Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 No Impossible Cases
Acts 9:1-19

 

Introduction

God’s timing is always perfect.  In Galatians 4, Paul expressed that idea when he wrote “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son…”  So we know that God chose the time when Jesus was to come into the world, and that it was the exact right time. 

God is sovereign; that means that He is in control.  He has a plan, which was made before the world was created, and He works out the details of His plan in our lives.  Nothing surprises God. 

We know from our Bible studies, thus far, that the Early Church was growing even though it was meeting with opposition.  The stoning of Stephen as described in chapters 7 and 8 sets the scene for the experiences we examine in chapter 9. There are three great lessons that are taught in this chapter:
1. There are no impossible cases with God.
2. God permits His people to share in what He is doing.
3. Discipling new converts is exciting.
 
Our scripture for today is Acts 9:1-19. 
I’ll read it to you from the New King James Bible.

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 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.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
8 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.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 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.”
11 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.
12 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.”
13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.
14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
15 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.
16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
17 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.”
18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

The Church was just beginning, but it had already been pushed out of its comfort zone.  Times were tough for these new Christians.  They were in a situation where they must totally depend on God.  But that is a good position to be in; because people who depend on Him learn He is worthy of their trust. However, Satan can turn up the heat just as he did for the Hebrew children.  He can cause hardships and discouragement for the people of God, but God takes care of the details.  He doesn’t just have a plan for mankind; He has a plan for each of us and He knows everything that happens in our lives. 

Remember these two words: “but God.”  Everything turns on those two words.  We may meet with hardships and discouragement, “but God,” will work out the details to accomplish His purpose for us.  Satan stirred the mob up into a bloody frenzy as they stoned Stephen, but God opened the heavens.  Satan put Paul and Silas in Jail, but God gave them a song. 

 

Lesson No. 1: THERE ARE NO IMPOSSIBLE CASES.

Let’s meet the man Saul.  He wrote about his upbringing in the third chapter of Philippians.  He said that he was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee.”  Paul’s ancestry could be traced back to Jacob and to Jacob’s favorite son, Benjamin.  The tribe of Benjamin produced Israel’s first king, Saul, for whom Paul was named. The phrase “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” may have been a reference to his pure Jewish ancestry since both parents were Jews, or the phrase may also have suggested his Jewish upbringing.  Paul was not only a Pharisee but also the son of a Pharisee.  Paul claimed to have more ground for boasting than anyone else.  He was educated at the feet of the well known scholar Gamaliel in Jerusalem and he was proficient in the Hebrew language and the Hebrew Scriptures.  He was an active man for his religion and he persecuted those whom he felt were enemies to it. 

And he said of himself, “I was zealous towards God.”  He was highly religious.  He said that he kept the Law and the commandments.  He meant by that that he tried with all his might to keep all the laws of God.  We know that no one was ever able to keep all the Law, but I believe that Paul did as good a job as any one ever did. 

He was a hard case.  But there are no impossible cases with God. The lesson is clear.  God takes care of the difficult cases. 

We read in our text that He didn’t send Ananias to Paul until He Himself had made contact with Paul and had an affect on the man.  We read that Paul had taken his campaign against Christians far beyond Jerusalem.  He had obtained extradition papers from the High priest in Jerusalem to bring back any of the Christians who had fled to Damascus.  He wanted to drag them back to Jerusalem to be tried before the council of the Sanhedrin. 

But there on the road to Damascus Jesus was waiting for him.  He had almost made it to that great city, when one of the most unique events in all of history took place.  Although it was midday, a light shinned out of heaven that completely engulfed the light of the sun.  The light was so awesome that Paul fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice say, “Paul, Paul, why persecutest thou me?”

Now, here is something we must see!  Paul thought that he was persecuting the Christians, but God said that he was persecuting Him.  Every sin that is committed effects others, but in the end it also affects God.  When we are angry, sin is directed at an object or another person.  When we lust, sin is directed at another person.  But in actuality, all sin is directed against God. 

Paul recognized immediately that he was dealing with someone superior to him, so he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?”   I am sure he did not expect the reply he received, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”  This caused Saul to tremble in amazement.  He was commanded, by Jesus to go into the city and those who traveled with him were speechless, because they heard the voice, but they didn’t see anyone. When Paul finally got to his feet and opened his eyes he couldn’t see.  His companions had to lead him by the hand to Damascus; where he couldn’t see for three days. 

 

What happens next is amazing and it is also our second lesson: GOD USES OBEDIENT PEOPLE.

There was a man in Damascus, by the name of Ananias, who was apparently a Jew, but he believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  The Lord appeared to him in a vision; and when He called his name, Ananias answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 

The request that the Lord made to Ananias was probably the strangest request this man would ever receive.  He told him to “go into the street called Straight, and inquire…for one called Saul, of Tarsus.”  Ananias knew all about Saul, because he was well-known in Damascus.  He knew that he was there to arrest Christian men and women, and throw them into prison, so the request must have been almost too much for Ananias to take.  Nevertheless, it was explained to him in the vision that Paul himself had had a vision in which he saw a man named Ananias coming toward him, placing his hands upon him, and causing him to receive his sight.  Ananias was quick to object to this request, by explaining that he had heard what this evil man had done to the Christians in Jerusalem.  But Jesus eased his fears when He told him, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles.” 

What we are beginning to see in this man Ananias, is that people in whose lives Jesus is Master are eligible for some wonderful experiences.  Such people have no trouble being obedient, and their answer is always yes. 

Once Ananias was certain of God’s instructions, he obeyed.  The Bible says, “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.” 

What a difference three days can make in a man’s life. Seventy-two hours earlier the chances of a Jewish believer addressing the threatening Saul as “brother” would have been zero. But now Saul and Ananias are all part of the same family.

Ananias understands that Saul has come to him so that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Look what happened; immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales.  The writer is probably speaking symbolically; Luke records here that finally after three days of temporary blindness Saul has now regained his sight.  After being baptized, presumably at the hands of Ananias, Saul received strength and remained a number of days with the disciples at Damascus.

The meeting between Ananias and Saul must have been very tense at first, but when Ananias calls him “brother” he showed his willingness to receive him as a fellow believer and a son of God. 

Now it is getting exciting, because this man Saul will go into God’s school for training and he will become a great disciple of Christ; he not only ceases to oppose Him, but devotes himself entirely to his service and honor. 

By contrast, many religious people live dull, unblessed lives.  Their sins are forgiven, but Jesus is not Master and Lord. By that I mean that they don’t depend upon Him; they don’t trust Him like they should.  They cheat themselves out of blessings because they never try something that can’t be done without God’s involvement.  And they don’t know the pure joy that is realized through obedience to the clear commands of God. 

 

Our third lesson for today is this: DISCIPLING NEW CONVERTS IS EXCITING.

Paul spent the bulk of his life as a loner.  He was one solitary man on a dedicated mission to the Gentiles.  But when a friend was needed, God always saw to it that a friend was there.  In Damascus that friend was Ananias. 

Now it is Barnabas’ turn.  It says in verses 26 and 27, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.  And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” 

Like that of Ananias, the initial reaction of the disciples in Jerusalem to the presence of Saul was one of fear.  Therefore, Barnabas presented Paul as one who had been genuinely saved by the grace of God and who had spoken boldly of the Lord Jesus in Damascus.

One thing missing in Acts is Paul’s journey to Arabia, which he tells us was immediately after his conversion (see Galatians 1:16-17).  He spent three years there teaching, but not learning, so he retuned to Damascus.  There he met with difficulties and he had a narrow escape from death.  He was in danger from the Jews, who had determined to kill him for preaching the gospel and because he was a deserter from the faith.  They laid in wait for him, but he became aware of their plot, either by men or the Holy Spirit, and the disciples in that city helped him escape by lowering him down by the wall in a basket. 

It was after this narrow escape that he went to Jerusalem.  There Barnabus (whose name means “the encourager”) was a great mentor.  Barnabus stuck to Paul like glue.  He was always helping, and encouraging, as he traveled with Paul on his first missionary journey.  Barnabus was willing to do what ever was needed to be done.  I wonder what would have happened to Paul’s ministry without Barnabus’s willingness to disciple and to help him. 

 

Conclusion

We can expect some hard cases to be broken down and to come to know Jesus.  I could tell you about some who I have known personally.  But let me tell you about just one.  My father never went to church as far as I know.  He cussed, drank and ran around on my mother.  But despite that, my family stayed together, and my father and I had a very close relationship and I loved him very much.  At different times, I spoke to him about Jesus and he was always proud of what I did in church. 

When he was 72, he was told that he had lung cancer, and he lived about two years after that.  During that time my pastor, Brother Joe, began to visit my dad.  They both loved fishing and hunting and every week Brother Joe would come to the house and they would talk.  One day my dad asked for prayer.  I began to see a change in him.  We both knew that there wasn’t much time left, but my dad was a very strong man and he never complained.  One day we sat down at the kitchen table together and I asked if I could read the Bible to him.  I read him the salvation verses and explained them to him. 

We read:
Romans 3:23- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9- that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:13- For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We prayed together and my dad asked God to forgive his sins and then he asked Jesus to save him.  I believe that my dad, who was the toughest man I have ever known, was saved that day.  He died shortly after that.  He was like the thief on the cross.  He was never baptized, never did a single work for God, never went to church; but today he is with the Lord and I will see him again.

Today, we need men like Ananias who will come and stand with new believers.  We need some Barnabus-type people to rise up to guide these new believers into spiritual maturity. 

Remember, there are no impossible cases with God.  Let’s pray and ask God to use us to stand with our weaker brothers and sisters and to encourage them and teach them.

 

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