John Newton went to sea. Like most sailors of his day, he lived a debauched and rebellious life. For several years, he worked on slave ships, capturing slaves for sale to the plantations in the New World. So low did he sink that at one point, he himself became a slave, a captive of another slave trader.
Eventually, he became the captain of his own slave ship. A combination of a frightening storm at sea one night coupled with his reading of a testimony of Christianity planted some seeds in his heart that eventually led to his conversion. He went on to become a leader in the evangelical movement in the 18th century in England. And along with men like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and William Wilberforce, he was a stalwart for the Christian faith. On his tombstone is inscribed the following epitaph, which Newton wrote himself, says this, “John Newton, Clerk. Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.” Of course, he penned the hymn we all love, Amazing Grace, a grace that he had experienced.
There is a lot of talk about transformation. Even in the world, there’s a lot of talk about becoming better than you are, improving yourself, rising higher. A lot of superficial options for transformation: a new wardrobe, or new cosmetics, or surgeries, or diets, or relocation, or new friends, or cultivating a better self-image. But none of that is really capable of creating a new transformation. Real transformation can’t come from inside, and it can’t really come from outside, at least from all that this world offers. But Christianity is all about complete transformation. There is a passage that says this as well as any and it’s 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, if you want to look at it, verses 9 through 11.
First Corinthians, chapter 6: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” And then this amazing verse, verse 11: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Such were some of you. You are no longer that kind of person.
Christianity is about transformation, but people can’t change themselves. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who habitually do evil.” Jeremiah 2:22 says, “‘For though they wash you with lye and take you much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before me,’ says the Lord.” Or Jeremiah 9:4-5, “Everyone, all, have taught their tongue to speak lies and wear themselves out, committing iniquity.” Or back to Jeremiah 2:30, “In vain have I smitten your children; they received to correction.”
We can’t correct ourselves from the inside; and even extensive pressure on the outside can’t bring about change. We can’t change our sinful nature; we can’t wash ourselves; we can’t alter who we are; we can’t get help from others that does that. We don’t even have the ability on our own to respond to divine force, divine discipline, or divine punishment. Proverbs 27:22 puts it this way: “Though you should crush a fool in a mortar among grain with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.” There is no outside force, there is no inside force in the human realm that can change man.
Jeremiah also said, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Isaiah, chapter 1, Isaiah says, “Man is sick from the top of his head to the sole of his feet, and everywhere in-between.” And, yet, people long for transformation. They long to be different, to be rescued from their own wretchedness as well as their external circumstance. There is only one who can totally transform a person on the inside and then on the outside and that is God through the gospel. And I want us to look at one such remarkable transformation. Open your Bible to the 9th chapter of the book of Acts.
If you ever question the sovereignty of God in salvation, the question should disappear in the story of Saul. Here is a classic illustration that God is the initiator of salvation, that God is the seeker, and no man seeks after God. Here is a man who claimed to be the world’s worst sinner, who lived for one purpose, and that was to uphold false and damning religion; and as a secondary purpose to that one, deemed to his responsibility to hurt and injure and imprison, and even kill people whom he saw as a threat to that religion. Here is a man who, with his life, blasphemed the God he thought he served. Here is a man who made people who genuinely loved God suffer torture. Here is a man who was a hireling of crooked politicians. That is a bad man. His name is Saul of Tarsus. But he was transformed; totally, radically transformed. Let me read you the story in chapter 9 down to verse 19 so you have it in mind.
“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and 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 He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’ The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.’
“But Ananias answer, ‘Lord, I have heard from about this man, how much harm he did 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 bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’
“So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.”
Absolutely miraculous event, full of miracles. Not only a miracle appearance of Jesus on the Road to Damascus in a blinding, miraculous, heavenly light, but a miraculous word from the Lord to a man named Ananias in a vision; and another vision given to blind Saul introducing him to Ananias. This is a supernatural event. This is a conversion, in some ways, like no other conversion. We don’t have another one of these in the New Testament. But then again, we don’t have another apostle after the original 12. So something very dramatic and heavenly and miraculous and first person from the Lord Jesus had to happen if an apostle was going to be added to the original ranks.
This man, from that day forward, is completely transformed. This murderous, Christ-hating, Christian-hating killer is totally transformed. This chapter in Acts gives us an initial picture of that transformation, and we see parallels here to our own experience of conversion. And while we don’t have a miraculous conversion with the Lord actually appearing in light from heaven and visions and all of that, it is still initiated by God. Your conversion, your salvation, was initiated by God from heaven.
You remember that Nicodemus says to Jesus, “How is it that a man can be born from above?” and Jesus says, “Well, it’s a Spirit birth. And the Spirt blows where He will, when He will, on whom He will.” That’s completely in His sovereign power. If you have been born again, if you have been born from above, that is a sovereign work of God.
What happened to Paul after that work began also is in a sense an illustration of what happens in the life of every believer, minus the conversation with the Lord, minus the visions, minus the light from heaven, minus the actual presence of Christ. There are still parallels in what happened to Paul that are our own experience as well. That makes this a really wonderful passage to look at. And we could just take it as history, and I could walk you through it, and we could talk about all of the elements here – and I will do that. But at the same time tonight and next Sunday night, we’ll get all the way to verse 31. I want to show you here what is really a model of an experience that if you’re a believer you also had. Now let’s begin where we have to begin.
The first thing in a transformed life is a clear introduction to Christ, a clear introduction to Christ. And I remind you, we’re not going to go back through verses 1 to 9, we did that last time. I simply remind you that Paul knew the gospel. He knew the gospel because no one can be saved without the gospel. Romans 10, he even said, “How will they hear without a preacher? They can’t call upon the Lord if they don’t know Him. How will they call on one whom they have not heard? How will they hear unless there’s a preacher. Blessed are the feet of those who are sent.”
Faith comes by hearing the truth about Christ. So I remind you that long before the Damascus Road experience, Paul had heard the gospel. In those days, the very movement of Christianity was called the Way, the Way, because of its exclusivity. Jesus said, “I am the Way.” The exclusivity of Christianity, it is the only way. There is no salvation in any other, only the way, the truth, and the life. It was the narrowness and the exclusivity of Christianity that Paul was well aware of, and he was well aware of why it was called the Way; and there was no other way, including Judaism.
He knew about Christ. He knew what was claimed about Christ as to His death and resurrection. He knew what Christians preached. He stood there – and we saw it back in chapter 7 – and listened to the sermon of Stephen, that great sermon that starts in the Old Testament and sweeps all the way through to the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He heard it all, and his response to it was basically to lead the stoning of Stephen. He was the one standing there with apparently the authority to bring this about, that’s why the people laid their garments at his feet when they stoned Stephen.
He knew the gospel. He knew what the claims of the Way were and he rejected them as blasphemous. He knew the truth about Christ; he rejected it, until the Damascus Road. We covered this in detail last time, so we’re not going to go back over it. Suffice it to say that on the Damascus Road, Saul who had been persecuting the Lord Jesus, fell on his face before the Lord Jesus and said, “You’re Lord. You are Lord.” He made a confession that Christ was everything that he had heard these Christians say he was, and that Stephen had said he was.
Saul is chasing Christians everywhere, that’s how the chapter begins. His life and his existence is in the realm of Christians as he chases them down to arrest them and imprison them. And again, and again, and again, he has heard the truth of the gospel. Here on the Damascus Road, he is brought to believe it, to believe it.
“Who are You, Lord?” he says. “Who are You, Lord?” He knew this was a heavenly visitation. And Jesus said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up and enter the city and it will be told you what you must do.” He acknowledge Jesus as Lord; and as Lord, He gave him a command. If he truly acknowledge Jesus as Lord, he would obey the command. And that’s exactly what he does; he obeys the command.
This is where the transformation of any life begins. It begins with an understanding of the gospel and a confession of Jesus as Lord – and we looked at that last time, just a brief review. “If any man be in Christ he’s a new creation,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. So if you’re looking for a changed life, a changed life from the inside out, a totally transformed life, you can look only one place: you can look to Christ.
In Christ, there is transformation. The New Testament spells it out like this: The one who is dead in sins becomes alive to righteousness. The one who is ignorant of divine truth becomes wise in divine truth. The one who is insensitive to divine presence now tastes and sees that the Lord is good. The one who is blind can now see. The one who is in darkness is in the blazing light. The one who belonged to the kingdom of Satan belongs to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The one who did evil continually now finds the cry of his heart is to do that which is good. The one who didn’t even know what the questions were now has all the answers. The one who is bound for hell is bound for heaven. The one who hated God now loves God. The one who loved sin now hates sin. The rebel is a son; the enemy is a friend. That’s what happens when Christ comes into a life. It is a death of the old life and a resurrection to new life, symbolized in baptism as tonight. That’s just the beginning.
I want you to follow Paul’s response, okay. Let’s go back to verse 10. And how did he react? “There was a disciple at Damascus Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’”
He says essentially what Paul said: “‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay hands on him, so that he sight regain his sight.’” This is absolutely amazing. The Lord gives to Ananias a vision of Paul, and gives to Paul a vision of Ananias. This is God miraculously creating a basis in which these two men can meet.
Now remember, Saul is now blind. He is blind. Verse 8, he got up from the ground, his eyes were open, but he couldn’t see anything. Verse 9, for three days, he’s without sight, neither ate or drank. He’d been blinded by the blazing light of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he in that blindness is brought into Damascus and left there in the house of someone named Judas.
We don’t know anything about that Judas, it was a very common name. Three days of what? Well, three days of fasting. You might say three days of fasting and praying because please notice the end of verse 11: “The Lord says to Ananias, ‘Go to the house. You’ll find a man from Tarsus named Saul, for his is praying.’”
Here is the second thing that you see happens to someone who is transformed, they immediately enter into dependence and communion with God. Really an amazing thing. Who is this Ananias? Well, he is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He may be the leader of the Christians there – we may find that out in heaven. He actually might be one of the main targets of Saul’s persecution campaign. He is a Jew. We have further testimony about him given by Paul – Saul’s name is changed later to Paul.
Over in chapter 22 where Paul gives his testimony, listen to what he says about Ananias. “A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the law, and well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there.” All right, Ananias is a Jew. Ananias is a loyal, faithful Jew who lives by the standard of the law and is well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there – highly respected, significant Jewish man.
And then we add, back in chapter 9, verse 10, that he had become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a Jew who came to believe in his Messiah. And by the way, Ananias, after this scene, disappears completely from the holy Book and is gone as suddenly as he appeared, and we don’t know anything more about him. But God plucked him up to use him providentially as His tool in the initial days of the life of Paul.
So the Lord gives him a vision, says Ananias. He says, “I’m here.” He says, “I want you to go into the area of the street called Straight to the house of Judas and find this man Saul. Obviously, willing to do it, but a little bit reluctant at first, as we will see.
I think Ananias, in a sense, is kind of one of the unsung heroes of the New Testament. We overlook Stephen a lot, and yet it was Stephen’s powerful sermon that excited Paul to stone that preacher. And here is another name that we pass over, Ananias, who was a very faithful man. “Go to the street called Straight.”
There’s still a street in Damascus – I’ve been there a few times in past years – called Darb al-Mustaquim. It is the street called Straight. It runs all the way from the eastern gate to the western gate right through the middle. Its’ about three miles long in the ancient city.
“Go to that gate, find a house.” And if you’ve ever been there, as I have, they will take you to the traditional place where they say was the house of Judas where Saul stayed for three days. We can’t be sure of that. But Damascus was a real place, and Straight was a real street. “And when you go there you’ll find he’s praying.”
I just want to park on that for a moment: “He’s praying.” How did that happen? How did that happen? Let me tell you something; that is the initial response to conversion. That is the first response to conversion.
When a baby is born, a baby immediately draws in air to live. You don’t have to teach a baby to breathe, they will do that automatically. And prayer is like spiritual breathing. The first thing that happens when Saul meeting the Lord Jesus Christ is he now lives in the presence of God, and it’s like pressure on his spiritual lungs, and he takes it in. As air envelopes our bodies, as air pressure seeks to enter in, it is harder to hold your breath and to breathe.
So it is for a new believer. There is a cry out for communion with God. He used to pray the prayers of a Pharisee. He used to pray the legalistic prayers of one who thought he was righteous in his own way and on his own merit. Now he prays in blind, helpless dependency. He’s trying to sort out what just happened to him. The fire-breather has lost his fury; three days of prayer. This indicates a real transformation. The transformed life is the life that cries out to God.
For the Christian, prayer is the breath of the new life. Prayer is simply the soul of a Christian moving under the pressure of the presence of God. Prayer is the most natural thing, the most inevitable thing, the most immediate thing. You don’t need a manual. In fact, I hate to say this, but it probably true, that Christians more likely unlearn prayer than they learn it. It’s so natural at the beginning.
He cries out to his new Lord. Everything in his life has changed. Everything else that he once knew is now, he says in Philippians 3, manure. Everything he once hoped in, everything he put his trust in, everything he worked for, everything he sought for, all religious attainments, all spiritual accolades were manure. He’s crying out for everything he needs because everything he had is gone. He is stripped naked. “I counted them all but lost,” he says in Philippians 3. For three days, he’s crying out to his new Lord. He has no other person to turn to.
And prayer is not a one-sided conversation, and Paul learns it very fast, because Ananias is given a corresponding vision, and Paul is told that. He’s seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. So Ananias knows to go see Paul. Paul knows Ananias is coming, even though Paul is blind.
I just remind you how great God is. This is an indication that He is in absolute and total control f the thoughts and minds of a man. He is directing each of these men. He’s bringing them together. This is the work of God. Salvation is the work of God: miraculously in the case of Paul, providentially in the case of all of us. So God has ordered the event, and we see, first of all, the transformation begins with a knowledge of Christ, and then it continues with fervency in prayer. A new communion, a new air to be breathed, the very presence of God. We cry out to Him for all that we need, and He hears and answers.
And then, obviously, there is a third reality in salvation that has to do with the action that we’re called to perform, the service we’re called to give. Look at verse 13: “Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem.’
He’s having a conversation in this vision, whatever it was, and he’s saying, “Lord, I really don’t know if I want to go find this guy. I know his reputation. We know what he’s done in Jerusalem. He has authority from the chief priests – ” verse 14 “ – to bind all who call on Your name.” The whole idea of going to find Saul seems like madness because Ananias has no idea about the Damascus Road encounter.
And in fact, he’s heard a lot, a lot, because, “There have been testimonies – ” he says in verse 13 “ – from many about this man,” Jewish refugees who had been scattered out of Jerusalem and Judea. And no doubt, there had been letters sent from the persecuted believers. So the evil reputation of Saul has proceeded him, and Ananias isn’t sure that he really wants to do what God is telling him to do in this vision.
And we could assume that he’d never had another vision and this in itself is overwhelming to him. And I think the reason the Lord says he’s praying is to take a little of the fear out of this: “He’s praying, he’s praying.” So he doesn’t really rebuke Ananias. He encourages him with the fact that he’s praying.
And then the Lord says to Ananias in verse 15, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. Go, he’s a chosen vessel of Mine. First of all, you have nothing to fear because he’s praying. Secondly, you have nothing to fear because I’m commanding you to go. Thirdly, you have nothing to fear because he’s a chosen vessel of Mine to become a preacher of the very gospel he had persecuted. He’s going to bear My name.”
What does that refer to? “He’s going to bear everything that is true about Me, everything that is true about Me. He is a chosen vessel, a chosen instrument of Mine. He is – ” to borrow Paul’s own language “ – a vessel of honor, a vessel of mercy, and earthen vessel, a vessel sanctified and fit for the Master’s use. He is especially chosen. He’s an the elect vessel – ” that’s the actual Greek “ – or a vessel of election, or an instrument of election.” The call to ministry is a call from God, just as the call to salvation was a call from God. He is, in unique way, miraculously called personally by the Savior, to be an apostle.
In Galatians, He says, “Paul – ” verse 1, chapter 1 “ – an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” Paul, an apostle, not chosen by men. He is a chosen vessel by God to bear the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the gospel before the Gentiles, before the Gentiles; and also kings as we see at the end of the book of Acts; and also the sons of Israel. Now he preached to the sons of Israel first, but eventually, of course, he ended up as a missionary and apostle to the nations. And then finally to kings, and even maybe Nero; we can’t be certain about that. So be encouraged, verse 16, one other point of encouragement, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
I think all of this is, in a sense, to ease the fears of Ananias. This is a violent, violent persecutor of Christians, and so one little mention after another: he’s praying, he’s chosen, and he’s going to suffer. This is turning the tables. He was the one that made everybody suffer, but he will become the sufferer, “And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” He’s not going to be the one persecuting others, he’s going to be the one suffering. You can read through 2 Corinthians sometimes on your own. You will find him referring to his suffering all the way through 2 Corinthians; reaches a culmination, chapter 11.
Maybe we can just remind ourselves of 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, where the apostle Paul sort of gives us a litany of his suffering, starting in verse 23: “Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I am more; in far more labors, far more imprisonment, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I’ve been on frequent journey, in dangers from rivers and robbers, and countrymen, and Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, on the sea among false brethren. I’ve been labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from the external things, there’s the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” His whole was a life of suffering, and he ended up a martyr.
So here’s Saul. He doesn’t know what’s hit him. His whole life is turned completely upside-down. He is now a believer in the One he persecuted. He is now confessed Him as Lord. He is now acting in obedience to Him. He is helpless and blind, and waiting for whatever it is that God has next for him.
The vision is conveyed to him that a man is coming, and that man is going to meet him, and he’s going to lay his hands on him, and he’s going to regain his sight. And then that man is going to declare to him that he is a chosen vessel to preach the gospel, the very gospel that he had persecuted. This is an amazing transformation, and it’s the same transformation that happens to us. First, we have an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, followed by a new communion with the living God, a new life of prayer and communion with Him, followed by a life of willing service. Yes, of course, this is all miraculous in Paul’s case. It is equally miraculous in our case spiritually without the external miracles.
In chapter 22 of Acts, again where Paul is giving his testimony, Ananias is recorded to say, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One – ” that’s the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ “ – and to hear an utterance from His mouth, for you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” So Ananias tells him exactly what God has in store for him. This is Saul’s commission. This is his setting apart for ministry.
The transformed life is a transformed vocation, as well as a transformed communion, as well as a transformed relationship. Service becomes the priority of life, it becomes the reason we live. And we are empowered for that service by the Holy Spirit. We are gifted by the Holy Spirit for that service. And so that leads to the very next element in the conversion of Paul, which is also parallel to us.
Look at verse 17: “So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and – ” here it comes “ – be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and took food and was strengthened.”
A transformed life starts with faith in the Savior. It then moves to communion with the living God, it then moves to service to God, and then it moves to the filling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is bestowed on the apostle Paul and fills him. Obviously, their transitions timing-wise, as we’ve seen in the book of Acts. But he can’t do what he’s called to do without the Holy Spirit, right? “You shall be filled with the Holy Spirit in order that you might do the ministry you’re called to do.” It’s not done in human strength.
You remember in Acts 1:8, our Lord said, “You’ll be witnesses unto Me, but not until the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” And the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost and the gospel was proclaimed, and the church was unleashed on the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. And we are told in Ephesians 5:18, “Be being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
What does this mean to be filled with the Spirit? We’ve talked about it a lot, I won’t labor it. It simply means to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. How do you come under the control of the Holy Spirit? By submitting to His will. Not something mystical, esoteric, ecstatic; simply submitting to His will.
Ephesians 5: “Be filled with the Spirit.” Parallel, Colossians 3: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” When you obey the Word of God, you are being led by the Holy Spirit. His power is connected to the Word of God and to obedience. The Spirit lives in every believer. We all are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we know that. And when the Spirit takes control because we obey the Word of God, then all the things that are promised to us take place.
Galatians 5: “We don’t fulfill the lust of the flesh, but we manifest the fruit of the Spirit.” First Corinthians 2: “We begin to understand the deep things of God under the Spirit’s illuminating power.” Romans 8: “We are guided by the Spirit, confident in our position in Him and His power in our lives.”
Ephesians 5: “We speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. And Spirit-filled husbands treat their wives the way they should, and Spirit-filled wives treat the husbands the way they should. And Spirit-filled parents care for their children properly, and Spirit-filled children obey their parents. And Spirit-filled masters take care of their servants, and Spirit-filled servants honor their masters.” It dominates life. It’s living life according to the Word of God. Even our prayers become acceptable, as Romans 8 says.
First Corinthians 12 says, “Our gifts are then empowered,” and it all hinges on I think what Paul said when he said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily. I die daily.” In other words, “I set my will aside. My ambition is to be pleasing to Him.”
So here we see these things that we’re familiar with: coming to faith in Christ, confessing Him as Lord; living in communion with God; being committed to serve in whatever way He calls us to serve; and doing it under the feeling and power of the Holy Spirit. That is the essential reality of our transformed lives, as well as Paul’s.
Now I just want to give you one other as our time is gone. There is a new Lord, there is a new life, there is a new mission, there is a new power, and there is a new fellowship. I want you to go back to verse 17 and look at what Ananias said to Saul: “Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul.’” Something’s changed: “Brother Saul.”
Transformation creates a drastic change in relationships. Christians ran from this man; now they run to him. They feared him; now they grow to love him. Take some time for some who don’t know the story, we’ll see how that unfolds. But transformation places a person in a new family, in new relationships, a new fellowship.
This is all through the New Testament. I don’t need to give you more than a couple of suggestions. Ephesians 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s family, God’s household. You have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building fitted together is growing into a holy temple to the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
You come into new relationships with all other believers. This is what John is saying in 1 John 1 in that magnificent language where he says, “This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sins. If you have been cleansed, you’re in the fellowship. We are one body, one family, one fellowship.
“Brother Saul,” I love that. “Brother Saul.” It was that fast a new fellowship, a new family. And so only the transformation that Christ brings can so dramatically alter a person’s life.
How did he respond? “There fell from his eyes something like scales.” Not actual scales. “But it was as if – ” the Greek is hōs “ – as if scales had fallen off his eyes, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized.”
What does baptism symbolize? Our burial, and the death of Christ, and our resurrection to newness of life in Christ. But also, it symbolizes our union with all other believers, right? There’s one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We’re all one body,” Ephesians 4. So baptism not only symbolized his personal burial with Christ and resurrection in Christ, but it symbolized his union with the fellowship. And they took care of him; they fed him; he was strengthened. Apparently, Ananias baptized him. What an amazing thing. He has a new family.
The end of verse 19: “Now for several days, He was with the disciples who were at Damascus. For several days, He was with the disciples who were at Damascus.” And he wasn’t putting them chains, and He wasn’t binding them, and he wasn’t hauling them off to prison – all new relationships.
This is a real transformation, everything is new: a new Lord and Master, a new life, a new power, a new family. Everything is new as it was for Paul. Even a new mission. And we’ll see this next time, a new message, new message. But we’ll pick that up in verse 20. Okay, let’s bow in prayer.
Lord, it’s been such a wonderful time tonight to think about this conversion and to see it as, in some ways, a model, even though it is one of a kind, and miraculous, and an apostolic calling by You, our Lord Jesus, personally; yet all the components and elements are there for every transformation. And we know that this is the only way that sinners can be transformed, passing from death to life. Thank You for the sovereign work of salvation. Thank You that you’re still reaching down and saving sinners, and You’ve done it for us, and we rejoice in that. And may we be faithful to demonstrate all that is new, to put that transformation on display for all to see, that we might bring honor and glory to You, the One who has totally transformed us.
In fact, we know that the way the Bible speaks of this is as new birth, regeneration, new creation. All that is old is gone and everything is new. And we bless Your name, Lord, for the transformation You’ve brought into our lives, and we thank You for the miracle of regeneration, the miracle of redemption, restoration, reconciliation. We thank You that You have been gracious to us, and that is why we come together to worship and to honor You.
Lord, we know there may be some with us tonight who are still alienated from You who have no hope of change, no hope of a new life, a new heart, a new way of thinking, new relationship, but are simply engulfed and bound, helplessly and hopelessly in sin and death. We pray, O God, that You would confront them in their souls, in their minds, with the glory of Christ, and rescue them, and save them, and give them life, that they might be transformed, and that that transformed life may be to Your praise and everlasting glory. Thank You for all that You’ve done for us and in us, and ask that You would use us as instruments like Ananias, in the salvation transformation of others. And we thank You in the name of our Savior. Amen. Amen.