Saturday, October 4, 2014

Exegetical analysis on Paul's conversion in Acts 9

In preparation for preaching on Acts 9. Saul's conversion I was struck by Paul's response to being blinded and hearing the voice of Jesus.
The first point is that Saul calls him Lord. Have you ever wondered why? Some might think is it the nature of the encounter that convinced him, yet our text hints that it is more. It starts with the voice calling Saul Saul. Why the repetition? Saul was blinded, he wasn't made deaf!
Being a Pharisee Saul knew his Scriptures. He knew how God had called to Abraham who was about to sacrifice his son. Genesis 22:11  Then in Genesis 46:2 God called to Jacob, it's "Jacob, Jacob. - don't be afraid to go down to Egypt" Again in Exodus 3:3 when God calls to Moses from the burning bush .. it's "Moses, Moses." He knew how also when God called to Samuel in 1 Sam 3 it's the repetition of the name again. "Samuel Samuel". [ This pointed calling is also significant in Jesus' words to Martha Martha in Luke 10:38-42 ] Scripture tells us that this repetition was common in the way God called to people for whom He had a significant part for them to play in His Plan. I am not detracting at all from God's self authenticating  authority by pointing this out, merely to say When God himself revealed himself to people in the Old Testament this characterised the encounter.

A second thing that strikes me as unusual is that Saul on having his blindness removed, in the next verse, vs 18, then he arose and even before he'd eaten he gets baptised. Context shows us that this is not Baptism in the Spirit, and anyway such Spirit Baptism would not require one to get up and be baptised before eating! That being the case it is water baptism being spoken of here. What is unusual about this is that baptism was only required of gentiles who wanted to come into the covenant fold of Israel and Worship the God of Israel. They needed cleansing but the Jews did not consider that they themselves needed it. That's why when John the Baptist came preaching and baptising it was confronting to Israel.
We read nothing in our text in chapter 9 that stands out as the reason for Saul to be baptised.
Yet there is a reason when one again considers context. When one remembers that Saul was at Stephen's stoning as recorded in Acts 7 things take on a different perspective.  The witnesses laid their garments at the feet of  young Saul as we are told in Acts 7:58. As John MacArthur says, the fact that the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of Saul, [ following Levitical law ] highly suggests Saul was at the forefront of the proceedings.
Now what had enraged the religious leaders was Stephen's declaration that he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God 7:56. But almost passed over here in Stephen's speech is verse 51. where he calls them a stiff necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears. that is - just like gentiles and what follows is that if they are just like gentiles [ the uncircumcised ] they the Sanhedrin, are in need of cleansing! And this is just what Saul himself had been like!
Paul's Proclamation:

The last "anomaly" in our text, something that confronts us, is found in verse 20 The first recorded proclamation of Jesus to the Jews is to declare Him the Son of God. We know from reading and studying the Pauline letters a bit about Paul, and what figures as central in his teaching is the Messiah, the Christ. But that's not the first word on his lips, something we would have thought would be given his Jewish hearers. Here is something in need of deeper research. Indeed the Son is intimately tied up with the Messiah in Paul's writings, not merely as the same person but in conceptual terms. Now besides being intelligible to the Jews who saw Moses as a son, Israel as a son, angels as sons, more importantly given Nathans oracle in 2 Sam 7:14 God himself would adopt David's Royal descendants as heirs, "his house" of 2 Sam 7:11. Then it has been found that certain circles of the Qumran fellowship link the Davidic Messiah as Son of God. Scripturally, Paul's emphasis in Romans 1:3-4, Heb 1:5, 5:5 are focusing more on enthronement than birth ... see again the specifics of Acts 13:33 concerning this aspect.
In this regard also one cannot again bypass Acts 7 with Stephen's speech where he accuses the religious leaders of slaying the righteous one, who Stephen's declares he now sees standing at the right hand of God, a declaration that enrages the Sanhedrin who take him out of the city and stone him.

This isn't to say the Son does not signify the one of unique standing and intimate favour in God's Work. It is to suggest that enthronement, Jesus as God, is the focus here.

Some of the gems of Acts 9

In Christ

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