Agents of Transformation : Prayer For Conversion & Presented As A New Man

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ—the Church—as it was written and recorded in the book of Acts by Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses twenty through forty-three of this New Testament book. “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, p roving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:20-23).

 

            “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to. Kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren. Knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were multiplied” (Acts 9:24-31).

 

            “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Eneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saraon saw him, and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:32-35).

 

            “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, through brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner” (Acts 9:36-43).

 

            AND STRAIGHTWAY HE PREACHED CHRIST! AND STRAIGHTWAY HE PREACHED CHRIST IN THE SYNAGOGUES! AND STRAIGHWAY HE PREACHED CHRIST IN THE SYNAGOGUES, THAT HE IS THE SON OF GOD! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find one of the most powerful transformations ever to take place in the history of the early Church—perhaps even in the history of the church. If you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that on the day of Pentecost three-thousand souls which believed the words and preaching of the apostle Peter and believed on the name of the Lord Jesus were added unto the brethren. By the time the day of Pentecost was over the early Church would see an increase of roughly three-hundred percent which is absolutely and utterly astounding when you take the time to consider it. Pause for a moment and think about when the last time was you witnessed such a great number souls believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, being baptized, and being added unto the number of believers. What’s more is that if you continue reading the book of Acts you will find that the Lord added unto the number of the brethren daily such as should be saved and that the disciples continued to be multiplied within the earth. At one point you will read of the number of brethren totally five-thousand souls which is the same number of souls the four gospels reveals Jesus fed at a single time upon one of the mountains of Israel. Not only this but we also find within the four gospels the gospel being preached in Samaria when after a great persecution broke out in the city of Jerusalem Philip came unto this region and both preached Christ as well as demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit through casting out unclean spirits and healing various forms of sicknesses and diseases.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found in the New Testament book of Acts for when you truly take the time to read it you will find that it is centered upon the activity of the Holy Spirit within the earth. What’s more is that upon reading the New Testament book of Acts you will find the twin concepts of conversion and multiplication being at the forefront  of the activity of the Holy Spirit. Not only this but when you read this New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ you will find a powerful sense of community, fellowship, compassion and hospitality among the brethren during those days. We know that the first initial evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues which was followed by the preaching of the apostle Peter, however, it cannot be overlooked that as a direct result of the preaching of the apostle Peter many believed his word and believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to this you will find that after the Lord added unto the number of the brethren three thousand souls on the first day alone. Immediately after the Lord added unto the number of the brethren three-thousand souls we find perhaps the most powerful work of the Holy Spirit—namely, fostering a sense of unity and community among the brethren as well as a powerful sense of hospitality and compassion among all those who were now walking together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We dare not and must not overlook and miss how significant this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the incredibly powerful truth of the presence and power of the Holy Ghost during those days and how the Holy Spirit did indeed accomplish much during the early days of the Church made up of the apostles and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            I mentioned how two of the main factors of this New Testament book are conversion and multiplication and we have a great need of recognizing this. If we wish to understand the language and narrative found within this book—and not only understand the language found in the book but also the activity of the Holy Spirit—we have a great need to recognize and understand that the work of the Holy Spirit was to convert men and women and to multiply the number of the brethren in the earth. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words and language that is found in the New Testament book of Acts and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that two of the greatest evidences and manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the earth is the multiplication of the disciples and brethren and the conversion of those who previously were enemies of Christ and of His cross. It cannot be overstated that the work, the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit is active in the earth to convert the souls of men and women that they might believe on the name and person of Jesus of Nazareth that they might be baptized and devote themselves to walking with and following Jesus. The New Testament book of Acts contains various accounts of men and women being added to the number of the brethren on a daily basis as well as distinct accounts of conversions which took place during those days. If you take the time to read the words and language found within this book you will be confronted with the activity of the Lord working with the Holy Spirit to add unto the number of the brethren those that ought to be saved as well as distinct accounts of certain individuals who experienced conversion during those days. We know in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book that Simon the sorcerer in Samaria believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and that he numbered himself among the brethren. Of course we know that he tried purchasing the gift of the Holy Spirit with money and was rebuked by the apostle Peter, however, it must be noted that Luke powerfully records that this one who used to bewitch the people believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and walked with and among the brethren.

 

            In the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we read of Simon the sorcerer believing on the name of the Lord Jesus and even the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch who was traveling from Jerusalem unto his own country. It would be on the road to his own country this Ethiopian eunuch would encounter Philip who would be brought unto him by the person and power of the Holy Spirit. As Philip drew nigh unto this eunuch traveling on the road away from Jerusalem he found him reading the words concerning the suffering of the Messiah written in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. This eunuch would ask Philip who the prophet was referring to—whether himself or someone else. What makes this particular narrative so incredibly powerful is when you consider the fact that as Philip drew nigh unto the chariot carrying this eunuch he asked him if he understood that which he read. Upon hearing what the eunuch read and his question concerning who the prophet was speaking about Philip began preaching unto Him Jesus the Christ—undoubtedly beginning with the Law and the prophets. As a direct result of the preaching of Philip concerning the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ the eunuch would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and would ask if there was anything that prevented him from being baptized. The chariot carrying both Philip and the eunuch was ordered to stop and this eunuch was baptized in a body of water that was there beside the road. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it is for it brings us face to face with both Simon the sorcerer and this Ethiopian eunuch who would both believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these narratives brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth concerning conversion which did indeed take place during those days.

 

            The more I read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding this subject of conversion. We know from repeated references within the opening eight chapters of this New Testament book that the Holy Spirit added unto the number of the brethren such as should be saved. We know that what would begin with three-thousand souls being added on the first day of the formation and creation of the Church would continue with the Lord adding daily unto the number of the brethren such as should be saved. It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable when reading the New Testament book of Acts that multiplication—much like the multiplication of the loaves of bread and fish when Jesus fed the four thousand and the five thousand—is at the very forefront of the book of Acts. You cannot read this New Testament book and not come face to face with the activity of the Holy Spirit working together with the Lord and adding unto the number of the brethren daily such as should be saved. The New Testament book of Acts is replete with example after example of the Lord adding unto the number of the brethren such as should be saved. Time and time again the church would experience increase and fruitfulness in the earth as the Lord would work together with the apostles and the brethren adding unto them more and more followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Oh I would absolutely love to know how many souls were present in the body of Christ at the time the great persecution broke out against it in the city of Jerusalem. We know that at one point the brethren numbered five thousand, however, I would dare say that number was much greater by the time the great persecution broke out against the Church in the city of Jerusalem.

 

            With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the wonderful truth surrounding conversion among the brethren as well as conversion within the book of Acts itself. When you come to the ninth chapter of this New Testament book you will find what was perhaps the single greatest conversion in the history of the early Church. It is in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book we witness the conversion of Saul of Tarsus whom Scripture held nothing back concerning his sordid past. If you read the words which are found in the eighth chapter—not only will you find Saul consenting to the death of Stephen but you will find that his death almost seemed to serve as a catalyst for the wrath and rage of Saul as he began wreaking havoc and chaos in the church amidst the great persecution that broke out against it. Scripture reveals how Saul entered into house and home and dragged men and women out before casting them into prison. Not only this but when you come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that Saul continued wreaking havoc upon the church as he breathed out threatenings and slaughter against it. Moreover you will read how Saul obtained letters authorizing him to journey unto Damascus and if he found any belonging to this way he would have them bound and bring them back unto Jerusalem to be cast into prison. We know for a fact there were Jews which were present in Damascus as well as synagogues present in this ancient city for later on in the ninth chapter you will find Saul preaching Christ in the synagogues and confounding the Jews which were present within them. The ninth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts is truly amazing when you take the time to consider it for it brings us face to face with Saul’s continued wrath and rage against the church. Luke holds no punches when he writes of Saul’s actions during those days and continuing to breathe out threatenings and slaughter against the early Church.

 

            At the risk of getting ahead of myself I find it incumbent to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul spoke as he stood trial in the city of Jerusalem. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul standing before the men and brethren in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and recounting his past life as well as his conversion to the faith. The words and language found in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the awesome truth surrounding the apostle Paul and how he who once persecuted the church and was perhaps the greatest champion of such persecution and destruction of the church would become the greatest advocate and supporter of the Church. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter:

 

            “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom I also received letters unto the brethren, and went unto Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now thy tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make hast, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprionsed and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:1-21).

 

            Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words and language which is found in this passage of Scripture for here we have from the apostle Paul’s own mouth the account of his encounter of Christ while traveling on the road to Damascus. Standing there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem the apostle Paul would recount unto them how Jesus of Nazareth appeared unto him and not only asked why he persecuted him but also declared unto him that His name was Jesus whom he was persecuting. It is of great importance to recognize and understand this for it brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the conversion of Saul for after Jesus had departed from him and the brightness of the light faded away Saul was left unable to see and had to be led by the hand into the city of Damascus. It would be there in the city of Jerusalem where Saul would neither eat nor drink but would instead continue to pray. While praying Saul would see in a vision a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying his hands on him that he might receive his sight. In the ninth chapter of this New Testament book we find the Lord appearing and speaking unto Ananias and instructing him to go unto the city of Damascus unto the street called Straight and inquire of one named Saul of Tarsus in the house of Judas. Initially Ananias was fearful, hesitant and reluctant to go and search for such a man for he had heard of the great wrath and rage he had unleashed in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Moreover Ananias also heard how Saul had come unto Damascus that he might bind those whom he found in the way and commit them to prison back in the city of Jerusalem. The Lord—knowing the fears and anxiety in the heart of Ananias—would speak unto him and declare how Saul was his chosen instrument to bear witness of Him and that He would show him how much he must suffer for His name.

 

            If you take the time to read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the Lord Jesus Christ speaking unto two different individuals during the conversion of Saul. Of course there was the initial interaction between Saul and Jesus of Nazareth whom he was persecuting while on the road to Damascus but there was also a second interaction between Ananias and Jesus concerning this man by the name of Saul of Tarsus. It’s actually quite remarkable to read the words found in the first half of the ninth chapter of this New Testament book for what we find here in this portion of the chapter is the Lord Jesus appearing unto Saul beginning the process of being converted as well as the Lord Jesus appearing and speaking unto Ananias concerning Saul as He instructed him to go to a street called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one by the name of Saul of Tarsus. I have to admit that while much emphasis has been placed upon the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth unto Saul while traveling on the road to Damascus there is little emphasis placed on Ananias. Please understand that I am in no way or by any means attempting to diminish the appearance of the Lord Jesus unto Saul there on the road to Damascus. What I am seeking to do is to call and draw your attention to the tremendous role Ananias played in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. It would be very easy to quickly glance over the mention of Ananias in this passage of Scripture and focus solely on the conversion of Saul and yet I am absolutely convinced that to do so would be to do a great injustice—not only to the conversion process itself but also to this man Ananias. I am absolutely convinced that Ananias is mentioned for a very specific reason and the account of his being brought unto the house of Judas where Saul of Tarsus was praying was divinely orchestrated by the person of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I would dare say that the conversion process of Saul might very well have taken on an entirely different reality were it not for the willingness of Ananias to faithfully obey the word and command of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            I feel it absolutely necessary to spend a little bit of time on this man named Ananias for he would play a crucial role in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Saul remained in touch with Ananias after he departed from Damascus when the Jews there sought to kill him. We know from the words and language found in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul traveled throughout Asia and Europe teaching and preaching the name of Jesus of Nazareth and established many churches throughout and upon both continents. Stop for a moment and consider just how incredible that thought truly is—the thought that the apostle Paul was mightily used by the Holy Spirit and Jesus of Nazareth to preach the name of Christ on two continents as well as establishing churches on both continents. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider this for there is something to be said about this man who was previously named Saul of Tarsus whose name was changed to Paul and the great work he did in the earth for the name of the Lord Jesus. With this being said we must needs recognize and understand that the conversion of Saul can’t merely be attributed to the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth unto him as he was traveling on the road to Damascus. It is indeed true that Jesus of Nazareth whom Saul persecuted appeared unto him while he was traveling on the road to Damascus and it was true that Jesus of Nazareth instructed Saul to go into the city of Damascus and there in the city it would be told unto him what he must do. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that during this interaction Jesus would call Saul by his name, would ask him why he persecuted him, would declare Himself to be Jesus whom he persecuted, would speak to him of kicking against the pricks, and would then command him to go into the city where it would be told him what he must do.

 

            ARISE, AND GO INTO THE CITY, AND IT SHALL BE TOLD THEE WHAT THOU MUST DO! Please don’t quickly move past those words for although Jesus appeared unto Saul while traveling on the road to Damascus He did not immediately reveal unto him the purpose for which he had been called. It is true that Jesus appeared unto Saul as he was journeying along the road to Damascus and it was indeed true that that Jesus revealed Himself as the one whom he was persecuting, however, Jesus would not immediately reveal the purpose for which He appeared unto him nor yet what he must do. Saul asked the Lord what He would have him do and in response to this Jesus would merely instruct him to go into the city of Damascus and it would be there where he would be told what to do. It is this instruction and command spoken by the Lord Jesus that would set the stage for the entrance and work of Ananias in the life of Saul. When you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of this chapter you will find present in the city of Damascus a certain disciple named Ananias whom the Lord would appear unto in a vision. During this vision the Lord would appear unto Ananias and instruct him to arise and go into the street which is called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus. The Lord would declare unto Ananias that this man by the name of Saul of Tarsus would be found praying for he had seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him that he might receive his sight. Upon hearing this command and instruction from the Lord Ananias would do what anyone else in his position might have done—reason with the Lord and rehearse in His hearing all this man named Saul had done. Ananias recounted unto the Lord how he heard by many of this man how much evil he had done to the saints which were at Jerusalem and had authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            GO THY WAY! FOR HE IS A CHOSEN VESSEL UNTO ME, TO BEAR MY NAME BEFORE THE GENTILES, AND KINGS, AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! FOR I WILL SHEW HIM HOW GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE! I have to admit that as I sit here writing these words I am absolutely captivated with the narrative of Ananias and how the Lord Jesus appeared unto him in a vision. Within the first portion of the ninth chapter of this book of Acts we find the Lord Jesus appearing unto Saul while journeying on the road to Damascus and not only revealing Himself as Jesus whom he persecuted but also instructing and commanding him to enter into the city of Damascus for it would be there he would be told what he must do. Scripture reveals how it would be there in Damascus that Saul would be found praying and saw in a vision a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying hands on him that he might receive his sight. Three days after Jesus had appeared unto Saul on the road to Damascus He would appear in a vision unto Ananias instructing and commanding him to go into the street called Straight, inquire in the house of Judas for one by the name of Saul of Tarsus, and lay his hands on and pray for him that he might receive his sight. It is in the ninth chapter we find Ananias faithfully obeying the voice and command of Jesus who had appeared and spoken unto him. Ananias would indeed go into the street called Straight and would find Saul of Tarsus in the house of Judas praying just as the Lord Jesus had spoken unto him. Moreover Luke writes how Ananias would lay his hands upon Saul and declare unto him how the Lord, even Jesus who had appeared unto him in the way which he came had sent him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. In the ninth chapter of this book we find that immediately after Ananias had finished praying for Saul there fell from his eyes as it had been scales and he received his sight. Moreover Saul arose, was baptized, received meat, and was strengthened while spending a certain number of days with the disciples which were there at Jerusalem.

 

            In the twenty-second chapter of this New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul providing more detail concerning that interaction and encounter with Ananias there in the city of Damascus. Beginning with the thirteenth verse we find the apostle Paul recounting how Ananias came unto him and instructed and commanded him to receive his sight. It would be that very moment Saul would look up and would look upon this man named Ananias who had come unto him by the command of the Lord to lay hands on him that he might receive his sight. The apostle Paul would go on to reveal how Ananias would go on to speak and declare unto him how the God of their fathers had chosen him that he should know his will and see that Just One and hear the voice of his mouth. Not only this but Ananias would go on to declare unto him that he would be his witness unto all men of what he had seen and heard of him. Ananias would go on to instruct Saul to arise and be baptized, wash away his sins and call upon the name of the Lord. What a truly wonderful and powerful picture it is in the ninth chapter to read how there in the city of Damascus Saul would receive his sight, would be baptized and would begin calling upon the name of the Lord. It would be there in the city of Damascus—the city he was originally going to enter with letters to bring men and women bound unto Jerusalem to have them cast into prison. There in the city of Jerusalem Saul would encounter a brother by the name of Ananias who was willing to do what I am sure might have absolutely terrified him to do.

 

            I feel a great need to pause right here and ask when the last time was you did something that absolutely terrified you. When was the last time you did something that completely and utterly scared and made you afraid? Can you remember the last time you did something that so filled your heart and soul with fear and anxiety? What’s more is can you remember the last time you did something that terrified you simply because it was commanded you of the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Ghost? What we find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is Ananias faithfully obeying the voice and command of the Lord Jesus and doing something which I am sure terrified him. We know that Ananias did indeed faithfully obey the word, the voice and the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, I would be remiss to say that such obedience did not terrify and affright him to a certain degree. Would it shock and surprise you to consider the fact that it is possible to walk in obedience and be fearful at the same time? Would it shock you to consider that it is possible to obey and yet at the same time have fear in your heart? I am absolutely convinced that it is possible to obey and yet have fear and anxiety within our hearts and souls. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider that Jesus can and will ask us to do those things which are convenient and comfortable alone and cannot and will not also ask us to do those things which might absolutely terrify us. It would be incredibly wrong on our part to think that we will be called, commanded and instructed to do those things which are easy for us and which might not terrify us within the depths of our heart and soul. We ought not be those who think and believe that when the voice of the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts and our spirits that he will command us to do those things that might not absolutely terrify us and fill our hearts with anxiety and fear.

 

            I have to admit that I absolutely love the words which are found in the ninth and twenty-second chapters of this New Testament book of Acts for within them we find written the account of this man by the name of Ananias who was instrumental in the conversion process of Saul of Tarsus who would later become known as the apostle Paul. Pause for a moment and think about what it would and could have been like for Ananias to be a part of the conversion process within the life of Saul of Tarsus and that the Lord would entrust him with so great a task as laying hands on this Saul of Tarsus and praying for him that he might receive his sight and might receive the Holy Spirit. Please note that I am not speaking about this in terms of any type of arrogance, pride or boasting but rather from the vantage point of being so entrusted by the Lord Jesus to be used in the conversion process of Saul of Tarsus. Ananias was a disciple of Jesus in the city of Damascus and yet he would be found faithful to help in the conversion process of one by the name of Saul of Tarsus. Oh we must needs recognize this particular truth for there is something to be said about Ananias’ faithfulness and willingness to obey the voice and command of the Lord Jesus in doing exactly what He had commanded. Scripture is entirely unclear how quickly after the Lord spoke unto and commanded him to go into the street called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one named Saul of Tarsus, but we do know of a surety that he did indeed faithfully obey the voice and command of the Lord. We know for a fact that Ananias did indeed obey the voice and command of the Lord Jesus and would come unto Saul that he might lay his hands upon him and pray for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

            There is something truly wonderful about the narrative of Ananias within the story of Saul for not only would Ananias lay his hands on and pray for Saul that he might receive his sight, but it was also Ananias who spoke unto Saul of being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. It would be there in Damascus where Saul would not only receive his sight, and would not only be baptized but would also receive and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Moreover we find that Ananias was sent by the Lord Jesus to speak unto Saul of Tarsus and declare unto him how he had been called and chosen to be witness unto Christ among the Gentiles and among the house of Israel. It was revealed unto Ananias that Saul of Tarsus would suffer many things for his name and Ananias would faithfully deliver the words the Lord Jesus had commanded him to. We dare not and must not overlook the presence and activity of Ananias in this passage of Scripture for Ananias was instrumental in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. It is indeed true that Jesus of Nazareth appeared unto Saul along the way from Jerusalem to Damascus, however, we cannot overlook the presence and activity of Ananias in the process of Saul’s conversion. In fact I would dare say that were it not for Ananias’ willingness to be faithful and obey the voice and command of the Lord Jesus this chapter and narrative might have gone in an entirely different way. With this being said I find it absolutely astonishing how the Lord Jesus did not need to ask for another when it came to laying hands on and praying for Saul of Tarsus. Ananias was the Lord’s first choice for that one who would come unto Saul and lay hands on him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This truth is entirely evident in the fact that the Lord revealed unto Ananias how Saul had seen in a vision a man by the name of Ananias coming unto him and laying his hands on him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

            Oh dear reader please do not miss the tremendous importance of Ananias in the narrative and account of Saul for there is something to be said about a brother who is willing to come alongside us and lay hands on us that we might receive our sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Despite how absolutely fascinating and wonderful the conversion of Saul was we cannot afford to overlook the fact that the conversion of Saul would include more than simply Jesus appearing unto him on the road to Damascus but also a man by the name of Ananias who would come unto him and laying his hands on him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to be an Ananias to those before and around us whom the Lord has chosen to be His vessels in the earth. Are you and I willing to be Ananias’ in our generation and faithfully obey the voice and command of the Lord as we lay our hands on and pray for those who have encountered and experienced Jesus? We know that on the road to Damascus Jesus of Nazareth appeared unto Saul, however, it wouldn’t be until Ananias came unto him, laid his hands on him and prayed for him that he would receive his sight, would be baptized and would be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it brings us face to face with just show crucial the role of Ananias truly was during those days in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. It would be as a direct result of the faithful obedience of Ananias that Saul would not only receive his sight but would also be baptized and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ananias’ obedience to the voice and command of the Lord Jesus Christ would be wonderfully and powerfully used by Jesus to help facilitate the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who would eventually become known as the apostle Paul.

 

            I can’t help but wonder if the Lord Jesus showed unto Ananias who and what this Saul of Tarsus would become in the days ahead. We know that Jesus of Nazareth showed unto Ananias that this Saul would suffer many things for His name and would be a witness unto the Gentiles, unto kings and unto the house of Israel, however, I can’t help but wonder if the Lord revealed unto Ananias who and what manner of man this Saul of Tarsus would indeed become. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU’RE PRAYING FOR! YOU NEVER KNOW WHO AND WHAT THAT BROTHER YOU’RE PRAYING FOR WILL BECOME! YOU NEVER KNOW WHO AND WHAT MANNER OF WOMAN THAT SISTER YOU’RE PRAYING FOR WILL BECOME! Oh I feel a tremendous need to pause right here and speak to you about how incredibly dangerous it is to minimize being called by the Holy Spirit to lay hands on that brother or that sister and pray for them that they might receive their sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I am absolutely and completely convinced that you and I might not know who and what that brother or sister we are praying for will become and our faithfully obeying the voice and command of the Lord will be divinely used by the Holy Spirit to help bring about the conversion and transformation of that brother or sister into a mighty man and/or woman of prayer. With this being said I feel compelled to instruct and urge you to never minimize or underestimate the power of your prayer(s) and the laying on of your hands can be in the life of another. It is possible that neither you or I will truly know and understand who and what manner of man and/or woman that one we have prayed for and laid our hands on will become and has chosen to be. Ananias laid his hands upon Saul and prayed for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit and perhaps unbeknownst to him he would be instrumental in the conversion process of the single greatest champion, advocate, supporter, apostles and missionary in the history of the Church.

 

            DO THINGS AFRAID! DO THINGS FEARFUL! DO THINGS FAITHFULLY! NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR PRAYER(S) AND THE LAYING ON OF YOUR HANDS UPON ANOTHER! If there is one thing the narrative of Ananias brings us face to face with it’s that it is possible that we do things afraid and perhaps even do things which we are initially hesitant and reluctant to do. I am absolutely convinced there are times in our lives when our obedience may very well be coupled together with fear and with much anxiety as what we are and what we have been called to do utterly terrifies us. When the Lord appeared unto Ananias and instructed him to inquire of a man called Saul of Tarsus Ananias initially recounted unto the Lord everything this man had done and what he had planned to do in the city of Damascus. The Lord, however, would reveal unto Ananias how this man named Saul of Tarsus was His chosen instrument and vessel as a witness unto the Gentiles, unto kings and unto the house of Israel. Moreover, the Lord would reveal unto Ananias how this man named Saul of Tarsus would suffer many things for the sake of the name of Jesus in the earth. It is truly worth thinking about and considering this and how utterly compelling it is for I am sure that it was not easy for Ananias to go into the street called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus. Scripture, however reveals Ananias did indeed obey the voice and command of the Lord Jesus and would indeed come unto Saul of Tarsus, would in fact lay his hands on him and would pray for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

            If there is one thing I so love about the narrative of Ananias—and not only love but also find challenging—it’s that we dare not and ought not underestimate the power of our prayer(s) and the laying on of our hands upon another. What is so compelling about Ananias is that he perhaps had absolutely no clue the full extent of who and what Saul of Tarsus would become and how he would be transformed into the apostle Paul who would write more than half of the New Testament, would plant countless churches in Asia and Europe, and would be the greatest persecutor of the church turned champion of Jesus Christ. There is something to be said about this man named Ananias for he could have certainly balked at the command and voice of the Lord Jesus. Ananias could have chosen not to believe that this conversion and experience Saul had was genuine and authentic. Ananias could have chosen to contest the accuracy and validity of what was spoken concerning Saul and could have chosen not to obey the voice and command of the Lord Jesus Christ. This actually leads me to an incredible warning and word of caution which I feel must needs be spoken unto you who might be reading these words—namely that we must never be those who question the conversion of another. This is especially true if and/or when the Lord Himself appears and speaks to us commanding us to lay our hands on and pray for them. One thing this past year has given us is a number of enemies and men and women who countless have hated within their hearts and souls. If there is one thing this past year and even the present year we are in has provided us with it’s targets of hatred, anger, malice, offense, bitterness, rage and the like. From the former President, to Derek Chauvin, to various other police officers who were involved in the shooting and deaths of unarmed civilians, to those who stormed the Capital Building on January 6th, to a number of other individuals we have been given an incredibly long list of those whom we can perceive as enemies and adversaries and whom we can hold hatred and malice in our hearts toward.

 

            The narrative we find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is actually quite remarkable for not only do we find the conversion of one who was the greatest champion of the persecution of the early church in Jerusalem but we also find the faithfulness and obedience of one man who was willing to do that which might very well have terrified and made him afraid. There is something truly powerful about the willingness of Ananias to come alongside Saul and be a brother to him—despite his sordid past and despite the reputation he had for being a staunch adversary to and enemy of the church. In all reality the ninth chapter contains two distinct and powerful narratives of men who were willing to come alongside Saul after his conversion knowing the past which he had in the city of Jerusalem. It would be in the city of Damascus Ananias would come along Saul as a faithful brother laying his hands on and praying for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit and it would be in the city of Jerusalem Barnabas would come alongside Saul as one who would take him unto himself as a brother and companion in Christ. The more I read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the incredible importance of those who are willing to be used as instruments and vessels of the mercy, the grace and the compassion of God in the lives of those who would be converted as well as those who are willing to be brothers and advocates for those who might have had a sordid and chaotic past. We dare not overlook that which is found within the ninth chapter of the book of Acts for within it we are brought face to face with Ananias who was willing to come unto Saul laying his hands on and praying for him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit as well as Barnabas who was willing to come alongside Saul as a brother in Christ.

 

            WHO ARE YOU WILLING TO LAY YOUR HANDS UPON THAT THEY MIGHT RECEIVE THEIR SIGHT AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT? WHO ARE YOU WILLING TO COME ALONGSIDE AS A FAITHFUL BROTHER IN CHRIST? I have to admit there is something truly wonderful and remarkable about the words we find in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with two men who were instrumental in the conversion and transformation of the apostle Paul. In all reality I would dare say the apostle Paul would have declared how instrumental and vital Barnabas and Ananias were during those early days after his conversion. It is with this in mind I feel it absolutely necessary to speak to just how critical and important those early days are after men and women have experienced Jesus of Nazareth for the first time and are being converted as a brother or sister in Christ. I am absolutely convinced those days are perhaps the most critical and the most formidable days in their faith and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ and those who are willing to come alongside them are of great importance and significance. There is not a doubt in my mind that during those early days of one’s faith and walk with Christ who comes alongside them is of significant importance and cannot be overlooked. With this being said I feel compelled to say that it is not enough simply to lead men and women in what has commonly been known as “the sinner’s prayer.” There have been many ministers alike who have led men and women in “the sinner’s prayer” and have in essence left them unto themselves to figure this thing called faith and walking with Jesus out. Very little has been done in the way of discipleship and truly coming alongside such men and women that they might not only recite a prayer but might also begin to experience transformation and growth.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words presented before us in this chapter and I am absolutely convinced that Ananias and Barnabas were absolutely critical in the life of Saul of Tarsus. It is true Jesus of Nazareth appeared unto Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and instructed him to go into the city where he would be told what to do, however, it would also require the faithfulness and obedience of a man by the name of Ananias to come alongside him and laying his hands on him prayed that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for Ananias would not be the only one to come alongside Saul during those early days as Barnabas would also come alongside side as a faithful companion, brother in Christ and friend. When many in Jerusalem were afraid of Saul because they knew his past and the great havoc he had wrought upon the saints Barnabas himself was unafraid of Saul and truly believed that he had seen and encountered the Lord. In fact when you come to the twenty-seventh verse of the ninth chapter you will find Luke writing how Barnabas took Saul in and brought him to the apostles and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, how the Lord had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly in Damascus in the synagogues. BUT THEY WERE ALL AFRAID OF HIM AND BELIEVED NOT THAT HE WAS A DISCIPLE! BUT BARNABAS TOOK HIM! Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the tremendous importance of what is found in this passage of Scripture for Luke writes of those in Jerusalem how they were not only afraid of Saul but also did not believe that he was truly a disciple.

 

            I read the words which are found in the ninth chapter and I can’t help but see within many disciples and brethren in the city of Jerusalem a powerful picture of those within our generation who doubt the authenticity and genuineness of one’s conversion to the Lord. It is utterly fascinating to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider the fact that when Saul came unto the city of Jerusalem he assayed himself to come unto the disciples for they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we find in this passage of Scripture, however, is Barnabas taking Saul in and taking him unto himself. What’s more is that not only did Barnabas take Saul unto himself but he also brought him unto the apostles and presented Saul as having seen the Lord, as having heard the Lord speak unto him, and having preached boldly at Damascus in the synagogues of the Jews. In all reality I am absolutely convinced that in each and every one of our lives we not only need an Ananias—one who is willing to lay their hands on and pray for us that we might receive our sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit—but we also need a Barnabas—one who is willing to take us unto themselves and not only believe in us but also advocate for us. I can’t help but see in Ananias and Barnabas a powerful picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit who not only comes alongside us but who also advocates for us as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Ananias we see one who is willing to come alongside us and support us in prayer and instruction while in Barnabas we see one who is willing to come alongside us as an advocate who will stand behind and beside us among the brethren. There is not a doubt in my mind that in the lives of each and every disciple and saint of the Lord Jesus Christ there is a great need for both Ananias’ and Barnabas’ who are willing to come alongside us as faithful brothers in Christ.

 

            I sit here thinking about the life of Saul of Tarsus and find myself wondering what would and could have happened had Ananias chosen not to come unto Saul and laid his hands on him as he prayed for him to receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I find myself wondering what would and could have happened to Saul had Barnabas not come alongside him and stood beside him as a faithful brother before the apostles. Saul had already seen the Lord Jesus and had already heard his voice and now Barnabas took Saul and presented him unto the apostles. PRESENTED AS A CHANGED MAN! Oh pause for a moment and consider just how powerful the actions of Barnabas truly were for when he took Saul and brought him unto the apostles he didn’t bring him before them as one who persecuted the church but as one who preached Christ. FROM PERSECUTOR TO PREACHER! There is something truly astounding about the actions of Barnabas for this disciple and follower of Jesus was willing to come alongside Saul, bring him unto the apostles and present him as being one who had seen the Lord, heard His voice and preached boldly in the synagogues the name of Jesus of Nazareth. When Barnabas brought Saul before the apostles there in the city of Jerusalem he presented him as one who had seen the Lord and had been truly transformed and changed. We dare not underestimate and lose sight of this and how absolutely remarkable it truly is for there is something to be said about those who are willing to come alongside us as faithful brothers and sisters and present us unto others as being changed and transformed. Although the disciples were still afraid of Saul and although many did not believe that he was truly a disciple of Jesus Barnabas took Saul unto himself and presented him unto the apostles as one who was changed and transformed having encountered the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            WE NEED TRANSFORMATIONS TODAY! WE NEED CONVERSIONS TODAY! THESE CAN’T BE RELEGATED TO THE BOOK OF ACTS! Oh the more I think about the words and language that is found in the ninth chapter the more I am finding myself encountering the truth that in this present day generation in which we are living there is a great need for transformations much like what took place in the life of Saul of Tarsus. I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great and powerful need within our generation for men and women to be completely and utterly transformed by encounters with the voice and presence of Jesus of Nazareth. Moreover there is not a doubt in my mind there is a great need for men and women among us to experience true and authentic conversion having encountered the person of Jesus through dreams, through visions, and through any other means He desires to show Himself unto them. Conversions and transformations can’t and shouldn’t be relegated and limited to the New Testament book of Acts and there is a great need within our generation for men and women to experience true, genuine and authentic transformation by the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but there is a great and powerful need among us within our generation for men and women to receive their sight when once they were blind and to receive the Holy Spirit. Still even further there is a great need for men and women to be baptized that their sins might be washed away and that they might begin calling upon the name of the Lord. There is truly something powerful about what we find in the ninth chapter of the book of Acts for the conversion we see in the life of Saul of Tarsus must not be limited to him and him alone. Despite the fact that he would become the apostle Paul and the greatest apostle and missionary to walk the face of the earth the conversion he experienced was not and is not limited to him and him alone.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the undeniable truth that you and I must be willing to be Ananias’ and Barnabas’ to those who encounter and experience the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it’s at the moment of conversion or later on in one’s walk with the Lord Jesus Christ there is a great and pressing need for us to be those who are willing to lay our hands on and pray for others that they might see and might be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a wonderful and powerful need for us to be Barnabas’ to others among us—those who are willing to come alongside others, believe in them, believe in their transformation, believe in their encounter with the person and presence of Jesus Christ and present them as being changed and transformed. There is something absolutely remarkable and powerful about having a Barnabas and Ananias in our lives—those who are willing to come alongside us regardless of our past and what it might have looked like. Ananias might have originally been hesitant and resistant to going unto Saul to lay hands on and pray for him, however, we know from Scripture that he faithfully obeyed the voice and command of the Lord. What’s more is that Barnabas took Saul unto himself and brought him unto the apostles when many of the saints and disciples were still afraid of him and doubted that he was actually a disciple of Jesus. What an incredibly strong and powerful thing it is to have someone who is willing to come alongside us and not only believe in our transformation but also present us as transformed unto others. That which makes Barnabas’ coming alongside Saul so vital and critical is that he not only believed that his transformation was genuine but he also presented him as being changed and transformed. It’s one thing to believe that one’s conversion and transformation is authentic but it’s something else entirely to actually come alongside that person and present them as being changed and transformed.

 

            I conclude this writing by making a statement that it isn’t enough for us to desire having an Ananias and Barnabas in our lives for we must also possess a willingness to ourselves be an Ananias and Barnabas. It would be very easy to get caught up in our desire to have one who is willing to lay hands on and pray for us that we might see and be filled with the Holy Spirit. It would be very easy for us to get caught up in our desire to have someone come alongside us and not only believe in our conversion but also present us being changed and transformed. The truth of the matter, however, is that we must be those who are willing to come unto and come alongside others as an Ananias and Barnabas. There is a great temptation and trap in allowing ourselves to get so caught up and consumed in our desire to have such men and women come into our lives and be what we think and feel we need, however, we must needs realize and recognize that there is a great need for us to be that person for someone else. What’s more is that it is possible that while we are desiring to have an Ananias or Barnabas come into and come alongside us within our own lives we are actually being called to be such a one for another. It is very much possible for men and women to wait for an Ananias and/or a Barnabas to show up within their lives and yet they completely miss out on the reality that they themselves have been called to be such a one for another. What I would like to present to you is who can you be an Ananias and/or a Barnabas for in this present generation? Are there those in this generation to whom we can come alongside of as Ananias’ and lay hands on and pray for them and/or those whom we can be supporters of their testimony and transformation. SUPPORTERS OF TRANSFORMATION! SUPPORTERS OF CONVERSION! SUPPORTERS OF CHANGE! Oh that we would recognize and understand that we have been given a tremendous opportunity to not only be those to whom Ananias’ and Barnabas’ can come alongside of but also that we would be Ananias’ and Barnabas’ ourselves.

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