Acts 9 – Conversion of Saul (Paul) & The Geographic Expansion of the Church Under Persecution

Finger Waving UpBy the end of Acts, Paul had reached Rome, the capital of the then-known world. It was from this city that the Good News eventually spread throughout the Roman Empire to provinces as far away as Africa and Europe.

1

There is no other person that can do what Your Son did.  Jesus was born into a poor family, just regular people, and at the age of 30 He told people about You.

Three years later He was executed for doing that, but three days later He rose from the dead and had people covering the known world telling all about You guys.

Today people are still talking about Jesus, as well as cursing Him.  Why people are so ignorant to fact is beyond me.  Today they ridicule Him more than they ever did, not a good idea:

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal 6:2).

Tomorrow we’ll look at one of the towns Peter and Philip had preached in…

Acts 9
Conversion of Saul (Paul)

2 Israeli Sovereignty
Israeli Sovereignty Over Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria
A summary of facts in support of Israel’s lawful exercise of sovereignty over East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

It is widely accepted, but not correct, that the West Bank belongs to the local Arabs in Palestine who call themselves Palestinians. Israel’s position has not recently been fully stated. At most, it is said that no one has sovereignty over the West Bank.

A better view is that the Jews obtained a beneficial interest in sovereignty over all of Palestine in 1922 by enactment of the Palestine Mandate, entrusting it to Britain and on the abandonment of its trusteeship by Britain in 1948, Israel obtained the political rights over which it theretofore had had a beneficial interest so that it had sovereignty under International Law as granted by the British Mandate. Later, in 1924, the British Mandate became the domestic law of England and the U.S.

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

“Why persecutest thou me?” – to persecute the church is to persecute Jesus for the church is His body (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23).

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

“Who are thou, Lord?” – imagine, here is a child (and you may have done this) saying bad things to their friends about  bully at school or about one of their teachers. 

The bully/teacher/whomever gets wind of this and they confront the child. The response is absolute fear.

Paul/Saul is that child and somehow he knows it is God, even before Jesus tells him who he is, he knows.

What do you do when you are confronted with a much mightier force that is just about to beat you up?  You pray to God for His assistance.

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8 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.

3 Twelve km northwest
Twelve km northwest of Nablus up on the scenic slopes of the Nablus hills stands the ancient royal city of Sebaste or Samaria overlooking the present village of Sebastia. The ruined site extends on a hill dominating the surroundings.

On top of the hill are the remains of an Iron Age city were found. Visible remains include the forum with the Severan basilica, many columns of which are still standing; the Roman theater with the Hellenistic tower near it, and the Herodion gate towers at the entrance to a colonnaded street.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

10 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.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15 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:

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

4 Theories on the date
Theories on the date of composition of the Gita vary considerably. Scholars accept dates from fifth century to second century BCE as the probable range. Professor Jeaneane Fowler, in her commentary on the Gita, considers second century BCE to be the likely date of composition.

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

5 Sychar
Sychar is a place-name intended to note “falsehood,” though perhaps originally derived from “Shechem.”
The ancient city of Shechem plays a prominent role in the Bible. The Lord spoke to Abraham near Shechem after commanding him to leave his home in Haran (Gen 12:1-7).

Jacob later settled near Shechem after leaving his father-in-law Laban in Padan Aram (Gen 33:18).
Simeon and Levi killed all the males of Shechem after the rape of their sister Dinah (Gen 34).
Shechem was allotted to the tribe of Ephraim following the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land (Josh 20:7).

Joseph was buried in Shechem after his body was exhumed and brought from Egypt (Josh 24:32).
Rehoboam was crowned in Shechem following the death of Solomon (1 Kgs 12:1).

Shechem briefly served as Jeroboam’s capital following the division of the Kingdom into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (1 Kgs 12:25).

And although the city no longer existed in Jesus’ day, it was the original site of Jacob’s Well where Jesus spoke with the woman of Samaria (Jn 4:1-42).

25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.

35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.

36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did.

37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.

38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.

6 The Great Mosque
The Great Mosque of Gaza is the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip, located in Gaza’s old city.
Believed to stand on the site of an ancient Philistine temple, the site was used by the Byzantines to erect a church in the 5th century, but after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, it was transformed into a mosque.

Described as “beautiful” by an Arab geographer in the 10th century, the Great Mosque’s minaret was toppled in an earthquake in 1033. In 1149, the Crusaders built a cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist, but it was mostly destroyed by the Ayyubids in 1187, and then rebuilt as a mosque by the Mamluks in the early 13th century. It was destroyed by the Mongols in 1260, then soon restored only for it to be destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the century.

39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.

42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.

The Geographic Expansion of the Church
Under Persecution

The expansion of Christianity was t if unanticipated—result of persecution. On the very day that Stephen became the first Christian martyr, a severe persecution broke out in Jerusalem.

7 According to the Israeli
According to the Israeli historian Benny Morris, in ancient times, “The core of the Jewish state was the hill country of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.” Areas in mainland Israel such as Caesarea, Jaffa, and Ashkelon were centers of paganism in the Hellenistic and Roman periods and did not make up the heart of biblical Israel. Yet despite these historical facts, too many people support relinquishing Israeli control over Judea & Samaria, even though the area is richer in Jewish history than Arab history.

Christians who fled the city became scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, proclaiming the gospel wherever they went.

Philip headed north to an unidentified city in the region of Samaria, which many scholars conjecture to have been ancient Samaria, then called Sebaste.

Others point to Gitta, or to Sychar, which Jesus reported in John.  At any rate, so many converts were won through Philip’s evangelistic endeavors that Peter and John came to join him. 

As they later returned to Jerusalem, they followed Philip’s lead, preaching in Samaritan villages along the way.

Philip was then dispatched south of Jerusalem toward the ancient Philistine city of Gaza, where he experienced his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.

In the Greco-Roman world, Ethiopia was considered to be the southernmost extent of civilization, so this incident may have previewed for early Christians the promise of the message going out “to the ends of the earth”.

8 Peace Now attacks
Peace Now attacks decision saying it exemplifies Netanyahu’s “obsession with settlement building”.
The construction on Jewish land in Ofra in Samaria must continue. The construction on Jewish land in Ofra in Samaria must continue.

The Civil Administration authorized 272 new homes for settlers this week and gave the Ofra settlement a boost of legitimacy by approving the first-ever master plan for the West Bank community since it was created in 1975.

Chapter 8 concludes with Philip, farther north on the Mediterranean coast, preaching from Azotus to Caesarea, where he eventually settled.

His travels would have taken him through Lydda and Joppa, probably the “cities” in which he preached.

It seems that Peter again followed Philip’s path by stopping to preach in Lydda and Joppa, as well as to Cornelius in Caesarea.

Christianity also spread eastward to Damascus; Saul had been en route there when he had experienced his dramatic conversion (9:1-6).

In 11:19-26 Lk added additional detail about the scattering of the Jerusalem believers: Some disciples ventured north of Galilee into the region of Phoenicia and even farther to the city of Antioch, while others journeyed westward to the island of Cyprus.

…Caesarea.

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