Saul who became Paul had just been through the Damascus road experience and his life had been turned on its head in an instant. The Lord Jesus appeared to him in a bright light and spoke to him showing how he was hurting himself by continuing to oppose The Lord.
Paul at this point in time had been led by the hand into Damascus for he had been blinded on the road when The Lord appeared to him. The Lord was preparing him in all of this. He had to stop and think and reassess his life to that point, recognising that it was all wrong and to be prepared for a new way.
And there wasn’t much he could do apart from pray and seek The Lord. He had just been made blind and could not go out and about. He could not continue on his path of terrorising the early church. He could not even work at his trade as a tent maker without his sight. All he could do was pray and seek The Lord to understand, “What next!” And in that we see The Lord left him for three days to ponder before coming to him in these scriptures to answer his questions.
There are people who appear in different part of the bible like cameo players in a film. They appear playing a significant and important role and then are never heard from again. As an example, look at the twelve apostles. There are a few of them whom we know the name of, but have no idea what they did or the work they carried out. And yet every one of them had an allotted share in the ministry and bearing testimony to the death and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ.
Ananias too is a man who appears just this once in the narrative of the bible and who was the instrument of The Lord to baptise, lay hands on and speak to Paul in Damascus. He truly fulfilled the word of The Lord where Jesus said in John 12:26,
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Ananias was a servant of The Lord raised and set apart to do this work for The Lord. He was the one who brought the insight of the truth of the new covenant to Paul at the beginning and set Paul on his journey…and then he disappeared from the narrative of the scriptures. We do not know what ever happened to Ananias but there is little doubt in my mind that he was indeed honoured and blessed by the Father for the service he did for The Lord.
We know that Ananias was a devout man, but even when The Lord spoke to him in a vision about Saul, he was a bit skeptical. Look at his words in verses 10-14.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
Ananias could not see how The Lord could take such an opposer and enemy to The Lord and reform him into a servant. Ananias questioned The Lord about this and maybe he was a little apprehensive about following the Lord’s instructions.
But fortunately it was The Lord in charge and He knew exactly what He was doing and the worth of Saul under the outer facade of cruelty and vengeance towards the people of the early church.
The Call of Paul
When Ananias questioned The Lord he received an answer that placated him sufficiently and he went to see Saul and do the work that was assigned him. Jesus said the following to Ananias.
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Saul was a chosen instrument of The Lord. The bible tells us in other places that many are called but few are chosen and here we see that Saul/Paul was chosen to do an amazing work. Ad it makes sense that he was chosen for he had an immense understanding of the Old Testament law and prophets being highly educated and far advanced of those his own age. It was this knowledge and insight into the law and the prophets that enabled him to interpret so much of the Old Testament in a way that explained the coming of the New Testament age.
But he wasn’t going to go through this easily. Saul/Paul was going to suffer…a lot! In the work he was about to commence for the sake of The Lord he was going to be spiritually and mentally ripped apart then rebuilt again as a new creation in Jesus Christ. As we see in verse 16 quoted above, The Lord was going to show Saul/Paul just how much he would suffer for the sake of Jesus name.
But he accepted these sufferings and for that we must truly praise The Lord for it is by the hand of Paul that much of the New Testament was written giving us the insights we have today into the new covenant.and we see in the final scriptures of this section the beginning of Saul/Paul’s journey which is also an example and model for the rest of Christians. He was prayed over to receive the Holy Spirit and he was baptised in the name of Jesus and that is how his walk with Christ began and how each of our walks with The Lord should also begin.
As for his sufferings, Paul recounts many of his physical hardships and gives a short list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 saying,
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one-I am talking like a madman-with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
What a list of sufferings he endured for the sake of knowing Jesus and also,for our sake. But there is even more. Most of these relate to the physical suffering he endured for our benefit. But consider for a moment the spiritual and mental anguish he must have gone through.
We know that he was deeply steeped in the traditions and teachings of Judaism. It was his life. And he opposed The Lord and the early church because he was so zealous for the traditions of The Lord.
And he had to throw all he had learned out!
The Lord said in Luke 5:37-39 a parable that aptly describes the situation Paul was in. He said,
37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”
This parable shows us the challenges of teaching an old dog new tricks. Paul was brought up and steeped in the Old Testament law. He was an old wine skin full of the old wine. But now he was about to be filled with the new wine of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the new covenant teachings and many of these run counter to all he had previously learned.
Consider this for a moment. The basis of the old covenant was law and keeping the statutes, traditions and precepts of the law and the Israelites were bound under the law and when they broke the law they had to offer sacrifices for sin to atone for their sins. But now they were being set free from the law and set free from sin and there was no sacrificing required since Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for all mankind if they would accept Him by faith.
The fundamental difference was the old covenant built on a basis of works and keeping the law compared to the new covenant built on a foundation of faith and grace from God.
When you look at the turnaround required to reject the old in place of the new you begin to understand why The Lord said that putting the new wine into the old wine skins would destroy the old wine skin. Many people brought up under the old covenant would not be able to accept the new teachings and to make the change would rip them apart spiritually.
And this was the situation Paul faced. He must have been pulled from pillar to post, torn apart piece by piece and rebuilt by The Lord. And it would not have been easy for him to tear down all his prior beliefs to rebuild a new path of approach to The Lord.
But as we see in this section of scripture, Paul was a chosen instrument of The Lord. And as The Lord said to Ananias, He would show Paul how much he would suffer for the sake of the kingdom…and he did. And we should thank The Lord that he did this work in and on Paul so that we would have all of this insight, understanding and knowledge to draw on as we walk with Jesus today.
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Signs Of The Close Of The Age
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