May 05, 20199

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; Revelation 5:11-14

Gospel Lesson; John 21:1-14                        

Sermon Text; Acts 9:1-19


The portion of God's Word we focus on today is taken from Acts, chapter nine, looking at the first nineteen verses.  This is God's Word.


Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.  He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any men or women belong to The Way, he might bring them to Jerusalem as prisoners.

As he went on his way and was approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

He replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you need to do.”
The men traveling with him stood there speechless.  They heard the voice, but did not see anyone. 

They raised Saul up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could not see anything.   They took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.  For three days he could not see, and he did not eat or drink.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord told him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  In fact, at this very moment he is praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he can regain his sight.”
Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and how much harm he did to your saints in Jerusalem.  And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
The Lord said to him, “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel.  Indeed, I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Ananias left and entered the house.  Laying his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, whom you saw on your way here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized.  And after taking some food, he regained his strength.


This is God's Word.


The portion of scripture we are looking at today takes place within three years of Jesus' death, and resurrection. 

So, now here is what Saul is getting ready to do.  Damascus was a city that was one hundred and fifty miles north of Jerusalem.  Back in the day, it would take about five, or six days to make that journey.  Damascus was a key city.  It was a key city north of Israel.   It was a city in Syria. 

Here is what Saul wanted to do.  He wanted to stop the spread of Christianity.  His thinking was this.  “If I can stop the spread of Christianity at Syria, then I can stop it from spreading northward to many, many people.”  So that was Saul's goal.

Well, according to scripture, up to this point, what is it we know about Saul?  In just the two chapters before our text, we are told a lot about Saul.  For example, just two chapters before our text, when scripture tells us Stephen was the first Christian martyr, it says Saul was there. 

“While they were stoning Stephen, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

And so, Saul was there giving his approval to this Christian, Stephen, being stoned.

In the next chapter in Acts, chapter eight, this is what it says about Saul. 

“Saul began to destroy the church.  He went from house to house, and dragged off men and women, and put them in prison.”

That is in the city of Jerusalem.

Now we get to our text for today, and the very first verse in our text says,

“...Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.” 

He didn't want to just do that in Jerusalem.  But, he wanted to inconvenience himself, and travel five, or six days out of the way so that Christians in Damascus could be imprisoned, and put to death. 

Now, I do not propose what I am about to say.  I do not propose this.  But, if you were looking for Christians to put to death, where would you go?  You would go to church, because there you would find Christians.  That is exactly what Saul is doing, here.  He went to the synagogues.  He was going to go to the synagogues, because he knew that is where he could find Christians.  He knew there were people who had left Jerusalem, who had taken their faith with them, and they started at the synagogues, because those people knew their Old Testament history.  They knew their Old Testament Bible, and those people were making the connection that Jesus was the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah.

So, Saul was going to Damascus.  He had official letters in his hands.  He had gone to the High Priest to get official letters that what he was about to do would be ok in the eyes of the Jewish people-arrest the Christians, (brought back to Jerusalem), so they could be put to death.

So, here comes Saul.  He is boldly going to Damascus.  I am even going to use a wrestling term, here.  Sometimes we hear the phrase, “No holds barred”.  It is a wrestling term.  In the wrestling world there are different styles, or forms of wrestling.  In those styles there are certain holds you can use.  And, there are certain holds you cannot use.  But, sometimes there are wrestling matches in which there is “no holds barred”.  You can do whatever you want to do to the person you are wrestling against.  That was the mentality Saul has, as he goes to Damascus.  He has this “no holds barred” mentality, and he is going to imprison each, and every Christian he can possibly get his hands on.

That is when Jesus appears to him.  Jesus appears to Saul, while he is on that one hundred and fifty mile journey to Damascus.  Jesus knocks him off of his 'high horse'.  He humbles him.  And, He causes him to become blind.  Jesus says to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 

The first response Saul has is, “Who are you...?”  “Who are you, Lord?”

Those who were accompanying Saul heard what was taking place, but they didn't see what had taken place.  They picked Saul up off of the ground, and brought him to Damascus, where Saul does not eat, or drink for three days. 

That is now when the Lord comes to Ananias, a man in Damascus.  God said, “Ananias, I want you to go to Saul”.
Imagine you are Ananias, and the Lord comes to you, and says, “I want you to go to Saul”.

What was Ananias' first response?  “Lord, do you know what you are asking me to do?”

You see, Ananias says, “Lord, do you know who Saul is?”

You see, sometimes we use the phrase, “Your reputation precedes you.”  We can say that in a positive way.  We can say that in a negative way.  But, here Saul's reputation had preceded himself, and not only Ananias, but many other people in Damascus knew Saul even before he got there, because his reputation had preceded him.   He was breathing out murderous threats against the Christians in Damascus. 

The Lord comforts Ananias, and says really three things. 

-He said, “Ananias, Saul is my chosen instrument.  I am going to use Saul to do my work and be my witness.” 

I love the word, 'chosen', there.  Saul did not do this willingly.  Saul did this kicking, and screaming.  God chose him.  God elected him.  God called him.  Just as God chose you, elected you, and called you.

-Now Saul was going to be this witness to the Gentiles.  He was going to be the witness to kings.  That was going to happen by the end of the book of Acts.  Saul was going to appear before Festus, Felix, and King Agrippa.  He was going to do exactly what the Lord had said, here. 

-Saul was also going to suffer for proclaiming this message.  Saul was going to suffer for being a messenger, or a witness of Jesus. 

Now, you have heard me share with you over the years this list I am about to read.  Saul, who became Paul, pens this in his own words, when he talked about what he endured suffering for the name of Jesus.  He wrote this in 2 Corinthians, eleven. 

“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes, minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored, and toiled, and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger, and thirst, and have often gone without food. I have been cold, and naked.”

There Saul gives us a list of how he suffered for being a witness for Jesus. 

Jesus had appeared to Saul, and Saul now becomes a witness for Jesus. 

The term we give to Saul is 'apostle', the Apostle Paul.  The word 'apostle' just means 'one sent out'.  Saul had seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes, and he now was an eye witness so that he could go forth, and share what the death, and resurrection of Jesus means for us.

But, you know what?  As we look at our text for today, 'we are Saul'.  'We are Saul.'  We approach God, and this is what we say to God.  “God, I am going to do it my way.  I am going to live my life my way.  I don't care what you say, and I don't care what you think about that.” 

God just takes a step back.  He smiles.  And, you know what He does?  He 'knocks us off of our high horse'.  He humbles us.  And, we are 'blind', because of our sin.  We are just like Saul. 

Now, in our catechism, as it talks about the work of the Holy Spirit, (as I mentioned in our Children's Sermon), it asks: 

Why do we need the work of the Holy Spirit? 

The simple answer is: 

By nature we are spiritually blind.  We are spiritually dead.  And, we are enemies of God.” 

We are just like Saul.  It prepares our heart to receive what Jesus won for us at the cross. 

Oftentimes, we sing a hymn, a hymn that is very well known, Amazing Grace. 

Amazing Grace

How sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me. 

I once was lost,

but now am found,

was blind,

but now I see.

It is Jesus who has given you 'vision'.  Just as Jesus gave vision to Saul, so also Jesus has given 'vision' to you, and to me.  The 'vision' Jesus has given to you, and to me is that through His Word, The Bible, the Holy Spirit has caused us to see what Jesus has done for us.  It causes us to see what the life of Christ means for us.  It causes us to see what the death of Christ means for us.  And, it causes us to see what the resurrection of Jesus means for us. 

Here we are just two weeks removed from Easter.  We are so thrilled once again that the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus means everything for us.  It has changed our lives, because we have been converted from 'blindness to sight', from 'death to life'.

Saul, who once had those letters in his hand from the High Priest in Jerusalem to imprison Christians, now had a call from the great High Priest.  He had a call from Jesus, Himself, to be a witness, and to go forth to the Gentiles. 

You have heard me say this before.  Saul went from being the greatest opponent of the Christian faith.  Notice how our text starts.  He “was still breathing out murderous threats” against the Christians.  And, he now becomes the greatest proponent of the Christian faith, in sharing Jesus with the Gentiles!

The conversion of Saul from our text reminds us:

The most hopeless cause is not hopeless. 

The most hopeless cause is not hopeless, because here is what scripture says, as we get to the end of the book of Acts.  It says this about Paul, who was Saul.  It is the very last verse in the books of Acts that says this about him. 

“Boldly, and without hindrance,

he preached the Kingdom of God,

and taught about the Lord, Jesus Christ.”  

What special work did God have for Saul?  He would be a witness.  What special work does God have for you, and for me? 

Be a witness! 

Last week in his sermon, Pastor Bartels mentioned the glass cross that is behind me.  Our glass cross serves as a two fold function.  It points in, and tells us what the death of the cross means.  The death of Christ means everything.  Jesus paid for our sin by His death on the cross. 

But, our glass cross also points out.  It is a reminder to our community, and it is a reminder to all of us of what we hear in this room - that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus means everything. 

We now take that message with us.  We are His witnesses. 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may God grant you with that ability to be a witness for Christ in this wonderful community that we live in.


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forever more.