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“A Change of Plans” (Acts 9:1-18)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Have you ever had a change of plans?

I remember when I moved from Florida to Henderson, Kentucky, to be a youth pastor at Henderson’s First Baptist Church. I was planning a lake retreat for our youth group in May. I was looking forward to lots of swimming and water sports. You see, as a Florida boy, I was accustomed to plenty of warm weather and warm water in May. Finally, a wise adult leader in our youth group humbly spoke up and said, “Bro. Matt, the water is still pretty cold in May up here in Kentucky.” Well, we had a change of plans!

Perhaps you’ve had a change of plans in your life. Perhaps an unexpected opportunity, an unexpected job change, or even an unexpected child brought a change of plans for you.

Today, we’re going to learn more about someone we’ve heard about a couple of times already in the Book of Acts. We’re going to learn about Saul of Tarsus, and we’re going to learn that Saul had a change of plans. In fact, God had a change of plans for Saul.

Today’s sermon from Acts 9:1-18 is entitled “A Change of Plans.”

I can’t wait to dive into this passage. Before we do, let’s pray together and ask the Lord to speak to us.


Ok, let’s look at the entire passage together. Let’s look at Acts 9:1-18:

1 Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said.

“I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”

“Here I am, Lord,” he replied.

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Well, we see a change of plans here, don’t we?

Let’s look at Saul’s plans first, then we’ll look at the plans that Jesus had.

First, we see that . . .

‌I. Saul planned a persecution.

Saul was a persecutor, and he was apparently pretty good at what he did.

Now, remember, a persecutor is someone who brings harm to someone else because of their faith.

You may recall the killing of Stephen in Acts 7. We read this in Acts 7:58: “They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

Additionally, we learned this in Acts 8:3 “Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.”

Then, we see in today’s passage, in verse 1, “Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.”

Saul planned a persecution.

Saul took specific steps, including going to the high priest, requesting letters to be sent to the synagogues, and actually going on his way to carry out these persecutions.

In fact, in today’s passage, Saul is on his way to Damascus to bring harm to the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s go back to our maps.

Here is where Jerusalem is, which is where Saul would have gone to the high priest for permission to persecute Christians.

Here is where Damascus was, which would have been where Saul was going to carry out this particular persecution.

You might wonder why Paul was seeking letters from the high priest to arrest followers of Jesus.

Well, you see, even though the people of Israel were under the authority of the Roman Empire, the high priest carried great authority among the Jewish people. Often the Roman authorities would allow the Jewish people to govern themselves unless things got really out of control.

What’s more, the Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that Damascus may have been under the Nabatean king, Aretas IV, rather than directly under the control of the Romans. So, Saul may have been wise to get the high priest to work with the Nabateans because neither the Jews nor the Nabateans liked the Romans.

Nevertheless, the high priest granted these letters, which would have been similar to arrest warrants in today’s culture.

So, Saul planned persecution.

However, don’t you know that the plans of man don’t always succeed, do they?

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail.”

Well, let’s see what the Lord’s decree was in this situation, and let’s see if it prevails.

Saul planned persecution, but . . .

‌II. Jesus planned a transformation.

Church, in case you don’t already know, let me tell you, Jesus is in the business of transformation!

Jesus can make the blind see.

Jesus can make the deaf hear.

Jesus can make the crippled walk.

Jesus can make the hater love.

Jesus can make the selfish generous.

Jesus can make the racist a reconciler.

Jesus can make the gossiper an encourager.

Jesus can make the dead alive.

Jesus can make a sinner into a saint.

Jesus can make His enemy into His beloved.

Jesus can make a persecutor into a preacher.

Church, Jesus is in the business of transformation!

So, we see Jesus has a change of plans for Saul the persecutor.

We see in verse 3 that as Saul is on his way to bring persecution to the city of Damascus, Jesus strikes Saul with a sudden light from heaven.

This light was so brilliant that Saul fell to the ground.

Then, following this light, comes a voice. We learn in verse 4 that the voice says, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

Now, stop a minute and put yourself in the place of Saul. Who could this be who is saying this to you?

Is it the husband and wife whom you snatched out of their home in the last city you were in?

Is it the young disciple whom you grabbed from the temple courts who was teaching about Jesus? Perhaps it’s even Stephen coming back from the dead to confront Saul?

No; this could only be one voice, and I think Saul probably knew that.

Yet, Saul says in verse 5, “Who are you, lord?”

Of course, the passage tells us that the Lord answered. He said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

Can you imagine the flood of emotions that must have filled Saul’s heart and mind? Fear, confusion, amazement, shock, humiliation, and more.

Even in those very few words spoken by Jesus to Saul, I believe that God began working a transformation in the heart of Saul.

Next, we learn that Jesus commanded Saul to go to the city (Damascus) and wait for further instructions.

I don’t know about you, but I believe if I encountered a powerful light and a voice from the Lord Jesus telling me something to do, my response would probably be “Yes sir!”

Saul, indeed, followed the Lord’s instructions.

We learn that as a result of his encounter with Jesus, Saul was left blind for a few days and had to be led by his companions to Damascus.

By the way, his friends didn’t catch the whole experience. They knew something was going on, but they didn’t totally understand what was going on.

It’s at this point in the story (around verse 10) that we hear about another man named Ananias.

It’s helpful to know that this is not the same Ananias who dropped dead when he and his wife lied to the Holy Spirit. At this point in Acts, that other Ananias is dead, so this is not him.

This Ananias is told by the Lord in verse 11 to “Get up and go to the street called Straight . . . to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul.”

How does Ananias respond? He’s like, “Are you sure you want me to do that Lord?”

Ananias says in verses 13 and 14, “Lord . . . I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

You see, church, Ananias is concerned for good reason. Ananias is concerned because of what he knows.

He knows that Saul is a bad dude. He knows that Saul is breathing down murderous threats against the church. He knows that Saul is arresting the saints of God.

Ananias knows some things. However, there is one thing that Ananias doesn’t know. Ananias doesn’t know that Jesus planned a transformation!

Verses 15 and 16 tell us, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’”

You see, church, Saul planned on being an instrument who would bring mayhem to the Church. Jesus planned on Saul being an instrument to bring the message of the gospel to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the people of Israel.

Finally, Jesus says, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

This statement by the Lord would certainly prove to be true.

Saul, who previously brought suffering to the followers of Jesus, would now suffer himself as a follower of Jesus.

We will find out that Saul will suffer greatly, but what’s beautiful is that Saul didn’t consider his life a misery because of his suffering.

Don’t take my word for it; listen to what Saul said himself in Philippians 3:8: By the way, these words would come after Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. He said, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ”

Everything that Paul gave up in this world was considered filthy waste in his eyes so that he may gain Jesus Christ!

What a transformation!

Finally, we see that Ananias obeys, goes and prays for Saul, including that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul regains his sight, and he demonstrates his transformation by being baptized.

Everything in Saul’s life will change from this moment on.

Saul may have planned persecution, but Jesus planned transformation.

God would do something great in the world by His power and for His glory, and He would do it (in part) through Saul.

That takes us to our bottom line:

‌Bottom Line: The change of plans in Saul’s life would shape the future of Christianity.

I can’t wait for us to learn more about what God will do through the apostle Paul.

Most of the remaining pages of the Book of Acts are going to record the amazing ministry that God will accomplish through the amazing transformation that happened in the life of Saul the persecutor.

Church, we must understand that Jesus Christ of Nazareth can bring about any transformation that He plans.

He transformed Paul, He transformed me, He has transformed many of you, and He is still transforming lives today.

When Jesus gets involved, we see a change of plans that involves radical transformation.

Challenge yourself this week in the following two ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Describe the change that Jesus brought in your life.

Has Jesus brought transformational change in your life? Have you ever taken the time to describe that change? Get alone with the Lord, spend some time in prayer, and write down how God has changed you.

Are you able to tell someone else about what Jesus has done in your life?

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Ask God how He wants to use you for His name.

Are you willing for God to change plans in your life?

Are you willing to sign your name on a blank contract, and let God fill in the terms of the agreement?

Be all in, church, and ask God how He wants to use you for His name.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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