A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 9:1-31. Conclusion.
We have been considering the cause and effects of Saul’s conversion. Our overall impression has been of the grace of God which could be the cause of such great effects, laying hold of such an obstinate rebel and completely transforming him ‘from a wolf to a sheep’. Luke’s story should persuade us to expect more from God in relation to both the unconverted and the newly converted.
As for the unconverted, there are many Sauls of Tarsus in the world today. Like him they are richly endowed with natural gifts of intellect and character; men and women of personality, energy, initiative and drive; having the courage of their non-Christian convictions; utterly sincere, but sincerely mistaken; travelling, as it were, from Jerusalem to Damascus instead of from Damascus to Jerusalem; hard, stubborn, even fanatical, in their rejection of Jesus Christ. But they are not beyond his sovereign grace. We need more faith, more holy expectation, which will lead us to pray for them (as we may be sure the early Christians prayed for Saul) that Christ will first prick them with his goads and then decisively lay hold of them.
But we should never be satisfied with a person’s conversion. That is only the beginning. The same grace which brings a person to new birth is able to transform him or her into Christ’s image (eg. 2 Cor. 3:18). Every new convert becomes a changed person, and has new titles to prove it, namely a ‘disciple’ (26) or ‘saint’ (13), newly related to God, a ‘brother’ (17) or sister, newly related to the church, and a ‘witness’ (22:15; 26:16), newly related to the world. If these three relationships – to God, the church and the world – are not seen in professed converts, we have good reason to question the reality of their conversion. But whenever they are visibly present, we have good reason to magnify the grace of God.
Tomorrow: Acts 9:32-11:18. 8. The conversion of Cornelius.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.