Part IX

The Holy Spirit’s Life-Changing Ministry

In the meantime, other things were happening related to a man named Saul. He is mentioned first of all in Acts Chapter 7, at the time of the stoning of Stephen. Let’s read Acts 7:59 – Acts 8:1a

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

Saul was a part of the religious leaders and was very opposed to believers, as we can read in Acts 9:1-2

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Saul travelled from Jerusalem to Damascus with some others, with the intent of finding believers and taking them to Jerusalem to be imprisoned. However, just before he arrived in Damascus, the Lord Jesus appeared to him and told him to stop persecuting Him since, by persecuting the believers, he was in fact persecuting the Lord, as we can read in Acts 9:3-6 

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Saul was so blinded by the appearance of the Lord that the men travelling with him had to take him into the city. His experience so overwhelmed him that for three days he did not eat or drink, as we can read in Acts 9:9

For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything.

Saul had been a very zealous man, believing that persecuting these believers was pleasing to God, but he had just learned that the opposite was true. While Saul was dealing with the fact that he had been on a wrong path, God spoke to a man named Ananias, as we can read in Acts 9:10-16

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias.” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered. “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.”

Ananias was a believer living in Damascus. And God had told him to go to Saul to pray for him. Ananias could not believe the Lord would ask such a thing of him for he knew the reason Saul had come to Damascus was to find believers and have them thrown in prison. However, the Lord explained to Ananias that he had chosen Saul for a specific task, and that Ananias was to go and find him to lay hands on him. In obedience, Ananias did so, as we can read in Acts 9:17-19

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus who appeared to you as you were coming here has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, and after taking some food, he regained strength.

Saul, having been born again and baptised with the Holy Spirit, began to boldly preach the gospel, as we can read in Acts 9:20

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

It was a good time for the church led by the Holy Spirit, as we can read in Acts 9:31 

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

Part X