Wisdom International Mission - "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" Mark 16:16
Saul’s Conversion
(Acts 9:1-18)
     Before we can get a complete understanding of any subject, we have to get the complete picture.  I often prelude many of my teachings with this concept in order to help people avoid the mistake of what I call soundbite theology.  We live in a soundbite world.  People often like to pick and choose the soundbites of news or lift a statement from a conversation out of its context in order to support a picture that they have, rather than seek the complete picture.   Jesus not only gave us words, He gave us parables so we could get the picture.  In order for us to get the entire picture of something God not only gave us commands He gave us complete pictures by giving an example through recorded events.  One of the best examples of this is in Mark 8.  In verse 23 we have the story of Jesus healing a blind man by spitting in his eyes.  In verse 24 we see the statement of the man: “And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking.’" (Mark 8:24 NKJV) He could see them, but it was not clear.  In verse 25 Jesus put His hands on His eyes and he was then able to see clearly.  Why was this so?  Did Jesus not have enough octane in His saliva to heal the man all at once?  Jesus was completing a picture.  He had just finished admonishing His disciples because they could not see the spiritual picture of who He was, saying in verse 18: “Having eyes, do you not see?” They did not see at that time, but later they would see when their understanding would be complete.  That was the picture Jesus was giving in the two step process of healing the man.
     In the same way, we can only see the picture of conversion when we look at the commands and the examples comparatively.  The message does not contradict itself.  There can be no doubt that Saul was a sinner and a blasphemer by his own admission:
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:12-13).
     As we look into the story of Saul’s conversion, we see the blasphemer on his way to persecute Christians and send them to prison:
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
     As Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus, Jesus met Him in a dramatic way. 
“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’" (Acts 9:3-6).
     We have to take note here that after Saul meets Jesus on the road he confesses Him as Lord.  Saul knows who it is, and he knows that he is now required to do something.  He asked the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  Jesus did NOT respond by saying, “You do not have to do anything.  You are saved by faith alone because you have confessed Me as Lord.”  Jesus said, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  If Saul did not have to do something, Jesus would not have told him to go into the city and be told what to do.  Faith requires action and obedience to become complete.
     After this Paul went into the city, as he was told to do.  We are told that he did not eat or drink.  He was there for three days. And he was praying:
“Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 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 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’” (Acts 9:8-11, underlines added).
     Here we see that Saul, the sinner and blasphemer, had prayed and fasted for three days after he had seen the Christ and confessed Him as Lord.  In much of the preaching of men’s doctrine today unbelievers are told that if they say the sinner’s prayer after believing that Jesus is Lord they are forgiven of their sins.  Yet, after confessing Christ as Lord and praying with fasting for three days Saul had neither received the forgiveness of sins or the Holy Spirit.  Later in the book of Acts, Saul, then Paul, was repeating the story of his conversion and he gave us insight into the specific words of Ananias when he came to him:
Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.  For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’” (Acts 22:12-16).
     Even after his fervent prayers for three days with fasting Saul still had to do what he was told to do before his sins were washed away.  Not only had he not had his sins washed away, he had not received the Holy Spirit.  This is made clear in the text of Acts 9:
“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.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17-18).
     In verse 17 Ananias told Paul that God had chosen for two things to happen, “that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Then two things happened, Ananias laid hands on him so that he received his sight, and he was baptized.  It was at the baptism that he received the Holy Spirit.
     When we compare this pictorial testimony to the command of Peter on the day the church began, we can see that the command matches the picture:
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:37-39).
      After they heard the message, they had to do something: “Men and brethren, what must we do?”  As it was with Saul, Peter told them what they must do.  Peter made it clear that this promise was to everyone God would call: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  If Paul could not receive the forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit after his confession and three days of fasting and prayer, and those 3000 souls on the first day of the church could not receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit without obedience to the promise of God, how will you do it?  Can we ignore His promise and still be saved in the end?  God has made His message clear.  It is only the self-deception of unbelief that holds one back. 
His servant
Bob Hartman

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