Vision Correction Procedure

Vision Correction Procedure

“Vision Correction Procedure”
(Acts 9:1-22)
Series: Encounters with Christ (Paul)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

Take your Bibles and join me in the Book of Acts, chapter 9 this morning (page 739; YouVersion).

We have been preaching several weeks now a series entitled, “Encounters with Christ,” discovering how a personal encounter with Jesus changes everything, and changes everything for the better.

This morning’s encounter is one of the most unusual encounters of our study. It is unusual because of the person himself—Saul of Tarsus, faithful Jewish leader and persecutor of Christians—and it is unusual because the encounter does not take place during Jesus’ earthly reign, but rather at a time after His resurrection, when Jesus has already ascended back up into heaven.

I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the encounter we study today is the most dramatic, and arguably most significant encounter with Christ yet. It is often said that if a skeptic wished to be honest in his serious consideration of the historicity of the New Testament and the authenticity of the Christian faith, he would have to explain to historical facts: one, the resurrection of Christ, and two, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul. Both events are difficult to dismiss out of hand if one takes seriously a study of the faith.

We jump right into the narrative this morning, reading about this man named Saul, a guy who believed Christians were wrong and devoted his life to seeing that they were arrested and imprisoned. If we had time we’d go back and look at the end of chapter 7 and beginning of chapter 8 where the Christian Stephen is being stoned to death for his faith in Christ and we are told that Saul was standing there while that was taking place, “consenting to his death,” approving of what was taking place. The story about Saul of Tarsus picks back up, then, in chapter 9 and that’s where we are this morning.

Please stand in honor of the Word of God.

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.[a] It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.



Three days without sight. Can you imagine? Saul is on his way to Damascus, hoping to find Christians he can arrest. He’s got warrants in his hand as he journeys along and suddenly he is blinded by a light from heaven and he falls to the ground in an encounter that leaves him three days without sight. He’s feeling his way around. Others leading him.

We’ll read later that his sight is restored. God does that. God blinds him and God restores his sight. I think that’s kind of funny because it’s a metaphor for what was going on with Saul spiritually. Saul believed he could see—spiritually—but he was really blind to the truth. So God blinds him in order to help him see!

So I wrote down this title for the message, “Vision Correction Procedure,” because God conducts this operation, spiritual eye surgery, on Saul of Tarsus so that when the procedure is complete, the encounter is so radical and so powerful that Saul of Tarsus goes by a new name, the Apostle Paul.

So we’re going to be reading about that this morning and in my study I noted that we can learn some characteristics of the Christian faith. More pointedly, three essentials of genuine Christianity. I want to share these with you as signposts along the path of our journey through this text. First, the first characteristic of true Christianity:

**Three Characteristics of True Christianity:

I. The Necessity of Conversion (1-9)

Jesus said, “You must be born again.” We cannot be saved from sin without the new birth. God gives us new hearts and we believe by faith in Jesus Christ. This is conversion, we were once headed in one direction, but we have changed course. We are now following Jesus Christ. Paul described conversion as a new creation. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new.”

This was true of the Apostle Paul. He was on his way to Damascus, living a life in opposition to Christ and God got hold of his heart and he was converted, turned around, saved, and he began living a new life in Christ.

One of the things I like about this passage is we see so clearly that it is God who takes the initiative in our conversion. He makes the first move. He seeks us before we seek Him. Remember Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one comes to Me unless the Father draws him.” And that his happening here.

I mean, Paul is not interested in Jesus. And Jesus just knocks Paul down and speaks to him. One of the things Jesus says, in the King James and New King James versions, this is in the passage, it is this statement of Jesus where He says to Paul in verse 5, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” That phrase is found later in Acts 22 and 26 where Paul tells this story of his conversion, and so the translators included it here to bring a fuller accounting of the story.

But the phrase, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” is a way of describing how hard it is to resist something that’s prodding you along. A “goad” was like a sharp stick used, for example, by a sheep herder. Sheep are not real bright animals so, like if the water is this way the sheep may go this way, or if safety is this way, and a cliff is this way, the sheep naturally go this way—and the sheep herder takes a goad and is like, “Hey, wrong way, Einstein!” and goads the sheep in the right direction.

Well, this is what God does, see? We are naturally going in the wrong direction and, in His love, He comes along and goads us in the right direction. So when we feel like God is “goading” us, prodding us, moving in our lives, we are wise to respond the correct way, not by resisting Him and kicking against Him, but by following Him.

Now a couple things about conversion before we move on to the next characteristic. A couple reminders. And the first we’ve already touched on. Remember that apart from Christ, we are spiritually blind. We cannot see the truth because we don’t yet have the ability to see the truth. We are dead in sin and therefore blind to spiritual things.

I raise this point as a matter of compassion, compassion for those who are spiritually blind. A person can be spiritually blind to the truth without realizing it.

You know, if you’ve ever been to a movie theater, you know what I’m talking about. You sit inside that dark theater for a couple hours and, you see quite well. You can see the person next to you, see your drink, see the popcorn that’s fallen onto your chest. And the movie’s over and you step outside and the bright light causes you to squint and, your like, “Man, I can’t see!” Well, what happened was that you had gotten used to the darkness without even realizing it. You were just used to sitting in the dark. You could see, but all you could see was the stuff in the dark. So—listen—people can be in darkness and not realize it. It’s a matter of compassion. We don’t make fun of them or look down upon them as though they were dumb, or something. We do as others did for Paul, take them by the hand, as it were, and lead them into the light.

Another truth to note in this passage is that lost people are not always miserable. We think sometimes that people who aren’t Christians are just so miserable and just so down and discouraged. Many lost people are that way, but not all. In fact, some are very happy in their lost condition and may even be very religious. This was Saul of Tarsus.

Saul was very religious, as he says elsewhere, “a Pharisee of the Pharisees (Philippians 3:5).” He was very religious and very dedicated to his religion. He was walking a 150 mile journey to do what he believed was right. He needed the truth, but he didn’t know it. So we must remember that not every lost person we will witness to this week is some foolish, non-religious person, but simply a person who needs to know Jesus.

I love the way Jesus introduces Himself to Saul of Tarsus. He asks him in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?” And Saul is like, “What?! Who are You, Lord?” Great question, by the way. An honest skeptic will make an honest inquiry of the nature of Christ; Who He is.

But Jesus’ question is a reminder that an attack on Christians is an attack on Jesus Himself. He asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” To attack Christians—the church—is to attack Jesus. So united are Christians with Christ that to attack the one is to attack the other.

That’s why Paul later uses this relationship of Christ to His church as an image for Christian marriage. Remember that in Ephesians 5? He says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” The husband and wife are one. So, you know, if you mess with my wife, you’re messing with me! We are one. What God has joined together, no one separates.

I’ve said before that Michele can’t leave me—because if she does, I’m going with her!

We are one. You attack my wife, you’re attacking me and you’ll have to deal with me. Well, Jesus says to Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me? To attack Christians, to persecute the church, to mess with Christians is to attack, to persecute, to mess with Jesus. The two are one.

Now this takes us to the next point. The church. We have read of the necessity of conversion. The second characteristic of true Christianity is:

II. The Necessity of Community (10-19)

A community of faith, a community of believers, the church, a family. Through the Gospel, God unites people together so they may grow in family, growing in a healthier relationship with God and with one another. See that picking up in verse 10:

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

That’s a great response, right?!  God calls your name, you say, “Here I am.  Use me.”  But do we mean it when we say it?  Ananias said it right away.  Let’s see if he means it.

11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.
12 “And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.
14 “And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

Let’s appreciate Ananias’ dilemma here!  Ananias wants to do the Lord’s will, but he’s like, “Uh, God, are you sure about this?! I don’t know if you have thought this thing through.  I mean, I know You know everything, but, well, this Saul guy, he’s been persecuting Christians.  He has authority here in Damascus to arrest people!”  By the way, how many of you think God was worried about the authority Saul had?!

You and I talk to God, we say: “Lord, I trust You.  I believe in You.  I want to live Your plan.”  Then God unfolds His will and we’re like Ananias here trying to make sure God has all the information He needs. Just do what God says! He’ll always honor our doing the right thing.

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
16 “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I just picture Ananias gingerly approaching Saul, probably still thinking, “I don’t know about this!”  He enters the house and tip-toes near him.  And then, the beauty of this picture.  Verse 17 says he lay his hands on him.  He touched him.  Then he said, “Saul,” right?  No. No, he didn’t just say, “Saul.”  What did he say?  “Brother Saul.”  That’s beautiful.

This is so cool, the way God uses the Gospel, through the power of Christ, to bring people together. We can get along because we are brothers and sisters united in Christ!

18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

Saul can now see! Something fell from his eyes like scales, maybe like a film had been over his eyes, but now he can see.

And then first thing he does is get baptized. Throughout the Book of Acts we read that as soon as people receive Christ, they are baptized. The first step of a new believer is baptism. It is the first step of obedience. Baptism, a word that means to be immersed into water.  It pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And baptism pictures what happened to the new believer. He or she has died to the old person and the old way of life, and has been raised now to walk in a new way of life. So when you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the first thing you should do is get baptized as a sign of identifying with Jesus and a commitment to following Him forever.

And baptism happens in the context of the local church, in the community of faith, in the church. That’s why when a person is baptized here that person is a candidate for membership in this church.

This part of the passage really stresses the need for community in the Christian life. We are relational beings and we need one another. Saul needed Ananias. And Ananias blessed him by being the one to be there with him, to lay hands on him, to touch him, to pray for him. I can’t help but think that as Paul walks around in heaven today that Ananias is close by reminding everyone: “Hey, I had something to do with this guy being here!”

We often say that every Christian needs two groups—a big group like this, worship, and a small group, small group Sunday School class. Both are necessary. We come together in big group to unite our hearts in worship and praise and to hear the Word of God together as the church.

But true community also means that we are in a small group, too. A smaller group affords the opportunity to really get to know brothers and sisters and to share encouragement with one another, and struggles, and prayer requests, and praying for one another, asking Bible questions and getting answers.

Some of you are not yet in a small group Sunday school class and you need to be. It’s not just for your benefit, or what you can consume, but your being in a small group is for the benefit of others, what you can contribute. You have a personality and giftedness that blesses others. And you need to be in a small group where you can do that. If you’re not in a small group, get in one today. There are many options.

So we’ve read of the necessity of conversion and the necessity of community. The third characteristic of true Christianity is:

III. The Necessity of Confession (20-22)

Confessing our faith in Christ. Telling others about Jesus. Telling others that Jesus is Lord.

Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit so he is able now to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Remember this from 1 Corinthians? Paul later writes, in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

So Saul of Tarsus now has the Spirit of God within Him. He is now a new creation. He is now the Apostle Paul. So now he can confess Jesus is Lord. He can now say truthfully that Jesus Christ is the One True and Living Lord. As he would write later in Romans:

Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

If you are saved something has happened in your heart that just naturally, then, comes out of your mouth! What has happened on the inside is something you share on the outside. If you are “in Christ,” you then begin telling others “about Christ.” Verse 20:

20 Immediately he preached the Christ [NU, Jesus] in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

Immediately. Verse 21:

21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”

Everybody knows he’s different now. Something has happened! He’s changed! It’s 2 Corinthians 5:17 again, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Hey, if you’re a Christian, do people see a change in your life? Do people notice you are different—different in a good way? You have a joy in the Lord that others see? A commitment to Christ and His church, a love for and dedication to Jesus Christ?

22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul is changed and he naturally now confesses Christ, tells others about Jesus. That’s what every believer does.

Every Christian confesses Christ. It’s just like ministry. Every Christian is a minister. Not every Christian is a pastor, not every Christian will preach to a congregation, but every Christian is a minister and will confess Christ, speak of his or her faith in Christ as one of His witnesses.

We can do this today. You know, I find it really easy to talk about things that I like. Things that give me joy. Like if I go to a new restaurant and the food is so good, I’ll tell all kinds of people about it—total strangers, you know! “Man, you’ve got to go to this place!”

That’s all witnessing is. That’s all confessing Christ really is. It’s just telling others about the One who gives you joy. If you have that joy, you just want to share it with others. Confessing Christ. True Christians do that.

Tell someone today how you met Jesus. Just tell them. Here’s how I encountered Christ. Tell them how He came to you and how you came to know Him. You can do that today. Invite them to church. True Christians confess Christ as Lord.

Some of you have family members who are not walking with Christ. Or a friend or co-worker. Some of you may feel like, “Man, I just don’t ever see this person coming to know Jesus.” Be encouraged: remember Saul of Tarsus. Keep praying. Keep sharing. No one is ever too lost to be saved.

Remember that it was Stephen who, in a sense, prayed for Paul’s salvation. As Stephen was being stoned to death, remember his prayer? Remember what he said? It was much as Jesus had said on the cross. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” much like Jesus had said when dying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And who was standing there when Stephen prayed that way to the Lord? None other than Saul of Tarsus. Don’t stop praying for lost loved ones. Keep praying. Keep confessing.

Conversion. Community. Confession.

Let’s stand for prayer.


You know, before I was a minister, when I was a parole officer in North Georgia, our district parole office once participated in a team-building exercise that was meant to build trust and camaraderie among the officers.

And what they did was blind-folded each of the officers and then placed us at the entrance of this rope course, a kind of maze made out of ropes where you had to feel your way along in order to make it through the maze. Also, you couldn’t talk!

And it was frustrating. You can’t see anything. You feel kind of foolish because you’re like this (reaching out) and you don’t know where you’re going. So they just blindfold a group of people and take them to the course and say, “Go for it.” So some people walk past others or push through. Some just stop helplessly. But one guy miraculously makes it to the end. And then what he’s instructed to do next is, since he has found the way, is to go back through the course—still blindfolded—and help all of his friends find their way. That’s his responsibility. He is a leader who is leading others to make their way along the journey.

I’ve often thought how that training exercise illustrates the need for community among brothers and sisters. We’re all making our way along the journey. We don’t do it alone. We don’t just push through people and pass over people. Nor are we simply to sit still and let everything else go on around us. Rather, we follow Christ—the way the truth and the life—and take people with us. We help them find their way, lovingly taking them by the hand and making the journey together.

That’s our responsibility as followers of Jesus.

Let’s pray.


Do you need your vision corrected?

“Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”


“I will get involved in a Sunday school class.”


Who will you tell about Jesus?

—In a moment we’re going to sing, you need to join, be baptized, come.

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