The First Reading for this Sunday, May 5, 2019, is from the Acts of the Apostles. The text is Acts 9:1-22 and continues the lessons selected from the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season. This is a very familiar account, generally referred to as the “Conversion of Paul” by most commentaries and Bible translations. I am going to give this a little “spin” at the end of the text notes as I provide some sermon ideas.
The context of the text is interesting to note. “The Way” referred to in the second verse is one of the designations for those Jews who are following after Jesus. The title may have come from Jesus’ own words in John 14: “I am the way…” Saul, who has studied under the best of the Jewish Rabbis, is very zealous and has received permission to travel to Damascus (@150 miles) to search out these followers and capture them and return them to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Sanhedrin. The Romans have given authority to the Sanhedrin over Jews outside of Palestine, and so Saul has permission and apparently written commendations to the various synagogues in the Damascus area. Damascus in home to a rather large Jewish population and therefore provides a good hiding place for those persecuted Jews believing in Jesus. They could blend right in, however, there is strong indication that they are quite vocal about their faith.
There are a couple of motifs to make note of in this text. The first is “3 days”. Saul was blind for three days and then the scales fell from his eyes and he is baptized. It is hard not to see (no pun intended) the connection of blindness with spiritual blindness and death and baptism with the eyes of faith and new life. Although the text does not specifically say so, it would seem that the baptism of Saul is where he begins to be known by his new name “Paul”. We first see the reference in 13:9 where it tells us that he was known by both names now. His new name would remind him of his new, baptismal identity. This happens frequently in the OT where name changes point to the connection to the covenant and the identity as the chosen people of God (Abram—Abraham; Sarai—Sara; Jacob—Israel; etc.)
Obviously, the LORD God had great plans for Saul, now Paul. Who could be/would be better to be a witness and apologist than one who was previously trained in the opposite camp? Paul’s training in the wilderness qualifies him to be an Apostle, an eyewitness of the risen Christ, and the LORD uses him greatly!
9:1 ἐμπνέων Present, participle: “to breathe in; to inhale” The idea is that which is breathe in is also breathe out.
προσελθὼν from: προσέρχομαι Aorist, participle: “to come to”
9:2 ᾐτήσατο from: αἰτέω Aorist, middle: “to request; ask”
εὕρῃ from: εὑρίσκω Aorist, subjunctive: “to find; discover; to uncover”
δεδεμένους from: δέω Perfect, passive, participle: “to bind”
ἀγάγῃ from: ἄγω Aorist, subjunctive: “to lead”
9:3 ἐξαίφνης ”suddenly”
περιήστραψεν from: περιαστράπτω Aorist: “to flash about; flash around”
9:4 πεσὼν from: πίπτω Aorist, participle: “to fall”
9:6 ἀνάστηθι from: ἀνίστημι Aorist, passive, imperative: “to arise”
9:7 συνοδεύοντες from: συνοδεύω Present, participle: “(with dative) to travel with
someone; to accompany”
εἱστήκεισαν from: ἵστημι Pluperfect: “to stand”
θεωροῦντες. from: θεωρέω Present, participle: “to see”
9:8 ἀνεῳγμένων from: ἀνοίγω Perfect, passive, participle: “to open”
χειραγωγοῦντες from: χειραγωγέω Present, participle: “to lead; lead by the hand”
9:10 ὁράματι “vision”
9:11 ῥύμην “street”
ζήτησον from: ζητέω Aorist, imperative: “to seek”
9:12 ἐπιθέντα from: ἐπιτίθημι Aorist, participle: “to put/place upon”
ἀναβλέψῃ. from: ἀναβλέπω Aorist, subjunctive: “to see again; to regain sight”
9:13 ἀπεκρίθη from: ἀποκρίνομαι Aorist, passive: “to answer”
9:14 δῆσαι from: δέω Aorist, infinitive: “to bind”
ἐπικαλουμένους from: ἐπικαλέομαι Present, middle, participle: “to call upon”
9:15 σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς “vessel of choice; chosen instrument”
βαστάσαι Aorist, infinitive: “to carry”
9:16 ὑποδείξω from: ὑποδείκνυμι Future: “to show”
παθεῖν. from: πάσχω Aorist, infinitive: “to suffer”
9:17 ἀπέσταλκέν from: ἀποστέλλω Perfect: “to send; to send as a representative”
ὀφθείς from: ὁράω Aorist, passive, participle: “to see”
πλησθῇς from: πιμπλημι Aorist, passive, subjunctive: “to fill”
9:18 ἀπέπεσαν from: ἀποπίπτω Aorist: “to fall off”
ἐβαπτίσθη, from: βαπτίζω Aorist, passive: “to baptize”
9:20 ἐκήρυσσεν Imperfect: “to preach; he began to preach”
9:21 ἐξίσταντο from: ἐξίστημι Aorist, middle: “to be amazed”
ἐληλύθει from: ἔρχομαι Pluperfect: “to come”
9:22 ἐνεδυναμοῦτο from: ἐνδυναμόω Imperfect, passive: “to fill with power; to receive power” This power is spiritual in nature.
κατοικοῦντας from: κατοικέω Present, participle: “to prove; putting together”
This text coincides with the Rite of Confirmation in our congregation this year. Therefore, instead of the conversion of Paul, the title of the sermon will be, “The Confirmation of St. Paul.”
A. Paul’s confirmation process
B. Our confirmation process
II. What Does This Mean?
A. Paul’s confirmation prepared him.
B. Our confirmation process also prepares
III. What have we learned?
A. Paul learned that Christ is indeed the LORD!
B. We have learned of Christ’s love and commitment to us—He is our LORD
Intro: There once was a man named Saul. He was a very good Jew. In fact, for his age, he was far advanced in his studies and learning. It looked as if he would be confirmed early and perhaps become a teacher. Not only was he a good student, he was also very involved in the temple. He went around and tried to destroy those who were considered enemies of the temple. The LORD saw all of this and He knew that Saul was not receiving the proper instruction. He knew that Saul did not realize and understand the truth—did not recognize Jesus as his LORD and Savior. God decided to change, to improve Saul’s instruction. It was time to start confirmation class all over.
Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians in that city when a bright light flashed down upon him and the LORD spoke to him. Saul asked for identification and was told it was Jesus, the One in whom he did not believe, the One he was persecuting, the One whose name he was trying to stamp out. Jesus told him to go to a certain place in Damascus and wait for a man named Ananias who would continue Saul’s instruction. Now, Saul was blinded by the Light and stayed that way for three days until Ananias showed up and began to teach him. Then, the scales fell from his eyes and he could physically see again, but far more important, he could see spiritually because he was baptized by Ananias…but his confirmation instruction was just beginning.
Saul was given a new name—Paul. Then Paul went off into the wilderness and, according to the Letter to the Galatians, Paul was taught by Jesus for three years. That may not sound like much but this was three years solid. No other students, no vacations, no summer off, all day, every day…and we complain about a little memory work! After three years Paul was ready—ready to be a true Apostle, ready to preach God’s Word, ready to teach God’s grace, ready to reach God’s world.
Think for a moment of the confirmation process our young people have completed. You may also want to reflect on your own confirmation as well. This may be a problem because other than how far we had to walk to school when we were kids and how deep the snow was, what we went through in confirmation is the one area in the church where our memories really kick in. “We had to memorize the Small Catechism, the Augsburg Confession and 493 Bible verses!” “Our confirmation teacher was so strict that if he heard you breathing you had to memorize the Athanasian Creed.” Oh, we all have “fond” memories of confirmation…
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 9:1-22.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 9:1-20.