Acts 9:1-19 (JB Phillips translation)

The crisis for Saul

9:1-2 – But Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and begged him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way, whether men or women, he could bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.

9:3-4 – But on his journey, as he neared Damascus, a light from Heaven suddenly blazed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

9:5 – “Who are you, Lord?” he asked.

9:6 – “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” was the reply. “But now stand up and go into the city and there you will be told what you must do.”

9:7-9 – His companions on the journey stood there speechless, for they had heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. There he remained sightless for three days, and during that time he had nothing either to eat or drink.

God’s preparation for the converted Saul

9:10 – Now in Damascus there was a disciple by the name of Ananias. The Lord spoke to this man in a dream. calling him by his name. “I am here, Lord,” he replied.

9:11-12 – Then the Lord said to him, “Get up and go down to the street called Straight, and enquire at the house of Judas for a man named Saul from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying and he sees in his mind’s eye a man by the name of Ananias coming into the house, and placing his hands upon him to restore his sight.”

9:13-14 – But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard on all hands about this man and how much harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem! Why even now he holds powers from the chief priests to arrest all who call upon your name.”

9:15-16 – But the Lord said to him, “Go on your way, for this man is my chosen instrument to bear my name before the Gentiles and their kings, as well as to the sons of Israel. Indeed, I myself will show him what he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

9:17 – Then Ananias set out and went to the house, and there he laid his hands upon Saul, and said, “Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me – Jesus who appeared to you on your journey here – so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

9:18-19a – Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got to his feet and was baptised. Then he took some food and regained his strength.

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4 responses

  1. I really think this one is important. Not just because it starts the whole Paul saga. But personally and aslo for the life of Quakerism.Here we have a strong biblical witness for faith being a relationship — not with the bible or with doctrine — but with a powerful and personal religious experience. And an experience of hearing God/Christ speak to us with the clarity of a close and trusted friend. The life of faith is here depicted as an encounter with a God who speaks to us, and we respond in obedience (or in catastrophe).The other issue is that hearing and responding is insufficient. We also need the confirmation (and understanding) that comes from meeting with others who also are living this life of hearing and responding.What do we do with this? I don’t know.

  2. When I read your comment, Kwak, I thought I was writing it myself. I guess we have a lot in common, most of all re the meaning of faith. Re Saul/Paul: the experience is the type of all similar encounters since then in the Christian tradition. And it’s an experience that a great many people have not had: precious few in fact anything like Paul’s. Struck blind? Well he had to unlearn the thing that seemed to be driving him up to that point: like a drunk who has a real experience; he damn well lays down the Bottle, which has been his God. Some of us have, or at least seem to have, less to lay down. Maybe the light is much like what we’ve been exposed to all our lives, but now in technicolor whereas it has previously been black and white, or in a reality that we formerly considered fantasy.Variations are innumerable, but it’s the same experience: we were following the broad path, and then had good reason to choose the narrow one.My broad path was sufficiently unpleasant that I had little difficulty turning away from it.Praise the Lord, Would that it might happen to everyone.Re Quakerism: yes, faith is a relationship, and not just for them, but for many other Christians of all denominations.Re the community of faith: yes, again, although it may take one of many diverse forms, even among Quakers.

  3. David said …Here we have a strong biblical witness for faith being a relationship — not with the bible or with doctrine — but with a powerful and personal religious experience…. I’d say the relationship was with a person (Jesus/God). For me, this example of religious experience brings up strong feelings in two directions. On the one hand, I’m skeptical of others’ religous experience, and wonder if they’ve just had a psychic meltdown (William James says Paul was epileptic :-).But on the other hand, I think there is nothing more profound on which to build faith than religious experience, and one that I had (which I constantly doubt) keeps me from giving up on religion when times are bad.

  4. I actually don’t usually talk about religious experience for just the reason Crystal mentioned. I usually say encounter (I like Martin Buber). There are other religious experiences — mystical ones. Where suddenly we feel one with all that is and all is right in the world. This doesn’t seem to be the pattern with biblical encounters with God. They tend to be visions of God’s awful majesty — his utter Otherness or they seem to be encounters with a God who teaches something. Paul’s experience here seems to be a little bit of both.

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