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Acts 9:1 by Robert Dean
The study of Saul’s conversion is more than academic. It becomes a study of our own times and how the Holy Spirit works today to totally redirect lives we have considered a lost cause. This revelation to Saul is repeated in scripture as an objective account of a historical event which was witnessed, and not just an imagined happening within Saul’s head. Saul uses his background as the catalyst in a severe acting out of passion directed against the gospel which may also mask an over-zealous but positive inclination toward God. Learn the significance of the bright light, Jesus’ introduction in terms of His humanity, Paul’s blindness, why Paul and Jesus spoke Hebrew instead of Aramaic, Paul’s conversation with Agrippa and Paul’s commission from God as apostle to the Gentiles.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 42 secs

Saul to Paul: Psychotic Break, Psychological Delusion or Divine Revelation of Grace? – Part 2

Acts 9

I truly appreciate all of you praying for my dad.  Some of you have gone through this in your life but others haven't had a spouse or parent or someone in your life go through a long-term illness.  You're faced with a lot of difficult decisions.  They're difficult because a lot of time we don't know what the precise or best answer is.  It's a problem solving procedure because the problem that we're solving has to do with each decision.  As I pointed out when I taught problem solving devices/spiritual skills in the past, every decision we make in life is a problem.  It's like when you're in the military, you go through various combat drills in various field training exercises.  You're presented with a challenge, a decision that you have to make based upon the training you have received prior to that event.  Sometimes there's no right answer; there may be a number of wrong answers but there's not one answer that hits the spot so Scripture gives us guidance, a framework for handling these things. 

I'm going through that right now with my dad.  As many of you know, he's had Alzheimer's for thirteen years.  He was diagnosed two years and ten months ago with lung cancer which they said would probably kill him within a year and a half.  So their timing is not always that great.  It's been almost three years now.  That has to be taken into consideration when doctors start giving you dates and you're supposed to be making decisions on timing they throw out there.  You go, "Well, wait a minute.  I'm not sure you're hitting high numbers here on your averages." 

Then this last year a brain tumor was identified on his brain but we didn't go through the process of biopsy or anything else.  There are other things going on.  The cancer has been very, very slow growing but now it's beginning to speed up.  Ten days ago he broke his hip, fractured his hip.  Last week they decided the best course of action was to do a hip replacement.  He's too weak to go through the therapy to rebuild his strength to get up and walk again. 

Yesterday morning I had a meeting with the doctors.  They had some facts wrong but basically what they were saying is that they were wrestling with how much care to give him.  My directive had been to keep him comfortable, don't take any extraordinary measures because I've already had one great aunt die from Alzheimer's after fourteen years.  She was just a vegetable.  I would rather have my father die from lung cancer, stroke, anything but go through another five or six years like that. 

The doctors wanted clarification about my wishes from me.  It was really sort of a shock.  I didn't think they were there yet.  Any kind of care is going to bring constant pain, draining fluid off the lungs, and things of this nature or hospice care.  Their timing is not even three months.  I was extremely unsettled by that yesterday. 

Its not that I don't have peace about my dad.  He was saved when he was very young; he was a deacon at Berachah Church; he was in charge of tapes and publications committee back when it was a function of the church and back when they produced those technological masterpieces called a phonograph record.  They were the basic doctrine records. 

I'm not at all concerned about what's going to happen when he dies but for many of us, that's not the issue.  People around us often mistake that as an issue.  I'm ready for him to go to be with the Lord because that's going to end all his suffering and difficulty.  I have no doubt whatsoever of what's going to happen.  Many of you know who've gone through this.  It's all those other decisions we have to make regarding legal property in this world and regarding just what kind of care is right or wrong.  We don't want to make mistakes.  We don't want to increase their discomfort.  We don't want to extend their life just for the sake of extending their life, especially when they aren't real sure of who they're looking at in the mirror. 

I know some of you relate to this.  When I get up in the morning, I say, "Mirror, mirror on the wall.  I am my father, after all."  He looks in the mirror and he thinks he's me.  I'm scared.  Today I was up in his room and I was sitting by the table and a couple of doctors came in and said, "We haven't met you before."  I said, "If you don't know who I am, you need to go back to your psychiatric care and have your head examined."  And they did a double-take, and said, "You're absolutely right.  We know who you are." 

It's making those decisions that's difficult.  As I came home yesterday and was thinking about wrestling with it, I talked to Army.  Army is the lady who has worked for my parents since 1990.  My mother had polio before I was born.  She was always in a wheelchair.  Growing up, I had two mothers: a white mother and a black mother.  My mother, being in a wheelchair, couldn't do any housework or anything so we had to hire a maid five days a week my entire life growing up.  One of my great privileges was preaching her funeral.  But when she was getting old and had to retire, my folks hired Army.  That was in 1990.  That before my mother had her strokes which eventually culminated in her death in 2002 so she has been there through thick and thin and has truly performed above and beyond the call of duty. 

Army is an absolute treasure, a gift of grace.  She's a believer, an extremely dedicated member of our family and does a fabulous job.  I just basically turn 98% of things over to her.  If she died tomorrow, I wouldn't even know what pill to give my dad.  I don't have a clue of what goes on.  She handles everything.  I just sort of sit in the background and watch. 

Right now she is a little more distressed over the news than I am because she's with him all the time.  She didn't think we were near to the point of having to make this decision.  And so my prayer was [and I think this is a prayer many of us should have] was that God would just give us clarity in limiting the options.  I rely on Proverbs 3:5 and 6 which says, "Trust in the Lord always and lean not on our own understanding..."  It's great to get all the data from the doctors or whatever the circumstance is and to do all the evaluations but at some point there is an X variable factor in there and only God knows what those variables are beyond the hard data that we have.  I was praying last night that God would just make this clear. 

There were several options that were on the table yesterday but when I went down to the hospital this morning a couple were taken off the table pretty quickly.  It basically comes down to three options:  (1) 24/7 care at home but unless the Lord dumps another $2700 a month minimum in my lap that's not going to happen, (2) Put him in a VA contract nursing home or (3) Put him in a very nice room in a VA hospice room.  That seems to be where we're  heading unless something happens. 

He may surprise us.  This is a man who was in the first wave at Iwo Jima.  He is still pretty physically tough.  One old attendant at the VA was laughing the first morning I went up there.  He said, "Well, he only tried to punch me out three times last night.  I'd come over there to try to move him and he'd come off the bed with a roundhouse and try to hit me.  I just barely missed it each time.  He's slowed down just a little bit."  He's still pretty tough so he could bounce back but he just can't get any physical traction going in terms of putting any weight on the leg or going forward with that. 

It's sad for us when we watch someone deteriorate.  It's a slow time.  We all asks the question: why doesn't the Lord take so-and-so now?  Why do they have to go through that suffering?  That is an underlying issue.  People ask that about everything.  That's because we don't know the X variable which is opportunities I might have,  Army might have to witness there at the VA, what opportunities do we have that the circumstances might bring such as me talking about it here.  Maybe as it's going out on the internet someone else might be going through something similar.  2 Corinthians, chapter 1, says "We comfort one another with the comfort which we ourselves have been comforted."

 There are so many ways in which God uses events like this that we're not aware of.  We just get myopic and focus on why God lets this suffering happen and we don't know.  That's the whole point of the book of Job.  God asks all those questions of Job to point out to him that he can't comprehend any of this.  God says that if he were to answer Job's questions Job wouldn't understand it so quit asking why; just trust Him.  That's what we're supposed to do. 

I'm making some decisions to scale back on some things but I'm not going to back off the November 10th involvement at the Center for Terrorism Law because that's such a crucial thing, after the events of the last two weeks.  I don't care how much time I have to put in on preparation because it's focused on the point at which we, as a nation and as Christians, are being assaulted.  It's such a high priority but there are some other things that are up in the air that the Lord will make that clear as time goes by.  That's how we go through decision making. 

Now let's go to Acts, chapter 9.  This is part 2 of Paul's conversion.  Last time I named it:  Paul's Conversion: Psychotic Break, Psychological Delusion or God's gracious forgiveness and transformation.  That really sets up the interpretive conflict between human viewpoint, on the one hand, and divine viewpoint, on the other.  The world looks at that and says, "Ahh, this is just some psychological break.  He's overwhelmed by the guilt of persecuting these Christians, persecuting women and children." 

I have a problem with that.  I'll just use one word, 'holocaust'.  You just didn't see that kind of thing happening to the SS troops.  Paul has a shorter window of time here.  You just don't see this kind of psychological event occurring for people who are so mired in the darkness of evil in their own soul that guilt has that kind of reaction.  It might bother some people but not this kind of complete 180 degree shift with the Apostle Paul. They may have a nervous breakdown, emotional breakdown, whatever you may call it but they don't become the passionate, most brilliant declarer of the opposing view within 72 hours.  It just doesn't happen.

That is the brilliance of what happens with Paul. So, these human viewpoint explanations just really don't work in the face of the historical evidence.  But they have this presupposition they bring to the evidence and say, "Well, that can't be accurate evidence.  So we have to discount it.  It was probably written not by Luke but by somebody two or three hundred years later."  That completely flies in the face of all historical evidence today.  That's a 19th century view that liberals tried to float because they didn't have enough historical, archeological confirmation in the mid-19th century to argue against some of those views.  They got away with suggesting a late authorship of New Testament documents and people bought into that.

Today, that's not true.  There's one book written by an extreme liberal theologian, John A. T. Robinson.  He wrote a book back in the late sixties called Honest to God in which he set forth the death of God theology.  You may remember how popular that was back in the sixties.  But John A. T. Robinson also wrote another book dealing with the origin of the New Testament in which he dealt with the historical, archeological evidence of the New Testament.  He even ended up trying to date all the New Testament even earlier than most conservative theologians would.  I don't buy into his dates but it shows that when liberals are honest with the historical, archeological dates they cannot late date anything in the New Testament to the mid- or late- second century or even the late third century.  They can't say that there was some period that oral transmission got so garbled that X became non-X, white became black, and up became down which is just basically the liberal view.

This shows that there is documented, historical evidence of numerous things in the book of Acts so there's no reason to doubt its historicity or authenticity.  We have this tremendous story here of Paul's conversion, told by Luke as it happens in Acts 9 but then it's repeated by the mouth of Paul two other times in the books of Acts when he is giving a defense of his particular position. Once in Acts, chapter 22 and again in Acts, chapter 26. Some people try to make a case of certain discrepancies in these views but they fit together.  They're just the addition of details.  Not being mentioned in one account does not mean that someone is covering something up or distorting something.  It's just that no one is sitting down and trying to write in terms of a modern, academic model of historiography, an exhaustive detailed account of everything that happened on the road to Damascus.  But when you create a false criteria like that and then impose that upon these different narratives it makes it appear as though there are discrepancies when, in fact,  there are none. 

(CHART) Looking at maps, just to orient us, down in the southern tip is Jerusalem.  Here's Damascus which is the capital of modern Syria and was the capital of Silesia/Syria area.  All of this was part of one Roman province at the time.  Here you have the city of Antioch which becomes significant later on in Acts and this is Tarsus which is the hometown of the Apostle Paul. 

I pointed out the last time that the Apostle Paul's background is such that he was born into a family associated with the Pharisees, a wealthy family, indicated by the fact they had Roman citizenship.  His father was an entrepreneur businessman and had a tent manufacturing business that the young Paul would have apprenticed to.  We know of this because later in life as an adult, at times, he went back to that, established that kind of business in places like Corinth, employing believers in order to make money. Capitalism. Not the kind of pseudo-capitalism that is often attacked today by different elements of our modern media and press which is really a very federally or governmentally-controlled capitalism, which is not free market at all.  They had an opportunity to start a business and to build a business and to generate income that supported them.  This is completely in line with the teaching of Scripture. 

Paul gives us a little bit of his autobiography in a couple of different passages, such as Acts 3, 5, and 6 which we talked about last time.  He talked about giving his credentials as a strong passionate 180% dedicated Pharisee, dedicated to first century rabbinical teaching on how a person gained approval with God and that this is based upon both the ritual and the moral law of Moses.  He's from the stock of Israel, tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.  He's the poster child.  If you want to know what a true dedicated Jew would look like in the first century,  the picture in the encyclopedia would be the Apostle Paul.  No one surpassed him.  He is a Pharisee and he says, 'concerning zeal' he is passionate.  He has self-righteous arrogance to the extreme, persecuting the Church and concerning the 'righteousness which is in the Law', that is generated from observance according to Pharisaical standards, he would account himself blameless 

In Acts 22 he talks about his background and he is giving his testimony to a Jewish audience when he went to Jerusalem when a mob came out.  Let's turn there.  I want to hit both this passage and the one in Acts 26 and look at that in comparison with what we read in Acts, chapter 9.  In Acts 22, Paul is addressing them in Hebrew.  I think this is important.  What you will discover every now and then as you are enthusiastic about reading other things and learning about the Scripture [which I applaud], is the hypothesis that Jesus taught only in Aramaic.  So they say that the Greek in the Gospels is only a translation from the Aramaic. 

There are problems with that and one of the problems I have is that the language was not always Aramaic.  Here it says Paul addresses them in the Hebrew language.  I think it's important to recognize that he is addressing them in the Hebrew and they understood that.  He is speaking to them in their language, not in Greek.  I don't think Jesus taught the New Testament in Greek or in Aramaic.  Whatever language he used, he may have shifted language because he was multilingual.  Whatever language was used, God the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture to write it in Greek so that the Greek is what accurately reflects what Jesus' intent was.  So we can't get mired in with those who think we need to go back and translate it into Aramaic so we can get the real sense of what was going on.  That's not necessary if we truly believe in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. 

Paul talks to them in Hebrew.  That calms them down.  He's not a foreigner.  He's not talking to them in Latin or Greek and they gave their attention to him.  He says here, "I'm a Jew born in Tarsus in Silesia, brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel [I said a few things about Gamaliel the last time.  Gamaliel was considered to be the foremost rabbi, especially under the Pharisees, in the ancient world.  It was said later that he was the head of a rabbinical school which had been founded by another famous Pharisee Hillel, in about 10 B.C.  There were two great rabbis about that time, Shammai and Hillel.  Hillel was the more conservative, what we would call a literacist, a Biblicist and Shammai was a little more loose with the text.  There was always this debate going on between the rabbis over interpretation of different aspects of the Old Testament.  It comes out of whether they come out of one school or another.  This is like dispensationalists versus covenant theologists, dispensationalists being the ones closest to the truth, with covenant theologists furthest from the truth.  So that's the idea.  Gamaliel is in that tradition.  He establishes his own school and becomes as great as his predecessor, Hillel.  Later on, the followers of Gamaliel are spoken of and Paul is in that tradition. 

I've heard Arnold Fruchtenbaum refer to some passages in the Talmud where a name has been removed and there's some speculation that may have been Paul but we have no way to verify that.  I wouldn't hang my hat on that too much but it's interesting information to be aware of.  So Paul says he studied at the feet of Gamaliel.  He is his prize student, the number one apple polisher in Gamaliel's class, far and beyond the greatest rabbinical student of that generation.  No one could touch him.  He was absolutely brilliant.  Anyone who studies Paul, whether you're a believer or not, [I have read conservative Jewish scholars looking at the New Testament in terms of its Jewish background come to the same conclusion] that whether you agree or disagree with the Apostle Paul his writing are among the most erudite, the most logically rigorous of all writings in the ancient world.  They cannot be simply dismissed or diminished lightly.  He says he was taught under the 'strictness of our fathers'.  So we see that he has a rigorous view of the interpretation of the text, and the Law, and he's zealous or passionate toward God. 

I pointed this out last week.  There is evidence that he, at his core, is positive toward God.  Like many people who may be positive at an early age, because we all have a sin nature, go off the rails and get trapped in suppression of truth and unrighteousness so that for all practical purposes our observance of them is that they're the last person in the world who would ever, ever become a passionate disciple of Jesus Christ.  That's wrong on our part because up until five minutes before Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, anyone of us would have written him off. 

This guy is so hostile.  He is Adolph Hitler personified in his hatred and antagonism toward Christians.  Yet in an instant he does a 180 because when Jesus Christ appears to him in the light, he saw the truth for what it was and responded positively.  If you know somebody who's really hostile to the Gospel, that may just be their defensive mechanism to try to cover up something that makes them very uncomfortable thinking they may be a little positive, so you never know.  It's in the Lord's hands. 

In verse 4, he admits, "I persecuted this way to the death."  The way was a term used to refer to early Christians in the church.  It was taken over by a small cult group in  the US back in the sixties and the seventies.  "I persecuted this way to the death binding and delivering into prison both men and women."  He makes it very clear that he is out there rounding up families who are Christians and putting them I prison.  He's involved in their torture and their illegal execution, which is murder.  He goes on to say, "As the high priest bears me witness,  it's well known in all the council of the elders [Sanhedrin], from whom also I received letters, I went to Damascus to bring those who were there in chains to Jerusalem to be punished."  When he says 'bring in chains' he's not talking about some metaphor there that this is emotional bondage or spiritual bondage or he's just going to bring them back at the point of a spear.  He's talking literally that they would be linked one to another by chains and manacles and marched back to Jerusalem.  He wanted to make their life as much of a living hell as possible. 

In verse 6 he describes what happened.  "Now as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon suddenly a light from Heaven shone around about me."  He's probably somewhere between fourteen or fifteen miles south of Damascus.  "Suddenly a great light from Heaven shone around me..."  This is typical in many revelatory theophanies in Scripture when God appears, He is surrounded in light.  John says, in 1 John that "God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all."  God himself is light.  It's not just a metaphor for His purity or His holiness but, while it involves that as well, He is light. 

When we see God appear again and again in the Scripture, it is that effulgence of His being that is often referred to as His Glory.  It becomes reduced in a finite way to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt.  It is seen in the event in the Old Testament when Moses would go into the Holy of Holies and there God would appear to Him over the Ark of the Covenant.  When Moses would come out his face was glowing, talk about the rosy glow, his face just literally beamed.  It was so intense but it would decrease in its intensity.  People would see that.  When it first happened, as is typical with most of us, it really impressed them.  "Look, he saw God.  How impressive that is."  It talks about this in 2 Corinthians. Then as time went by, the brilliant reflection from Moses face diminished and people would sort of lose their mountain top experience and say, "Well you're not so close to God today as you were yesterday so we won't pay attention to you."  In order to counteract that, Moses would put a veil over his face so people would not let their spiritual lives be distracted by his physical appearance.

Again and again that when Isaiah is before the Throne of God in Heaven, in Isaiah chapter 6 and in numerous other places, the appearance of God is in this brilliant light.  The light is also significant because it's revelatory.  It exposes that which is in the darkness.  It illuminates truth so that we talk about 'walking in the light of God's Word' or in the 'light of truth'.  The psalmist says, "It is in your Light [revelation] that we see light,' 

The resurrected ascended Christ appeared personally to the apostle in the road to Damascus and this great light shone around him.  In verse 7, he says, "I fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me."  Notice he doesn't say anything about the goads kicking.  That's added in chapter 26.  It's added in a textual variant of the King James but shouldn't be there in Acts, chapter 9.  All he says at this point is "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  The light is almost physically palpable.  What happens when Paul sees that light is so overwhelming that it knocks him to the ground.  I don't know if you've ever had that experience in life but there are times when people are hit with tragic news that it just knocks them to the ground.  This is that kind of event.  It's so profound in his thinking that it just knocks his feet out from under him.

Then he hears a voice.  He answers and says, "Who are you, Lord?"  Some people have made a lot of theological headway out of that word 'lord' but the word kurios [kurioj] is just a simple expression of someone worthy of respect, much as we would use the term 'sir'.  In Spanish speaking areas I see a bumper sticker that says, "Jesus es mi senor" meaning 'Jesus is my Lord'. Senor is normally associated with mister but it is also the polite word for sir or lord.  That's how they translate 'lord' in the Bible.  When Paul says, "Lord, why are you persecuting me?' we can't make the mistake that John McArthur makes [I use him as an example because he is in print with the argument that Paul was submitting himself to the lordship of Jesus Christ and that's when he was saved.]  It simply should be understood that in this context I'm not sure if Paul understood that Jesus was God.  He is just simply recognizing the superiority of the one in his presence and demonstrating language of submission, like we do when we are stopped by a police officer and we say, 'yes sir' so we don't end up in any more trouble.  Paul says, "Who are you Lord?"  If he knew who Jesus was, why would he ask this?  That's ridiculous; that's contradictory; that's irrational. 

Paul is asking the questions for identification purposes and Jesus says, "I am Jesus of Nazareth."  That's how Jesus identifies himself in terms of His humanity and in terms of the One who walked on the earth thirty-three years teaching consistently that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament passages related to the Messiah.  He doesn't say, "I'm Jesus, the Messiah."  He doesn't say, "I'm Jesus Christ", which means the Messiah.  He says, "I'm Jesus of Nazareth."  He's connecting the dots right away.  He doesn't say I am the One who was crucified because I claimed to be the Son of God. 

Paul got the message right away.  Then Paul says, "Those that were with me saw the light and were afraid."  What's interesting is that in all three of these accounts Paul says those with him saw the light.  What you hear from the liberals is they say, "Well, this was internal.  Paul had a hallucination.  It's all inward inside his head between his ears."  But the statement that in all these passages that while those with him didn't hear the specific words that Jesus said, they heard someone speaking but the words were inarticulate to them.  They saw a light but they couldn't see clearly who was being revealed in the light because it wasn't for them. 

The fact they saw the light and heard the sound tells us that this is an objective event that was not a psychological apparition that was between Paul's ears.  "Those with me saw the light and were afraid."  They're not just looking at Paul on the ground as if he had a seizure and were asking, "Let's call 9-1-1.  Wonder what we should do?"  No, they're afraid because they understand that something supernatural has happened.  One of the words that is used in Acts 9 for what they see is a word that is used frequently in passages where people see an appearance of God, a theophany. 

So he says, "Those that were with me were afraid but they did not hear the voice that spoke to me."  Other passages say they heard so what's the contradiction?  Well, one is that they heard the sound of the voice but they didn't hear the specific words that were said, much as if you may be in one room and you hear someone talking in another room, you know there's someone there but you don't hear their words clearly enough to have any idea what they are saying or even identifying who the speaker is.  They the sound of a voice but they didn't hear specifically the content of what was being said.  So Paul says, "I said, 'what should I do, Lord'? And the Lord said, "Go into Damascus and there you will be told all things which you will be appointed to do."

Now by this point Jesus has identified himself. This is the point Paul believed in Jesus.  But what Paul says is the result of the fact he has believed in Jesus.  He's had his moment of faith alone in Christ alone and as a result of that he says, "Okay, Lord, I'm convinced.  What do I do now?"  He is directed to go into Damascus and there he will be given further revelation.

In verse 11 Paul says, "And since I could not see from the glory of that light…" [he was blinded by it]... he's led by the hand into Damascus.  That is Acts 22. 

Let's turn to Acts 26 now.  In Acts 22 Paul is standing before the crowd in Jerusalem and they want to stone him.  They're riled up and they're emotional.  They're almost like those crowds we see getting riled up Tahrir Square and outside the embassy in Cairo or in Ben-ghazi or some of the other places.  They don't want to listen to this sort of an objective explanation of the gospel.  And so they react accordingly.  Now in Acts 26, this is an event that is the result of that earlier event.  The crowds tried to stone him and he appealed to the Roman Empire to protect him.  He is escorted by a military contingent to Caesarea-by-the-Sea which at this time is serving as the headquarters for the Roman government in Judea. 

The procurator at this time is Felix and when he appears before Felix, Felix is somewhat sympathetic to him.  Paul plays his trump card in chapter 25 and calls for an appeal to Rome so that he can come under complete Roman law in his trial.  So he's kept in jail, probably a pretty comfortable situation there in a beautiful location.  When we get there I'll show you pictures.  It's one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Israel.  In Chapter 29, Herod Agrippa the Second and his wife, Berenitha, come and are interested in hearing from Paul.  They've heard about him.  They've heard about all the disruption so they want to hear him state his case before them. 

In verse 1 of chapter 26, "Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'you're permitted to speak for yourself.'"  So Paul stretched out his hand and gave an apologeta, a rational, apologetic defense of his belief.  That's all apologetics is: giving a rational, articulated defense for what you believe and why you believe it.  He says, "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are an expert on all matters concerning the customs of the Jews."  Now he is not pandering to Agrippa at this point. 

Agrippa is a grandson of Herod the Great and he does know Jewish custom and Jewish law.  He was considered one of the better Herodian rulers so Paul is making an honest statement and he is appealing to his knowledge about Jewish law and custom.  He says in verse 4, "My manner of life from my youth, which was among my own nation in Jerusalem from the beginning..."  Now that is an interesting statement.  He could be speaking in a general sense which would indicate as some have suggested that he didn't go to Jerusalem until he was bar mitzvahed but this might indicate that from young childhood he was sent there.  We know he had family in Jerusalem and that he was sent to Jerusalem to study from an early age.  It's not precise enough what that means.  'From the beginning' probably means from his adulthood at thirteen or fourteen.  

He continues, "...all the Jews know.  They knew me from the first if they were willing to testify that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee."  So he was a highly observant Pharisee.  Josephus says there were only about 5500 in the Pharisee party but Josephus also says that there were about 4500 Essences.  It seems like there were many more people associated with the Pharisees.  Everyone else may have just identified themselves when they were called up by Gallup polling and they said they were a Pharisee.  They weren't card carrying Pharisees but they tended to associate themselves with them when asked 

So Paul goes on to say, "...now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers."  Notice what he does here.  He's talking to a Jew.  When he's talking to Gentiles, he goes back to creation but when he's talking to Jews he goes back to Father Abraham.  The Jews had a problem understanding the monotheism of the Old Testament and the historicity and accuracy of Genesis 1 – 11.  So he can start with Abraham.  And that's where he starts this.  He locates this in the Abrahamic promise that was made by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "the promise of the twelve tribes,  earnestly serving God night and day for this hope sake."  So what's the hope?  That God is going to give them the land and they're going to experience the prosperity and blessing God intends to give the Jewish people but they haven't experienced it yet because they haven't been obedient.  They haven't accepted the gospel.  When they were obedient in the Old Testament they experienced a measure of that.  But that's the hope of the promise. 

It's the Abrahamic promise and it included from what Paul said to the Jews earlier,  the hope of resurrection.  The Sadducees rejected this but that's what Paul means when he says, "I am accused by the Jews.  Why should it be considered incredible by you that God raises the dead?"  See he nails it.  He goes right to the core issue that the Old Testament promise focuses on a resurrection.  Paul explains that he was teaching about the resurrection.  That's what the Bible teaches about the promise.  Why does it upset people when you teach that God can raise people from the dead?  It's all through the Old Testament scriptures. 

He says that he got caught up in that trap and thought that he must do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth like he also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints he shut up in prison."  Again he sees he is imprisoning men and women Christians in his persecution. "Having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them."  They were not only put in prison they were executed and Paul is complicit in that.  It's not just dealing with Steven and his stoning but we don't know how many, maybe hundreds or thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah were imprisoned and many who were executed for their faith.

He goes on in verse 10, "And this also I did in Jerusalem and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received from the chief priests, when they were put to death,  I voted against them and often in every synagogue.  We see that Christians are still meeting in synagogues with Jews who don't believe in Jesus.  Christianity is still considered part of Judaism at this point.  But it is splitting.  Those who had accepted Jesus Christ and those who hadn't were still meeting together in the synagogues. 

So he's going in to weed them out and identify them and compelling them to blaspheme, to deny Jesus.  And he says, "In a seeming rage against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."  He's chasing them.  He is just on crusader arrogance to the max.  And he says in verse 12, "While thus occupied I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests.  At midday, O King, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me [see that's new information there but it's not contradictory; just expansive] and those who journeyed with me.  And when we all had fallen to the ground..." 

Now there's some new information.  We see here that Paul has had more time to talk about what happened and so he adds that not only did he see the light that knocked him down but it knocked down everyone around him.  Why is that important?  It shows that according to the only historical accounts we have, it is an objective event.  It's something that wasn't between Paul's ears.  This is why the authority of Luke and the authority of the writers of Scriptures is constantly attacked because if you can do away with the only documentary evidence we have and destroy that, then its all just guess work.  And so it's important. 

I've gotten this from a Jewish friend.  We have discussions now and then.  I let him always initiate because I think that's when he feels comfortable and in control and he'll start asking questions.  Once the gate opens, it's not just one question, it's like twenty.  I'll just say "Stop.  Let's just deal with one.  You can no longer say with any seriousness that the New Testament was written three hundred years after Jesus lived.  In fact, liberals who don't believe the New Testament or the Bible is what it claims to be believe that it was written in the first century.  There are copies, quotations from almost all the New Testament books within the first 50 years of the death of the last apostle.  This was all written in the first century."  I then move the ball down the field maybe one foot or six inches at a time.  Sometimes that's all you can do.  You settle for limited objectives and you make sure you move the ball down the field and don't get sacked in the backfield and lose twenty yards because you're not prepared. 

So Paul is giving this information...clear and objective.  He heard a voice speaking to him in the Hebrew language.  New information.  Jesus spoke Hebrew to Paul.  I think Hebrew is going to be the language in Heaven.  Maybe we ought to start learning now.  "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  And here this line is added, "It's hard to kick against the goads."  A goad was a long stick that was pointed at one end that was used to prod oxen and other domestic animals so they would move and not just stand there and eat.  The idea here is that every time Paul heard the gospel, he's being goaded, he's being pricked.  God is pushing him in some direction and sticking him with the truth of the gospel.  Paul is resisting it over and over so God asks how he's going to kick against the goads all the time.  And he knew it.  God is saying, "In your soul you know this.  Don't give me that stuff that you just don't know.  And you're just trying to cover it up but you know the truth and you're just suppressing it in unrighteousness. 

Verse 15, Paul says "Who are you Lord."  He answers, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting [notice here he doesn't say Jesus of Nazareth but that would be the full statement.]  And then we have additional information given.  Jesus said to him, "Rise and stand on your feet for I have appeared to you for this purpose."  At this point Christ gives him his commission as an apostle.  He says, "...to make you a minister and a witness."  In the introduction to Acts I said this is a key word in Acts.  The Church is to be 'a witness to Jerusalem, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the world'. 

Paul fits in that pattern.  "A witness both to the things you have seen and the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people as well as to the Gentiles to whom I now send you."  Now Jewish isn't in the original text but the implication is there from the original language and he says, "...to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and the power of Satan to God that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."  This is an important verse and we'll get there in due time. 

Notice that Paul is given this commission to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  That's his commission.  Then he goes on in verse 20 to talk about what happened afterwards.  Paul says in Galatians 1 when he is talking to the Galatians later on after his first missionary journey that he identifies his source of the gospel.  "I neither received it from man..." He's not saying he didn't get additional information but he didn't get the gospel from a human being.  His core understanding of the gospel that convinced him of the truth of the gospel did not come from a human witness.  "I did not receive it from man nor was I taught it from man but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ."  Jesus Christ is the One who revealed it to him on the road to Damascus.

Then in Galatians 1: 13 and 14, he talks about how he had persecuted the church, how he tried to destroy it, how he advanced in Judaism beyond all his contemporaries.  In the next verse he goes on to talk about how God called him to preach His Son that he might preach Him among the Gentiles. He says, "I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.  Nor did I go up to Jerusalem."  He doesn't go there for three years but he goes out to Arabia in contemplation and revision of his theology and understanding of the Old Testament.  We'll come back to this passage which is another important passage and then we'll move on as we go back to Romans 9.  We'll read it with a better understanding that it's not just another event that happens in history but it's one of the top thirty crucial events that happens in the whole Scripture and it's referred to numerous other times in the New Testament.  So without this understanding how can we understand Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Timothy? How can we understand these subsequent epistles if we don't understand Acts 9?  Later revelation is always built on earlier revelation.  That's why you need to be reading your Bible every day.