The Advocate, the Intercessor & the Deliverers: Finding Support In the Midst of Brethren

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ which is the church as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically, today’s reading is found in verses twenty through thirty-one of the ninth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the beginning of the testimony and witness that would proceed forth from the life of that one who had previously been known as Saul. As you read the words which are found within this passage it is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the journey and account of the life of Saul does not and did not begin within the ninth chapter of the book of Acts. In order to truly understand the incredible and magnificent significance of the encounter Saul had with Jesus the Christ while traveling on the road to Damascus it is first necessary and imperative that you begin towards the end of the seventh chapter. The story and account of Saul does not begin with an encounter with Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus, but rather in the seventh chapter of the book of Acts. It is in the concluding and final verses of the seventh chapter of this book of Acts that we come face to face with the account of the stoning to death and martyrdom of one named Stephen. As you come near and approach the final verses of the seventh chapter you will find Stephen being dragged outside of the city where he would be stoned to death by his accusers, by Jews, and perhaps even by the religious leaders who so vehemently hated and opposed him. That which we find in the concluding verses of the seventh chapter is the first death and first martyrdom of one of the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. On this occasion that first one who was stoned to death and made a martyr was Stephen who was one of the first seven deacons ordained and appointed by the apostles in the early church. The concluding and final verses of the seventh chapter bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that Stephen was made the first martyr of the early church after being accused of words and crimes which he did not speak. The words which we find at the end of the seventh chapter of the book of Acts not only present us with Stephen being stoned to death and becoming martyred for the faith in Jesus the Christ, but we also find men taking their clothes and leaving them at the feet of a young man named Saul. It is as the conclusion of the seventh chapter of the book of Acts we come face to face with and first encounter this man named Saul, and we do so with clothes being brought unto and left at his feet—perhaps as a witness and memorial of what had just taken place outside the city of Jerusalem.

As you continue reading within the book of Acts you will come to the opening verses of the eighth chapter and will immediately be confronted with and by the fact that when it came to the death and stoning of Stephen, it was this young man named Saul who consented to—and undoubtedly was most pleased with the death of this one named Stephen. The eighth chapter begins and opens with a powerful statement that when it came to the death of Stephen this young man named Saul not only approved of this death, but also consented to it. In all reality, I would dare say that at this particular stage within the life of this young man named Saul, he took great pleasure in and with the death of Stephen. We dare not and ought not to miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for to do so would be to miss how dramatic the conversion of this man named Saul truly was. The words we find in the opening verses of the eighth chapter immediately present us with the reality that Saul consented to the death of Stephen, however, as you continue reading the opening verses of the eighth chapter you will be met with the incredible truth that it was immediately following the death of Stephen that a second great turning point in the life and history of the early church took place, for it was at that time when a great persecution broke out against the church, and how many of the disciples and believers were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. What’s more, is that we don’t just read of how a great persecution broke our against the church and how they were scattered, but we also read more concerning this man named Saul. If you continue reading within this eighth chapter you will find it written how at the same time this great persecution broke out against the church, this young man named Saul began wreaking havoc upon the church. What you find and read when you read the words written and recorded in the eighth chapter is that Saul entered into houses and hikes alike and dragged men and women who were of this way out of their homes and committed them to prison. In other words, nor only had a great persecution broken out against the church, but so also had this young man named Saul risen up as one of the greatest persecutors of the church it had ever seen and witnessed. That which we read concerning Saul is absolutely and incredibly strong language, for the believe physician Luke wrote concerning Saul that he not only entered into homes, but also that he committed men and women unto prison after dragging them out of their own homes. What’s more, is that Luke holds no punches when he speaks of and declares concerning Saul that he wreaked havoc upon the early church. The Holy Spirit doesn’t hold punches, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t exaggerate when it comes to that which is written within the pages of the scripture, so if it says that Saul wreaked havoc upon the church we have to understand and recognize that this is exactly what he did during that time.

The more I read and the more I consider the account of this man named Saul the more I can’t help but come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that not only do we find him consenting to the death of Stephen, and not only do we find him wreaking havoc upon and against the church, but we also find him entering into houses and homes alike as he dragged men and women out of their own homes and committed them into prison. As if this weren’t enough, when you come to the ninth chapter of the book of Acts you will find additional language written concerning Saul that further emphasizes and highlights his animosity and hatred of the early church. When you come to the ninth chapter of the book of Acts you will find Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit further writing of Saul how he continues to breath out threatening and slaughters against the church. In other words, when you come to and approach the ninth chapter of the book of Acts you will find the account of this man named Saul continuing to go about his treacherous ways toward and against the church. What began at the end of the seventh chapter with Saul having clothes of men who were part of stones death being laid at his feet would now culminate with Luke continuing to write concerning Saul how he was still breathing our threatening and slaughter toward and against the church. Even as we come near and approach the ninth chapter we still and continue to find Saul further wreaking havoc against and upon the church as not only did he breathe threatening against the church, but he also breathes out slaughters against the church. Scripture is unclear whether or not Saul was involved or witnessed the death of any Christians, however, we can understand from the scriptures that Saul continues to breathe out threatenings and slaughter against the church during these days. As the ninth chapter of the book of Acts opens it does so with the beloved physician Luke writing concerning Saul that he continued to breathe out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, but he doesn’t stop there. If you continue reading you will find Luke going on to write how Saul took his hatred of the early church, as well as his persecution of the early church to an entirely different level, for he went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues there that if he found any who were of this way, whether they be men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Scripture doesn’t explicitly state that the high priest granted Saul’s request, however, based on what we read in the opening verses of the ninth chapter we can come to terms with the fact that he did in fact gain approval by the high priest to journey unto Damascus to seek out any of those who were of the way that he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. The simple fact that we read of Saul journeying from Jerusalem unto Damascus with letters in hand to bring bound unto Jerusalem any who were of this way suggests that Saul obtained his approval, and that he was on his way to Jerusalem to seize and lay hold of any who were of this way that he might bring them back to Jerusalem bound and undoubtedly cast into prison. Pause for a moment and think about and consider this incredible reality—the reality that what began with Saul consenting to the death of Stephen would ultimately culminate with his beginning an intense persecution toward and against the early church.

I am convinced that in order to truly understand and appreciate the weight and magnitude of the conversion of Saul which he experienced while traveling on the road to Damascus, it is necessary to take a step back and understand where this man did in fact come from. If we are truly going to understand the account of the encounter Saul had with Jesus it is necessary that we come face to face with the reality that this man was one who perhaps didn’t necessarily hate Jesus the Christ, but rather he vehemently hated those who spoke of and mentioned the name of Christ, and those who followed Him and held to His teachings. Undoubtedly there was something that shifted—perhaps even something that snapped—within Saul at the death of Stephen, and as a direct result of the death of this man, Saul engaged in behavior and actions that would wreak havoc and unleash a firestorm of persecution against the church. In fact, if you read the writings of the apostle Paul as he looked back over and upon his life you will find that he considered himself to be chief of all sinners because he persecuted the church—although he did so in ignorance. Even towards the end of his life when writing unto his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy—the apostle Paul looked back upon his actions and undoubtedly still to that day felt remorse for what he had done. I wouldn’t state that he felt guilt, shame and condemnation, for this would be the same apostle who would write unto the Roman congregation that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I do not believe for one moment that later on in his life Paul still felt condemnation within his conscience for what he did, but I will state that he most likely felt remorse over that which he did toward and against the church. In all reality, it’s quite interesting and astounding to think about and consider the fact this one who so greatly persecuted, and this one who so vehemently tore down and tore apart the church would be perhaps the single greatest planter and builder of the church the world has ever seen or known. This ought to give you a wonderful and powerful picture of just how marvelous the conversion of Saul truly was, for this one who vehemently tore down the church and railed against it would—after his conversion—be the greatest proponent for the church, and that one who would be responsible for establishing more congregations and churches than anyone in the history of the church. There is not a doubt in my mind that there was and there has been no one who has had a greater influence and greater impact on the church than the apostle Paul—on the one hand due to the persecution he unleashed against it, and on the other hand through the tremendous ministry of building, planting, and establishing churches among the Gentiles. We must recognize and understand that when it came to the apostle Paul building and establishing churches, he did not establish them in Jerusalem, nor did he establish them in Judaea or Samaria, but he was appointed as apostle unto the Gentiles, and established and built churches in the regions of Asia. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand the absolutely wonderful reality that this one who was once the greatest destroyer of the church would ultimately become the greatest advocate for the church, as well as the greatest laborer for the church.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be reminded of the fact that when it comes to Jesus who is both Christ and Lord, He can save absolutely anyone He chooses and desires. If you read David Wilkerson’s book “The Cross and the Switchblade” you will read of a notorious gangster by the name of Nicky Cruz who not only vehemently hated Jesus the Christ and Christianity, but also hated David Wilkerson. Despite the fact that David Wilkerson felt the call of God to journey unto New York City to minister among the gang members there in the city, there would be gang members who would not receive and accept him. In fact, there was one time which you read in the book when Nicky Cruz spoke unto David Wilkerson how he would cut him up into a bunch of pieces—a statement which David Wilkerson responded by declaring that even if he cut him up into a million pieces, each and every one of those pieces would still love him. Eventually and ultimately you will find and read in the book how it was during a service at what would become Times Square church that Nicky Cruz would finally surrender his heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and would completely and utterly give himself completely to this same way which the apostle Paul in his previous life so vehemently hated and persecuted. Now you might be wondering why I would even think to bring up the story and account of Nicky Cruz, however, I firmly believe that his account—however briefly it is mentioned—is worth mentioning in this writing, for here we have a notorious gangster from the Mau Mau’s who wanted absolutely nothing to do with David Wilkerson, Jesus the Christ, nor this gospel ultimately giving his life fully and completely to Jesus the Christ and eventually becoming a renown speaker, author, and preacher of the gospel of Jesus the Christ. This one who was once a notorious gangster in the streets of New York City would experience a radical transformation within his heart and life, and would be completely and radically changed and transformed into a wonderful preacher of the gospel of Jesus the Christ. In fact, Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson would go on to become close friends, and Nicky Cruz would be invited on a number of occasions to Times Square Church where he would retell his story, and where he would preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ unto those who were present there in the church. The entire reason and purpose I seek to bring this up and mention it is because I am finding myself completely overwhelmed within my heart and spirit that if Jesus the Christ can break the hardness of heart within Nicky Cruz, and if Jesus the Christ can break through the hardness of heart and hatred of this man named Saul land radically save and transform them, He can transform the heart and mind of absolutely anyone and everyone he chooses. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus the Christ is in fact King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He has all authority and power, and can truly touch and transform the heart of any man or any woman He chooses. Even now in this generation there are accounts of Jesus appearing unto and manifesting Himself unto hardened Muslims throughout the Middle East and radically saving, changing and transforming their hearts and lives. To this day we continue to find and read account after account of how Jesus has appeared in dreams and visions among countless men and women within the Muslim community and world, and how as a direct result of appearing unto them, they have committed their hearts and lives to Jesus—despite the fact that doing so would very well mean and spell imprisonment and/or certain and immediate death for abandoning the Muslim faith and converting to Christianity.

I read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and I am absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with the fact that here we have this hardened man who vehemently sought to persecute and destroy the early church, and yet while traveling on the road to Damascus to further wreak havoc upon the church, he encounters and experiences the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s worth noting that when Jesus appears unto and manifests Himself unto him, He doesn’t ask him why he persecuted the church, or why he persecuted the disciples and followers of this way. When Jesus the Christ appears unto Saul while traveling along the road to Damascus, he calls him by name—not once, but twice—and then asks him why he persecuted him. Pause for a moment and consider that reality, for it is something quite interesting to think about and consider. When Jesus the Christ appeared to Saul while traveling along the way to Damascus—not only did a great light shine round about him, and not only was he thrown from his horse, but he was also asked a very pointed and powerful question. The question which Saul was asked did not ask why Saul persecuted the church, but why Saul persecuted Jesus the Christ. This must be carefully considered and understood, for through this question we come to understand the intrinsic link between Jesus the Christ and the church which is His body within and upon the earth. In all reality, there is absolutely no separating the body of Christ here on the earth from the physical person of Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father. There is absolutely no way of separating the body of Christ which is alive and present upon the earth from the head of the Church in heaven which is Jesus the Christ, for the two are completely and intrinsically linked and connected. Both the church which is the body of Jesus the Christ and Jesus Christ Himself are one, and any actions committed against the church are actions which are also committed against Jesus the Christ. The question which Jesus asked Saul while he was traveling along the road to Damascus was one that not only addressed his percussion of the church, but how his persecution of the church was a vehement persecution of Jesus Christ Himself. When Jesus appeared unto and manifested Himself unto Saul there on the road to Damascus, the question He asked him was one that dealt specifically with Saul’s persecution of Jesus the Christ. Oh that we would truly understand and come face to face with this reality, for when Jesus appeared unto Saul along the way to Damascus, the question He asked him was one that addressed his actions toward and against Jesus the Christ and not necessarily the church which was visible and manifested within and upon the earth. This question which was asked by Jesus the Christ cut straight to the heart of that which Saul was ultimately doing within and upon the earth—namely, persecuting Jesus the Christ, for his actions weren’t toward and against the church itself, but rather toward and against Jesus the Christ.

As you continue reading the words which are found within the ninth chapter of the book of Acts you will immediately be confronted with the incredible reality that Jesus the Christ manifested Himself unto Saul while traveling along the way to Damascus, and asked him a very specific question—namely, why he persecuted Him. Saul initially responded to this voice which asked him why He was persecuting Him by simply asking one question—“Who are you, Lord?” Although Saul might not have truly understood who he was speaking to or who was speaking unto him, he spoke unto and addressed him as Lord and asked who he was specifically. To this question Jesus responded by emphatically declaring unto Saul that He was Jesus who he was persecuting, and then went on to declare unto Saul that it was hard for him to kick against the goads or to kick against the pricks. A goad or a prick was a stick with a pointed tip at the end which was used to poke and prod oxen and animals in order to control them when seeking to move them in a specific direction. For an ox or any animal to kick against the goad would be an incredibly painful experience, for kicking against a goad would ultimately mean a sharp pain that would be inflicted within and upon them. When Jesus spoke unto Saul and declared unto him that it was hard for him to kick against the goads, that which Jesus was ultimately speaking and declaring unto him was that he was attempting to resist the person of Jesus the Christ, and was attempting to fight against and resist the physical manifestation of the body of Jesus Christ within and upon the earth. That which Jesus was speaking unto Saul was a powerful statement that what he was doing by persecuting the church was nothing more than resisting Jesus the Christ. IN other words, not only do we find Saul guilty of persecuting Jesus the Christ through persecution of the church, but we also find Saul resisting Jesus Christ and His authority and power in his life. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if one of the main reasons—if not the main reason—why Saul persecuted the church was to somehow resist and fight against the Spirit who was seeking to speak unto him at that time. Is it possible that Saul—instead of surrendering to the Spirit of Jesus the Christ—sought to persecute the church in an attempt to silence the inner voice and prompting that was calling him into a different place he wasn’t willing to go? I fully realize and recognize that nowhere in Scripture is this particular reality stated, but what I can say is that more often then not when we are seeking to silence the voice of the Spirit, and when we are attempting to silence that which the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord desires to speak to us, we do so by engaging ourselves in some form of resistance. For Saul this resistance was found and manifested within and through his persecution of the church. Oh, is it possible that Saul’s persecution of the church was in all reality a way to resist the voice and prompting of Jesus the Christ within his heart and life, and that there were times when he felt the voice and presence of Jesus calling unto and speaking unto him? We don’t know for sure whether or not this was indeed and was in fact the case, however, we can be absolutely certain that when Jesus declared unto Saul that it was hard to kick against the goads, He was emphasizing the fact that Saul was in fact making every attempt to resist something within his life. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the encounter and exchange between Jesus and Saul that Jesus’ words to Saul clearly indicate that he was committing himself with everything in him to resisting something within his life.

I feel a great need at this point to take a step back—perhaps take a step in a direction you who are reading this might not be willing to go—and ask you a very pointed question. No I won’t ask you why you are persecuting Jesus the Christ. No I won’t ask you why you are seeking to destroy and wreak havoc against the church and body of Jesus the Christ. The question I would ask and present unto you is a question that is more personal in nature, and one that you perhaps don’t want to hear—much less actually answer truthfully and honestly. The question that I would ask you who are reading this writing is what in your life are you presently trying to resist? What within your life right now are you vehemently seeking and trying to fight against? I know there are those who are reading this writing—as well as those who aren’t yet reading it, and those who perhaps won’t read it—who are devoting a tremendous amount of strength and energy into resisting and fighting against the work which Jesus the Christ seeks and desires to do within their hearts and lives. I firmly believe there are men and women among us today in this generation—even men and women within the church of Jesus Christ who might very well believe in Jesus the Christ—who are fighting against and resisting that which the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord desires to do within their hearts and lives. There are men and women right now who hear the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, and who hear the voice of Jesus the Christ speaking unto them, and yet they are doing everything they can to silence that voice, as well as to resist the work which is being done within their hearts and lives. There are men and women who themselves are kicking against the goads, and men and women who are trying everything they can to resist and fight against that which the Spirit of the living God desires to do in their lives, with their lives, and through their lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus the Christ was speaking unto Saul while traveling on the road to Damascus, He spoke unto him very clearly concerning his attempt to resist Jesus Christ, and perhaps even to resist the work which Jesus sought and desired to do in and within his life. Jesus didn’t merely ask Saul why he persecuted him, but Jesus would go on to declare unto Saul that he was fighting against and resisting something in his life—perhaps something he was aware of, perhaps something he was not aware of. I would dare say that if Saul wasn’t aware that his persecution of the church was indeed and in fact persecution of Jesus the Christ, then he was perhaps ignorant to that which he was fighting against and resisting within his life. It might very well be possible that Saul had absolutely no idea of that which he was resisting, and perhaps even why he was resisting and fighting against it. What we do know and what we do understand from Scripture is that Saul was fighting against and resisting something, and it took this encounter with Jesus the Christ on the road to Damascus to bring him face to face with that which he was striving against, that which he was fighting against, and that which he was resisting this whole time. There on the road on his way to Damascus—not only was Saul confronted with the One whom he was truly persecuting, but he was also confronted with that which he was really resisting, and that which he was really fighting against.

The account of Saul continues with his being instructed to journey into the city of Damascus and to wait there for he would ultimately be told what it is he must do. If you continue reading this chapter you will find that Jesus appears unto a man within the city named Ananias instructing him to go into the street which was called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for he would be found praying. Furthermore, Jesus would go on to declare unto Ananias that Saul had seen in a vision a man named Ananias cocking in, and putting his hands on him that he might receive his sight. Initially, Ananias questioned that which Jesus was speaking unto him, for he had heard how this Saul wreaked havoc against the saints and disciples within the city of Jerusalem, and how he even had authority from the chief priests to bind all those who called upon the name of Jesus the Christ. The Lord continued to speak unto Ananias and declare unto him that he must go his way unto Saul, for Saul was a chosen vessel unto Him, to bear His name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, and would be shown what great things he would suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ. Ultimately and inevitably Ananias would make his way to where Saul was, would lay his hands on him, would pray for him, and would declare unto him that the Lord Jesus, even the same Lord Jesus who had appeared unto him along the way to Damascus, had sent him that he might receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. The beloved physician Luke goes on to write how immediately there fell as it were scales from the eyes of Saul, and he received his sight and was immediately baptized. This is quite astonishing and remarkable when you think about and consider it, for when Ananias came near and came unto Saul he perhaps did so with some form of trepidation and fear, for he knew of the reputation of Saul which had preceded him before even coming unto Damascus. This man named Ananias would not only come unto Saul there in the house of Judas, but would also address and speak to him as brother, and would speak unto him concerning Jesus, and how Jesus whom appeared unto him along the way to Damascus had appeared unto him instructing him to come unto him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. What is so absolutely amazing is that after Saul was baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost he received meat, was strengthened, and was certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. Pause for a moment and consider that statement, for not only do we have Saul being filled with the Holy Ghost, but we also find him being baptized and spending time with the same disciples he had initially come to bind and bring back to Jerusalem—either to be imprisoned, or to be killed. IN a strange turn of events we find Saul encountering Jesus along the way, being baptized, being filled with the Spirit, and also fellowshipping and abiding with the disciples which were at Damascus. What’s more, is that we go on to read how straightway he began to preach Christ in the synagogues, that he was indeed the Son of God. Initially, however, all those who heard him were amazed, and said concerning Saul, “Is not this he that destroyed those which called on the name of Jesus which he now preaches, and came unto Damascus for the specific intent that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?”

What we find and what we read in the second half of the ninth chapter of the book of Acts is a true and wonderful picture of transformation within the life of Saul, for after he had been baptized, after he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, after he had committed himself to fellowship with the disciples, he immediately began to preach Jesus the Christ and that he was indeed the Son of God. What’s more, is that we go on to read how Saul increased the more in st Renata, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this Jesus was indeed the very Christ. In a strange turn of events the Jews took counsel to kill Saul, however, their laying wait for him was made known unto Saul, and how they watched the gates night and day to kill him. The disciples in Damascus, however, took Saul by night and let him down by the wall in a basket, thus rescuing him from the murderous intent of the Jews there in Damascus who sought to kill him. Saul would then proceed to make his way unto Jerusalem where he sought to join himself to the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, and did not initially believe that he was a disciples. Scripture records how there was one in Jerusalem—Barnabas—who took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus the Christ. I feel the need to pause right here for a moment and declare how there are times within our lives when it is necessary to have one who is willing to come alongside us and one who is willing to believe in us—even if there is no one else before and around us who chooses to believe in us. When Saul initially came unto Jerusalem the disciples there were afraid of him because they did not believe that he was indeed a disciple of Jesus the Christ. It took Barnabas coming alongside Saul and actually believing in Saul—and not only believing in Saul, but also bringing Saul unto the apostles in Jesus Christ and speaking for him on his behalf—that Saul was able to come and go freely within Jerusalem and among the disciples. This is actually quite astounding and remarkable when you think about it, for the next thing we read concerning Saul was that he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of the tremendous importance of what we find and read concerning Barnabas, for Barnabas was willing to come alongside Saul, believe in Saul and in the conversion he had experienced, and even be his advocate in the company and presence of the apostles. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it was like as Saul stood there before the apostles as Barnabas stood with and beside him as his advocate declaring unto them how he had seen Jesus along the way, and how Jesus had spoken unto him. Oh how absolutely wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that Saul had one who was willing to overcome their fear of coming unto him in Damascus in order that they might lay their hands on and pray for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and had one in Jerusalem who was willing to come alongside him in Jerusalem who was willing to stand beside him as an advocate as peaking of how he had seen Jesus along the way, and how he had in fact spoken unto Jesus and preached boldly in Damascus.

The conversion of Saul was a defining moment and turning point in the tide and history of the church, for it would be the conversion of Saul that would ultimately lead to the greatest missionary movement the world has ever seen or known. It would be this conversion of Saul that would lead to the gospel being preached unto the Gentiles, as well as the establishing of countless churches and congregations throughout Asia. With that being said, I can’t help but underscore two men who were instrumental in the transformation and conversion of Saul, for although Jesus did in fact appear unto Saul while on the way to Damascus, there were two men who were willing to come alongside Saul and assist in the process of conversion within his life. The first of course was Ananias who was willing to lay hands on and pray for Saul that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and the second was Barnabas who was willing to stand alongside Saul and advocate for him in the company of the apostles. To speak of the conversion of Saul is to also speak of these two individuals, for it would be these two individuals who were willing to come alongside Saul and assist him in being received among the disciples of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that it must also be noted that twice within this passage of Scripture we find other disciples who were willing to come alongside Saul and help him escape the threats and intents of those who sought to kill him—first in Damascus, and next in Jerusalem. While it is true that we read of Saul being filled with the Holy Spirit, being baptized, preaching Jesus the Christ, and disputing boldly that Jesus is indeed the Christ, it is also true that he found himself at odds with the very people who perhaps at one point in time welcomed and embraced him. As surely and as much as we must underscore Ananias and Barnabas and their willingness to come alongside Saul, we must also highlight the unnamed disciples who were willing to risk their own lives in order that they might help Saul escape the murderous threats and intents of those who sought to kill him. I sit here this morning and I find myself not only being confronted with the reality that Jesus the Christ can in fact radically transform anyone He chooses, but also that if He could transform Saul who was perhaps the greatest single persecutor of the church, He can in fact transform the life of absolutely anyone in this generation. What’s more, is that I must also highlight and underscore the tremendous reality that there is a great need within our lives for those who are willing to lay their hands on us and pray for us, as well as those who are willing to stand alongside us as our advocate and speak to the work which Jesus the Christ is doing within our lives. What’s more, is that I would also state that there are others who might be needed within our lives who are willing to stand beside us and help us during difficult and trying times, and even help us when others around us would seek to oppose, and perhaps even seek to destroy us. Oh that we would understand those who were willing to stand beside Saul in Jerusalem and Damascus, but also that we would understand and recognize those who were willing to come alongside Saul and save him out of the hands of those who sought to kill and destroy him after he had preached and confirmed that Jesus was indeed and was in fact the Christ and Son of the living God.

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