choice of a person for salvation.

Luke 18:7, Acts 13:17 just to give two references.  Here, however, Luke uses this terminology to refer not so much to God’s choice of Paul for salvation, although we know that to be the case, but His choice for Paul to accomplish a certain task.  God has called Saul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.   to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  Paul’s calling was to take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.  In order to accomplish this mammoth task, there would suffering involved.

Notice that God was relying on the faithfulness of another chosen disciple, namely, the reluctant Ananias.  God choses people for salvation, He choses people for certain jobs and ministries.  Both really go hand in hand.  If God has chosen you to save, He has also chosen a specific task just for you.  No one could carry the Gospel as well as Saul.  God had equipped him with certain gifts and skills for that very task.  God has also equipped you personally to accomplish a ministry in the church that only you can do.

To carry the Gospel to the Gentiles would require unfathomable trials…16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Notice something that might seem, at least at first to be very strange.  God chose to save Paul then God chose Paul for a specific task, then God chose Paul to suffer.  Literally, He must suffer.  The ESV captures this very well.  God had set a specific task for Paul and it included specific occasions of suffering which God had already set in place.  Where is it that we get the idea that when we become Christians that we are free from trials and suffering?  Nowhere does God ever promise us smooth sailing for the rest of our lives, in fact, the very opposite is often promised.

The great persecutor of the Church will very shortly become greatly persecuted.

3.  So Ananias departed

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Ok Lord…here goes.  Ananias is obedient isn’t he.  Church understand, just because you may be somewhat fearful and have other emotions swirling around we can still do what God commands.  Don’t wait until you are totally prepared before you obey.  I’m sure Ananias was praying every step of the way.  He didn’t go in his own strength he went in the strength and power of God.
The first thing out of his mouth is…brother Saul!  That is so amazing.  A couple of days before Saul was the enemy of the Church and now he is address as Brother Saul.  He recounts the events and then lays his hands on Saul and Saul’s eyes are open, he regains his sight, his strength, receives the Holy Spirit and to prove his allegiance to Christ, he is baptized.
Jeremiah 13:23 (ESV)
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
No but what is impossible with man is possible with God.
No amount of rehabilitation, therapy, correction, washing, or any other thing man can do could change Saul the enemy of the church into Paul the greatest missionary the church ever had.
Is there something in your life that God needs to change?  Understand you can’t try harder or turn over a new leaf.  It must be a work of God.  Plead with Him today.

 

TT- Only Jesus Christ alone can change an enemy of the Church into a faithful disciple.

LORD’S SUPPER


[1] Much of this introduction came from a commentary by John MacArthur

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