Acts 9:19-31

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 14, 1997


We’ve begun to look at the life of a man known as Saul, who will be later known by the name of Paul the apostle. We saw him make a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus where he started out with plans of murder and persecution on his mind, and ended up meeting Jesus, who transformed his life.

9:19-22 The New Saul in Damascus

:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.

For three days after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul had been fasting, waiting until a man named Ananias would show up and help him. Now that he’s been counseled by Ananias, healed, and filled with the Holy Spirit, he gets a chance to eat.

:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

straightway – "immediately"

Paul had come to Damascus to destroy the Christians. He had a reputation of opposing Christians.

And now, having come to Jesus, he doesn’t hide in a corner or try to pretend to be something he wasn’t.

He goes to the very people he was intending to go and protect from Christianity, and instead preached that Jesus was the Messiah.


True conversion brings true confession.

Everyone that Jesus called to follow, He called openly and publicly. Even Nicodemus, who met with Jesus alone at night, came to a point in his life where he had to admit openly that he was a follower of Jesus.

Jesus said,

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

This doesn’t mean that we all have to be open air preachers. But on the other hand, we need to openly admit that we are followers of Jesus.

:22 Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews

increased the more in strengthendunamoo – to be strong, endue with strength, strengthen; increase in strength

We might say that this word means to "get the dunamis into" something.

Paul has only been saved a few days, and he’s already confounding people with his arguments that Jesus was the Messiah.

What’s the cause of such powerful preaching?

I think this could be a result of three things working in combination –

1) The work of the Holy Spirit.

When Ananias visited Saul, part of his ministry was to pray for Saul to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 9:17 KJV) 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.

Two of the ministries of the Holy Spirit involve giving us the power to witness, and instructing us in what we need to know.

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

(John 14:26 KJV) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

2) The witness of Stephen.

The language used here to describe Saul’s ministry is very similar to that used to describe Stephen’s ministry –

(Acts 6:8-10 KJV) And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. {9} Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. {10} And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

We’ve spoken before how it seems very likely that Saul was part of this group, being from the area of "Cilicia" himself.

Could it be that the very arguments that Stephen had actually hit home with Saul, and now he’s using the same proofs to those he’s preaching to?

3) Saul’s knowledge of Scripture.

Don’t forget that Saul himself had long been a student of the Scriptures. He had been a disciple of the great Jewish scholar Gamaliel. Perhaps he had wondered himself about these Scriptures that seemed to be speaking of this Jesus fellow, yet he was sure they couldn’t be doing that.

And now he knows the truth. And he’s not afraid to use it.


1) Open up to the Spirit’s work in your life.

You may get discouraged with your witness, but perhaps all you need is to spend a little more time yielding yourself to the work of the Spirit in your life.

Perhaps if it was a little less of you talking, and a little more of the Spirit talking?

2) You might not see the fruit of your witnessing, but keep it up.

Did Stephen get to see the results of his witnessing?

Not with Saul. But I think it had a profound impact.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see fruit right away.

Perhaps God just wants you to be satisfied with planting lots of seeds.

(1 Cor 3:6-7 KJV) I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. {7} So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Paul learned to be content even if all he did was planting seeds.

3) Stay in the Word.

As we’ve said before, it’s a little hard for the Spirit to bring to your remembrance what you haven’t read.

Even if you don’t completely understand everything you read, keep reading. It’s a part of growing. And the more you pray and read, the more you’ll grow in understanding.

The person God uses is a person of the Word.

:23-31 The New Saul in Jerusalem

:23 after that many days were fulfilled the Jews took counsel to kill

Luke is giving us just a summary. Paul (Saul) later gives us a fuller explanation –

Gal 1:16b-18 … immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: {17} Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. {18} Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

After initially coming to the Lord and doing his first preaching, Saul spent some time alone with the Lord in Arabia, then returned to Damascus.

It’s probably at this time that the Jews start making plans to kill Saul.

It would be a full three years from his conversion that he would return to Jerusalem.

:24 they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

It’s kind of ironic that the very thing that Saul had planned to do to the Christians, was now being done to him.

Paul later tells us in his own words that the Jews had been working with the governor to capture him –

(2 Cor 11:32-33 KJV) In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: {33} And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

:26 he assayed to join himself to the disciples

assayed – "attempted"

:26 they were all afraid of him, and believed not

We might say to the apostles, "Hey, don’t you know who this guy is? It’s Paul, the guy that’s going to write much of the New Testament, a guy who’s going to preach the gospel around the world!"

But the apostles don’t know this. Not yet. They’re too afraid of Saul.

How do they know it’s not some kind of trick by Saul?

:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles

Barnabas – a Jewish believer, a Levite from the island of Cyprus (Acts 4:36-37), was actually named "Joses" or "Joseph", but he had acquired a nickname in the church, "Barnabas". They nicknamed him this because "Barnabas" means "son of encouragement".

took himepilambanomai – to take in addition; to rescue one from peril, to help

to the apostles – Paul tells us in his own words that he talked with Peter for fifteen days, and also James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:18-19). Some have suggested that Peter was himself staying at the home of Mary the mother of John Mark (Act 12:12) who was a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).


Be a Barnabas.

Have you ever had a hard time "fitting in" with a group of people?

Find those who are having a hard time fitting in to the church, and help them out.

A "Barnabas" is a person who’s willing to look past some of the rough exteriors in others, and is willing to take rough Saul under his wing, and show him how to grow in the Lord, to find his ministry, and fit into the body.

How are we to encourage one another? (and be like Barnabas)

The Bible gives us lots of ways we can be encouraging each other –

a) Concerning the deceitfulness of sin

Heb 3:12-13 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. {13} But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

I was reading the other day in the Youth Group Newsletter, "Generation X, Take it to the Cross" some really interesting articles about dating and purity. Much of it was warning about the deceitfulness of sin. We need to do more of this.

b) Concerning love and good deeds

Heb 10:24 NLT Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

c) Concerning being in fellowship with other Christians

Heb 10:25 NLT And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

When someone hasn’t been to church in awhile, have you ever thought of giving them a call to see if they’re okay?

We need more Barneys. And more "Little Annies" …


A number of years ago, in a mental institution just outside Boston, Mass., a young girl known as "Little Annie" was locked in the dungeon. This institution was one of the more enlightened ones for the treatment of the mentally disturbed. However, the doctors felt that a dungeon was the only place for those who were "hopelessly" insane. In Little Annie's case, they saw no hope for her, so she was confined to a living death in that small cage which received little light and even less hope.

About that time, an elderly nurse in the institution was nearing retirement. She felt there was hope for all of God's creatures, so she started taking her lunch into the dungeon and eating outside Little Annie's cage. She felt perhaps she could communicate some love and hope to the little girl.

In many ways, Little Annie was like an animal. On occasions, she would violently attack the person who came into her cage. At other times, she would completely ignore them. When the elderly nurse started visiting her, Little Annie gave no indication that she was even aware of her presence. One day, the elderly nurse brought some brownies to the dungeon and left them outside the cage. Little Annie gave no hint she knew they were there, but when the nurse returned the next day, the brownies were gone. From that time on, the nurse would bring brownies when she made her Thursday visit. Soon, the doctors in the institution noticed a change was taking place. After a period of time, they decided to move Little Annie upstairs. Finally, the day came when this "hopeless case" was told she could return home. But Little Annie did not wish to leave. The place had meant so much to her she felt she could make a contribution if she stayed and worked with the other patients. The elderly nurse had seen and brought out so much in her life that Little Annie felt she could see and help develop something in others.

Many years later, Queen Victoria of England, while pinning England's highest award on a foreigner, asked Helen Keller, "How do you account for your remarkable accomplishments in life? How do you explain the fact that even though you were both blind and deaf, you were able to accomplish so much?" Without a moment's hesitation, Helen Keller said that had it not been for Anne Sullivan (Little Annie), the name of Helen Keller would have remained unknown.

It's not too well known, but Helen Keller was a normal, healthy baby before some mysterious disease left her almost helpless and hopeless. Anne Sullivan saw Helen Keller as one of God's very special people -- treated her as she saw her -- loved her -- disciplined her - - played, prayed, pushed and worked with her until the flickering candle that was her life became a beacon that helped light the pathways and lighten the burdens of people all over the world. Yes, Helen Keller influenced millions after her own life was touched by "Little Annie!"

:28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

The idea is that he went everywhere with the disciples. The NIV translates this, "moved about freely in Jerusalem".

In other words, Saul became accepted in the group.

:29 disputed against the Grecians

This was what Stephen was doing when we believe Saul first met him

(Acts 6:9 KJV) Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

:30 Which when the brethren knew,

When they saw what was happening the Saul, the same thing as happened to Stephen, they weren’t about to take any chances but …

:30 they brought him down to Caesarea

Which is where Philip the evangelist had moved to.

:30 and sent him forth to Tarsus.

sent him forthexapostello – to send forth; to send away

This word is related to the word that we translate "apostle", or "one who is sent out". It seems to carry the idea of being sent out for a purpose.

It’s almost as if he’s being asked by the church to go on a mission to Tarsus. The church didn’t "help him" get to Tarsus, as if he was running home. They "sent him" to Tarsus.

Why Tarsus? It’s his home town. It’s where his family live.

He’s probably not there long. Perhaps no more than a few months. He was saved on the Damascus road around AD 36, spent three years in Damascus (Gal. 1:18), goes to Jerusalem (AD 39), is sent to Tarsus, and then Barnabas will take him from Tarsus to Antioch where he’s been a while when the famine of AD 41 hits (Acts 11:28).


There comes a time when you have to go home and share.

It may be that a prophet has no honor in his hometown (Mat. 13:57), but it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t give them a chance to hear about Jesus and see the difference in your life.

:31 Then had the churches rest

resteirene – peace. The point that Luke is making is that after Saul became converted and made it through his own initial persecutions, the general persecution against the church stopped.

:31 and were edified …

We have four qualities now of the young church in this "mid-term" report card:

1) Spiritual growth.

edifiedoikodomeo – to build a house; to grow in the Lord.

2) Fear of God.

walking in the fear of the Lord

Is this because the Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) incident is still remembered?

That was the last time we saw fear being mentioned in the church.

Ac 5:11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

This speaks of a reverence for God, and an abhorrence of sin.

3) Holy Ghost help.

comfortparaklesis – a calling alongside, either for advice or comfort.

This is what the Holy Ghost is all about. He is the "Comforter", the paraklete. This is also what being a "Barnabas" is all about, being a comforter, an exhorter, an encourager.

4) Numerical growth.

multipliedplethuno – to increase, to multiply

It seems that at the beginning, the Lord was just adding to the church (Acts 2:47b). But lately (Acts 6:1; 6:7), it seems that the church is now multiplying.

When evangelism depends upon just an apostle Peter standing up in front of a crowd and preaching, then people are added to the church. But when the church matures and more and more people are taking on the responsibility of witnessing to their friends, then the church is multiplied.