Acts 9 Saul of Tarsus Converted
Summary

In this middle section of Acts, Luke leads up to the conversion of the first Gentile by telling of an Ethiopian’s faith (8) and the changing of a persecuting Jew named Saul (9). The roadblock to Saul’s attempted destruction of Christianity is the appearance of the Lord Himself. This startling turn of events is completed when a nervous Ananias is sent to Saul with the gospel message. After his conversion, Saul himself begins to preach Christ. After returning to the fearful disciples in Jerusalem, he is accepted first by Barnabas, then the apostles, and finally the church. He returns to Tarsus. Peter then performs two great miracles: the healing of Aeneas at Lydda and raising Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead at Joppa.

The Conversion of Saul

9But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and 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. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul 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. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Question 1

In what ways was Saul exemplary during his change from persecutor to Christian?

10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And 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, 12and 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.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15But 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. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So 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.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Question 2

What did Saul have to do to obey Christ and be saved? (see also Acts 22:16)

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[1] lowering him in a basket.

Saul in Jerusalem

26And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[2] But they were seeking to kill him. 30And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Question 3

How did the church in Jerusalem respond to Saul after he became a Christian?

31So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Question 4

To what extent did the church continue to grow in this time period?

The Healing of Aeneas

32Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Question 5

What role did Peter’s miraculous activities play in the overall story of Acts?

Dorcas Restored to Life

36Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas.[3] She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics[4] and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

People
  • Saul of Tarsus
  • Persecuting Christians, then converted to Christ and preaching

  • Jesus
  • Appearing to Saul

  • Ananias
  • Taking the gospel to Saul

  • Barnabas
  • Receiving Saul at Jerusalem

  • Peter
  • Healing Aeneas and raising Dorcas

Places
  • On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus
  • Where Jesus appeared to Saul

  • Damascus, Syria
  • Straight street (v. 11)

  • Jerusalem
  • Saul to meet the church

  • Lydda
  • 25 mi. NW of Jerusalem on the plain of Sharon

  • Joppa
  • On coast of Israel south of Caesarea

The Conversion of Saul

9But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and 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. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul 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. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Acts 1:3

Notice the degree of violence to which Saul was going against the Christians. Very hostile.


Acts 9:1

This High Priest is probably still Caiaphas who had been active in putting Jesus to death and had led the Council in its initial efforts to stop the preaching of Peter, John, and the other apostles.


Acts 9:2

Damascus (135 mi. north of Jerusalem), first city outside Israel noted in text as having Christians.


Acts 9:2

“The Way,” a designation of Christians (Acts 19:9,23,Acts 24:14,22). Jesus is “the Way” (John 14:6).


Acts 9:7

The men with Saul saw the light (>Acts 22:9), but they did not see the Lord Jesus.


Acts 9:7

The men also heard a voice (the sound), but they did not “hear” to understand what Jesus said.

10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And 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, 12and 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.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15But 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. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So 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.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 9:10

Ananias was a Jewish believer in Christ (>Acts 22:12).


Acts 9:11

The term “brother” does not suggest he was already saved. Ananias was a fellow human and Jew.


Acts 9:12

Notice the Lord’s attention to detail: the street, the house, Saul’s hometown, what he was doing.

“Straight Street” ran east and west; noted for major halls with colonnades and two city gates at ends


Acts 9:17

Here we have the healing of Saul’s blindness. (mentioned without detail also in Acts 22:13).


Acts 9:20

After baptism, Saul’s first preaching was in the synagogues of Damascus. This confused them.

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[1] lowering him in a basket.

Acts 9:25

Paul had to escape from the governor of Damascus, under Aretas the king, over the wall by night (2 Coirinthians 11:32-33). He says he went to Arabia and returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:17).

Aretas came to power in AD 37 and died in AD 39. This gives us an approximate timeframe for Saul’s conversion.

Saul in Jerusalem

26And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[2] But they were seeking to kill him. 30And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Acts 9:26

While to many the chronology is difficult Paul went to Jerusalem, perhaps after 3 years (Galatians 1:18).

31So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Acts 9:31

Notice how the church has spread. This is the first mention of churches in Galilee.

The Healing of Aeneas

32Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Dorcas Restored to Life

36Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas.[3] She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics[4] and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Acts 9:36

The Aramaic name is “Tabitha.” In Greek that is “Dorcas.” Both names mean “gazelle” or “deer.”


Acts 9:43

A “tanner” works with the skins and carcasses of dead animals. To Jews that was “unclean.”

Perspectives

There were things for Saul to do after he had seen the Lord but before his sins were washed away (9:6; 22:16).

The church at Jerusalem received Saul even after he had participated in the death of Stephen.

The church spread to all regions of Israel and the apostles continued to preach and do miracles.