Encouraged by the Holy Ghost (1)

  • Acts 9:20-31 begins the story of Saul (later Paul the Apostle) and his bold ministry. If you remember, this was a man that had very poor behavior and totally wrong believing. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, keeper of the law to the strictest order, and a killer of believers. He was there at Stephen’s stoning. Acts 8:1 says Saul was one of the witnesses and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. This was not a man that believers could even begin to trust.

    Then of course there is the Damascus road experience and the obedience of Ananias. Before we get to Saul’s beginnings, lets look at this amazing man named Ananias who was as much a part of Paul’s success as anyone.

    Acts 9:10-19.

    10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling,“Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” 13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

    So look at the progression here. The Lord gives Ananias a vision and calls him by name. When God gives you a revelation or direction, He is very intentional. He gives it to you and you only. Sometimes He says share it and other times He says hold onto it.

    You’ll notice that God makes sure of your success with each instruction He gives you. He sets up both ends of the deal for you. In verse 11 he tells Ananias where to go and who to ask for. In verse 12 he shows Saul in a vision that Ananias is coming to lay hands on him so he can see again. Did you notice it didn’t say lay hands on him and pray asking for him to see again? No, God was absolute and declared Saul would see again.

    Now Ananias gets to where we are in most cases. Verses 13 and 14 are the “ya but” ministry verses. Ananias says “wait a minute Lord, I’VE HEARD PEOPLE TALK”. How often do we let what people say influence our lives and direction? People gossip, OOPS, I mean talk all the time in church about people, places and things. People talk about the ministry of Grace that God has called us to release and have called us heretics, crazy people, and just plain nuts. Well, it’s like I’ve always said. I may be nuts, but at least I’m screwed onto the right bolt.

    Time to get set free from the tyranny of other people and the tyranny of yourself. Besides, until those naysayers show me scriptural evidence that will disprove the truths we’ve presented by scripture, I’m not interested in what they have to say. That’s exactly how God answers Ananias. Continue on now.

    15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

    Basically, the Lord said “I don’t care what others are saying or what you’ve heard others say. I’m saying it’s a set up already in place. I’ve given you the power to release my will for Saul’s life and I’ve given him the power to receive it”.

    17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    I found it interesting that Ananias called him “Brother Saul”.

    18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days.

    So that’s the backdrop for what’s to follow. Now lets get to what transpired.

    20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” 21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”

    Wait a minute. This guy named Jim Bakker. Wasn’t he the scoundrel who bilked people out of great amounts of money for the PTL Club? What about that sex scandal of his and the accounting fraud. He was imprisoned for years. Oh sure, he has a son Jay who is a good preacher and minister, and I see he’s taken in many orphans and adopted them, but I don’t know if we can trust him. Then there’s that fella Jimmy Swaggart and how about Todd White.

    What ever happened to restoration? God is a God of restoration. Here’s the problem. The church has not yet fully grasped “the death of the law”. Christlike restoration simply can’t occur if the church continues trying to combine the law of the Old Testament with the grace of the New.

    Do we condone their misdeeds? No, of course not, but we don’t condemn them to a life of ridicule either. What would have happened if Saul would have never been restored, not just by God, but by the many people who came to trust his ministry. We would only have 14 books in the New Testament. Come on. Look what happened.

    22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.

    As we preach and teach the message of the ridiculous, radical, inexhaustible grace of God, the people who hear it cannot refute the scriptural proofs we present. However, the spirit that controls them, because of wrong legalistic teachings will not allow them to receive the Truth. They will do all they can to kill the powerful message of the grace of God. After all, we have to control folks.

    Religion will always try to control what it cannot contain. Legalism is nothing more than shame management. Basically, holding you in fear to your soon approaching error. On the other hand, grace removes error by providing the truth of God’s great gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus. Yay God!!

    24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 

    Religion is always watching for something they can use against you. The problem is when they think they’ve found an error in your grace teaching, it’s because they’ve taken it completely out of context. They’ll try to apply an old testament command to a new testament freedom. That’s because they see grace through the eyes of the law, rather than seeing the law through the eyes of grace.

    25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall. 26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.

    As you study the above verses from 24 through 30 you see who assisted Saul and who did not. The fears some had and others did not. Barnabas is an example who listened to the voice of the Lord and saw the greatness in Saul. He rejected the falseness of the religious sect and the fear of Saul’s past knowing that God had placed his hand on Saul. 

    It’s sad that many men and women in the church do not have even one person they can trust with their deepest darkest secrets. Just one person they can be absolutely real with. Someone who believes in them enough to stand apart from the naysayers and self appointed hypocrites of the law. That’s my rant. Moving on.

    31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.

    It was that verse 31 that stopped me and where I got the title for this teaching. Thats my indication that God is trying to show me something more than I’ve ever seen before. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever gave this verse much attention in the past, and didn’t even know it was there frankly. Here it is in the King James first, since that’s the version I study from and the version I get revelation from:

    “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”

    There’s that word “rest” again. I love that word and yet it is the most misunderstood word in the bible and the most difficult to obtain. However, it was that part about “comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” that gave me pause. So, I looked at a couple other versions to see if I could get clarity. I really like how the NIV says it.

    “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” 

    I noticed the semi-colon after the word strengthened and remembered from way back in my school days that someone said you should pause for just a moment there. So, I read it this way. “It was strengthened;……and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord”.

    So, that gave me a whole different revelation about what was being stated. Luke the writer of Acts was saying the church was strengthened, and it also grew in numbers as it was encouraged by the Holy Spirit. So I looked at one more version. The NLT.

    “The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”

    Well that just really put me over the top. Well Glory to God. Thank you Father for the Holy Ghost!!! Yeah God!!!! I mean I was totally pumped about the revelation from verse 31, but then the Lord said “Don’t miss the parts that led up to the numbers growing in the church”.

    Bill Johnson talks a lot about that in Glory to Glory. The Church started out with numbers being ADDED to them daily (the end of ch. 2), then they were persecuted and scattered (ch. 8). Saul was converted and began to preach the Gospel. Then, the Church moved into a time of peace and MULTIPLICATION!!!!!

    Exactly; “persecuted and scattered”, “began to preach the GOSPEL”. Let me capitalize that and underline it, because today many are not preaching the gospel. It seems like we’ve become ashamed of it. Some don’t even know what the gospel is. Then finally, embracing the Holy Ghost, allowing the moving of the Holy Ghost, and uniting in the Holy Ghost, they realized not only growth, but revival in the gospel. It’s the gospel of the grace of God. It’s Kingdom preaching. 

    This teaching is long, so in order to maintain it’s effectiveness I suggest you briefly review this part 1 before starting part 2, which will be posted tomorrow. Grace and Peace.