“For he is praying”

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Christ as Elohim in Acts 9:1-22

The life story of Saul is amazing! He was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:5-6). He was one of the greatest of all the Jews who ever lived.

But something spectacular and unexpected happened to him. In v.1 of this text we read that this man was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples”, but in v.11 we read about a drastic change that has happened to him, it says, “for he is praying”. It is not the first time that Saul is praying, but this is the first time that he is praying to Jesus. He is calling on the Lord Jesus for help.

Who can do such a radical transformation, this wonderful miracle in a person? Who can take a hater of Jesus and a murderer of Christians and turn him around? Who can change a man's heart? Who can humble a proud and stubborn mule like Saul? This is not the gentleness of God that has knocked down Saul from his horse as we read in vs.3-4, “As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” This is the mercy and the sovereign power of God almighty that has knocked him off his horse. This is no other than God, Elohim, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. In v.5 we read, “"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.” Later in v.9 we read that not only did Jesus powerfully stop him and knocked him off of his horse, but “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” This doesn't sound like the meek and mild little Lord Jesus, but someone powerful and in authority of human life to blind a person, and stop a murderer dead in his tracks. Here sovereign and powerful God, Elohim is not asking Paul or wooing him to repent and believe in Jesus, but here God is almost not giving him a chance to do otherwise but embrace Jesus, the one he hated and persecuted just a few moments before. Is this a miracle of regeneration, of new birth, of new life form above, or what? That is powerful. Our God does as he pleases.

Somehow Jesus changed Saul's mind in a way that Saul wanted what Jesus wanted, to be saved by Jesus from his sins and to have new life in Jesus. Wow! And we read elsewhere, “For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16).

To this newly converted man Saul, Jesus gave a new name Paul, which means little. Saul was big and proud in his own eyes with all his achievements, but now by Jesus' sovereign and powerful and irresistible grace Saul has been turned to a humble and small man in his own eyes, willing to suffer in many ways for Christ, the gospel and the people of God. What a powerful miracle it is to be regenerated, to be brought from death to life, for it is God, Elohim who “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:5).

May we and I be eternally grateful for this indescribable gift of God to us undeserving sinners. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

And here's the proof in the pudding, the new life of Saul, or Paul, a new life in Christ, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (vs.20-22 of our text).

This is Elohim our sovereign and powerful God – Jesus Christ. He alone has the sovereign power to give life where there is none.