Acts 9:1-19

Saul’s Baptism

Andy Little | 5.21.23


ACTS 9 – Saul’s Conversion & Baptism

I grew up in a medium size suburb, just east of Dallas, in a town called Mesquite.. Mesquite.TX… home of the Skeeters! Like most people, when I sit down and think about my childhood, when I reminisce, I have a mixed bag of memories. Some are very good. Some memories, however, are embarrassing. I’m not gonna get into those today. And others.. other memories are just downright traumatizing. Allow me to give you an example…

When I was in elementary school, my brother, and I, along with some neighborhood kids would ride our bikes to school in the morning. And let me tell you, it was a very scary journey every single day. We would pass by large, seemingly rabid and vicious dogs (like rotweillers, doberman pincers, pit bulls, and german shepherds), dogs so big that they could easily jump over their fence and end our lives in a second. We would also pass teenagers, ruffians, who were always up to no good and who loved terrorizing younger children like us. Those rats were just mean. And we would also pass by cantankerous old men that, if even a millimeter of your bike tire touched a single blade of their precious grass, they would just go off and lose their minds. It was a scary journey every single school day. And it was only made possible by two things. One, the fact that we were  in a group… we had strength in numbers. And, two, the fact that it was daylight… not half as scary as it would have been in the darkness of night.

I remember this particular time, when I was in third grade, and playing PeeWee football, that I would ride my back to school in the morning, as per usual, but instead of riding home after school, I would hang out at the rec center next door and wait until football practice began. My dad would then come up to practice after he got off of work, and then, after football practice, I would load my bike into the back of his truck and catch a ride home with pops.

This seemed like a good arrangement, until one fateful night when I forgot about my bike. That night, after football practice was over, I completely forgot about my bike and never loaded it into my dad’s truck. I didn’t realize I had forgotten about my bike until we were already home. This, as you can imagine, did not sit well with my father. He didn’t get upset too often, but this oversight and irresponsibility of mine, really irked him. After a long day of work, and then after watching peewee football practice, my dad was finally home, out of his work clothes, looking forward to enjoying a good dinner and some rest… and now he has to take me back up to the school to get my bike.

As we drove back up to the school, in silence, I might add, I could tell that he was coming up with a plan to properly teach me a lesson I would not soon forget. I feared the worse. And my fears were soon realized when we arrived at the school and my dad said, “Ok, son. Get out. Get your bike. And ride it home. This will teach you to be less forgetful, more responsible, and a better steward of your things.” I, of course, pleaded for my dad to let me ride home in the truck. The thought of making that journey home on my bike, by myself, and in the cloak of darkness, was terrifying. But my protest fell on def ears and within a minute or two, there I was, beginning my terrifying journey home, but this time, alone, and in the dark. It’s not hyperbole to say that I was trembling in fear. I was scared to death that night. But my dad remained resolute that I needed to be brave, face my fears, and learn my lessons.

Now, look, my dad was a good man. A good father. He loved us well. But there were times when he would, in love, ask us to do some very scary things.


Alright, lets get into the text today…

Last week we were originally scheduled to cover the first part of Acts chapter 9  which deals with the amazing Damascus road experience of Saul, also known as Paul, where Jesus miraculously and sensationally encountered Saul while on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians. But just as he neared the city of Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a phenomenally bright light which caused Saul to lose his sight. Let’s read the text…

Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 

Interstitial: Saul, a zealous Jew, wanted to literally kill of this movement. But Jesus had other plans

As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” {insert government name joke}

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul said.

“I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

So that’s the biblical text, the first part of Acts 9, that kinda leads in to our assigned text this morning, the second half of Saul’s conversion and baptism story, which we’ll read in just a moment.  And though we didn’t get to spend a lot of time last week discussing the first part of this chapter, and how Jesus encountered Saul in a such a spectacular way…  I don’t think we missed much. Here’s what I mean. Instead of reading about Saul, a man who lived 2000 years ago and his sensational conversion story way back when, what we were able to do last week is witness with our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, how Jesus spectacularly and sensationally encountered Imani… and called her to repentance… and saved her soul. We got to witness, first hand, how Jesus called out to Chris, in the midst of his pain and rebellion, and called him to repentance… and saved his soul … and Quinton… and I’kirra.. and all the rest.. We saw, in-person, live and in living color, the incredible love, and the amazing grace of God, revealed through Jesus Christ. And we were assured that what God did to Saul two thousand years ago, he is still doing today. We know that… without a doubt! We saw it…. Last week…. right here!

Ok, with that said, now let’s get to today’s text. Please follow along with me as I read Acts, chapter nine, verses 10 through 19.

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”

“Here I am, Lord,” he replied.

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision[a] he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Ok, so in verse 10 we are introduced to a gentleman named Ananias. Now, this is not the same Ananias we met back in chapter 5. Obviously, right? That Ananias, and his wife, Sapphira, met their demise after lying to Peter, the early church, and the Holy Spirit. So this is a different Ananias.

What do we know about this Ananias? Well. we know he was an early Christian follower of the Way. He was a faithful disciple of Jesus.  Later, in Acts 22, as Saul recounts the events that we are discussing this morning, we also learn that Ananias was a devout man – he was devout – he was a devoted follow of Jesus – and that he had earned the respect of, and enjoyed a good reputation among, the Jewish people.

And as the rest of today’s story unfolds, we also learn that this Ananias was a courageous man. Why do I say that? Consider what God was asking him to do…

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision[a] he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”

Consider what God was asking Ananias to do! God asked Ananias to go into a stranger’s home and confront the biggest threat to Ananias’, the biggest threat to Ananias’ family, the biggest threat to the church (locally and at-large), the leader of the opposition, the man with government backed authority to arrest and kill Christians… And a man who did so with a smile on his face… God wanted Ananias to walk his happy self right up into this guys face and put his hands on him (not those kind of hands). He wasn’t going to fight him, but, rather, pray with this man.

And, Ananias, rightfully so, had some concerns, and he shared his concerns with Lord. 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And how he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

He was concerned. And once he shared those concerns with the Lord, the Lord said, “You know what, Ananias.. you’re right. I hadn’t even thought about that. My bad. Disregard what I said. Abort the mission. Don’t go see Saul. It’s too dangerous. Just forget I said anything.”

Nope. That’s not what he said. What did the Lord say? But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

The Lord just said “GO!”. What I find interesting is that the Lord doesn’t go back and forth with Ananias here, nor does the Lord make any promises to Ananias that he would be “safe” and “protected”. He just says “go”. Go! For this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to the entire world. Just, go! Do it.

So without any assurances from the Lord that he would be unharmed, Ananias does  as The Lord had commanded him. He went to the house where Saul was staying and walked right up into the living room and placed his hands on Saul.  Then Ananias said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

After Ananias said these words to Saul he immediately regained his sight. Before, while Saul was blinded, Ananias likely found him to be less intimidating. But now… now Saul’s health and vision was restored. What was he going to do? Is he going to be humbled by the Lord and the compassionate work of the Lord’s servant, Ananias? Or is he going to immediately return to form as the chief persecutor of all things Christian, perhaps starting with the man who just prayed for him and restored his sight?

This was a delicate moment that could’ve gone either way. I imagine Ananias felt a sense of relief when Saul decided the first thing he wanted to do………….. was to get baptized.

To finish out today’s text, it says that Saul regained his site, then got baptized, and then ate because he was starving… he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in three days.  I find this order of events a little humorous. If it were me, I might have been like, I’ll get baptized, but not on an empty stomach. Hold on a sec while I get Uber Eats to bring us some tacos. But Saul was so eager to be baptized that he did so right away.

So that’s our text for today… the incredible story of the events surrounding the baptism of Saul. Saul’s eyes are healed, his vision is restored, and he is told by God that he would be used to make the name of Jesus famous throughout the world and among all classes of people. He was also told that, in doing so, he was going to suffer mightily. Both of those things were true. Saul would go on to become the Apostle Paul, write several books of the Bible, spread the Gospel near and far to Jews, Gentiles, and royal families, and… and… he would also suffer, as The Lord said he would.  He would suffer beatings, stonings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, snake bites, and ultimately a martyrs death by beheading.


In this story, Saul and Ananias have a couple of things in common. One of the similar experiences they share is they both encountered Jesus in a supernatural way… in a vision. They both received supernatural revelation from the Lord.

I want to talk for just a little bit about this concept of God revealing himself in supernatural ways, be it by a bright light, a manifestation of Jesus, an audible voice from heaven, or by the Holy Spirit moving and leading in undeniable ways.

We see this happening throughout Scripture, but do see it happening today? Does God still choose to reveal his will in supernatural ways… even today?

In a word, yes. Yes He does. God can and will choose to reveal Himself and his will through similar means even today! But… but it’s likely that many reports of such a revelation are embellished, at best, and made up, at worst.

I gotta be honest… I get a little iffy when I hear someone say they received a direct word from the Lord, whether by a vision, an audible voice, or some type of sign, or an impression of the Holy Spirit. If you come up and tell me, Andy, the Lord has given me this vision…. or the Lord has given me this Word,… I just get – I’m just being honest with you – a little skeptical. Not that I doubt God’s willingness and ability to communicate to us through supernatural means. I don’t doubt God at all. I know he communicated in such ways all throughout scripture. I know he is still a God of miracles and all power, and still chooses, at times, to communicate to His people in miraculous, supernatural ways. I know that and believe it with all my heart.

But its not God that I’m doubting. With all due respect… It’s you. And, to be fair, its me, too. Its the hearer… or the seer… the recipient of this so-called message from the Lord.  That’s who I doubt.

You might ask… Andy why are you so cynical? Who hurt you? Unfortunately, I have witnessed, on numerous occasions, people use what they called a word from the Lord as justification to do things that are so very obviously not of the Lord. Sometimes bad things. Or sometimes silly things. Or unwise things. Or neutral things. Not good nor bad, just, not a word from the Lord.

It comes in many forms. They’ll save I have a “peace from the Lord”. Or “god told me” to do this or say that. Or “god gave me this vision”. Or “god is calling me to dot dot dot”… And sometimes that dot dot dot is just plain crazy.

I remember one time, back in my youth pastor days, when we were at youth camp with about 80 teenagers. And every night we would hold a chapel service, and every chapel service would end with an altar call to respond.  And every night several teenagers would respond to God in a variety of ways. Some would choose to follow Christ as King, Lord and Savior. Some would feel as though God was calling them into ministry. In fact, it was at that same camp when I was a teenager that I felt such a calling to the ministry. Others felt called to do foreign mission work, or evangelism, and so on. But there was this one time when this young man in my youth group, his name was Philip, came to me at the altar call, at the end of the service, and, with tears in his eyes, and, serious as a heart attack, and said… “Pastor Andy, I just feel so strongly right now that God is calling me to be a Christian rock star. And… and… I think I’m ready to surrender to that”. Ah, we were so proud of Philip that night, being so willing to lay down his future plans so that he could endure the pain of fame, and fortune, and power, and the constant admiration of the opposite sex. What a willing servant he was… to be willing to surrender to such a calling.

And I know that this may seem like absurd, or extreme example. But it happens in less extreme ways all of the time.

There was a time, at my last church, just before I moved, that a deacon called me and told me “Andy, God revealed to me that you are to take on the lawn care ministry of the church and mow the lawn and tend to the landscaping every Saturday”. I was like, that’s weird, he didn’t tell me that. Did God also tell you that I’m moving an hour and a half away from here, this week, in fact?

Look, this deacon seemed to be a good man. And I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe his intentions were good. I don’t want to believe that he would claim an inspiration of God to manipulate a parishioner into taking on a burden he himself was unwilling to take on. Perhaps he meant well. But, who taught him that? Who taught Him to claim that God has co-signed his own will?

It also happens with pastors. I’m so thankful for the pastoral leadership here at Omni, and that we have a plurality of elders made up of good, godly, Spirit-filled men like Pastor Valentine, Pastor Lot, Pastor Conrad, and our advisory elder Dave Hanson. I grew up in what they call a single elder system, or lone-wolf, one pastor, kind of situation, and it led to a lot of problems. These lone elder pastors would often use such language to bulldoze an agenda through the church. And if they experienced any kind of resistance at all, all he had to do was utter the magical incantation “I believe God told me to do” and the pushback or resistance would be defeated. It was like having ultimate veto power… just say the magic words.

I’ve seen, first hand, thousands of people be manipulated, coerced, and even exploited, by leaders claiming a highly subjective, and questionable,  “vision from God”.

So what, Andy, are we supposed to do about it? Not believe in visions and words from the Lord? Nope, thats not what I’m saying at all. As I said before, God, still chooses to manifest himself in miraculous ways to communicate his Special will. I know that still happens. I’ve seen it.

But I do believe anyone who makes such a claim should be tested, vetted, weighed against scriptures, and affirmed through much prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Another good litmus test, at least for me, is to consider what is the ultimate motive, or end result, or desired outcome of this vision or word you are claiming? For me, if  your “vision” is self-promoting, self-aggrandizing, or self-exalting in any way – be it financially, socially, professionally – then it is my inclination to presume it’s not the Lord that you saw or heard. It might’ve been gas. It might’ve been impulse or emotions. It might’ve been schizophrenia. It might’ve been a comforting, demonic spirit. It might’ve been your own deceitful heart. Who knows?

So what does this have to do with today’s text?

Well, while studying and preparing for today’s sermon, and pouring over this text that  we’ve ready today, I noticed that both of the men we talked, both Ananias & Saul, had visions where they heard a direct word from the Lord. And you’ll notice that in both cases, the Lord was calling them to do some very scary things, with no assurances of their safety. In fact, in Saul’s case, he was assured that he would suffer mightily.

Now… I’m sure Ananias was relieved to discover that Saul truly had a conversion experience and that Saul was receptive to his prayer and the laying on of his hands. And so, ultimately, he wasn’t harmed. But it still took a tremendous amount of faith and courage to obey the direct Word from the Lord that made no promises of safety, only a direct call to be obedient in performing a very dangerous act. Right? Do you see what I’m saying? This vision wasn’t about Ananias’ glory, or about Ananias’ blessings, or Ananias’ fame, or Ananias’ bank account. It was about simple obedience and fidelity to God’s calling even when it seems very, very scary.

And then there’s Saul. My goodness. Again, God revealed  to Saul through these visions that he is going to suffer greatly. And suffer, he did. He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, bitten, bankrupted, and ultimately killed. And the Lord told him it would be so. But it didn’t deter Saul at all. As soon as his site was restored he got baptized, even before he ate!

The courage that these two displayed, and the willingness to face frightening challenges, for the will and glory of Jesus’ name, not their own, is inspiring, to say the least. How does one muster up this type of courage? I believe it comes from a deep, abiding, faith in, and trust in, a God that is good and loves us. And from a firmly held conviction that though he doesn’t promise to always rescue us, he does promise to never leave us, nor forsake us, even while we suffer. And that, perhaps, is the greatest promise ever. Though he may not always rescue us from danger, he performs an ultimate rescue, that transcends time and space, that transcends life and death… he ultimately rescues us from ourselves. From our self-righteousness. From our self preservation. From our obsession with earthly things. And that is the greatest rescue of all.

Earlier I told you a story about my dad making me ride my bike home. In closing, I want to quickly tell you the rest of that story.

As I continued on my frightful journey home that night, and as I was about halfway home, I encountered a doberman pincer that had escaped its fence. This was my worst nightmare. It was dark, I was alone, scared to death, and unsure what to do as this demon dog made his way towards my bike. But then, right about the time that I thought my life was ending… a bright light flooded the area and stopped the dog in its tracks. This wasn’t the glow of a brilliant manifestation of Jesus. Rather, it was the bright glow of my father’s headlights. Unbeknownst to me, my father had been tailing me the whole way home. He turned on the lights, got out of the truck, and shooed away the stupid dog. I had a realization, immediately, that night, even as a 9-year-old boy, that though my dad had commanded me to do a very frightening thing, that he never left me alone take on this challenge by myself. He had been secretly tailing me the whole way home. He had been with me the entire time, though I had no idea.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a cheesy youth pastor illustration, though I was once a very cheesy youth pastor, but I think our heavenly father does this same thing often. God will call us to take on scary challenges. Won’t He? And though He makes no promises of safety, he promises that He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

It’s all for our good and His glory.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

C.S. Lewis,The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe