Thursday, April 15, 2010

Discipling Saul

Acts 9

Ananias Baptizes Saul

[Last week we interrupted our study in Acts, to talk about the resurrection. If you remember the first part of Acts 9 Saul had seen the resurrected Lord, was knocked down by a great light, and talked to Jesus. He arose from that experience converted, shaken and blind. His group took him to Damascus where he enjoyed a little time-out. He sat for 3 days fasting, waiting for God to show him what he should do.]

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."

[So the Lord decides Saul has been in time-out long enough and he gives a vision to one of his disciples, named Ananias. This is not the Ananias who God killed for lying to the Holy Spirit; this is a loyal follow of Jesus. In Acts 22 it says Ananias was "a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there". So when he hears the voice of the Lord in a dream or vision he answers "here I am Lord", which is the correct way to answer when God speaks to you.]

11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight."

[In old Damascus the street called Straight is basically main street that runs all the way through town. God tells Ananias to go there to the house of Judas, and find Saul who has already seen his own vision of Ananias coming to him to heal his blindness.]

13 Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."

[Ananias suddenly becomes a reluctant servant, saying wait a minute Lord, Saul of Tarsus, is an enemy of the church, persecuting those in Jerusalem, and he has come to Damascus to do the same thing here. Now I don't know how news of Saul's mission had traveled to Damascus so fast, but Ananias was clearly fearful of trouble, and he does not know about Saul's conversion.]

15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

[God commands Ananias to "Go", because Saul he has chosen Saul to be a witness. Now we all know about the later life of Paul, all these churches he started, the sermons he preached, the letters he wrote to the churches. Paul would lead and extraordinary life. But Paul's life as an apostle would begin with the obedience of Ananias. With Saul's miraculous conversion it's easy to think he could just be instantly transformed into some super missionary, without the help of anyone. But God has chosen to work through the church, which means Saul needed to be incorporated into the church. Saul needed to be discipled, and God chose Ananias, to start that process.]
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

[Clearly Ananias was convinced that Saul's conversion was genuine. He walks right up to Saul, puts his hands on him and calls him brother. It's hard to know all the emotions Saul felt during those 3 days of darkness. But I imagine human touch and being called "brother" would be a welcome experience. But if in those days he had doubted what really happened on the road to Damascus, the words of Ananias would chase away his doubts. Ananias showed that he knew what had happened to Saul, and would end his exile of darkness, plus bring him the gift of the Holy Spirit. Interesting the word translated "saints" in verse 13 is the word "holy" in Holy Spirit. The Greek word "Hagios" means holy or sacred. How ironic that the persecutor of the "holy" saints became the recipient of the same "Holy" Spirit, Jesus promised to all who trust him. But Ananias was no apostle, yet Saul received the Holy Spirit at his touch. So why in Samaria did believers need to be filled with the Holy Spirit from the Apostles, but here Saul is filled by the Spirit at the touch of a regular disciple? Remember Samaritans had not previously been received into the church, until their conversion was confirmed by the apostles. But since the day of Pentecost, Jews had been a part of the church, so Saul was already accepted and could be baptized and Spirit filled at the hands of any saint.]


18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

[Back in verse 12 the Lord told Ananias that Saul had a vision seeing a man come and lay hands on him, so he could receive his sight. And just as the Lord said, when this crust like fish scales fell from his eyes, he was able to see, and his first sight is Ananias laying hands on him. Saul was then immediately baptized by Ananias.]

19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

[Even though he had not eaten in 3 days, the baptism was a higher priority than food. And Saul remained there in Damascus being discipled by Ananias and the other disciples. An instrument of great persecution was helped to become an instrument of great faith.]

Saul Preaches Christ

20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

[While the vision of Christ was fresh in his mind, he quickly became a witness of the resurrected Lord. As Saul was a well trained Pharisee it would be easy for the disciples to show, him how Jesus had fulfilled the prophesies in scripture. He took this information added it to his personal experience and used it to preach Jesus in the synagogues.]

21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?"
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

[Two things about Saul's preaching were amazing to the Jews of Damascus. 1) That he was the destroyer of Jesus' disciples, and now he was preaching Jesus. 2) His reasoning and handling of scripture were indisputable, proving that Jesus is the Christ.

I know Saul was somewhat unique but you can see how effective a witness can be when properly discipled. The last few years we have seen scores of people trust Jesus and be baptized, but many times we fail to effectively disciple our new converts. The church has the 101 and 201 classes taught by the church staff, but corporate teaching alone is not enough. The people need someone to spend time with, to pray with, to study with, and share life with as a community of believers. This type of discipleship should be done one on one. Our church has started a discipleship training program where mature Christians can take newer members through a 26 week course, meeting once a week to discuss the lessons, pray for one another and incorporate sharing faith, into their daily lives. The goal for this program would be for members like many of you, to get involved with these newer people to help them grow in the Lord, and in doing so would strengthen us as individuals, and the church as a whole. So let me give you some quick keys to discipleship, to encourage you to get involved in this ministry.]

  1. Accept that God will be using you in a new way
  2. Equip yourself through regular Bible study, not just reading, study
  3. Use your backup, your church Pastors and teachers will be there to help you
  4. Think long term, discipleship and mentoring usually builds lasting relationships
  5. Expect and encourage change, with patience, knowing some habits, good and bad take a while to improve.
  6. Open your house to new people; we are supposed to be a community of faith, living life together.
  7. Pray
  8. Be open and honest about things that are still difficult for you. This will encourage new members in their own struggles.

Why is this important?

Ephesians 1:22-23 

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

[Christ is the head of the church. The majesty and fullness of Christ, all that he is, is revealed to the world through the church, his people. We disciple people, to fill this world, with the full knowledge of the risen Lord. That was Saul's purpose, and that is knowledge that this world desperately needs.]

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