God’s Word for You
Acts 22:6-13 Recounting the road to Damascus
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 13, 2021
6 “Now, this happened to me as I traveled and approached Damascus at about noon, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Paul begins to recount his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). He will do this again before Herod Agrippa and Festus the Roman governor in Acts 26:9-23. Although there are minor details that are included in one retelling and excluded in another, the three accounts are identical. What we want to remember as we read it here is the significance of this event for the Jews who opposed Christ and his church. Opposing Christ means opposing God. When any of God’s people suffers, Christ suffers. This is why he demanded from Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” What is done to the least of his servants is also done to Christ (Matthew 25:40). He is aware of all of these attacks and persecutions, even when someone God has chastised (for their good) is then set upon by others for evil. “Those whom you have wounded, they attack still more” (Psalm 69:26; cp. Obadiah 12; Job 31:29). This question by Christ near the gates of Damascus also shows that it is entirely possible that someone who outwardly seems to be righteous and holy can in fact be God’s enemy. As he told Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). By recounting this to the Jews of Jerusalem in public this way, Paul was warning them: I persecuted Christ once, and he condemned me for it. What will you say when he condemns you for persecuting his Apostle?
8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now, the men who were traveling with me saw the light but they did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.
When Daniel saw the angel on the banks of the Tigris, his companions couldn’t see or understand what was being said, but they were so struck with terror that they ran away and left him all alone (Daniel 10:7,8). When Christ appeared to Paul, his companions saw the light and heard the sound, but they could not make out what the voice was saying. They were Jews, versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, but without faith the word of God cannot be made out correctly or understood. Faith comes from hearing the message (Romans 10:17). When the gospel is preached, unbelief is either converted to faith, or else it hardens the heart still more. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart” (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 4:7). Praise God that his word, which is a hammer that smashes rocks to pieces (Jeremiah 23:29), has been raised and used on our own hearts! God cared enough about me to strike me, to pulverize my arrogant sinfulness, and then to offer the hand of forgiveness the way he offered his hand to the boy to help him up after he drove out the demon at the foot of the mountain (Mark 9:27). He crushes us with his law, but then he lifts us up with the gospel.
10 I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all the things that have been appointed for you to do.’ 11 Then my companions led me by the hand since I could not see because of the brilliance of that light, and I entered Damascus. 12 There was a certain man named Ananias, a devout man who lived according to the law and was highly respected by all the Jews who lived there. 13 He came to me, stood close by and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And from that moment I could see him.
Paul contracts the story quite a bit, but it’s all for the benefit of his listeners. They were utterly silent, letting his story unfold for them. This had all taken place twenty-five years before, but many of them had known Paul in the old days, and there were probably not very many people who hadn’t at least heard about him, the man who went overnight from being the greatest enemy of Christ to being the greatest champion for Christ. How had this taken place? Well, here was the account. Paul had been struck blind, and then his blindness was healed. And just as his physical blindness was lifted from him, so also his spiritual blindness was removed. He had gone to Damascus to put an end to the Christianity that was there, and instead it was his own unbelief that was done away with.
The miracle of being brought to faith from unbelief is known by different names in the Bible. It is called “conversion” (Acts 15:3), when “sinners will turn back to you (O God)” (Psalm 51:13). It is called “being made alive again” (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:4-5). It is also called “regeneration” or being born again, as when we were saved “through the washing of rebirth and renewal” (Titus 3:5), which is baptism. All of these are acts of God. All of these describe the way that God saves his people. God is active, man is passive; “God acts on behalf of man” (Isaiah 64:4). Our sins condemn us, but he is the potter and he fashions faith in us (Isaiah 64:8).
God saves, man is saved (Psalm 34:18).
God rescues, man is rescued (Daniel 6:27).
God chooses, man is chosen (James 1:18).
Christ rose from the dead; man will be raised (2 Corinthians 4:14).
Praise God for saving you, for rescuing you, for choosing you. One day, he will raise you even from the grave. His mercy endures forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith