A Missionary’s Tale

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 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.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. – Acts 9:10-19

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Petunia blossom at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA | Photo taken March 2017

When it comes to salvation by grace through faith there is no one who quite as clearly lays it out as does the Apostle Paul. He is relentless: Salvation is by God’s grace alone, apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:21-28). He makes the point again: We have been saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So how is it that at his conversion God says, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” You might think there is a conflict here: it’s either salvation by grace through faith, or it’s suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name, isn’t it? How is it that Paul – who will suffer greatly for the sake of Jesus’ name – is the champion of justification by grace through faith? Paul suffered shipwreck, beatings, imprisonment, opposition, false accusations and even opposition from within. His life is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words: he suffered for the sake of Jesus’ name.

All this was made possible by God’s grace at work initially by means of striking Saul blind and revealing himself to Saul. It was made possible further by Ananias’ intervention, healing prayer, and gift of the Holy Spirit.

Being saved does not transport us immediately to heaven. God converts us and makes us new so that we may walk in newness of life. He brings us into his rule and reign so that we may serve him in everyday ways. It may be providing the food for a hungry new convert (v. 19). It may be a matter of praying for someone who is in need of God’s help. It might involve even great suffering for the cause of Jesus’ name.

Ask those who give themselves to such things. They will surely tell you it was worth it. Paul himself says as much at the end of his challenging yet dedicated life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

3 comments
  1. Thankful for Ananias’ faithfulness to Jesus call, selflessness in putting Paul’s salvation before his own safety, service to Paul by going to him and commitment in obedience to this VERY new gospel story unfolding around him.

    It seems to me that Paul understood the OT so thoroughly he that now, with scales removed, he knew MOST completely that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the prophecies. He, himself had to be powerfully removed from the equation of his own mind’s grasp on scripture and personal value and responsibility to it by the Actual Author of Life, whose power it ALL rightly is, in order to realize once and for all that what he sought to protect in persecuting believers was not what he was protecting at all.

    Paul needed his past to confirm his new understanding … Jesus is God Eternal who died for ALL sin, whom he had persecuted.

    Paul may have even understood suffering would certainly be a part of his converted life since he himself had been a purveyor of such suffering upon the believers.
    His conversion and teachings really amaze me! God’s grace, SWEET grace amaze me even more! Thank you for this walk through ACTS!

  2. This comment helps me realize that I am not doing an expositional look at Acts, but commenting on the implications of what is happening. Your comment rightly points out some significant observations about the text: Ananias’ part in the story, Paul’s Old Testament expertise and knowledge, and the VERY new nature of the gospel message. Thanks!

  3. You are welcome and I am humbled! However, it is through reading “the implications of what is happening” that these new thoughts were brought forth this morning! As is said in Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Your writing’s prompting gave way to taking a harder look at scripture. I think that is my job as Jesus’ disciple and yours to lead me to the ability … among other things. Besides, Paul IS amazing and imagining that you are there and watching it unfold firsthand is an invaluable approach to broadening understanding; a tool which you recommended sometime in earlier sort- of recent writings! 🙂 ALL JOY!

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