Through the Bible Day by Day
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
WINNING A PERSECUTOR
A year had passed since Act_8:3. “The Way” had become the accepted phrase for the infant Church and its presentation of the truth, Act_19:9; Act_22:4. It may refer to the course of life the Christians pursued, or to their method of getting right with God-not by the deeds of the Law, but by their faith in Christ, Rom_10:5-10. Compare with this narrative Act_26:13; Act_22:6. Saul’s companions saw the light and heard a noise, but did not see the Lord or distinguish what was said.
Mark how the Lord Jesus identifies Himself with His suffering ones. Their sufferings are His, Act_9:5. To hurt them is to hurt Him. The pricks are the ox-goad. The more the ox resists, the deeper the wound. Even from heaven the Master speaks in parables. Evidently for a long time-perhaps from the death of Stephen-the persecutor had been fighting against conviction. When God needs captains for His army, He not unseldom takes them from the ranks of the enemy. The foremost persecutor became the foremost leader of the Church. The conversion of Saul was due to the personal interposition of the living Christ. It was the pierced hand that arrested and apprehended him.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
How graciously God makes use of prepared souls as partners in the work of salvation! It would have been easy for the risen Lord to have Himself completed what He had begun; or He might have brought a Philip or an Apostle upon the scene. But instead of this He called a comparatively obscure man who was to give Saul the help and counsel he needed, Gal_4:19. See to it that you are of such a temper that Jesus may commission you to heal the wounds with which He brings His predestined servants to the ground. A little taper may be used to kindle a great light. Though not a great man Ananias was pre-eminently a good man, Act_22:12. He had his strong prepossessions, but laid them aside at the bidding of Christ. Take care not to entrench yourself too strongly in your prejudices. Be mobile to Christ’s touch, while you are strong against all others. What a comfort Act_9:15 must have been to Paul in after-days! Perhaps the sweetest part of these terms of his commission was unto Me. It was a noble act of faith for Ananias to call him brother. Yet if the Master accepted, the disciple could not refuse. Note that a new convert was bidden in those days to seek the pentecostal gift!
And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
WELCOMED AS A BROTHER
He who feeds on Scripture must wax strong. The new convert started at once to testify of the Savior. We have no right to keep to ourselves the great treasures that we have discovered, but must copy the lepers of 2Ki_7:9. He probably showed from a comparison between the predictions of the Old Testament and the facts of our Lord’s life, that the key exactly fitted the wards of the ancient lock, and so proved its genuineness.
Those many days in Act_9:23 probably include the three years spent in Arabia, Gal_1:17. It was as though Paul wanted time and solitude for quiet thought. We may suppose that he went to Sinai, and there amid the silences of the school where Moses had studied before him, he received of the Lord Jesus that which also he was commissioned to pass on to the Church. From Arabia, he returned to Damascus; then happened Act_9:24-25. Finally he came to Jerusalem, where he had the opportunity of comparing his teaching with that of the Apostles, Gal_1:18-24. A vision led him to leave Jerusalem, Act_22:17-21. While at Tarsus, he probably founded the churches in Cilicia, Act_15:23; Act_15:41.
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
STRENGTH AND LIFE THROUGH CHRIST
Peter was now free for a visit of apostolic inspection, of which the two incidents here preserved are the only record. Lydda was a village on the great plain, abutting on the seaboard. The effect of the miracle of healing wrought upon Æneas was profound. A general conversion of the agricultural population was the immediate result. They all turned to the Lord. The villagers had probably been prepared by the tidings of what had taken place, and a single spark sufficed to set the whole country in a blaze.
The little church at Joppa had sustained a serious loss in the death of one of its chief workers, a woman named Dorcas, Act_9:36-37. She is described as a certain disciple. She had learned of Jesus Christ the great lesson that the love of God implies ministry to others, and she gave herself to practice it by quiet, feminine handiwork, which she distributed among the desolate and friendless women of the town. Peter’s prayer in the chamber of death was answered, and Dorcas was given back to her friends. Our Lord put His seal upon her work, and she has been crowned as the patron saint of women workers.