Acts 10:23-48 : A Good Lesson for Peter

And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and [t]worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man [u]unholy or unclean. 29 That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.”
30 Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the [v]ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your [w]alms have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have [x]been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said:
“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who [y]fears Him and [z]does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching [aa]peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 [ab]You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, [ac]and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the [ad]land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a [ae]cross. 40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He ordered us to [af]preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the [ag]message. 45 All the [ah]circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

***

To get the full story of this beautiful message of salvation to the Gentiles, please begin at verse 1 of chapter 10 (which I've already written about). The reason I say this is because we will miss the lesson if we don't read this chapter in its entirety. Peter is being challenged, as we looked at already, with the truth of what the LORD is doing. As already mentioned as well, we don't have many examples of why this is a challenge to Peter in our day, yet it's important for us to acknowledge that Peter is going into personal 'uncharted waters' here, yet he goes in obedience because the Spirit clearly led him. 

Note, all through this section, Peter is testing the waters: once the men arrived at where he was staying, he asked why they were there (10:21) and once he arrived at Cornelius' home he asked why he had sent him (10:29).  I don't see this is unfaithfulness on Peter's part - I actually see this as great faith and wisdom. Peter clearly is walking in obedience to what the LORD has called him to, but he also wants to test the audience in whom the LORD has given him. This is a great lesson in leadership - know your audience. 

Wiersbe tells us it would have taken 2 days or thirty miles from Joppa and Caesarea so Peter had a long time to consider what he was going to say. Again, another great leadership lesson - prepare for your message. And a somewhat hidden lesson in this text - don't go by yourself. Peter, along with 6 others (see 11:12) travelled together with the men that Cornelius sent. And he met a crowd eager to hear what he had to say. As mentioned, I appreciate the lessons that Peter learns here. He clearly is not going with a mind to dismiss these people - which clearly is going against his own grain of culture - and he is convinced once he meets these people that the LORD has designed this. 
  
I believe there is much beauty in these words that Peter speaks: 
You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me (vss. 28, 29).

I get the image of a doctor touching a patient, a nurse calming a female at her bedside, a leader speaking words of grace rather than condemnation - these words of Peter set the stage for these Gentiles. They were welcomed in by this hospitality. It's a beautiful thing. This, my friends, is the Gospel. Inclusion not exclusion. Welcome instead of turning away. Love instead of dislike or even hate. And with this attitude, these Gentile people were saved.

It's an incredible story, but much, much more than that for us today. This chapter is another hinge for us as we read through these acts of the Apostles. Note that the ending of this chapter completes another section of Jesus' commissioning the disciples - you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth - Samaria was where the Gentiles resided. The disciples heard these words and must have wondered why Jesus was opening this life-giving message up to even them...what a lesson for all of them! And yet, the commissioning of Jesus is still not complete - there are many that have not heard.

The question remains, who is the 'gentile' in our midst as we walk through our days on this planet. We may not have dreams like Cornelius and Peter had, but we most certainly have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Is there someone that He is leading you to today? 

Acts 10:1-23 : In Steps Cornelius...

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian [a]cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many [b]alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the [c]ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and [d]alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his [e]servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the [f]sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the [g]sky opened up, and an [h]object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and [i]crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the [j]air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, [k]kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything [l]unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider [m]unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the [n]object was taken up into the [o]sky.
17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in [p]mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, [q]three men are looking for you. 20 But get up, go downstairs and accompany them [r]without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” 21 Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear [s]a message from you.” 23 So he invited them in and gave them lodging.

***

It is very clear to me that the theme of this book is about people and their response to the Gospel. Yet it might surprise you, as you read the words of Luke, who is actually being changed the most. We have read of Paul's miraculous transformation, Phillip's clear leading of the Spirit to the Ethiopian Eunuch, but here we have the full essence of conflict. If we look back to Jesus' proclamation in Acts 1:8, we will read that he said to His disciples:

It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.


Clearly Jesus was seeing a picture of how the Gospel would spread and, amazingly, was giving this job to the disciples! Yet the implications were yet to be seen and so we have their acts; better known as The Acts of the Apostles. But there's a problem. When Peter, and the rest of the disciples, heard this commissioning by Jesus, they might have very well been a bit uncomfortable. Remember each of these men were from a Jewish background. It was clear at that point when Jesus was sending them out, that He was calling them to something new, a new way of life. In all the teachings we find in the Gospels, it is most clear that Jesus was calling them to a new covenant and a new life found only in Him. It just so happens that they were all Jews and were following Him as the completion of the Jewish religion. Yet, here we have Peter with a lesson of a life-time (it was a lesson that Jesus was teaching him in the Gospels - see Mark 7:1-23) - now it was time to apply it).

Up to this point, Peter was relatively comfortable as he was ministering only to the Jews, but as God often does, his mind and traditions were going to be challenged. Peter's faith-stretching experiences were not done - in fact, they were only just beginning. And so, he has a dream and everything changes.

Peter, a faithful Jew, would have never eaten any of these animals that he saw on this sheet in his vision, but there they were and the voice clearly said, Get up, Peter, kill and eat! (note, this happened three times; reminiscent of the three times he denied Jesus and the three times he was brought back into the fold on the shore). Peter was yet again being challenged by his own belief-system. Why? In order that as many as possible would come to know the truth of the Gospel. Jesus' proclamation was being fulfilled, but it took Peter being challenged, coerced even, to obey the LORD's commissioning him to the Gentiles. 

We cannot truly understand the religious implications if we are reading this text as followers of Christ through a long line of Christians before us in our family line, but perhaps you could understand the nuances of what Peter is experiencing if you have come to faith in Jesus coming from a different religious background. The fact remains, the LORD is still in the business of challenging our belief-systems in order for us to come to faith in Jesus. Only Jesus is our Saviour. This dogmatic statement makes everyone squirm, but does not change the reality of its truth. Peter was challenged in his understanding in order for his mind to be open to others who had not understood the wonderful truth of Jesus' love for them. It was going to take a lot of stretching in order for Peter to learn this. But it would be worth it.

Where is the LORD stretching your faith today for you to minister to others who you may not have seen or cared about before?

Acts 9:32-43 : Peter's Healing Ministry

Now as Peter was travelling through all those regions, he came down also to the [n]saints who lived at [o]Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up. 35 And all who lived at [p]Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called [q]Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. 37 And it happened [r]at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” 39 So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the [s]tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the [t]saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

***

Peter clearly had a gift to heal. This wasn't his only gift nor was he exercising this gift in isolation to his ministry of the Word. It is very clear that this was for a time in Peter's ministry, yet he desired people to meet the Risen Saviour and many did through these miracles. 

I can't help but see the Saviour's actions written all over Peter's ministry. As he clearly is obeying the original calling Jesus placed on his life (see John 21:15-17), he is actually mimicking what he himself saw Jesus do in His earthly ministry. Note these two passages I have provided as examples:

And entering in, He *said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.” They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He *took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and *entered the room where the child was. Taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.
(Mark 5:39–42)

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.
And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them. (Luke 4:38, 39)

Both of these clearly demonstrate the power of Jesus' capacity to heal. Peter knew this, remembered this and stored this away in his heart - and now he had the immense privilege of doing similar healings himself. He was healing the same way, for the same purpose. Note how similar the healing of the little girl is to both of the miracles we read in the text for this devotional. Both individuals needed a personal touch and both received it in a miraculous way from Peter the Apostle.

I do struggle with why there seems to be far less miracles in our day than there was in the Apostles' day. I could personally name 10 different people that could receive this miraculous, healing touch from the LORD. Their lives would be drastically different and they would seek to please the LORD I'm sure even more after they were healed. But some how, some way, the LORD has changed His strategy with us living in the 21st century. I can only speak for me, but I know that my faith is the thing that needs to be stretched, prodded, and pulled by my Saviour's pottery-hands. My faith is the thing that creates the intimate relationship that I long for with my Saviour. Miracles and touches of incredible proportion would come and go, I'm afraid to say, in my life - but what is lasting is a personal, life-giving relationship with Jesus. That is what I'm after. I am setting my sights on that goal and whether miracles come, my hope is built on His continuous, walking relationship with Him.

Acts 9:26-31 : The Son of Encouragement

When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; [j]but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, [k]moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the [l]Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30 But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria [m]enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

***

We all need a Barnabas sometimes. The truth is we need a man like Barnabas all the time, but maybe floating around in the background for a time because we need him to be on-hand at those most crucial points of our lives. And here was a crucial part of the story for Saul.

Saul's story was quite a unique one: a unique encounter with Jesus (the only one of its kind), a unique calling (which will be further developed as we go on) and a unique story (that many were in doubt of). Saul had a good story - it sounded good on paper - but the believers of the day were skeptical. And so they should be.

Let's not forget who this Saul was. When the disciples had gathered together to choose 'the seven' (see Acts 6:1-6), Stephen was among the ones chosen. They all extended their hopeful prayers on him. He was a good fit and it says he, along with the other six, were to be of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task as the Apostles would devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:3, 4). And yet, in this choosing, God had other plans. It was clear that Stephen had a gift to preach and share the Word with others - which got him in trouble with the Law. Stephen was stoned to death. It was a brutal way to die. But who was among them? Luke records for us that When they had driven [Stephen] out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul...[he] was in hearty agreement with putting him to death (Acts 7:58; 8:1).

Saul's got a track-record that isn't all that pretty to look at. I think if we were among them, we would have the same reaction of distrust. So in steps the Son of Encouragement - Barnabas - to pave the way for there to be restoration between Saul and the Apostles. We meet Barnabas for the first time in Acts 4:36, 37. He had owned a tract of land, which he sold, brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. So because of this, the Apostles trusted him. They clearly didn't trust Saul. But Barnabas, as the Son of Encouragement, encouraged the Apostles to accept Saul. This is what we could call a good ol' fashion mediation-session.

What was Barnabas' tactic? He revealed Saul's story in Damascus, but especially relayed the fact that he had attempted to speak with the Hellenistic Jews but in turn, was threatened with his own life. Why is this significant? The Hellenistic Jews were the same who put Stephen to death. The tables have now turned. Saul was now the hunted by these men. And where did he flee? To the only ones that could accept him - the followers of Jesus. And so they did. They not only accepted him, but helped him flee from his accusers. They knew all too well what these people were capable of. And so begins the new chapter of the Book of Acts - complete with another summary.

As stated before, Luke records for us a few of these summary statements in his letter to Theophilus. Now that we are about a quarter into the book, we can see a pattern developing. When Luke gives his summary of what has taken place, the story takes a turn. Sometime for good, some for not so good, but it is still important to for us to recognize what he is doing. This time round, the hinge that Luke provides is a free-flowing connector of peace for a time. But only for a time, as we will read. Yet here we have yet another lesson for us today about unity. 

All through the book we see how essential it is for us to be in unity together, no matter the cost. The fact is, Saul was a hater of the Way, but he has now become a part of the Way and will be an integral part of its spreading, literally, around the globe. If the Apostles did not accept and seek to help him, who knows where the Church would be today. Thank God that the Apostles accepted his story and thank God for Barnabas, the man who paved the way for the Apostles to see the truth of Saul and what he had to offer for the LORD's fame.

Acts 9:19-25 : In Steps the New Saul

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, [h]saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the [i]Christ.
23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

***

Here we have a wonderful look at a changed man. Note that he was with the disciples who were at Damascus several days. Though these disciples knew who Saul was, they invited him into their lives, their homes and displayed the love of Jesus to him. The result? Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God" (vs. 20). Don't miss this point.

Saul, a pre-persecutor of the Church, was now rubbing shoulders with Christians and he began to immediately share the truth of Jesus - the very thing that he was literally threatening people with not so much earlier in his personal ministry. This is a good ol' fashion change of heart, change of mind, change of life. But isn't there always opposition. It seems to be the constant in our lives.

Saul was continuing to gain much wisdom and strength (vs. 22) and those that were 'on his side' previous to this, took it upon themselves to to make very sure he understood he was a traitor and they threatened his life because of it. He would later reflect on his ministry how this just seemed to be par for his course (see 2 Cor. 11:30ff) but never seeking to wallow in it due to his desire to filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col. 1:24).

Saul is a model for us. He had a story to tell of an incredible conversion, but more so, an incredible journey of trusting the LORD through some of the most horrific circumstances. This text begins that journey. He felt betrayed by those who were originally for him but their plot became known to Saul (vs. 24) and so he fled.* And so begins the new journey of Saul turned apostle for the LORD's sake.

***

*Wiersbe writes in his New Testament Commentary:
"It is likely that Saul’svisit to Arabia (Gal. 1:17) took place about this time. Had Dr. Luke included it in his account, he would have placed it between Acts 9:21 and 22. We do not know how long he remained in Arabia, but we do know that after three years, Saul was back in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18). Why did he go to Arabia? Probably because the Lord instructed him to get alone so that He might teach Saul His Word. There were many things that would have to be clarified in Saul’s mind before he could minister effectively as an apostle of Jesus Christ. If Saul went to the area near Mount Sinai (Gal. 4:25), it took considerable courage and strength for such a journey. Perhaps it was then that he experienced “perils of robbers” and “perils in the wilderness” (2 Cor. 11:26). It is also possible that he did some evangelizing while in Arabia, because when he returned to Damascus, he was already a marked man. The important thing about this Arabian sojourn is the fact that Saul did not “confer with flesh and blood” but received his message and mandate directly from the Lord (see Gal. 1:10–24). He did not borrow anything from the apostles in Jerusalem, because he did not even meet them until three years after his conversion. When Saul returned to Damascus, he began his witness afresh, and the Jews sought to silence him. Now he would discover what it meant to be the hunted instead of the hunter! This was but the beginning of the “great things” he would suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 9:16). How humiliating it must have been for Saul to be led into Damascus as a blind man and then smuggled out like a common criminal (see 2 Cor. 11:32–33)."





Acts 9:10-19 : In Steps Ananias...

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12 and he has seen [e]in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your [f]saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen [g]instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened.

***

I think it is quite significant what we read here from Ananias because I believe we can see our own stories in this text. Saul (Paul) has just been given a vision and now has no vision - literally. He has been led to a house to wait because he has no sight; for what he is waiting for, he does not know. Yet he has a dream of a man named Ananias. That is all that he is leaning on at the moment. In steps Ananias and everything becomes much clearer.

We don't know very much about Ananias, but what we do discover in this text gives us great encouragement from this man. We learn that he listens closely for the LORD and has been able to learn the lesson that Samuel learned (see 1 Sam. 3:1ff) of how to answer and converse with Him. That, in and of itself is amazing! And yet we also read of how his relationship with the LORD is (I think this where our lives parallel his).

The LORD clearly calls him, Ananias answers and has a very revealing conversation with the LORD. But his reaction isn't exactly willing (compare and contrast Mary's reaction when the angel came to visit her - Luke 1:26-38). Yet the LORD persists and Ananias obeys and we are given a gift of the re-born Saul - now Paul the Apostle.

I wonder how many of us have clearly had guidance from the LORD and, in our fear and discomfort, do not obey when God is clearly calling us to 'Go!'. How many 'Sauls' are out there that we haven't spoken to, that if we listened more closely to the LORD in our lives, He would guide us to talk to?*

The truth is, there are many people yet to hear the Gospel. There are yet many who have their eyes blinded. And for those of us who 'see' the truths of the Gospel with our spiritual eyes, can touch, as we read Ananias did in this text, call out to them in love with the love of Christ, heal them of their blindness and guide them to be filled with the truths of the life-giving Gospel. I am truly touched by this text simply because it is filled with both obedience and affection - even a reserved affection (on the part of Ananias) but he still goes - and, as a result, we are given Paul the Apostle that has written so much about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we now have the benefit of reading.

There are Sauls out there - are we willing to go to them?


* For those of you who find outlines helpful, here's a simple outline I've come up with to shape our lives as obedient followers of Jesus (taken from this text)

1) Generate a personal relationship with the LORD (10)
2) Receive instructions from the LORD (11, 12)
3) Be willing to clarify with the LORD His desires but not with disobedience (13, 14)
4) Receive the call from the LORD and seek out His will in our going (15, 16)
5) Make the journey, how ever far or near, as an active response to the LORD (17)
6) Go in love to those that the LORD has called us to (i.e. 'Brother Saul...' vs. 17)
7) Guide them into further truth by giving them sustenance (for their whole body - physical, spiritual, mental, emotional) for the LORD's honour (18, 19)

Acts 9:1-9 : In Steps Paul (post-Saul)...

Now [a]Saul, still breathing [b]threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was travelling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who travelled with him stood speechless, hearing the [c]voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he [d]could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 

*** 

When I read the story of Saul turned Paul I wish that there were more 'encounters with Christ' as he had in our world. There are many persecuting the Church (knowingly or unknowingly) but please note that it is always personal. When Jesus appears to Saul, He clearly tells him that he is persecuting Him (as in Jesus) not the Church. Whenever someone is speaking or doing ill to the Church, they are doing it to Jesus.

Saul was an incredibly gifted and powerful man. Zeal is the best word that I can come up with when I think of him. He was convinced that he needed to do 'The Work of God' and irradiate those who are trying to change his precious Judaism. God will use his background later, but we see an incredible encounter here - Saviour mets persecutor - and it is very obvious who wins.

Yet note, too, that it is a personal encounter. We read that the men who were with him heard the voice but didn't see Jesus (vs. 7). This would have been something the rest of the Apostles would have wanted to see, but it was specifically (and only) for Saul. Jesus would not appear again in this form in Scripture - this appearance was personal, but it was also special.

I liken this story to Moses and the burning bush. The LORD clearly spoke to Moses and gave him clear instructions. Here, with Saul, there was no misunderstanding what the issue was that Jesus had with Saul, but, unlike Moses, he had no choice but to obey because he was struck blind. The man that led so many needed to be led himself. The man that was full of zeal and authority had to give up all that he was and be led, as a child. This must have been extremely humbling for Saul.
And yet, note that the response by this man was solitude. Fasting was a normal practice in Judaic custom, yet it would be all the more special now. As he fasted, he was able to sort through the most important question each and every person should contemplate: Who is Jesus? 

Saul was struck off his horse, but more than that - his whole world was struck down - all for the purpose of rebuilding him into one of the great evangelists of the Bible. The LORD had a plan for this man and it took a personal encounter to prove to him who He is.