Today we will be looking at Acts 9:15-38 where we see Paul receiving his sight and teaching Christ in Damascus that he is the Son of God, the three year period between Damascus and his visit to Jerusalem, and Peter's subsequent journey to Lydda and the healing of Tabitha.
VERSE 15: But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: Notice that the Lord just says, Go thy way! and doesn't even attempt to respond to Ananias' objections. This marks the beginning of the transition in the book of Acts.
Notice that he is going to go to Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Some will contend that this is beginning of the Body of Christ with Saul's conversion, but that case simply can not be made from these verses. Saul is responding to the Kingdom Gospel in that he repented and will be baptized in v.18. As far as Saul was concerned, he was simply being chosen to take the Kingdom Gospel to the Gentiles, kings, and the house of Israel. Saul new the Old Testament prophecies about the nation being used as a kingdom of priests to the Gentiles.
VERSE 16: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. Going with the previous thought, God says, I will shew him meaning yet future.
VERSE 17-18: And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (18) And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. Now these is something different in these verses. In Acts 2, they repented, were baptized, and then received the Spirit. In Acts 8, they Samaritans repented, then baptized, and then received the Spirit at the hands of Peter and John. Here, some will say that Saul repented, received the Spirit along with his sight, and is then baptized. Or it could simply mean that he had repented, Ananius prayed over him to receive his sight, he was baptized, and then received the Spirit just as the others before. For now, I tend to go with the latter.
VERSES 19-20: And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. (20) And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. Notice that Saul is teaching Christ, not the cross, in the synagogues. Of course, the only people in the synagogues were Jews. He was converted under the Kingdom Gospel and he taught the Kingdom Gospel at this point. Galatians 1:23 says that he preached the faith that he once destroyed.
If you think that Ananias was freaked out by this guy Saul who was coming to persecute them, can you imagine how tense it was to be in the same synagogue with him now?
VERSES 21-22: But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (22) But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. However, in spite of their concerns, God used Saul and he increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. Notice that Paul was proving that this is very Christ. This was the same ministry of the other apostles.
The word proving in the original means to drive together, unite, infer, show, teach. He was proving from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was their Messiah.
VERSES 23-25: And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: (24) But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. (25) Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. Notice after that many days were fulfilled, the the Jews took counsel to kill him. Many believe that it was after this escape that marks the beginning of the three years in Arabia that Paul mentioned in Gal 1:16-18 before heading to Jerusalem in v.26. Paul also refers to this event in 2Co 11:32-33.
Some believe that it was during these three years in Arabia that God showed him the the mystery. However, I don't lean that way. Instead, I tend to think that it was some time after Arabia and sometime during the fourteen years later that he returned to Jerusalem for the council in Acts 15 (Gal 2:1-2). I just think that if Paul had received something he would have shared it with Peter the first time that he went to Jerusalem in v.26.
Now some do believe that it might have been just after Jerusalem that he received the mystery because when Paul gives his testimony in Acts 22:17-21 he was told that he was going to be sent to far hence unto the Gentiles. And by the time, he does arrive in Jerusalem in Acts 15 (Acts 15:23) fourteen years later, he mentions that there are churches that were made up of Gentiles in Syria, Silicia, and Antioch which is where he went after leaving Jerusalem.
VERSES 26-29: And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. (27) But Barnabas 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. (28) And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. (29) And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Time wise, this is about 38AD and three years after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. However, it is no wonder that the disciples were still a little leary of Saul. Who wouldn't have been at this point. The dude had people killed!
This is when Barnabas, whose name means "son of consolation", steps to the plate and spoke of behalf of Saul to help remove the hesitancy that so many apparently had in regards to him. This was the beginning of ministry together. However, Saul still met tremendous amounts of opposition because of his insistence that Jesus was their Messiah. Nothing will get the dander up on a religious person more than challenging their strongly held unbiblical beliefs. Of course, their answer was to kill him.
VERSE 30: Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Here we find Saul fleeing for his life again. Not a very good start to ministry for sure. It is from here that the brethren brought him down to Caesarea as recorded in Gal 1:21. Tarsus was in Cilicia. These brethren are still those of the Kingdom Church as their is no suggestion that Paul has received anything different at this point.
VERSE 31: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Understand that these churches are still Messianic Jewish believers at this point. Randy White makes it a point to point out that only the KJV uses the plural churches while the others use the singular church and this is an example of them forcing their theology on the text.
VERSE 32: And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. After the introduction to Saul, there is a brief shift back to Peter who visited the saints which dwelt at Lydda. Again, so far we have seen nothing but Jews. You just can not insert Gentiles into these chapters without clearly displaying some bias. On another note, even if Saul did receive the revelation of the mystery by this point, there is no indication of it.
VERSE 33: And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. (34) And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. (35) And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. The palsy was a disease that negatively affected the muscles and kept him from walking for the past eight years. As a result of the healing, all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron turned to the Lord. That means that they believed the Kingdom Gospel and became a part of the way. Many refer to those of the way as Peter's little flock referred to in Luke12:32. These were simply Jewish believers in the Kingdom Gospel.
VERSE 36: Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. Joppa is a small port town close to Lydda (2Ch 2:16; Ezra 3:7; Jonah 1:3). Interestingly, the name Tabitha or Dorcas means gazelle.
VERSES 37-38: And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. (38) And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. (39) Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. (40) But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. (41) And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. (42) And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. (43) And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. In these verses, Peter raised this woman from the dead. Again, we see the pattern, miracles followed by a belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. No one can honestly say that God works this way today. This was simply a different dispensation. We do not live under this apostolic dispensation today.