“But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Here is the situation: Saul of Tarsus (who would soon become the Apostle Paul) was on the road to Damascus, and Jesus appears to Saul in a bright light, speaks to him, strikes him blind, and instructs him to go into the city until he is told what to do. Saul’s travel companions lead him into Damascus, where Saul — still blind — waits and prays for three days.
The Lord instructs a Christian by the name of Ananias to go to the house where Paul is staying and lay hands on him. At first, Ananias hesitates. He is afraid because he is fully aware of Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Jewish Christians. The Lord reassures Ananias and tells him to go, the Lord indicating that Saul has been chosen to be the Lord’s apostle to the gentiles as well as the Jews.
Let me pause at this point in the story to make an important point of application: As followers of Jesus, you and I are not anointed with apostolic authority; however, like Paul, we are called to Jesus and we are sent by Jesus. The Lord calls us to himself and saves us, and then sends us into the world as his ambassadors. As you go about your daily life and work, always remember that you are a “chosen instrument” of the living Christ, and you carry the name of Jesus wherever you go and whatever you do. Honor his name by living and working in a way that is worthy of his name. It is to this that we have been called.
“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. And taking food, he was strengthened.” (Acts 9:17-19)
What an amazing turn of events! Saul was spiritually blind to the truth of Jesus the Messiah, and he aggressively sought the death of Jewish Christians. But while on the road to Damascus to arrest believers in that city, the resurrected Jesus confronts Saul, strikes him physically blind, and then uses a Jewish Christian to lay hands on him, restore his vision, and baptize him. Saul could now see physically and spiritually. He was transformed from a persecutor of Christians to a builder and protector of Christians.
Such is the transformational power of Jesus.
“For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 9:19-22)
We don’t know how long Saul remained with the Christian community in Damascus, but it was apparently long enough to grow deeply in his knowledge of the Christian truth. Keep in mind that Saul was a Pharisee, which means he was thoroughly trained in the Old Testament. However, now he saw the OT with the “scales” removed from his eyes, and he understood fully what the OT taught about the Messiah. Through his study of scripture and fellowship with the Christian community, Saul “increased all the more in strength.” Without hesitation or fear, Saul visited the synagogues in Damascus and boldly proclaimed to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
*Note: Saul is first called Paul in Acts 13.9. From that point on, scripture refers to him as Paul.
While not as dramatic as Saul’s, every Christian has had their Damascus road experience. Every Christian has a point in their life when they were confronted, convicted, and converted by the living Christ. Every Christian was at first blind to the truth, and then through the work of the Holy Spirit “something like scales fell from their eyes,” and they saw the truth and surrendered to Jesus. For many people, the Damascus road experience is a process … sometimes a long process. I have known people who resisted and rejected Christ for years, but who eventually saw the truth and repented and believed.
Here’s an important question for everyone who professes Christ: Following your Damascus road, that is, following your commitment to Christ, have you “increased all the more in strength?” Have you grown strong in the faith through disciplined study of the Word of God and fellowship with other Christians?
Here is a simple way to think about it: God does something for you (redemption) in order to do something in you (regeneration and transformation) so that he can accomplish his purposes through you (ministry and fruitfulness). This great truth is wonderfully captured in the book of Ephesians:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.8-10)