Saul, Killer of Christians, is Conquered by the Risen Jesus

Dallas Willard Part 6 of 10

A study of the book of Acts for a Sunday School class at the church where Dallas Willard and Richard Foster met. Expositions of Acts 9:1-31; 22:1-21; 26:1-23.


Dallas:  And not only so, but we glory in tribulation. We glory in tribulation. Now, notice that this is staged on the way and not everyone glories in tribulation.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Well, I think it means that but I would like to believe also Fran, that you kind of come to the point where we have learned our lesson where we can be a little . . . ????  He gives the reason why we glory, see? We glory in tribulation knowing that tribulation worketh patience. We know that tribulation is not just wasted time. It is not just endless, pointless suffering and patience worketh—I don’t know how you’d have said this in the past but it’s difficult to get it over to people today, especially the old English, “patience worketh experience.” Well, what does that mean?

Well, that means that an experienced person is a tried person.  He is a person who knows what’s happening. Like you want an experienced man working on your jeep or whatever else. You want a man who has got experience—the main thing about experience is you have a set of trained habits. You have a set of trained habits that will carry you right along and deal with whatever comes up and you won’t forever be facing this and say, “Oh, ahhh, this and ahhh, that; here’s a crisis and and there’s a crisis” and screaming about this, that and the other. [1:55]

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Now, what experience does—it works hope. It makes us hopeful—full of hope and the hope does not make ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us. See, that’s the ultimate point. We are not ashamed because God is glorified and his love’s in us and we know where it’s all going and we have it in our hearts. You might put that alongside that other parallel passage. I don’t want to dwell on it longer because we can get into something else that we want to study. [2:54] Silence and Starts again at [4:00] on the tape I have.

Dallas: Today I’d like to give my time to a study of the conversion and commissioning of Saul and this is mainly in your Acts 9:1-31. I have asked you also to read Chapters 22:1-21 and 26:1-23 but I am going to direct most of my comments this morning to the first rung of the play, as it were in Chapter 9 where there is recorded the incidents—the others are speeches by Paul. The others are attempts by Paul himself to give a statement of how he came to be what he was. [01:01]

“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughters against the disciples of the Lord . . .” Saul had been enraged against the church. He had stood by the clothes of those who had killed Stephen and he had instituted a general persecution, which had scattered the people throughout the land.

Now you remember, last time we saw the verse in the 8th chapter (of Acts) where it speaks of the disciples going everywhere preaching. Everywhere they went, they preached the Good News. Well, now, Saul—this is a counterpart. Saul’s action is the counterpart of that because he saw them going everywhere and he took off after them and he spread his persecution that he was heading around Jerusalem and got it out into the land where it was taking up the people in the synagogues all over the countryside. [2:04]

Now, he goes to the Sanhedrin and gets a letter to Damascus to the synagogue—that’s the second verse—“. . .desired of him letters.” He went to the high priest—“. . . desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues . . .” Damascus was one of the most prosperous places of jewelry in that place—north and east of Jerusalem.

When you got a letter to go like this like Paul desired, you also took with you some of the temple policeman and you took an armed body of people with you and you went into the synagogues back in Damascus or elsewhere and you found out now which brothers and sisters here had been taken with this heresy. “Well, Brother Joseph over here and sister Elizabeth and so on—they’ve all fallen in with this.” Well, then you had the force there to grab these people to take them back to Jerusalem, do anything you wish to them and the political power would concede to this because the Jewish nation was an extremely powerful political entity in those parts.

It was something that had to be dealt with so they would concede to this so Paul says in the words he says in the second verse, “. . . if he found any of this way . . .”—the way—“. . . . whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”  “And as he journeyed . . .”—you can just see Paul walking along. He wouldn’t be walking with the guards. He was a strict Pharisee and probably he was walking at some distance from them “ . . .and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to earth…..” (Acts 9:4) [4:10]

Just as on the day of Pentecost and at other times, there was here a physical manifestation of God’s presence—something that was manifested to senses. Now, I think it is important to the subsequent Gospel, which he preached to see whether or not just exactly what did happen. I think some people had the impression that Paul had a vision of Jesus in human form. That is perhaps something like the disciples giving attributes of him risen from the dead but there is no indication of that.  [4:55]

So far as I can tell, all you find is that there was a bright light—a very bright light, and in this bright light, it was so bright it dazzled Paul and apparently dazzled others who were with him. A bright light came from Heaven, “And he fell to earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” That was very like Jesus’ ministry, wasn’t it? He was always coming at people with questions. He seldom came at them with some big pronouncement. Why are you persecuting me, Saul? Why would you persecute Stephen? Why would you persecute these people? Are they bad people, Saul? Saul, why are you doing this? Was I a bad person, Saul? Was I evil? That’s what the question is about. Saul, what reason do you have for persecuting me? [6:09]

Notice the next verse. Saul at first is not clear what’s happened and when he says, “Who art Thou, Lord?” it gives, I think a mistaken indication that he knew who this was at this point and some of the versions say, “Sir, who art you?” Or you know, you can sort of see he is impressed. He is impressed with this whole event and he’s reverential towards what’s coming at him but he’s not sure about who it is.

And, you know, I have a theory which I don’t know—it will be interesting to see—I have a theory that Paul as a Pharisee—he did a lot of arguing with the Sadducees about the spirits and the resurrection and all of that but there are passages where his comments lead me to think that he had had some considerable words about this business of spirits and resurrection and all of that himself and he is not sure what is happening here. He is being lead into a realm that he doesn’t understand except in the head.  He’s got it in the head. He’s just a Pharisee and Pharisees believe such and such just like all these Quakers believe such and such or whatever. [7:17]

When he comes to your visceral level, it might get a little queasy and that’s what happened to Paul —Eee! Eee! Who is this? And Jesus says, or this voice says, “I am Jesus.” He didn’t say, “I am the Messiah. I am the Son of God.” “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Now, this next word, he reads Saul’s mind. He put that question to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes me?” He’s right on Saul’s button. Because of all this unease in him about why in the world he’s doing this. Why should he kill Stephen? What did Stephen do? Why should he go take these innocent meek people and drag them around and beat them up and kill some of them and ruin their lives? “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Goad.  Now a goad or a prick is an instrument for fitting an animal for using as a draft animal to pull something or move along. An animal that is peculiarly stubborn or stupid will kick that goad. And you know what happens when he kicks it? It doesn’t hurt the goad. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And Paul trembling and astonished . . .” [9:05]

You know what the woman at the well said when she went back in? “I’ve met a man who told me everything I’ve done”—the discernment of the spirit is one of the sure marks in the New Testament teachings. The discernment of the spirit is one of the sure marks. It’s one. It’s not a sufficient one but it’s one of them and if you are going to be with people, you have to have a meeting of the minds and when Saul comes together with the Lord here and he trembles—“ . . .trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” And he was told what to do,“. . .Arise, go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” (Acts 9:6) Saul obeyed. The invisible, risen Lord spoke to his heart and Saul obeyed.

Now what did Saul do? He went to the street called Straight. It is, perhaps one of the main, if not the main thoroughfare in Damascus—a very wide street that had booths and businesses along both sides, and in such a setting you are bound to find good Jewish people working. [10:31]

Now notice, Paul did not go to a Christian, Jewish household. He couldn’t possibly have gone there. They all knew why he was coming. He didn’t have any connections with them but he went undoubtedly to some friend or acquaintance of his in Damascus, there on the street called Straight and he fasted and he prayed. He fasted and he prayed. “And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” [11:23]

Can you fast? Fasting is a dangerous topic, just like a lot of other things like prophesy and unknown tongues and various other things are dangerous topics. They are dangerous in two ways.  They are dangerous if you get close to them and they are also dangerous if you stay away from them. They’re difficult to live with and they’re difficult to live without because you see, when you are working at this level, there is a degree of concentration of spirit that is required which just may blow you apart, especially if you try to do it alone. [12:09]

We are not made to do these kinds of things totally alone. We need direction. We need help. We do need to be alone in the sense of getting away by ourselves, in our closet, in the desert or wherever but that’s a different sense of alone.  And to be alone, without fellowship, without being able to humble ourselves beneath another person is very dangerous to take these things on, but it’s also very dangerous without them. Paul fasted and he prayed. “And he was three days without sight, and neither did he eat nor drink.” And if you will look at the 11th verse after we get into the discussion with Ananias, “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.” [13:13]

That’s another thing in which we really don’t know much about. I have been wondering in recent weeks how you’ve been getting along with praying for other members of this class? How do you do that? Do you do that? Or is it possible that so much discouragement comes upon you as you attempt it that you just really give it up?

Prayer and fasting are marks of a deep spiritual endeavor. Most of us are not very intense about spiritual things but Paul was. He had them long before this experience and now as he attempted to serve God, God met him and God brought him to this place to where there was nothing left to do but to fast and to pray and wait. A lot of people say they are waiting for God to do something but they are not fasting and praying. They are not doing anything except just waiting for it to hit them. And for most of those dear folks it’s not going to hit them. They are still going to be waiting when it is all over, because to wait is not just to wait; it is to wait with a kind of intensity that is manifested here by Paul. [14:43]

Now, I do want you to notice how that, when God prepares a man – this is so manifested in the ministry of Paul all the way through – he doesn’t just prepare him by dealing with him alone indirectly. God has people designed to minister to every person who is prepared to receive the ministry.

Suppose you see, you just had to decide; now how are we going to get Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch together? How are we going to do that? How are we going to get Peter and Cornelius together? Suppose you had that and you had a computer background and various other resources to decide how you were going to do that? You would bring that computer bank up probably and try to find out just how are we going to manage it, especially if you had to manage it in such a way that just the right connection is made, just the right need opened up, and just the right fulfillment. You see God has prepared people to minister to those whom he is preparing to receive the ministry. [15:58]

Now, we don’t know a thing about Ananias other than what we know from this passage. We don’t need it. Ananias was praying apparently and in any case, the Lord came to him in a vision.  He may not have been praying like Peter was praying or like Saul later on when the vision came to him and we will study that next week.

“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.  And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus . . .” (Acts 9:10&11) “Ohhhhh,” Ananias said, “Ohhhh.” And then he adds the reason—because he was praying. I love that verse—“for, behold, he prayeth.” (Acts 9:11) [21:32]

If you find a person in prayer and it’s the real thing, he’s a safe person to approach. He won’t hurt you because a person who works by prayer is going to let God handle it. He’s not going to take into his own hands.

Go down there and talk to Saul. “For behold, he prayeth,”— He gave this to Ananias. He didn’t have to tell Ananias he was praying. Jesus said to go down and see Saul and poor little Ananias said, “Well, he’s in there whittling up, sharpening up his tools.” [Laughter]

No, for behold, Paul is praying and hath seen a vision of a man named Ananias—you know, you ever hear about letters of introduction? The Lord, see when He gets ready to do something, as I pointed out early on in this series, how carefully John the Baptist came; introduced by the Old Testament and introduced Jesus and introduced by John the Baptist. John the Baptist introduced Jesus. Then Jesus introduces His own crucifixion and death and resurrection. That’s not enough but after the resurrection, He comes back and introduces them to the Spirit of God. He tells him right where to go and what to do to wait and then when He comes, they can identify, by reference to the Old Testament prophets, by reference to what Jesus had told them, they don’t have to stand around and say, “Well, is this the one?” [18:55]

This is another mark of the work of the Lord and we don’t know it well because what we often call the work of the Lord is really our “finagling” and we don’t give God a chance to do these kinds of things—we are running so far ahead of Him—and very often, not ahead of Him but off in another direction. [19:15]

But, where the Lord works, you have this kind of leading in, this kind of guidance. Did we already do the introduction? A vision? He’s had a “. . . vision of a man named Ananias coming and putting his hands on him that he might receive his sight.” (Acts 9:12) Ananias wants to get into this a little bit with the Lord and he says, “Lord, now, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:13-16) And that concluded the conversation there “And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. . .” (Acts 9:17) [20:36]

Now, Ananias begins his ministry and there are some lovely parts to this ministry that I want to make sure that we don’t miss. Saul was in limbo, you see and Ananias now was going into the house of a non-Christian Jew—we can be certain and even though Saul was praying, he was in effect prey in the lion’s mouth because Saul was not the only one around that was trying to make havoc in the church.

Ananias goes and enters into the house and notice how he starts, “Brother, Brother Saul. Brother Saul.” He doesn’t come at him with a bunch of fear and hostility. He comes at him as a “brother.” He doesn’t see deadly enemies before this, but Ananias’ word is Brother Saul. You see he was affected by that first word that has taken him into his arms. “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightiest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 9:17) [22:06]

Ananias came to him as prompted by the Lord and he laid his hands on him and called him Brother and the power or the virtue or the dunamis which was in him came into the mind of Saul and the psychic blindness, which had been seated upon him because of these traumatic things he’s done, and all of the poison and hostility that was in him was drained out.  Drained out. His stomach had been churning. His muscles had been tense. His blood pressure had been up. Notice what happens. [22:56]

“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received his sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18) He ministers to him by baptism, and in his mind of course; that was in the minds of the Jewish people that was the ultimate mark. He was baptized in the name of Jesus.  That meant he had made the turn. He ministered to him by baptism. What next? He had something to eat—something to eat. He ministered to him by food. What next? He ministered to him by fellowship.  “. . .Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.” (Acts 9:19) [23:49]

Ananias performed all-important business of introducing Paul into the Brotherhood. Now this had to be done for Paul at other times even in this chapter—you know, when he went up to Jerusalem—good old Barnabas was there and Barnabas took his part in introducing him.

Now, please understand, if you wish to have the blessings of God upon you, you must be humbled to receive them through others. Don’t think that you can isolate yourself off from the brotherhood of the faith and the sisterhood of the faith, and receive the blessings of God. God doesn’t want that. That is not my arrangement. I didn’t make that arrangement—God did.

You remember that when you were studying Ephesians, I trust you did—remember at least from seeing, we came upon this passage in the 15th verse, the 4th chapter, “But speaking the truth in love, you may grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ:” and the 16th verse, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth . . .”  Every joint supplieth—all the little despicable joints as man might classify it as well as the big glorious ones. [24:29]

The ministry is in the body. We are not separate-able from one another. We are not separate-able from one another the minster isn’t. The teacher isn’t. The person sitting on the back row isn’t. No one in the body of Christ is separable from one another and the ministry comes through the body. Please don’t forget it. The ministry comes through the body and one of the main reasons why we are not ministered to is because of the damnable pride, which keeps us out of contact with other believers. We have had an experience, which sets us above them. We have a doctrine, which makes us right; so we don’t have anything to do with them; pitiable—pitiable—and so ignorant of the Scriptures to do this. Babs, you have a comment? [26:49]

Question:  Inaudible

Dallas: He rose and was baptized. Well, the baptism, I mean as it is usually referred to unless there is an explicit reference to the Spirit or to the body of Christ simply means water Baptism. It means they got socked under. Now, whether they got face-forward three times or sideways or what, Baptism just means sock them under. I mean, you baptize your dishes when you put them in the water to wash them.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas:  Well, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit too.  [More inaudible comments] Well, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit too, but now, they don’t have any details on just how this happened with Paul. [28:05]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas:  But Christ didn’t baptize him, Ananias did. Or some of the disciples did.

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Oh! Yea, well look, the important thing – and this of course is part of the Quaker witness to this thing—the important thing is the Baptism of the Spirit. That’s what really matters. Now the reason this mattered was simply because it was a way of testifying to the repentance from the old life and the rising of the new life—the entrance into a new life.  But water baptism was very definitely used and this, I think, was surely a case of it. But it certainly is true that the passage you’re referring to, you see? That is the Baptism by the Holy Spirit and it is the important part of Jesus’ work in the man. [29:02]

Now, we are not baptized in the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Why?  Because Jesus Himself does that. He doesn’t need someone else to do that in His name but we do baptize in water in the name of the Spirit, the Father, the Son . . .[He was interrupted.]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: No, it doesn’t. I agree with that. I am just assuming that either he did or some of the disciples who were there. Well, I am sure as far as the spiritual baptism was concerned God did it. He’s the only one who does that. And you know, if you want to say, “Well, this has got to be the spiritual baptism. It couldn’t possibly have been a water baptism,” I certainly wouldn’t argue with you about it at all. He received meat, was strengthened, fellowship “and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20) He didn’t wait around—straightway he got into it.  [30:01]

Now, I want to go over very quickly these early days in the life of Paul and if you don’t mind too much, I think I probably won’t even read it. I’ll just depend on you to read it and make some comments because I want to turn to the verses that I ask you to memorize for this Sunday and discuss those a bit at the end of the period.

“Saul preached Jesus as the Christ” and this, he did in such a way that he just tied everyone in knots. He did the same thing, in other words, that Stephen got killed for. Stephen got killed because he preached Jesus in such a way that people couldn’t put him down by talking at him and so they decided they had to kill him. “But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this was very Christ and after that many days were fulfilled” (Acts 9:22&23) and the Jews said, “We gotta get rid of this fellow.” Same old story.

It’s interesting to see how many times in the book of Acts people decide that someone’s got to be killed for God’s sake. And very often it’s Paul.  Jesus said this, didn’t he? He said, “Days are gonna come when they are going to kill you and think they have done God a favor.” After all, the work of God was the tradition. [31:27]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Well, the intentions of the Jews to kill them was made known and they waited at the gates and here you have one of those interesting incidents in the life of Paul. You see him climbing into this basket and of course they had rather large baskets, I suppose. It wasn’t a little breadbasket or anything like that. They made large baskets and they might have woven one for the purpose of this. It would not have been a great deal of trouble because lots of people knew how to do it. It was a simple matter to make a huge basket. So, we have Paul in a basket going over the wall. [31:59]

Now, there is something I ought to comment on here. It’s not clear from the text we have, as far as I am concerned when these events exactly happened. The way I read it is that, “straightway he preached Christ.” Within a few days or perhaps a few weeks they were so stirred up that they decided they had to kill him, so they put him in a basket and he cut out for Arabia. [32:27]

Later, he came back to Damascus and again preached. You have to insert, I would say, insert between verses of 25 and 26 of chapter 9, you have to insert Galatians 1:15-18 where Paul gives a bit of insight into his career which apparently, Luke either didn’t know or didn’t know how to integrate it into what he was saying. Paul says in the 15th verse and following of Galatians 1: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me….” See, he’s saying, “When I got converted, I didn’t turn around and go back and get the other authority back at Jerusalem—the apostles—I wouldn’t do that. He didn’t meet flesh and blood, by the way on the road to Damascus. That was something else he met—it wasn’t flesh and blood.

But he says, “ . . . I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” He doesn’t tell us about the Baptism. “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem.” Now, the problem is with “the after three years.” Where does this three-year period fit in? It is difficult to say exactly, and not all that important to say exactly but just for the sake of having one reconstruction for it I would suggest that you think of it in this way that he did have the witness there in Damascus which is a setback in that the Jews wanted him killed that he went over the wall in a basket, that he went through Arabia. Arabia is of course about directly east of Damascus. If you go direct east you find a desert area, which is Arabia and he stayed there for some period of time. We don’t know how long. We don’t know what happened there but then he came back to Damascus; again preached Christ with effectiveness and after awhile, went up to Jerusalem as he indicates in the passage there in Galatians and then as he indicates also back in the ninth chapter of Acts. [34:42]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas:  I’m certainly happy to believe that.

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: I really agree with you on that. I think that what was required, not only here but later on when he goes to Tarsus is—he spent a number of years re-integrating all the things which he had learned around the new experience which he had on the inside. [35:40]

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Yes, that’s right. He had that now and it’s important to see that it does take time for these kinds of things to happen and Paul apparently took the time.  We can’t exactly stake out exactly when he came here and when he went there but he does give us that three-year period and that’s helpful. Three years! That’s not bad. Three years has an interesting similarity to the number of years that the other apostles were with Jesus. You know, that’s the kind of thing you can’t really infer firmly from but it’s interesting to note that. [36:23]

Question:  Inaudible

Dallas: Yes, That’s right. That’s right. They were able to do that after they had received the Holy Spirit. Paul was a very different kind of person and it’s worth a study to compare him with the other apostles and to ask such questions as—Well, why wasn’t Paul in the original number? Not only why was not Paul but why wasn’t anyone like Paul in the original number? Why were they all simple men for Nazareth? There’s a reason. [37:07]

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: That’s a good way of putting it.

Now, when Paul went up to Jerusalem, he had to deal with the same kind of skittishness, which we saw in Ananias. “ . . .When Saul was come to Jerusalem,” the 26th verse of the 9th chapter (of Acts), “he tried to join himself to the disciples because they were all afraid of him and they believed not that he was a disciple.” In other words, they took him to be agent provocateur. They thought he was trying to draw them into something so he could grab them. [37:51]

It was natural for them to believe that, no doubt, but Barnabas, dear ‘ole friend Barnabas—you want a rich study some day—take your concordance and look up Barnabas and follow through. This man is one of the greatest figures, no question about it, one of the greatest figures in the entire New Testament.

Barnabas—a marvelous, marvelous man—look up the meaning of his name: the son of encouragement, the son of consolation. “Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and he (the Lord) 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.” That is, he was just in the ordinary traffic with the Christians coming in and going out. “And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians . .  .” (Acts 9:29) Aha, that’s where Stephen got it. [38:54]

See, Stephen was dealing with essentially the Grecian Jews. Now, Grecians doesn’t mean Greeks. It means Jews who lived mainly in Asia Minor or around the circumference of the Mediterranean—Grecians—and it is very possible that Paul went right back in to the same places, the same synagogues, perhaps even the synagogue of the free men, which Stephen got it because he was working around there. He went back to the very same place and preached and took up the ministry of Stephen.

Again, there is a lot of conjecturing that goes on in such statements as this and it’s even very possible that Paul said, “I am going to go back and take up the ministry of this man whom I had a part in killing.” Back to the same people and he preached and he just about gets the same treatment. . . “but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” I hope you have followed this on your map; you know that Tarsus was Saul’s home country, Cilicia, the country in that part of Asia Minor. That was Saul’s hometown. The sent him back there and he stayed there for some time. We don’t know exactly when. I’ve given you references here to when Barnabas goes to seek him and bring him back—that’s in the 11th chapter of Acts in the 25th & 26th verses. Here was another period of time when Paul was out of the limelight. [40:28]

Now, let me just stress the importance of the hidden preparation of God’s ministers. We tend to think of religion in social terms only and we tend to think, “Well, now, what do we do to be right religiously,” and we think, “Well we go to this group or that group and we do such and such,” and if it all goes well, “Hallelujah, we are fine.”  And we make our righteousness in our own minds depend upon how we function in the social setting and it is a disastrous mistake.

The work of God in the soul is a hidden thing. Even when it involves two or more people, it is a hidden thing. Prayer, Jesus said, “When you pray, enter into your closet and pray to your Father which heareth in secret. And your Father who heareth in secret will reward openly.” It says, “When you do your alms don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. [41:40]

Do you remember what Elizabeth did after she conceived? The mother of John the Baptist?  She hid herself for five months. You know, custom or not, I venture that that was rather a strain on Elizabeth. She’d been waiting a long time for this. She says the Lord has taken away my shame and she hid herself for five months. She hid herself for five month. It would be nice to just think about what went on in those five months as she and John or she and Zacharias integrated this event, which had happened in their lives. Read that story over. Try to put some fullness of detail into it. And see if the Lord won’t bless you with the thought that whenever we have spiritual conception, we have to have time to be alone and let God work in our hearts. That’s what happened with Saul. [42:55]

Now, Saul had a lot of work to be done. I wish you would just look at that passage in Philippians with me for a moment, which I asked you to memorize—Philippians, the 3rd chapter.

Paul lists here in the first part of the 3rd chapter all the magnificent attainments that he’d had—an Israelite, Pharisee and great attainments in the law. He zealously persecuted those who deviated from the truth and he says, “Those things which were gain to me,” those things which I counted up as really being big marks of spiritual distinction as making me right with God “these things I count as loss” or I counted as loss for Christ or because of Christ. “Yea doubtless,” he says, “I count all things but loss because of the excellency,” the worth, the value that is “in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord.”

Now, these next verses, those two next phrases are very important because “I have”—he’s not just talking like people who will talk about how great it would be if, if, if, if, if, if. The next verse, he says, “I have suffered for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung . . .” [44:30]

Now, that is an Old English term, by in large, and we are nice people and can’t use the four-letter equivalent to it here. It begins with “s” in case it doesn’t occur to you. But if you want to get Paul’s attitude towards all these great spiritual attainments, when you get home, you go in the closet where you won’t offend any one if you’re worried about such things and you read it and you put the four-letter Anglo Saxon to it! Say it loud and because of the weight of that word, you will get Paul’s attitude towards these great spiritual attainments. That’s what he thought them to be. Why? Oh, not in themselves: they were very good. It was in comparison to the knowledge of Christ. It was in comparison to what had happened to him. He had met and found something, which, when you compare all these degrees and attainments that he had, it’s just like dung compared to that. [45:38]

Now, you know, when you see people going after all these attainments which impress men, you know they haven’t found out about that other because if they had, it would be like dung to them. You don’t spend your lifetime trying to collect dung. It was the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ.”  Paul said, “ . . . to be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is out of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ. . .” I wish I had time to break this verse down in Greek because there are some beautiful things in the prepositions; “. . .the righteousness which is of God by faith.” [46:23]

Just this one comment—that word “by” there is a terribly bad mistranslation. The Greek is epi. “Upon”, “superimposed upon” faith, the righteousness of God comes and is superimposed upon faith and the faith that is involved, for Dorothy and others who were involved in another study we were going to do, the faith involved is not our faith in Christ, but faith of Christ and it says so in this verse. “The faith OF Christ, found in Him with the righteousness which comes in that way.” I wish I had time to talk about that preposition epi and to illustrate it’s meaning but I don’t. [46:58]

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection . . .”(Phil. 3:10)—now that’s not talking about getting raised from the dead. That comes later on. He’s talking about the power, which was in the resurrection, not the resurrection itself. He wants to know that power and he wants to know it in his life. That dunamis, which was in the resurrection. “The fellowship—the koinonia—of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”  That is, having the kind of spirit, which conforms with the spirit in which Jesus died. That’s what he wants to say, “I want to live like that.” That’s the kind of righteousness, which is imposed upon the faith of Christ; which is the epi-center over the faith of Christ. “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil. 3:11)  See he wants to live in the spirit of Christ so that he can die and rise again like Christ. [47:59]

Now, that’s what Paul is introduced to on the road to Damascus. That’s what we may be introduced to if we open ourselves to God. But let’s not fool ourselves about what we haven’t got when we haven’t got it. Let’s make sure that we have the contact that we have the heart of Paul that we have the righteousness of God, which comes in this way. Make sure about it. It’s your part to look into this matter and to know what you have—to try yourself, to test yourself, to be honest with yourself, to stop worrying about impressing men and to be clear on the standing before God. Can you say this is it? “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering being made conformable unto his death.” Does that express your heart? If it doesn’t really, I don’t want to know. If that doesn’t express your heart, I’m not overstating when I say, “Your heart isn’t right with God.” It just isn’t. [49:17]

“Lord, we pray that you will bless these meditations to the edification of everyone here. Take us off from trying to impress men and please others. Bring us to the point where we simply live in Thy love and know Thy power from moment to moment to do the good, which lies before us. And we pray it shall be done. Amen.”

Listen to all parts in this Studies in the Book of Apostolic Acts: Journey in the Spiritual Unknown series