Paul’s Testimony told by Luke
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are You, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.Acts 9:3-9
Paul addressing the crowd on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.Acts 22:3-11
Paul addressing Agrippa in Caesarea
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”Acts 26:9-20
What a difference from this:
His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.Acts 7:58, 8:1-3
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons . . .Acts 22:4
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.Acts 26:9-11
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.Act 9:1-2
Let’s gather some questions together
- Why does Jesus speak Saul’s name twice? “Saul, Saul”
- When did Saul persecute Jesus?
- I am interested to see what you have to say about the light that shone from heaven Ian. That has always intrigued me.
The Light – The Voice – The Realisation – The Blindness
Suddenly a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. “I could not see because of the brightness of that light.” Light is symbolic of the Presence of the Lord but also of His Glory. There are hints of Moses here. It is interesting that the word used for the light flashing is [periastrapto] in both 9:3 and 22:5 but in 26:13 the verb changes to [perilampsan].
Periastrapto? to flash all around, that is, envelop in light: – shine round about.
Perilampo? to illuminate all around, that is, invest with a halo: – shine round about.
These two words shed light (if you will pardon the pun) on what was happening. It was like Saul was enveloped in light from head to toe with a halo that surrounded his whole body. Notice the light came from heaven. Its source was heavenly and I believe Saul was aware of that. The light enveloped Saul and it wasn’t a momentary flash. It stayed around him for a period of time. Both scary and awe inspiring. With the light around him, Saul fell to the ground. That is a typical reaction in the Bible of people who realise they are in the Presence of God. That happened before Saul heard the voice.
Then Saul hears a voice talking to him and saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”
Very telling words containing two sets of repetition. Remember repetition is the Bible way of adding emphasis. Whenever God mentions your name twice, stand up or fall down but take note of what He says to you. Twice Jesus says to Saul, “you are persecuting Me.” The “you” and “Me” are contrasted.
Here the One whom Saul is persecuting is enveloping Saul in halo of Glory. I.e. His Presence is enveloping him. How amazing is that! Note that Saul doesn’t say, “But I have never met You, how can I be persecuting You?” Saul doesn’t dispute what the LORD says to him at all. He realises he is having a divine experience. It brings to my mind the verse “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” Matt 25:40 The realisation of what he has been doing dawned on him.
When he opened his eyes . . . inferring He has had them shut for a while. Why? Because of the light? Or Because of the realisation? Saul and the people around him are speechless and Saul is blind. Again, how scary. Leading Saul to ponder, “how long am I going to be like this?” And leaving those looking on in shocked amazement and even more scared of what is happening.
One of my ex-Wycliffe Colleagues connected these two verses together. “I know what I will do!” (Luke 12:18) the foolish landowner vs “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) Saul My colleague added the comment – Saul’s second question is not to be taken lightly. In fact one could preach an entire sermon on the contrast in heart attitude represented by the two people. Indeed one could David.
The things one could say about this passage are endless I believe. But I am going to stop nonetheless. And all the readers said, “Yay and Amen”.
There is a thin veil of separation between us and the presence of God. God could appear to us at any moment.Ian Vail
When God bursts in on us, it leaves us speechless and amazed.Ian Vail
I am speechless I’m astonished and amazed I am silenced by Your wondrous grace.Steven Curtis Chapman (Speechless)
You are amazing God All powerful, untameable, Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim You are amazing God.Chris Tomlin (Indescribable)