A New Direction

MEMORY SELECTION: “Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.” —Acts 9:22


SAUL of Tarsus was an active opponent of the Lord’s people during the early years of the Christian Church. His persecution was carried out with full authority of the Sanhedrin, and Saul earnestly consented to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Our lesson finds Saul approaching the high priest to obtain orders for the removal of Christians from Damascus to Jerusalem, where they could be tried before the Sanhedrin rather than in their local synagogues. “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”—Acts 9:1,2

Although Saul was earnest in his endeavors to persecute the followers of Christ, he was, nevertheless, lacking a correct knowledge of the truth concerning the Messiah. God was abundantly able to read Saul’s heart and knew all along that he acted in ignorance and would in due time come to appreciate the way in which he should go.

This revealment came about on the way to Damascus. “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. … Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”—vss. 3-6

Saul had believed that he was doing service to God by persecuting those who were followers of Jesus. He reasoned, no doubt, that these Jews were falling away from their allegiance to religious authority and the established rule of Israel. And until the moment that our Lord revealed himself and said “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul did not realize that he had indeed rejected the true Messiah.

Saul was sincere, however, and promptly sought to obey the commandments of God. In this connection we should note that he was not converted in the sense of his heart condition but was simply shown the acceptable way to serve the Lord. His heart was already right with God, but he was blinded by ignorance and superstition. In his experiences we are deeply impressed by the love and mercy of God as manifested to this sincere, yet deluded servant.

Having been humbled by the mighty hand of God, Saul of Tarsus entered Damascus very differently than he had planned to—being totally blind and led by the hand. “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. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.”—vss. 10,11

Ananias was fearful of what he knew about Saul and the persecution that had come to the church by his hand. He also was aware that Saul had come to Damascus with authority by the chief priest to take the followers of Jesus back to Jerusalem to stand trial. But God was ready to use his servant Ananias to further bless Saul and said (vss. 15,16): “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Comforted with that assurance Ananias found Saul, “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 [Holy Spirit]. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”—vss. 17,18

Saul’s name was later changed to Paul, and he became the great Apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, whose writings have given illumination to the followers of Christ throughout the Gospel Age.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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