God’s Word for You
Acts 9:13-16 Saints
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 29, 2020
13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, the great harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 Here he has authority from the high priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Ananias’ objection, if we can call it that, has been scrutinized by people ever since he said it. Is he guilty of the kind of back-talk or doubt that Zechariah committed in the Holy Place? Or Sarah and her laughter? I strongly object to such an attitude toward Ananias. He was not overstating the facts; he was stating what everyone—Jew, Christian, Roman, or otherwise—already knew. It sounded to Ananias that God was commanding him to go to the greatest enemy of Christianity in the world and submit himself for whatever action Saul had in mind.
Was Ananias misinformed about Saul’s mission? Later, Paul would state that the letters he obtained from the Sanhedrin empowered him to bring back those Christians who had fled there from Jerusalem, but not to gather up all the Christians who were already residents of Damascus. This is a detail from Acts 22:5. F.F. Bruce makes the point that Paul describes those Christians as τοὺς ἐκεῖσε ὄντας “those who went there” rather than τοὺς ἐκεῖ ὄντας “those who were there.” Many translations fail to make a distinction in that verse (NIV “these people,” RSV “those who were there”).
Whatever Ananias thought or was afraid of, he wondered why he should help this man who persecuted God’s people. But Jesus had said, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). And more than simply loving one’s enemy, Jesus had a very specific plan for this former enemy in particular.
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is my chosen instrument to bear my name before Gentiles and kings, and also the children of Israel. 16 I will even show him how many things he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Now the Lord’s plan for Saul is revealed. The Lord chose some men who were not believers for special tasks in his kingdom (such as Cyrus, chosen by God through Isaiah 120 years before his birth, Isaiah 41:2, 44:28, 45:1,13). But here he raises up Saul to be his instrument, not for a military task, but for the gospel ministry. This is not something God would do through an unbeliever, and at this point we must recognize that Saul had become a believer in Jesus already on the road, while stopped and struck down by Jesus. We will see this especially in verse 17. We don’t know when Saul heard the gospel from Jesus, but clearly it had already taken place.
Saul would be given a ministry among three groups: Gentiles (that is, ordinary Gentiles) and kings, and also among the Jews. His usual pattern would be to go the synagogues and then, if driven away by the Jews, he would go the Gentiles from town to town (for example, see Acts 13:46). Saul would even be given the special privilege of knowing what kinds of things (and “how many”) he would suffer for the kingdom. This would give him strength to stand up through them all, knowing that more opportunities for ministry lay on the other side of every single one of his particular sufferings, up until the last one. This is an attitude we can adopt for ourselves, even though we don’t know when our final suffering will come.
Notice that Ananias calls God’s Christian believers by two new names here: “your saints” (verse 13) and “all who call on your name” (verse 14). A saint or ‘holy one’ is another way of describing everyone who puts their faith in Christ. Gerhard: “The elect or saints [are those] who truly believe in Christ; the entire mystical body whose head is Christ” (Loci “De Eccl.” (The Church) §151).
“Those who call on your name” reflects the most ancient description of preachers in the Bible. Two hundred and thirty-five years after the creation of the world Adam’s son Seth became the father of Enosh. These men, Adam, Seth, and Enosh, began to “call on the name of the Lord,” that is, to proclaim God and faith in God to their families (Genesis 4:26). Certainly there were other men who did this, too, but these were the first preachers as the gospel began to go out into the world, for along with the curse on Adam and Eve came the unbelief and doubt of Cain’s line. The sons of God (believers) married with the daughters of men (unbelievers, Genesis 6:4), and not everyone knew or remembered the Lord anymore. So it is with the gospel in every generation. We keep on proclaiming our Lord and living our faith, so that our children will not become like the children of Cain. We want them to know their Savior Jesus. We want them to be saints, and to call on the name of the Lord.
Pastor Timothy Smith