30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

January 7, 2001

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"The Conversion of Saul"

Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "The Conversion of Saul", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.

How encouraging it is to have you in the audience. I trust that are seriously considering the things which are being taught from Sunday to Sunday. As I have said before, these matters are not trivial, they are matters that deal with our eternal destiny when our days in this the flesh come to an end. We shall all stand before the awsome presence of Jehovah God and give an accounting as to what we have done while here in the flesh. Paul wrote: " For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10). The standard of judgment shall be the Word of God, that Book which we have been studying from week to week. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). I now turn our attention to another lesson from that book.

Perhaps the most outstanding individual we read about in the Bible, with the exception of Christ Jesus, was the great man we know of as Paul. Paul, the preacher, the teacher, the traveler. Paul, the great apostle. But, how different these adjectives describing Paul from the ones we would use when we first read of him in Acts chapter 7.

Let us all read about this young man as he is introduced to us by the writer Luke in Acts 7 and 8. Stephen had just accused the Jews of rejecting Christ as their fathers had rejected the prophets of old. The Jews then went about stoning Stephen. We take up the reading in Acts 7:58 - 8:3: "and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul....And Saul was consenting unto his death. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison." Later in writing to Timothy, Paul makes reference to this time in his life with these words: "though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief....Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:13, 15). Saul was honest, sincere, and he thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was doing God's Will. In Acts 23:1, Paul states, "Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day." In Acts 22:3, he states, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are this day." Here is a man who was zealous, very sincere, very conscientious; yet very wrong. He was a very religious man. A man who thought he was doing the will of Jehovah and extremely zealous in his beliefs.

Can a person be sincere, zealous, conscientious, religious and still NOT be pleasing unto God? Indeed he (or she) can be. Saul is a perfect example of this type of person. Just because one is honest, sincere and conscientious in their religious beliefs and practices does not mean that they are right in God's presence. There have been many that had these qualities, yet are not God's children.

When we look to Saul we find him on the road that led from Jerusalem to Damascus intent upon persecuting Christians. You see, the Christians had all fled from Jerusalem, so Saul went looking for those hated Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. It was on this road that a bright light, brighter than the noon day sun, shone upon him and a voice from Heaven spoke. Let's take a moment and read the account of this great and awesome event that changed the life of this man forever. "And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank" (Acts 9:3-9). We learn from this account that Saul was told by Christ to "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (vs. 6). Many in the religious world today believe that Saul was saved there on the road when he saw the Lord. But that simply is not so. The Lord did not tell him what to do, only to Go! He was told to Go to Damascus and then it would be told to him what he must do. The information Saul needed to be saved was delivered by the preacher, Ananias in which we will look at in just a few minutes in verses 10-19. Meanwhile, for three days Saul suffered blindness, waiting for instructions.

Saul had seen the Lord, even conversed with Him, yet Saul was still a sinner. Most people today would claim that if one saw the Lord and/or talked to the Lord, surely they would be saved. But such was not the case in the conversion of Saul. So, what do you think friends? Do you think that one who saw the Lord would be saved? Be careful as to how you answer that question. Be sure that your answer agrees with God's word. If you do not yet know that answer to that question, then keep an open mind as we investigate further this question to find a Bible answer to it.

You will notice that in every case where God intervenes in the conversion of a person, the Lord always tells the preacher to give the instruction to the sinner. Look at the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8. The Lord appeared to Philip, the preacher and told him to go tell the eunuch what to do. In Acts 10, in the conversion of Cornelius, the Lord appeared unto Peter and told him to go to Cornelius. And we could multiply this example by many more. It fell to Ananias' responsibility to find Saul and tell him what the Lord wanted him to do to be saved. But, we are getting ahead of the narrative.

Saul was told to go into the city; and he went. His going indicates that he had a change of mind with reference to Christ Jesus. Whereas Saul left Jerusalem intent upon destroying those who believed in Christ, now he himself was a believer, a believer who had changed his mind about Christ -- that is called repentance. Saul was now a believer, he had seen the risen Lord; He was a penitent believer. He entered the city blind, waiting for instructions as to what to do to become the child of God, to be saved from his sins. This believer was approached by Ananias, the preacher and now let's read further the account of what transpired between the preacher Ananias and Saul. Beginning in Acts 9, verse 10 and reading through verse 18 here is the account: "Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in 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 vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized." In the apostle Paul's account of what transpired later in Acts 22:16, here is what he said that Ananias said to him: "Now why tariest thou, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Now wait a minute. You mean that this person, Saul, had seen the Lord, had talked to the Lord, yet, still needed to do something to wash away his sins. It sounds like that, doesn't it? He was still in his sins if he needed to be baptized to have his sins washed away. Yet, that is exactly what Ananias told him, "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins." Friends, what you need to understand is that the scriptures plainly teach us by example after example that there is a connection between baptism and the washing away of sins. One has to have help to misunderstand that. Not only was Saul a penitent believer, but he was a praying man also. Note verse 11 of Acts chapter 9. Here is a believer, a penitent believer, a penitent praying believer, yet still in his sins. To this penitent praying believer, the preacher said, "Get up Saul, be baptized and your sins will be washed away."

I am persuaded that if many preachers today would find a praying man like Saul, they would tell him, "You keep on praying, until you pray through, or until the Lord responds to you." Not Ananias, a spirit guided preacher. He said, Saul, it is time to quit praying, it is now time for you to do something. If you want to be saved, you need to be baptized. Now doesn't that sound familiar? Did not Jesus say, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16). Isn't it interesting how God's word always agrees with itself? That is precisely why the apostle Peter taught in Acts 2:38; "...Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

But back to Saul. I want to ask you a question. Be honest with yourself now - when do you think Saul was saved? Let me give you a minute to think about that. When was Saul saved? Was your answer, "On the road to Damascus when he saw the Lord." If so, he was saved in his sins, because his sins were not washed away until he was baptized. Was your answer, "When he prayed?" If so, he was still in his sins while he was praying. When was he saved? Saul was saved, my friends, when he obeyed the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, as given through Ananias the preacher on that occasion. Listen again,"Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins." Was it the water that cleansed him. No, it was not the water that cleansed him. He was cleansed by the blood of Jesus, the only cleansing power available to mankind. You see, this harmonizes with this same apostle's language in Romans 6:3-4. After all, he should know since he was the recipient of baptism to wash away his sins in obedience to the Lord's command. Listen to what he writes in Romans 6:3-4; "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Once again, isn't it beautiful how God's word agrees with God's word. Where did Christ shed His blood? In His death. Yet, Paul tells us that we are buried through baptism into His death.

Ananias could have told Saul, "Saul you must come into contact with the blood of Christ in order to have your sins washed away." But, then Saul would have had to ask, how can I come into contact with the blood of Christ? Rather, Ananias simply told Saul how to contact that blood, "Arise and be baptized and you sins will be washed away". From the watery grave, Saul found forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ. He was raised a cleansed man. He had done what Christ commanded him to do. He was raised to walk in newness of life, he was a new man in Christ Jesus. He had put on Christ in baptism. Listen to him in Galatians 3:26-27, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Friends, here is another question for you this morning; How many people put on Christ? Just as many as are baptized into Him. Only when one is baptized into Christ can they put on Christ. That is not something I have made up, that is the truth of the gospel message of God.

A change now took place in the life of this great man. Whereas he had come to Damascus to persecute Christians, he now joined forces with them to preach the resurrected Christ. Whereas he had come to Damascus to stamp out Christianity, he now went throughout the world seeking to spread Christianity. What a difference! But, that is what Christ will do to the life that surrenders to Christ by obedience to His every command. Friends in this radio audience, have you done what Saul did to become a child of God? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you changed your life and repented of all past sins? Have you confessed your faith in Christ Jesus? And have you been baptized in order to have your sins forgiven? If you have not done these things, you are still in your sins. It matters not how honest you may be; nor how sincere you may be; nor how conscientious you may be. It matters not how much you have been praying; nor how zealous you may be. If you have not been baptized in order to have your sins forgiven, you are still in your sins. And if still in your sins, Christ said,"Where I am you cannot go."

"But," someone says, "preacher that puts too much emphasis upon baptism; that makes for water salvation." But that is not so, it simply follows the divine commands of our Lord. There is no power in the water. The power is in the blood of Christ. But, how did Saul come into contact with the blood of Christ? By being baptized into Him.

Having become the child of God by being baptized, Saul arose from the watery grave and lived a life of service to our Lord as he instructed for each and everyone of us to do as he continued with his Roman letter, chapter 6, verses 5-13; "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."

I wonder, do you think it was worth it to the apostle Paul to live a life for Christ, suffering severe persecution along the way? Listen to what he writes to young Timothy: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim 4:6-8).

Friends, are you prepared to go to that home that Paul was anticipating? You can, you know. But, you must do what Paul did, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the FORGIVENESS of sins. If you would be interested in studying further concerning the necessity of baptism, I would be happy to study with you. You may call me at 944-2305, and we can set up a time to study the truth of God's word. I want to encourage you to give up denominationalism and worldliness and let God have the first and last word in your life. May God bless you in your efforts to search for the truth and abide in His will.

This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"