The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
SUMMARY.--Saul's Journey to Damascus.
The Lord Meets Him on the Way.
Called to Be a Witness to the Gentiles.
Baptized by Ananias.
Preaches Christ to the Jews in Damascus.
They Seek His Death.
His Escape to Jerusalem and Meeting with the Apostles.
Departure to Tarsus.
Peter Heals Æneas at Lydda.
Raises Dorcas at Joppa.
1. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter. See
from which the narrative is now resumed. As the great change in the
life of Saul is now recorded, it is proper to state what can be known
of him before his conversion. Probably about a year before he appears
in the history at the death of Stephen. He was of the tribe of Benjamin
his father, though a Jew, had been admitted to Roman citizenship, and
Paul was therefore a "Roman"
he was born at Tarsus,
a Grecian city, the capital of Cilicia; there he had become familiar
with Grecian literature, as well as educated in the law; at what time
we know not, but while still young he went to Jerusalem to study in the
great Rabbinical schools, and had the celebrated Gamaliel for his
he had, according to Jewish custom, learned a trade, being a tent-maker
he was a Pharisee after the strictest manner of the sect
How long he had been in Jerusalem when he appears in this history,
whether he was there for the second time, or had not returned after his
attendance at the school of Gamaliel, is uncertain, but when we first
behold him he is a "young man,"
prominent and influential, active in his opposition to the church, and
a trusted leader of its enemies.
Went unto the high priest. Probably Theophilus, the son of
Annas, who was made high priest by the Romans in A. D. 37. He was a
2. Desired of him letters. A commission and letter addressed to
the rulers of synagogues. The sway of the high priest was recognized in
the synagogues of all the East. He was a sort of pope with the
Sanhedrim for his cardinals.
To Damascus. Situated about 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem,
east of Mt. Hermon, in Syria, a beautiful city in a fertile spot
redeemed from the desert by the mountain streams, Abana and Pharpar. It
is one of the oldest cities in the world, existed in the time of
Abraham, and now has about 150,000 inhabitants.
Of this way. The way of Christ, a phrase often applied in the
New Testament to Christianity. Paul's commission, while given in the
name of the high priest, was from the Sanhedrim
3. And as he journeyed. It would require six or seven days to
make the journey. It was probably made on foot.
There shined round about him a light. Brighter than the sun
It was the splendor of the glorified Savior as
seen at the Transfiguration,
or by John at Patmos.
In order to get the full history of this revelation of Christ and
Paul's conversion, we must compare the accounts given by Paul himself
chapters 22 and 26
with Luke's account here.
4. Heard a voice. After he had fallen. Not a sound merely, but
words that he could understand.
Why persecutest thou me? Observe how Christ sympathizes with his
persecuted followers. The blows that fall upon them, fall upon him. If
Saul strikes the disciples in Damascus, Christ feels the blows in
5. Who art thou, Lord? Sure that it was a supernatural
communication, though he might possibly suspect its source, he did not
yet know that it came from Christ. Perhaps at times he had had
misgivings that he might be wrong, but he was sincere.
I am Jesus. It is not said, "the Christ," but Jesus, the
crucified one against whom Saul was raging. Had the answer been "the
Christ," or the Son of God, Saul might still have doubted whether this
It is hard for thee to kick, etc. Omitted here by the Revision,
but found in
The idea is, that he is injuring himself, like the ox that kicks back
on the goads used to urge him forward.
6. Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee, etc.
The question, to which this seems to be the answer is omitted in the
Revision and the oldest MSS. He must enter the church just as
others. The Lord had appeared to him in order that he might be
qualified for apostleship by having seen Christ, but he must learn the
way of the gospel from one of its preachers. Christ never told a mortal
how to be saved after he gave the Great Commission to the church.
7. And the men . . . hearing a voice, but seeing no man. They
were dumb with amazement, but did not see Christ, who was only revealed
to Saul. They heard the sound, but the words were for Saul and only
understood by him. Compare with
The two passages taken together mean that they heard a sound, but no
8. He saw no man. His eyes were blinded by the brightness of the
Lord. He who had come with such power to Damascus had to be led
helpless into the city.
10. A certain disciple . . . named Ananias. He is named nowhere
but in connection with the conversion of Saul. As in the case of Philip
sent by the angel to the eunuch,
so he is sent by revelation to Saul. A revelation was needful from the
fact that Saul was a terror to the church and all would avoid him.
11, 12. Go into the street which is called Straight. This street
ran in a direct line from gate to gate, east and west, and was
anciently 100 feet wide and celebrated for its magnificence. It is now
contracted and mean.
Inquire in the house of Judas. Nothing more is known of this
For Saul, of Tarsus. As the name was not uncommon, he is designated
by his native city, "no mean city,"
a place of 30,000 inhabitants, 20,000 at present, then celebrated for
its schools. It was the Cilician capital.
He prayeth. An assurance that Ananias would be favorably
received. Besides, in his prayer, the vision came that Ananias would
13, 14. Ananias answered. In view of the terrible record of Saul
the fears of Ananias were not unreasonable.
15. He is a chosen vessel unto me. On this account the Lord
appeared to him. See
The Lord appeared unto him, "for this purpose to make him a minister
and a witness." Unless a man is called like Saul to be an
apostle he need not expect such a vision.
To bear my name before the Gentiles. His mission as the apostle
to the Gentiles is pointed out.
And kings. He not only bore witness before the Roman rulers, but
before King Agrippa
and the emperor Nero.
17. Ananias . . . putting his hands on him. Not to convey a
gift, but as a friendly act,
significant of God's blessing.His sight returned immediately after.
There is no proof whatever that any spiritual gifts were imparted, nor
that any but apostles could confer these gifts,
and Paul always asserted that he received his signs of apostleship, not
of men, but of Christ. See
Gal. 1:1, 11, 12.
"The being filled with the Holy Spirit" took place after the baptism at
the hands of Ananias.
18. He arose, and was baptized. The account is more fully given
by Paul himself
Ananias said, "Receive thy sight, and in the same hour I looked upon
Then, after stating why the Lord had called him, he added: "Why tarriest
thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the
name of the Lord."
Note (1) that "tarrying" for weeks or months before baptism was then
unknown; (2) that there would be no necessity of "arising," if water
was applied in baptism, but there would be if he had to go to a place
suitable for immersion; (3) that the term wash (Greek,
"bathe") implies more than a sprinkling or pouring; (4) that neither
Ananias nor Paul
understood that his sins were remitted before baptism. Compare
Acts 2:38 and 22:16.
19. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples. In worship
and intercourse with them. He must learn more experimentally of the
church before preaching.
20. Straightway. Following this he began to preach
Christ in the synagogues. Jesus in the Revision. He
preached that the Crucified Jesus is the Son of God.
21. All that heard him were amazed. They had heard of his former
zeal against the church and of his being sent to Damascus, but as yet
had not learned of his conversion.
22. Saul increased the more in strength. Grew continually in
power to preach Christ.
23. After that many days were fulfilled. A long period, probably
at least three years. Luke's narrative is very condensed. He is not
writing a history of Saul, but of the founding of the church. We learn
that he spent at this time a long period in Arabia, and after this
returned to Damascus. It was at his return that this persecution broke
The Jews took counsel to kill him. See
2 Cor. 11:32,
for additional information. At this time Damascus was in the temporary
possession of Aretas, an Arabian potentate. Less scrupulous than the
Roman rulers, he was willing to please Saul's Jewish enemies, who were
numerous and influential, by putting him to death.
24. They watched the gates. "The governor, under Aretas the
king, kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to
(2 Cor. 11:32).
25. Let him down by the wall. As the gates were guarded, there
was no escape that way. Houses built against or on the wall, would
afford an opportunity of letting him down on the outside. "And through
a window, in a basket, was I let down by the wall and escaped his
(2 Cor. 11:33).
26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem. Three years had passed
since he left the city, a proud, talented young Pharisee, with
brilliant worldly prospects, the honored agent of the Sanhedrim,
commissioned to stamp out Christianity at Damascus. He now returns a
disciple of him whom he sought to destroy, his bright worldly prospects
all forfeited, an outcast from his own nation, persecuted and hated.
Why this change? No explanation is possible, save that given in this
history and by himself.
They were afraid of him. Little was known in the church of the
change. A great part of the three years were spent in Arabia,
probably in study and preparation of his great work. They had known so
much of his fury in the past that they feared him still. His appearance
in the church would be much like that of Robert G. Ingersoll in a
27. Barnabas took him. See
Barnabas was a Hellenist like Saul. When he vouched for him to the
apostles, their distrust ended. Paul
gives an account of this visit to the apostles.
29. He disputed against the Grecians. The Jews in Jerusalem who
had been born in foreign countries and spoke the Greek language. See
30. They brought him down to Cæsarea. The same class of
Jews who had raised the persecution against Stephen now sought the
death of Saul. By the aid of the brethren he was taken to the seaport
of Cæsarea and sailed for his old home at Tarsus. Some think,
that the journey was made by land through Syria. It is more likely that
he sailed from Cæsarea to Seleucia in Syria, and from thence made
his way to Tarsus. Four or five years pass before the next mention of
Saul in Acts
an interval passed in preaching Christ
and resulting in the planting of churches in Cilicia
(Acts 15:23, 41).
31. Then had the churches rest. After the departure of Saul
there was a cessation of persecution for several years. The reason is
found in the history of the times. The Roman emperor, Caligula, had
ordered his statue to be placed in the temple at Jerusalem for worship,
a desecration of the temple, and the Jews were too much engaged in
their efforts to prevent this to persecute the church.
Edified. Built up.
Were multiplied. The result, always, of "walking in the fear of
the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit."
32-34. As Peter passed throughout all quarters. Visiting the
churches of Judea.
At Lydda. A town in the sea-coast plain, now called Ludd, not
far from Joppa. Here he healed a cripple of eight years. Observe that
he ascribes the power to Christ.
35. All that dwelt at Lydda and Saron. In the plain of Sharon, a
term often applied to the sea-coast plain between Joppa and
Song of Solomon 2:1.
The passage means, not that every soul turned, but that there was a
general turning as the result of the miracle.
36. There was at Joppa. The seaport of Jerusalem from the times
to the present day, situated in a fertile plain now celebrated for its
fine oranges, of which vast quantities are shipped from the port. Here
named as the home of Tabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek (meaning
"gazelle"), a saintly Christian noted for her deeds of love.
37. Washed, . . . laid her in an upper chamber. Prepared for
burial. The place was the large upper room on the upper floor of
Eastern houses, usually used as a guest chamber.
38, 39. They sent unto him two men. The fame of his miracles was so
well known that they probably hoped that he might restore her to
The widows stood by him weeping. They had been the objects
of her benevolence.
40. Peter put them all forth. Compare
1 Kings 17:19-23;
2 Kings 4:32-36; Matt. 9:25.
Perhaps that his whole soul might be fixed on the Lord in prayer. It
was on his knees that he was made to feel that the Lord had given him
power. In his prayer he called on the name of Christ, was answered, and
only needed to say, "Tabitha, arise," and "she opened her eyes." It was
the first miracle in which death was overcome at the hands of an
42. Many believed in the Lord. The knowledge of the miracle
worked this result.
43. Tarried many days. Perhaps a year.
Joppa was a large city and a favorable field of work. Here Peter
was found, at "the house of Simon the tanner,"
when called to Cæsarea by the messengers of Cornelius. It was by
and a house is still pointed out, close to the sea-shore, as that of
Simon, which Dean Stanley believes to be on the original site.