Saul’s Conversion In Damascus – The Template For Conversion (Acts 9:10 - 19)
10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
This scripture tells us about how Saul experienced God and was converted into the Christian faith. Saul was the most unlikely person you could expect to become a Christian. He had zealously led the persecution of Christians in the early church. People were afraid of him. He was cruel, nasty and violent. Despite this, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus and asked Saul why he was persecuting Him (and by extension, His people). Saul was instructed to go into the city where he would be told what to do. He was struck blind and taken to a house. Then God instructed a man called Ananias to visit Saul and minster to him. In verse 11, God speaks to Ananias in a vision and gives him very specific instructions on how to approach Saul. There is no description of Ananias apart from that he was ‘a disciple’. God chose an ordinary believer for this task. I imagine that Ananias must have been quite scared to be told to go and speak to Saul. In verses 13 and 14, he tried to ‘reason’ with God! It is understandable if you think about Ananias’ state of mind when he saw the vision from God. Sometimes when God tells us to do something that we think is strange or challenging, or just something that we do not feel comfortable doing, we question God. As if we can talk sense into God and He is the one who is being unreasonable! This is perhaps why God gave Ananias such specific instructions on what to do, so that Ananias would have confirmation and reassurance that this really was God’s instruction. In verse 15, God told Ananias that Saul was His chosen instrument to proclaim His name. Despite his initial reluctance, Ananias obeyed God and the powerful Saul was converted, he had his sight restored and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. God had already called Saul, so by the time Ananias arrived, Saul was praying and ready to receive the Holy Spirit.
I have wondered why God needed to send Ananias, when He could have told Saul everything Himself. However, God sent Ananias so that Saul would be personally ministered to by a brother in Christ. It was Saul’s first experience of fellowship, and it was a way to bring Saul into the family of Christ. He was baptized and spent several days with other believers in Damascus. Saul had become part of the body of Christ. This is how God converts people. He reveals Himself to them. He convicts them of their sin. He sends believers, often ordinary people like Ananias to minister to them and to lead to Christ and into the family of believers. If you feel too insignificant to make a difference, remember this story. Ananias, an ordinary disciple, was called by God to lead Saul to Christ. He obeyed (after a period of attempted negotiating with God, but he did what he was told nonetheless) and as a result the apostle Paul (Saul’s name is changed to Paul after his conversion) started his amazing ministry to so many countries and people. This is an encouragement to be obedient to God’s instructions to us, because God can use all of us in an amazing way!