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After this, Paul told King Agrippa: “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-20). While Paul only told part of the story here, he claimed that he did not disobey the heavenly vision, which teaches us that Saul had a choice to obey or disobey, but he chose to obey. God did not force him to become a Christian, just like He does not force anyone to become one.
Paul preached that a person “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). This proves that more than belief in Jesus and repentance is required to be saved because turning to God is something that happens after repentance. We learned in an earlier chapter that turning to the Lord refers to baptism (see my comments on Acts 2:38), which fits perfectly with verse 18 because it shows that those who turn to God receive the forgiveness of sins.
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 9:6).
The first part of this verse, including Saul’s question, is not found in most Bible versions because of a lack of textual evidence. However, Saul’s question is implied by Jesus’ response, and we learn from Acts 22:10 that Saul did ask this question because that verse is found in all the Bible versions. Now that Saul had been humbled before Jesus and knew who He was, he wanted to know what he must do. Saul’s response was similar to those Jews on the day of Pentecost who were pricked in their heart after they realized that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 2:37). Since Saul wanted to know what he must do proves that he was not saved at this point. This time when Saul used the word Lord, he seemed to be recognizing Jesus as Lord and not just calling Him sir again.
Jesus wanted Saul to get up and go into the city where he would be told what he must do. Notice, there was something Saul would have to do to be saved. Why did Jesus not tell him what he needed to do to be saved? The answer is found in The Great Commission. Jesus put the teaching of salvation in the hands of humans (Mt. 28:19-20). For instance, an angel told Philip where to go to meet with the eunuch (Acts 8:26), and the Holy Spirit told him to overtake his chariot (Acts 8:29). It is the responsibility of Christians to teach others what they must do to be saved just as Philip taught the eunuch (Acts 8:30ff). This example is repeated in the conversion of Cornelius because an angel appeared to him and said: “Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 'who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:13-14). If it was God’s plan for the words of salvation to be taught by those from heaven, this angel could have done it without involving Peter. These examples show that it is our responsibility to teach the plan of salvation. As we will see, Ananias is going to be the person that tells Saul what he must do to be saved.
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one (Acts 9:7).
These men did not have the same experience as Saul because they did not hear or see the same thing that Saul did. Notice what Saul said about this in Acts 22:9: “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.” From this verse, we learn that they saw a light, but they did not see Jesus. In this account, Saul said they did not hear the voice, but in Acts 9 it states they heard a voice. Is this a contradiction? On the surface it might look like one, but it is not because the Greek word phone can be translated sound or voice. So, Acts 9:7 is saying that they heard a sound, but Acts 22:9 is saying they did not hear the actual voice or words of Jesus. A similar event happened when God spoke from heaven and some heard a noise, but they did not understand the words that were spoken (Jn. 12:28-29). There will always be those who try to find contradictions in God’s Word, but when we examine the Scriptures closely, we will find that no contradictions exist.
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 (Acts 9:8This encounter with the glory of that light (Acts 22:11) left Saul blind, and he had to be led by the hand of those with him to Damascus. It would be interesting to know what happened to Saul’s companions after they helped him get to the city, but we are not given any additional information about them. Once Saul was in the city, he remained blind for three days and nights, and he did not eat or drink during that time.
He was also praying to God during that time as well (Acts 9:11). Saul’s reaction to seeing Jesus and hearing His voice had made him a believer in Christ, and it made him realize that he had been trying to destroy what God had established.
This new revelation led him to sorrow in a Godly manner (2 Cor. 7:9-10), and he was repenting for what he had done.
Many of those in the religious world would say that Saul was saved on the road to Damascus or that he was saved as he repented and prayed to God. If this is true, then Saul was the most miserable saved person in the Bible because the usual reaction to being saved was one of rejoicing (Acts 8:39;
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. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many
things he must suffer for My name's sake” (Acts 9:10-16).
Ananias was a devout man who was well respected by his fellow Jews in Damascus (Acts 22:12). He was usually ready to serve God, but when Jesus asked him to go find Saul so that he might receive his sight and be told what he must do to be saved, he was a little hesitant. He wanted to make sure Jesus was sending him to the right man because the saints had told him stories about how Saul was persecuting the church. The term saints is just another name for Christians because all Christians are saints, which is in stark contrast with what the Catholic Church teaches about sainthood.
Ananias was supposed to go to the street called Straight and find the house of Judas. “It is believed this street is still in existence, but now it is called Derb el-Mustakim” (ISBE). We do not know anything about this Judas other than Saul was staying at his house. Jesus reassured Ananias that Saul is the right man for him to go to because Saul was chosen by God to be a vessel for Him. Saul being chosen by God does not mean he did not have a choice in the matter because he had a free will. Since God is omniscient, He could know beforehand that Saul would choose to be this vessel (Gal. 1:15-16).
Since Saul would be proclaiming the good news to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel, I believe he was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name” (Isa. 62:2). The new name was Christian, and it was first used when Saul and Barnabas were at Antioch (Acts 11:26). As we learned earlier, Saul would have to endure many hardships as a Christian.
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).
Now that Ananias has been reassured by Jesus, he made his way to Saul. When he found him, he laid his hands on him and called him brother Saul. Since he called him brother, some claim that he was calling him a brother in Christ, proving that he was saved at this point. However, this is not true because it was a common practice for Jews to call each other brother, and we have examples of Christian Jews who called non-Christian Jews brother (Acts 2:29; 3:17; Rom. 9:3). So, calling him brother does not mean he was a Christian.
We also learn that Ananias was supposed to lay his hands on Saul so he could receive his sight (Acts 22:13). When he did, Saul received his sight that very hour, and he was able to look up at Ananias (Acts 22:13). We learned in the chapter, “Conversions by Philip the evangelist” that only the apostles could impart spiritual gifts, which means at some point Ananias had been given his ability to heal Saul’s blindness by one of the apostles. Not only did he open his eyes so he could see, he also opened his eyes spiritually by telling him what he must do. Acts 9:17 teaches that Ananias would make it possible for Saul to receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Since Ananias was not an apostle and could not impart spiritual gifts, we can know that being filled with the Holy Spirit does not refer to the miraculous gifts that came through the hands of an apostle.
Also, there is nothing in the text demanding that Saul receiving his sight and being filled with the Holy Spirit was going to happen at the same time. Instead, the most probable meaning of being filled with the Holy Spirit was the same promise that every Christian is given when they are baptized (Acts 2:38This explanation fits perfectly with the text because verse 18 only says that Saul’s eyes were healed when Ananias put his hands on him, and then he arose and was baptized. So, Ananias made it possible for him to receive the Holy Spirit by telling him what he must do.
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’ (Acts 22:14-15).
Saul had already seen the Lord and heard His voice. Now it was time for him to find out what he must do to be saved so he could begin his work as a witness of the things he had seen and heard.
At this point, Saul has believed in Jesus, confessed Him as Lord, repented, and prayed. However, we can know without a doubt that Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus or at
this point because of what Ananias tells Saul:
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
If a person says that Saul was saved before this point, then he is going to have to say that he was saved while still stained with sin, which proves “the sinner’s prayer” that many denominations proclaim as being the point of salvation is false.
If anyone could have been saved by praying to God, it would have been Saul. However, we just learned from verse 16 that Saul was still lost in his sins, even though he had been praying to God. Besides, there is not one example of anyone being taught to say “the sinner’s prayer” in the Bible. The origin of “the sinner’s prayer” is not clear, but some believe it had its start in the early days of the Protestant Reformation movement, and it was made popular by men like Billy Graham.
Ananias understood the urgency of this situation because he wanted to know why Saul was waiting. He commanded him to arise and literally get himself baptized to wash away his sins.
In Acts 22:16 it is used in the Middle Voice, in the command given to Saul of Tarsus, “arise and be baptized” the significance of the Middle Voice form being “get thyself baptized” (Vine).
Remember, Jesus said Saul would be told what he must do, which means there would be something he could do, and that was obeying the urgent command to arise and be baptized to wash away his sins. The fact that he had to arise teaches us two things about his baptism.
First, if baptism was done by sprinkling or pouring, he would not have to arise because he could have had someone sprinkle or pour some water on him.
Second, he was not talking about Holy Spirit baptism, since he would not have to arise for that either because it would not matter if he was lying down or standing on his head - he could be baptized by the Holy Spirit. The only baptism that fits this text is water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins. Even those who deny that baptism is for the remission of sins admit the language here
and in other verses could mean that baptism is for the remission of sin. For instances notice what A.T. Robertson said:
It is possible, as in 2:38, to take these words as teaching baptismal remission or salvation by means of baptism, but to do so is in my opinion a complete subversion of Saul's vivid and picturesque language. As in Rom. 6:4-6 where baptism is the picture of death, burial and resurrection, so here baptism pictures the change that had already taken place when Saul surrendered to Jesus on the way (verse 10).
Baptism here pictures the washing away of sins by the blood of Christ (Robertson).
He recognized the text grammatically says that baptism washes away a person’s sins, but he denies it because of his personal opinion. Also, he wants to turn baptism into something a person does to show he already has the forgiveness of sin, but nothing in the text implies this idea. Besides, the Scriptures clearly show that Saul was not forgiven of his sins until he submitted to baptism.