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220: Saul’s Conversion – Lesson 1 Part 4 Book 19

Through the Bible with Les Feldick

LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 19

SAUL’S CONVERSION

We are dealing with Saul’s conversion in Acts Chapter 9. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul writes this letter to the Galatians concerning his tremendous turn-around. He had been a zealous Jew, practicing Judaism (a man quite high in the religious hierarchy). Yet as a result of God’s Grace saving him on the road to Damascus, we are going to see him become the Apostle to the Gentiles. So turn to Galatians Chapter 1.

Other than Christ Himself, I think that Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul), and Moses were two of the greatest human beings that ever lived. Moses, of course, on the other side, and Paul on this side of the Cross. Here in Galatians Chapter 1, Paul has been explaining his past, and how God called him by His Grace, brought him from Damascus, and took him down into Arabia as we explained in our last program, probably to Mount Sinai. Now verse 18:

Galatians 1:18-20

“Then after three years (that’s where we get that he was in Arabia or Mt. Sinai for three years, and that’s a long time when you are alone. God was just pouring out all the things that now will come from the Apostle’s pen in these epistles, except for the prison epistles, which we feel are a further revelation, probably while he was in prison in Caesarea. Paul goes on to say) I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”

“But other of the apostles saw I none (in other words, he still doesn’t confer with the Twelve or the leaders of Judaism), save James the Lord’s brother.” We will see in Acts 15 that James has replaced Peter as moderator of the Twelve.

“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”

Now it’s rather interesting that throughout Paul’s Epistles he has to constantly defend his Apostleship. If Paul were alive today he would still have to be doing it. There are so many conservative Christians that won’t give Paul the time of day. They are so remiss in treating it that way. Let’s turn back to Romans Chapter 11. This is a verse again that has opened the eyes of so many people who have come into my classes. Most never knew that this verse was in their Bible, and yet it is so plain.

Romans 11:13

“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles (Paul doesn’t share his Apostleship with anyone else. When it came to going to the Gentiles, he was the Apostle. And he wasn’t one of the Twelve, because they went to the Nation of Israel, the Jew), I magnify mine office:” He is going to make the most of his office, and indeed he did. Alright, now with that as the back drop, flip back to the Book of Galatians. So Paul is defending his Apostleship and says, “I lie not.” Over and over he’s going to say, “I guarantee what I say unto you has come from the ascended Lord.” Now Galatians 1:21:

Galatians 1:21

“Afterwards (that three years of seminary training at Mount Sinai) I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;” That would be Antioch and Tarsus.

After he left Sinai, it seems that he went back to Damascus for a short time, but we want to pick him up primarily here in Jerusalem. He meets with Peter for two weeks and also meets James, the Lord’s half brother. Then he is taken up to Caesarea again because the Jews are out to kill him, and from Caesarea he goes to Cilicia, which is a river valley where his hometown of Tarsus is located. Now let’s pick it up. Verse 22:

Galatians 1:22-24

“And was unknown by face unto the churches (assemblies of Jewish believers) of Judaea which were in Christ:” Remember all believers are in Christ.

“But they had heard only, `That he which persecuted us in times past now preached the faith which once he destroyed.'” Of course that would be that Christ was Who He said He was. But Paul now in his new revelations, which he refers to over and over as the `mysteries,’ will reveal that not only was He The Christ, but He died for the sins of the world and He arose from the dead in power and is able to justify all them that believe.

“And they (even those Jewish believers came to the place where they) glorified God in me.”

Let’s look at Chapter 2. When we get to Acts Chapter 15 you will see that Acts 15 and Galatians 2 fit perfectly together. They both record the same event, and that is the council in Jerusalem (we will come to that in a future study). Look at verse 2 of Galatians 2:

Galatians 2:2

“And I went up (that is from Antioch to Jerusalem, and Antioch is where Paul is dealing with Gentiles and the believing Jews didn’t like it. So Paul is called on the carpet and the Lord instructs him to go) by revelation, and communicated (when you communicate something, you get things across, and that is what he is saying here, that he got some things across to those people at Jerusalem) unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles,”

Do you see what that says? There would be no need for language like that if he was preaching the same Gospel message that Peter did. But Paul is not preaching the same thing that Peter did. He’s enlarging on it. So that’s why he says, “That Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.” And if only people could see that even today. That’s where you see that great separation now from Peter and Paul. Now verse 5. We’ll take this in detail in a future lesson.

Galatians 2:5

“To whom (the leaders at Jerusalem, the Twelve) we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour (do you know what that means? When Paul was under subjection, what’s he talking about? They were still trying to refute everything that he would say. And they were telling him that he was wrong, and they were subjecting him to that kind of pressure. But he says that he didn’t give in. And why didn’t he give in?); that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Gentiles.

Do you know what Paul is really saying? That if these Jewish believers at Jerusalem would have succeeded in putting Paul down and stopping his ministry among the Gentiles (which was what they really wanted to do), what would have happened for our chances of Salvation? We would not have had any, and that is exactly what he is saying. He withstood all this pressure that the Gentiles might continue to receive this Gospel of Grace. So everyone of us ought to thank the Lord that the Apostle Paul was true to his commission of taking the Gospel to our Gentile forefathers as well as to us. Now let’s read on for a little bit.

Galatians 2:6

“But of these who seemed to be somewhat (the Twelve in particular, thought they were still in control of the situation, and they didn’t realize that their program was slipping through the cracks. God was now turning to the Gentiles and, in just a few years, Israel is going to lose the Temple, the priesthood, their city, and their nation, and are going to be dispersed into every nation on the earth. So the Twelve were not aware of that), (whatsoever they were it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:” When the Twelve started to add two and two they couldn’t add anything to what Paul knew. They never had near the revelations that he now has so that’s why he said, “In conference they added nothing to me:” And I love that next verse:

Galatians 2:7,8

“But contrariwise (on the other hand what could they do for them? Oh, he had so much to tell them that they had never heard of) when they saw (but it took awhile) that the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision (Jews) was unto Peter;” Do you see that? And they understood that these were two separate entities.

“(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same [that same God] was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)” God never changes.

Galatians 2:9

“And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars (Paul won’t let us forget that), perceived the grace that was given unto me (when they finally saw that, yes, God was doing something special through this Jew, Paul), they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship (they shook hands on the deal. And what did they agree on? This is so plain how can people miss it?); that we (Paul and Barnabas) should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they (Peter, James, and John) unto the circumcision (Jews).” See how plain that was, it was a gentlemen’s agreement that this is the way God intends, we are to stay with the Jew with the Gospel of the Kingdom, and you go to the Gentiles with the Gospel of Grace. Now verse 10: Paul says they only put one requirement on Barnabas and himself.

Galatians 2:10

“Only they would that we should remember the poor; they same which I also was forward to do.”

Now that brings up another point. Remember back in Acts Chapter 2 and 3, what did all those Jewish believers do with their material goods? They sold them and put the money in a common kitty. And remember I pointed out the reason they did that with such exuberance, was because they thought the Kingdom was just over the horizon, and who would need houses and land when the Kingdom would come in! There would be no poverty, poor, or need for personal wealth. Everybody would enjoy the wealth of the Kingdom so they did it gladly. But remember Israel didn’t respond to the message. The Kingdom didn’t come in, and what happened to their kitty? Theirs ran dry. Once you have relieved yourself of all your material wealth, and it’s gone, then it’s pretty hard to start over isn’t it? And it was back then. So they became poor. But God was gracious enough recognizing that those people had done it all under good intention, so He is going to take care of them for the rest of their physical lives with the offerings now from Paul’s converts among the Gentiles. Now come back to Acts Chapter 9 and we will study Galatians more in detail when we study Acts Chapter 15. But in the meantime you can read for yourself Acts Chapter 15 and Galatians Chapter 1 and 2. Just read them carefully and begin to compare and you will see they dovetail together so beautifully because they are the same event. Let’s begin with verse 26: So after that three years have gone by:

Acts 9:26-29

“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed (or intended) to join himself to the disciples (Jewish believers there in Jerusalem); but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles (the Twelve), and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians (remember these are not Gentiles. They were non-Palestine Jews): but they went about to slay him.”

They couldn’t stand anyone doing anything against Judaism. and so as you know there is nothing that stirs up murderous attitudes faster than religion. If they had opposition to Judaism, the best way to get rid of that opposition was to kill them, and that is what they attempted to do with Saul. Now verse 30:

Acts 9:30

“Which when the brethren knew (when Barnabas and some of the others found out what was planned for Saul by the unbelieving Jews) they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.”

He has come back from his three years at Sinai, and has stopped in Jerusalem for those two weeks with Peter. And now they send him up to Caesarea which was a seaport town. From there he went up to the area of his home city of Tarsus and began his ministry to the Jews and Gentiles. I think Paul always went first to the synagogue of the Jew, but then when they would reject his message, he would go to the Gentile. And it’s amazing, we are going to leave Saul for a little while, and go back to Peter in Acts Chapter 10, but when we pick Paul up again in Chapter 11, that’s when it gets interesting again. As soon as the church at Antioch is beginning to show signs of Gentile interest, then good old Barnabas, led Sovereignly by the Holy Spirit, will go up to Cilicia in the area of Tarsus, and he is going to look for Saul. Look for him, the Scriptures says, and that means he had a purpose. And when he had found him, what does he do? He brings him back to Antioch and that’s where Gentile Christianity begins to flower. And it was at Antioch the Scripture says that the believers were first called Christians. (Reference Acts 11:26) Never do you see The Bible call these Jewish believers in Jerusalem Christians. At least mine doesn’t and I don’t think your does. So Gentiles were the first to be called Christians. Verse 31:

Acts 9:31

“Then had the churches (assemblies of Jewish believers) rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria (because the chief persecutor was now a saved believer), and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” Now archaeology is supporting that. There were thousands of Jews who became adherents to the fact that Jesus was The Messiah. They embraced that, and of course they were under constant pressure from the Judaising Jews, but nevertheless we know a lot of Jews became believers, by believing that Jesus was indeed their Messiah, The Christ. Now in verse 32 we leave Paul, he’s had his seminary experience and is back home in Tarsus. And we pick up with Peter again.

Acts 9:32-38

“And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy and Peter said unto him `Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed,’ And he arose immediately (what are we back to? Peter is ministering to Jews and performing miracles). And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber (ready for burial).”

Acts 9:38-42

“And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, `Tabitha, arise,’ And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up (now that’s a miracle. She was dead! This was a carry-over from Christ’s earthly ministry). And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was know throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord (remember these are all Jews). And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. “

Now the Sovereign God is setting the stage for the next great event in the Book of Acts. And again it’s going to be so evident that God is not just looking at the near term, but also the long term. I always like to point out, this experience in the house of Cornelius doesn’t really have an impact on Christianity (that is, the Gospel going to the Gentiles), until we get to Acts Chapter 15. And that will be twelve years later. When Peter goes up to the house of Cornelius and witnesses the Salvation of that Gentile household, he goes back to Jerusalem, and there is no indication that now he’s had his eyes opened and he can go to Gentiles. But on the contrary, he forgets about it until twelve years later in Acts Chapter 15 when Paul is called on the carpet by the Jewish leadership (The twelve) for going to Gentiles. Finally, after a lot of disputing and arguing that Paul was wrong and that he was a heretic, we find old Peter coming to Paul’s defense. And what does Peter say?

Acts 15:7

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago (twelve years ago) God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.'” And that is what spared Paul’s ministry.