By Dr. Mark Scott
The opening line in John R.W. Stott’s book Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century is, “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” The apostle Paul argues for that truth in Romans 10:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. More specifically it is the message preached that is indispensable. But how can one hear the message without a messenger? The two are inextricably linked. Preaching is not going away. Recent surveys indicate once again that the number one reason people go to church is to hear a practical message from God’s Word. According to a new Gallup poll, this reason outstrips the preacher, style of music, and even the friendliness of the church.
In our text today there were two urgent calls. One was given to Ananias, and the other to Saul of Tarsus. Both calls had to do with preaching. The verb preach (Greek, kerusso) means “to proclaim the king’s message.” The substantive role of preacher in the Greek culture was similar (later in history) to the European town crier, “Hear ye, hear ye, the message of the king.”
Ananias’s Call to the Preacher
Our text is scene two of the dramatic conversion story of Saul of Tarsus (told by Paul himself to the Sanhedrin in Acts 22 and to King Agrippa in Acts 26). Following Jesus’ confrontation of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-9), Saul found himself blind and in a self-imposed fast at Judas’s house on Straight Street in Damascus. One could argue that more of our text is about the devout and respected Ananias (Acts 22:12) than Saul himself. There is a sense in which Ananias was also a preacher. He preached to Saul and enlisted him as a future preacher.
God, as he sometimes does (Hebrews 1:1), used a vision to call Ananias. There are several people in the Bible named Ananias (Acts 5:1; 24:1), but this Ananias is identified as a disciple who was living in Damascus. God told Ananias, Go. When Ananias expressed his hesitancy, God once again told him, Go. The vision from God was specific. Ananias got the name of the man’s house, the street, the knowledge that the prospect was also having a vision, and the promise that Ananias would be working a miracle on this blind man.
Ananias’s hesitancy to accept this mission is easy to understand. Saul of Tarsus was a terrorist (Acts 9:1; 1 Timothy 1:13). His reputation had preceded him. Ananias not only knew of Saul’s character, he also knew reports of Saul’s mission—to stop Christianity by incarcerating all who call on the name of the Lord. But the Lord reassured Ananias by telling him about Saul’s election, mission, and suffering. Saul was chosen by God to proclaim the gospel, but evidently Saul could have disobeyed that calling (Acts 26:19). Saul was to be taken out of his ethnic and political comfort zones as his audience would consist of Gentiles and kings (as well as Israel). And Saul would not go from Straight Street to Easy Street. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. The apostle Paul was a towering figure of the New Testament, but would he have made his great contribution were it not for Ananias answering the call of God?
Paul’s Call to Preach
Ananias arrived at Judas’s house and beheld the blind terrorist. Perhaps Ananias gulped hard, placed his hands on Saul, and spoke words of inclusion and hope. The words, Brother Saul, must have melted Saul’s heart. Ananias connected the dots that he was the one that Saul knew about from his own vision. Ananias promised Saul sight and the Spirit (probably is a promise of inspiration for Saul’s future preaching and writing).
Saul saw more in his blind state than with his previous 20/20 vision. When the scales fell from his eyes, he recognized that the miracle was from Jesus. He got up and was baptized (notice how matter-of-factly his baptism is stated). Food helped so he regained his strength.
We would love to know more about Saul’s first days with the disciples in Damascus. Those must have been interesting to say the least. It would take Barnabas to speak on Saul’s behalf to get Saul accepted (Acts 9:27). Saul’s call to salvation was also a call to preach. He took up that call by preaching in the synagogues that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. For Saul, preaching was indispensable.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.