Acts 7-9

Faithful Servants

As the Church continued to grow there was a need for people to minister to the needs of the ever growing congregation. In Chapter 6 we read that seven men were appointed to serve. It was noted that one of them, Stephen, was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Soon he became a target of a group of men from the Synagogue of the Freemen. These men brought false charges against Stephen and in Chapter 7 we read his testimony before the high priest. Stephen gives a very short, yet concise, history of Israel and their rebellion, and for this he is stoned to death. In Chapter 8 we read that a man named Saul gave his approval to the martyrdom of Stephen. He also joins in with the persecution against the Church which he continues into the first part of Chapter 9.

As Saul makes his way to Damascus to root out anyone who is following the Way, (followers of Jesus), Saul is confronted by light that blinds him and a voice from Heaven accusing Saul of persecuting Him. It is the voice of Jesus. Jesus tells Saul to continue to the city and there he will be told what to do. Meanwhile, there is a disciple in Damascus that also has a vision. (Acts 2:17)

In that vision the Lord instructs him to meet with Saul and lay hands on him so he will receive back his sight. He tells the disciple, Ananias, that Saul has been praying and received a vision that Ananias would be coming. Ananias is concerned because he knows Saul has been an enemy of the Church and that he has authority from the high priest to have Ananias and other believers bound and imprisoned. When he expresses his fear to the Lord, the Lord tells him to go. God has a plan for Saul and Ananias has a part to do in that plan.

Do we know of people who think totally differently than we think that we want to avoid?  Ananias considered Saul the enemy and was afraid of him. The Lord told Ananias to go and pray for Saul and lay hands on him. The Lord did not tell Ananias to fix Saul. God will do that. Ananias was called to serve and he had to trust God by faith to serve. Ananias did not know what God had been doing in Saul’s life. What he knew about Saul was what he had heard from others. But God was convicting Saul, the enemy of the Church, of guilt in regard to sin in order to make him willing to become a new creation.

At some point in his past Ananias became a new creation as well. The old ways of dealing with an enemy had passed away and the new ways had come. His actions here show us that he was willing to obey, Matthew 5:44, by faith.

Saul received the Lord as savior and is baptized. The work God had for Ananias was completed and Saul finds those he once served are now his enemy and they are after him. In Chapter 13 his name will be  changed from Saul to Paul. The name Saul means “asked for.” Paul means “little. God made Saul into a new creation where the old values and ways were gone and new things were coming.

I hope this is the case with us. Saul had achieved much in the world. We can read his resume in Philippians 3. In the same chapter we can see the heart and attitude of a man that has truly humbled himself before God. As Saul grew in his walk with the Lord, the Lord became bigger and Saul became smaller in his own eyes.

Often it is our achievements that make us feel like we are a good person. It is easy to look at other people’s flaws and judge them as sinners all the while ignoring our own sins. Matthew 7:1-5

Pride is a real enemy to our growing in the Lord. It was pride that stumbled the religious rulers and led them to the point where they justified their actions that led Jesus to be crucified.   Paul realized that he was a sinner which he declares in 1 Timothy 1:12-17.  I pray that we have a healthy understanding of our sin. It was sin that drove Jesus to the cross where He experienced the wrath of God for sin, our sin. I have heard people talk about their “forgiven” sin in a way that they are really bragging about what they used to do in an attempt to impress others. This is pride and is a dangerous slippery slope in one’s walk with the Lord and their witness to others.

True believers are new creations. They are born again. Saul left the old group who influenced him behind and God brought new people alongside him to help him grow. As Ananias moved off the scene God brought Barnabas into Saul’s life. Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles who were afraid of him based on his reputation, but soon that is overcome and the Church is continuing to grow.

Years ago I heard a sermon titled, “Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting.”

How is your walk with the Lord?  Is it growing or rotting?

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

Pastor Dave