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Bible Commentaries
Acts 9

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-43

Acts 9:1 . Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. Not less than two thousand of them, who fell in this storm, were massacred indiscriminately. If what is said by Baronius in the preseding chapter be true, that Saul was now thirty five years of age, which is highly probable, seeing he calls himself Paul the aged, in his subsequent epistle to Philemon, then he must have returned to Cilicia, or gone on some mission of the synagogue, during the three years of our Saviour’s ministry. He regards himself as one born out of due time, because he had not seen Christ in the flesh.

Acts 9:4 . He heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Other scriptures add, that the Lord appeared to him in the way: Acts 9:17. Barnabas told the elders in Jerusalem, how he had seen the Lord. And Ananias said to him that “God had chosen him to see that Just One, and to hear his voice:” Acts 22:14. Yea, he himself says to the parties at Corinth, Have I not seen Christ Jesus the Lord? This vision or open view, elevated Paul to the glory of all the apostles, who saw the Lord, and often after his resurrection.

Acts 9:5 . I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. The very name against which he had been so madly opposed, and that very Saviour whom he had so violently execrated. Thus the Lord still glories in the cross, even after his ascension into heaven.

Acts 9:9 . He was three days without sight. Chrysostom conceives that he then had those extraordinary visions and revelations mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2; and that there God revealed his Son in him, that he might preach him among the heathen. Galatians 1:16.

Acts 9:19 . Then was Saul certain days with the disciples. Saints and angels rejoiced alike at his birth. He now heard witnesses on the other side: they showed him the old testament full of Jesus; the types of Isaac and Joseph, the victims bleeding on the altar, the highpriest entering the holy place; all adumbrating the glory of Christ and of his kingdom.

Acts 9:29 . He disputed against the Grecians. Literally the Hellenists, who were probably pharisees, of the sect to which he had belonged. See the note on chap. Acts 6:1. The word Hellenists is of doubtful import. John 12:20. Acts 11:20, &c.

Acts 9:31 . Then had the churches rest. The arm of God revealed in the conversion of the captain of Satan’s host, struck appalling terrors on the persecutors. Then the saints walked in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and were multiplied. They were edified by the regular worship, exactly after the manner of the synagogue; by prayer, by reading the law and the prophets, by expounding the sacred text in every form of edifying address; by singing psalms, and adding “hymns which celebrated the divinity of Christ, the Word of God.” Eusebius. Thus the christian churches were so many little synagogues transformed to Christ.


The conversion of this young man to the faith of Christ, suggests a variety of the most important and instructive reflections.

It is common for youth of the best dispositions to err in the outset of life. How penetrating soever their genius may be, they have not experience, nor is their judgment mature. One errs through bigotry and unhallowed zeal, another is malicious and cruel, and a third is carried away with a torrent of imperious pride, and the vices of the age. Such is man in his carnal state; and without a divine change, whether pharisee or prodigal, he cannot see the face of God.

Providence often manages the furious passions of men to accomplish its own sovereign pleasure. Saul and the council were bent on exterminating the christians, but the dispersed travelled everywhere preaching Jesus, that he was the Christ. The jews were training Saul to serve their nation, but God overruled all their toil for the good of his church. His wisdom, his genius, his fire, and assiduity were all intended as the hallowed ornaments of the sanctuary. Why then should the humble saint fear the great, the high, and the proud? The wrath of man shall praise the Lord, and even enmity shall serve his cause. How much more easily would St. Paul bear persecution, and how tender would he be towards its misguided instruments when recollecting the errors of his youth.

When men are out of the reach of ordinary means, and yet desire to be right, God will go out of his common way for their conversion. This is exemplified in the case of the eunuch, and of Cornelius, Acts 8:10, but in no case more than that of Saul. Here grace stooped to his situation, for his proud heart would never have stooped to hear the apostles. Grace waited for him in the way. In his judgment, blinded with ignorance and passion, he was quite clear that he acted a laudable part in the suppression of christianity; and yet his heart, otherwise tender and moral, was at variance with his judgment. When he saw Damascus, and considered what he was about to do to a people that never offended him, his feelings would revolt at what he called his duty. In this moment, the Lord Christ discovered to him his glory, which at noonday shone above the brightness of the sun; and this glory was an infallible sign of his Messiahship and true divinity. Exodus 24:16-17. Isaiah 6:2. Habakkuk 3:3; 3 John 1:143 John 1:14. Evidence less strong would scarcely have converted a mind so prejudiced. Besides, it was requisite that he should see the glory of Christ to be constituted an apostle, and a witness of his resurrection. How indulgent is God to the errors of man.

Grace was not only triumphant in Saul’s conversion, but also well timed. The Lord did not meet this rebel on coming out of Jerusalem, lest being taken back to the pharisees they should throw every barrier in the way of his conversion and ministry. He met him near the entrance of Damascus, where his repentance could be fostered by solitude, where the tears of the church could be changed into joy, and where he could make a triumphant entrance on the ministry. Thus the Lord’s counsel is perfect; his way is plain before him, and he laughs at all the malice of his foes.

Genuine conversion always begins with conviction of sin. While this noble youth laid prostrate on the ground, a voice said, with gentle calm, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I know thy name, thy errand, and thy heart. Tell me now, what harm have my people done to thee, or to thy country, or to thy religion. Saul was silent, and trembled with guilt and fear. On leaving Jerusalem he had a hundred pleas for persecuting the saints; now, when God speaks, he has not a word to say. He only ventured to ask who that human form was which he saw in the glory; and was answered, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee, poor fainting youth, to kick, like the restive bullock, against the goads. Here the silence of reflection rolled the billows of conviction over his conscience. What, Jesus of Nazareth, Lord of glory! Oh, the blood of Stephen. Oh, the waste of his flock. Oh, the misery into which I have plunged my soul by one sad error! Lord, I am undone. What wouldest thou have me to do? The wicked may hence infer, that if Christ should meet them in their foolish career, he would demand a reason why they disobey their parents, and neglect their salvation. He would ask why they indulge in blasphemy, in drunkenness, and in impurity. So he did in the days of his flesh. When the lovely young man, who seemed to have no fault, came and devoutly asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus touched the tender spot, and convinced him that he loved his lands more than his God. When the shrewd woman of Samaria dared to dispute with him about religion, waving those subjects, he said Go, call thy husband. And instantly her own conscience arraigned her at his bar. Now, if the same Lord should speak from heaven, his eyes would dart fire on the wicked, and his words would pierce the guilty with conviction.

The Lord Jesus refers awakened persons to the ministry for instruction and comfort; for that is his established oracle, and it will convey adequate knowledge, accompanied with all the tender and fostering care of the church. So he sent Philip to instruct the eunuch, and Peter to help Cornelius and his friends. Happy is the awakened soul that takes the Lord’s counsel.

Genuine conversion is followed by various effects and evidences. Among these are, tears, solitude, and prayer. And above all, a clear sense of God’s pardoning love shed abroad in the heart. Arise, said Ananias, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. It is followed by the comforts of the Holy Ghost, with christian fellowship, and a life devoted to the glory of God. Saul being some days with the saints at Damascus, found them of a temper totally different from the pharisees; their whole conversation and worship bore a striking resemblance to heaven. To this people his heart became united for ever; and forgetting his kindred, and trampling on all his carnal hopes, he straightway preached and published the glory of his crucified Lord. His faith realized the unseen world; he fainted at no difficulty, and millions of conversions were the fruit of one.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/acts-9.html. 1835.
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