Acts 9:17
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 to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul.—The correspondence of the act with the vision spoken of in Acts 9:12, would be the first step in the identification of the visitor. The words would tend to remove all doubt and misgiving. The man who came as the representative of the disciples of Jesus welcomed the persecutor as a “brother.” It may be noted that he uses the same Hebrew form of the name as St. Paul had heard in the heavenly vision.

That thou mightest receive thy sight . . . .—Better, regain thy sight. The narrative clearly implies that here, as in Acts 8:17, the being “filled with the Holy Ghost” was connected with the laying on of hands as a condition, and it is so far a proof that that gift was not one which attached exclusively to the Apostles. It was, we may well believe, manifested in this instance as in others, by the ecstatic utterance of “the tongues” (comp. Acts 19:6; 1Corinthians 14:18), and by the gift of prophetic insight.

Acts

GRACE TRIUMPHANT

Acts 9:1 - Acts 9:12
; Acts 9:17 - Acts 9:20.

This chapter begins with ‘but,’ which contrasts Saul’s persistent hatred, which led him to Gentile lands to persecute, with Philip’s expansive evangelistic work. Both men were in profound earnest, both went abroad to carry on their work, but the one sought to plant what the other was eager to destroy. If the ‘but’ in Acts 9:1 contrasts, the ‘yet’ connects the verse with Acts 8:3. Saul’s fury was no passing outburst, but enduring. Like other indulged passions, it grew with exercise, and had come to be as his very life-breath, and now planned, not only imprisonment, but death, for the heretics.

Not content with carrying his hateful inquisition into the homes of the Christians in Jerusalem, he will follow the fugitives to Damascus. The extension of the persectution was his own thought. He was not the tool of the Sanhedrin, but their mover. They would probably have been content to cleanse Jerusalem, but the young zealot would not rest till he had followed the dispersed poison into every corner where it might have trickled. The high priest would not discourage such useful zeal, however he might smile at its excess.

So Saul got the letters he asked, and some attendants, apparently, to help him in his hunt, and set off for Damascus. Painters have imagined him as riding thither, but more probably he and his people went on foot. It was a journey of some five or six days. The noon of the last day had come, and the groves of Damascus were, perhaps, in sight. No doubt, the young Pharisee’s head was busy settling what he was to begin with when he entered the city, and was exulting in the thought of how he would harry the meek Christians, when the sudden light shone.

At all events, the narrative does not warrant the view, often taken now, that there had been any preparatory process in Saul’s mind, which had begun to sap his confidence that Jesus was a blasphemer, and himself a warrior for God. That view is largely adopted in order to get rid of the supernatural, and to bolster up the assumption that there are no sudden conversions; but the narrative of Luke, and Paul’s own references, are dead against it. At one moment he is ‘yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,’ and in almost the next he is prone on his face, asking, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ It was not a case of a landslide suddenly sweeping down, but long prepared for by the gradual percolation of water to the slippery understrata, but the solid earth was shaken, and the mountain crashed down in sudden ruin.

The causes of Saul’s conversion are plain in the narrative, even though the shortened form is adopted, which is found in the Revised Version. The received text has probably been filled out by additions from Paul’s own account in Acts 26:1 - Acts 26:32 First came the blaze of light outshining the midday sun, even in that land where its beams are like swords. That blinding light ‘shone round about him,’ enveloping him in its glory. Acts 26:13 tells that his companions also were wrapped in the lustre, and that all fell to the earth, no doubt in terror.

Saul is not said, either in this or in his own accounts, to have seen Jesus, but 1 Corinthians 15:8 establishes that he did so, and Ananias {Acts 9:17} refers to Jesus as having ‘appeared.’ That appearance, whatever may have been the psychological account of it, was by Paul regarded as being equal in evidential value to the flesh-and-blood vision of the risen Lord which the other Apostles witnessed to, and as placing him in the same line as a witness.

It is to be noted also, that, while the attendants saw the light, they were not blinded, as Saul was; from which it may be inferred that he saw with his bodily eyes the glorified manhood of Jesus, as we are told that one day, when He returns as Judge, ‘every eye shall see Him.’ Be that as it may,-and we have not material for constructing a theory of the manner of Christ’s appearance to Saul,- the overwhelming conviction was flooded into his soul, that the Jesus whom he had thought of as a blasphemer, falsely alleged to have risen from the dead, lived in heavenly glory, amid celestial brightness too dazzling for human eyes.

The words of gentle remonstrance issuing from the flashing glory went still further to shake the foundations of the young Pharisee’s life; for they, as with one lightning gleam, laid hare the whole madness and sin of the crusade which he had thought acceptable to God. ‘Why persecutest thou Me?’ Then the odious heretics were knit by some mysterious bond to this glorious One, so that He bled in their wounds and felt their pains! Then Saul had been, as his old teacher dreaded they of the Sanhedrin might be, fighting against God! How the reasons for Saul’s persecution had crumbled away, till there were none left with which to answer Jesus’ question! Jesus lived, and was exalted to glory. He was identified with His servants. He had appeared to Saul, and deigned to plead with him.

No wonder that the man who had been planning fresh assaults on the disciples ten minutes before, was crushed and abject as he lay there on the road, and these tremendous new convictions rushed like a cataract over and into his soul! No wonder that the lessons burned in on him in that hour of destiny became the centre-point of all his future teaching! That vision revolutionised his thinking and his life. None can affirm that it was incompetent to do so.

Luke’s account here, like Paul’s in Acts 22:1 - Acts 22:30, represents further instructions from Jesus as postponed till Saul’s meeting with Ananias, while Paul’s other account in Acts 26:1 - Acts 26:32 omits mention of the latter, and gives the substance of what he said in Damascus as said on the road by Jesus. The one account is more detailed than the other, that is all. The gradual unfolding of the heavenly purpose which our narrative gives is in accord with the divine manner. For the moment enough had been done to convert the persecutor into the servant, to level with the ground his self-righteousness, to reveal to him the glorified Jesus, to bend his will and make it submissive. The rest would be told him in due time.

The attendants had fallen to the ground like him, but seem to have struggled to their feet again, while he lay prostrate. They saw the brightness, but not the Person: they heard the voice, but not the words. Saul staggered by their help to his feet, and then found that with open eyes he was blind. Imagination or hallucination does not play tricks of that sort with the organs of sense.

The supernatural is too closely intertwined with the story to be taken out of it without reducing it to tatters. The greatest of Christian teachers, who has probably exercised more influence than any man who ever lived, was made a Christian by a miracle. That fact is not to be got rid of. But we must remember that once when He speaks of it He points to God’s revelation of His Son ‘in Him’ as its essential character. The external appearance was the vehicle of the inward revelation. It is to be remembered, too, that the miracle did not take away Saul’s power of accepting or rejecting the Christ; for he tells Agrippa that he was ‘not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’

What a different entry he made into Damascus from what he expected, and what a different man it was that crawled up to the door of Judas, in the street that is called Straight, from the self-confident young fanatic who had left Jerusalem with the high priest’s letters in his bosom and fierce hate in his heart!

Ananias was probably not one of the fugitives, as his language about Saul implies that he knew of his doings only by hearsay. The report of Saul’s coming and authority to arrest disciples had reached Damascus before him, with the wonderful quickness with which news travels in the East, nobody knows how. Ananias’s fears being quieted, he went to the house where for three days Saul had been lying lonely in the dark, fasting, and revolving many things in his heart. No doubt his Lord had spoken many a word to him, though not by vision, but by whispering to his spirit. Silence and solitude root truth in a soul. After such a shock, absolute seclusion was best.

Ananias discharged his commission with lovely tenderness and power. How sweet and strange to speaker and hearer would that ‘Brother Saul’ sound! How strong and grateful a confirmation of his vision would Ananias’s reference to the appearance of the Lord bring! How humbly would the proud Pharisee bow to receive, laid on his head, the hands that he had thought to bind with chains! What new eyes would look out on a world in which all things had become new, when there fell from them as it had been scales, and as quickly as had come the blinding, so quickly came the restored vision!

Ananias was neither Apostle nor official, yet the laying on of his hands communicated ‘the Holy Ghost.’ Saul received that gift before baptism, not after or through the ordinance. It was important for his future relations to the Apostles that he should not have been introduced to the Church by them, or owed to them his first human Christian teaching. Therefore he could say that he was ‘an Apostle, not from men, neither through man.’ It was important for us that in that great instance that divine gift should have been bestowed without the conditions accompanying, which have too often been regarded as necessary for, its possession.Acts 9:17-19. And Ananias went his way — With all readiness and joy undertook the message, not presuming to object any further; and entered into the house — To which he had been so particularly directed; and putting his hands on him — According to Christ’s direction, Mark 16:18; said, Brother Saul — So he terms him, because he was made a partaker of the grace of God, though not yet baptized; and his readiness to own Saul as a brother intimated to him God’s readiness to own him as a son, though he had been a blasphemer of God, and a persecutor of his children. The Lord, even Jesus — That same Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way — And convinced thee of thy sin in persecuting him; hath sent me — To thee, to comfort thee: his light struck thee blind, but he hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight — For his design was not ultimately to blind the eyes of thy body, but to open the eyes of thy soul; and that thou mightest be filled with the Holy Ghost — Which shall be poured out upon thee, not only in his sanctifying graces, but in his miraculous gifts, before I leave this place. See a further account of what passed between Ananias and Saul on this occasion, Acts 22:14-16. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales Ωσει λεπιδες, something like scales, an emblem of the darkness and prejudice which before had veiled his eyes; and their falling off intimated the clear views of divine things which he should henceforth enjoy. And he received his sight forthwith — That is, immediately on the scales falling from his eyes: the cure was sudden, to show that it was miraculous. And he arose and was baptized — And thereby submitted himself to the government of Christ, and cast himself upon his grace. Saul is now a disciple of Christ, and not only ceases to oppose him, but devotes himself entirely to his service and honour. Happy change! a change for which he himself, and myriads of immortal beings, will bless God through the never-ending ages of eternity. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened —

Recovered that bodily strength which had been impaired by his long fast, as well as by what had happened to him in the way; and that strength it was his immediate care to employ in the service of his new Master, now associating with the disciples at Damascus, whom he had come to persecute. In this miraculous manner was Saul, in the very height of his rage against the saints, converted, and made an apostle of Jesus Christ, and called to preach that very faith which he had been so zealous to destroy. Luke has not mentioned any date by which we can with certainty fix either Saul’s age at his conversion, or the particular year in which that remarkable event took place; nevertheless, from some circumstances mentioned in his history, learned men have gathered that it happened about the end of the third year after the death of Christ, or the beginning of the fourth, and when Saul was about thirty-four years of age. It may not be improper to observe here, that this conversion of Saul “added great lustre to the evidence of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. He had persecuted all who preached that miracle; wherefore, when he himself went over to the persecuted party, and published Christ’s resurrection with greater earnestness and diligence than any of them, every impartial person must have been sensible that such an alteration of sentiment and conduct, in a person of Saul’s good sense, learning, and zeal, and that at the very time he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, could not possibly have happened, unless he had actually received that unquestionable evidence of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which he affirmed had been given him, by Christ’s appearing to him personally as he went to Damascus, and by conferring upon him the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is true, the appearing of Jesus might seem to many an improbable story; yet, as by the miracles which Saul performed, he gave convincing proofs that Christ had bestowed on him the gift of the Holy Ghost, no reasonable person, after that, could doubt of his having appeared to him, as Saul constantly affirmed.” — Macknight.9:10-22 A good work was begun in Saul, when he was brought to Christ's feet with those words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And never did Christ leave any who were brought to that. Behold, the proud Pharisee, the unmerciful oppressor, the daring blasphemer, prayeth! And thus it is even now, and with the proud infidel, or the abandoned sinner. What happy tidings are these to all who understand the nature and power of prayer, of such prayer as the humbled sinner presents for the blessings of free salvation! Now he began to pray after another manner than he had done; before, he said his prayers, now, he prayed them. Regenerating grace sets people on praying; you may as well find a living man without breath, as a living Christian without prayer. Yet even eminent disciples, like Ananias, sometimes stagger at the commands of the Lord. But it is the Lord's glory to surpass our scanty expectations, and show that those are vessels of his mercy whom we are apt to consider as objects of his vengeance. The teaching of the Holy Spirit takes away the scales of ignorance and pride from the understanding; then the sinner becomes a new creature, and endeavours to recommend the anointed Saviour, the Son of God, to his former companions.Putting his hands on him - This was not "ordination," but was the usual mode of imparting or communicating blessings. See the notes on Matthew 19:13; Matthew 9:18.

Brother Saul - An expression recognizing him as a fellow-Christian.

Be filled with the Holy Ghost - See the notes on Acts 2:4.

17-19. Ananias went his way, and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul—How beautifully childlike is the obedience of Ananias to "the heavenly vision!"

the Lord, even Jesus—This clearly shows in what sense the term "Lord" is used in this book. It is Jesus that is meant, as almost invariably in the Epistles also.

who appeared unto thee in the way—This knowledge by an inhabitant of Damascus of what had happened to Saul before entering it, would show him at once that this was the man whom Jesus had already prepared him to expect.

and be filled with the Holy Ghost—which Ananias probably, without any express instructions on that subject, took it for granted would descend upon him; and not necessarily after his baptism [Baumgarten, Webster and Wilkinson]—for Cornelius and his company received it before theirs (Ac 10:44-48)—but perhaps immediately after the recovery of his sight by the laying on of Ananias' hands.

Entered into the house; the house of Judas, with whom Saul lodged, as Acts 9:11.

Putting his hands on him; concerning this, see Acts 6:6, besides on what may be said of this imposition of hands elsewhere: the curing of St. Paul’s blinduess was one reason of putting his hands on him here, for so it was ordinarily done towards the sick or infirm; they laid their hands upon them to heal them, as it was promised that they should do, Mark 16:18.

Brother Saul; Saul was become Ananias’s brother, as professing the same faith, and heir of the same promise with him.

Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way; Ananias mentions what had happened to Paul in the way, that Saul might be assured that he was sent from God, for none else could have told him what had happened. And Ananias went his way,.... He arose from off his bed or seat, where he was, went out of his house, and on the way to the place where Saul was; he had nothing more to say, his objections were answered; there was no room to excuse himself, nor did he now desire it, but quietly yields, and cheerfully obeys:

and entered into the house; or "that house", the house of Judas, where Saul was, and whither Ananias was directed, Acts 9:11

and putting his hands on him; on Saul, in the same form Saul had seen him, in vision, doing it: and which was done, either as a prayer gesture; or for the healing of him, the restoring him to his sight; or that he might receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and it may be on all these accounts: and

said, brother Saul; he calls him "brother", not because he was of the same nation, but because he was now of the same faith; because he was a regenerate person, and belonged to the family of God, and was of the same household of faith: and this he said, not upon what he had received from Saul's own mouth, for he addressed him in this manner as soon as he came to him; but upon what the Lord had said concerning him; though it was indeed common with the Jewish doctors to salute one another with this name.

"When R. Jose ben Kisma was sick, R. Chanina ben Tradion went to visit him; he said unto him, Chanina, "my brother, my brother", &c. (o).''

So Shemaiah called Abtalion his brother (p). And in like manner R. Eleazar ben Azariah saluted R. Ishmael (q). And R. Joshua speaks of R. Tarphon in the same language (r):

the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest; that is, who appeared to Saul as he was in the way to Damascus; not that Jesus was in the way, for he was in heaven, and appeared from thence to Saul, who was in the way: and he mentions Jesus by name, and this appearance of his, partly to assure him of his mission from him; for otherwise he could have known nothing of his appearance to him; and partly to show the love of Christ to him, and though he had persecuted him in so violent a manner, he had a compassionate regard for him; as also to encourage and comfort him, who had been trembling, and astonished at what he had heard from Jesus. This same glorious person, adds he,

hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight; his bodily sight, which he had been without three days, by the imposition of hands:

and be filled with the Holy Ghost; with the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking with divers tongues, healing diseases, and the like; for as for the graces of the Spirit, and even Gospel light and knowledge, and gifts for preaching it, he had received these already.

(o) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 18. 1. Vid. fol. 27. 2.((p) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 35. 2.((q) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 11. 1.((r) Misn. Yadaim, c. 4. sect. 3.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into {i} 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.

(i) Into Judas' house.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 9:17-18. ʼΑδελφέ] here in the pregnant sense of the Christian brotherhood already begun.

The ʼΙησοῦςἤρχου, not to be considered as a parenthesis, and the καὶ πλησθ. πνεύμ. ἁγ. make it evident to the reader that the information and direction of the Lord, Acts 9:15, was fuller.

κ. πλησθ. πν. ἁγ.] which then followed at the baptism, Acts 9:18.

And immediately there fell from his eyes (not merely: it was to him as if there fell) as it were scales (comp. Tob 11:13). A scale-like substance had thus overspread the interior of his eyes, and this immediately fell away, so that he again saw—evidently a miraculous and sudden cure, which Eichhorn ought not to have represented as the disappearance of a passing cataract by natural means (fasting, joy, the cold hand of an old man!).

ἐνίσχυσεν] in the neuter sense: he became strong. See Aristot. Eth. Acts 10:9; 1Ma 7:25; 3Ma 2:32; Test. XII. Patr. p. 533; and examples in Kypke, II. p. 44, and from the LXX. in Schleusner, II. p. 367 f. Here of corporeal strengthening.Acts 9:17. ἐπιθεὶς ἐπʼ ἀ. τὰς χ.: not as bestowing the Holy Ghost (for see context), but as recovering from his blindness, cf. Mark 16:18. Σαούλ, see on Acts 9:4, perhaps too the word used by Jesus would reassure Saul.—ἀδελφέ: as a Christian brother, and not merely as a brother in nationality, Acts 2:29, Acts 22:1, Acts 28:17—for the word see further, Kennedy, p. 95, and see on Acts 1:15.—ὁ Κ.… Ἰησοῦς: the words must have further reassured Saul—the title by which he had himself addressed Jesus is more than justified.17. Brother Saul] The Hebrew form of the name, see Acts 9:4, note.

the Lord, even Jesus] Combining the name “Lord” used by Saul when the vision appeared, with that “Jesus” which Christ, speaking from His glory, uttered in answer to Saul’s enquiry, Who art thou?

that appeared unto thee in the way] Thus was brought to Saul after his three days’ blindness a confirmation from without of the reality of what he had seen on the road as he came. The words at the same time give an earnest that here was the teacher who would explain to him what he was to do.

and be filled with the Holy Ghost] On this occasion the Holy Ghost was bestowed without the laying on of the hands of one of the twelve.Acts 9:17. Ἀδελφὲ, brother) by the old Jewish tie of connection, and by the new tie of Christianity.—ἐπιθεὶς, having put on) before his actual baptism. Comp. ch. Acts 10:44-45 (The Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and all who heard Peter, and this before baptism).—εἶπε, said) Ananias does not relate to Saul all that had been said to him concerning Saul. It was not for Saul to know of how great consequence he already was (how highly he already was esteemed).Verse 17. - Departed for went his way, A.V.; laying for putting, A.V.; who appeared for that appeared, A.V.; which thou earnest for as, etc., A.V.; mayest for mightest, A.V. The laying on of hands is the medium of conveying any special grace. Here it precedes the baptism, and was the channel of restoring sight to his eyes. Doubtless he did not receive the Holy Ghost till after his baptism (see Acts 2:38.) Brother

In Christ.

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