SAUL AT DAMASCUS
Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
There is no problem in seeing the Spirit’s focus upon this passage of scripture from which our above text is selected. For six times the word, “Damascus” appears upon the page. (See verses 2,3,8,10,22,27). For this is the location and time wherein our Sovereign Lord has determined to deal with his servant Saul! Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
And the one issue we wish to deal with is Saul’s Baptism at Damascus! For our text states that after he was baptized he was “certain days” with those very disciples whom he formally intended to kill.
And those familiar with Bible content are not ignorant with the city of Damascus. For they know that one of its earliest mentions is recorded in Genesis 15:2, which informs us that Abraham’s servant, Eliezar, was said to be “of Damascus.”
Upon Saul’s recounting of this event, he states it these words: Acts 22:13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Now we wish to especially take note of that phrase, wash away thy sins. For with this in mind, we come to another man, listed in the scriptures who yearned to “wash” in these waters of Damascus to free himself of the disease of leprosy, which is a picture of sin. (For one of the laws of cleansing from this dreaded disease required a “sin offering.” Lev. 14:19 And the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering:) But the Lord would not permit this great warrior-statesman the same privilege that he gives to Saul!
Here is that account. 2 Kings 5:1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. 8 And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. 9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
This man, Naaman, was commander-in-chief of the Syrian forces! He was a rich and powerful individual. But he was a leper. He greatly desired to be healed of this physical disease. But his heart was filled with pride which comes with such an exalted position separate from the humbling effect of a confrontation with the Lord God! Therefore when he heard that he was required to be “washed” in a foreign nation’s waters – waters that he knew were not as clear as his waters of Damascus – he would rather have kept his leprosy than to wash in them!
But Saul of Tarsus, a religious terrorist, a hater and despiser of Christ and his believers, as equally filled with arrogance and self worth as ever Naaman was, was sent to Damascus and its clean waters by the Providential hand of a loving Savior to first be baptized into Jesus Christ, (Rom. 6:3). And then he had the privilege to receive water baptism in Damascus’ clear waters to show his submission and obedience to his new Master! Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
What a blessing for Saul of Tarsus to be ordained to “wash” in the clear waters of Damascus which were denied to the great man, Naaman!
“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:”
William Cowper (1731-1800).
Psalm 75:7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. 1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
O Christian, Do you realize just how wonderfully blessed you are? Do you realize just how precious it is to be chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world? (Ephesians 1:4). Do you praise this discriminating Lord for providing you with redemption through the washing in Emmanuel’s blood? Do you realize just how wonderful it is to have the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace? (Ephesians 1:7). Or are you so distracted by physical conditions, like Naaman, that you do not praise the Lord for eternal redemption, which even makes you acceptable to the Holy God Himself? Are you so given to finances, politics, to what you shall eat, and wherewith you shall be clothed, that you have forgotten that the millions of birds, which have no wallet, nor Wal-mart, nor bank account, nor even the ability or opportunity to sow a crop for food, are fed by his sovereign hand? Men don’t feed the billions of animals in the wildernesses of this earth! God alone does! Luke 12:28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
But Saul, as well as every other child of God throughout the history of redemption, has been washed in waters of greater purity than ever those were of Damascus! They have had their souls and minds washed by the waters of the precious word of God! Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, And all these have been plunged into the living waters of God, the Spirit!
The following two verses in the Book of Jeremiah plainly instruct us that God is the fountain of living water! Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
And not only is God Himself the fountain of the living waters, but every believer in Jesus Christ is said, by Christ, to have these same living waters flowing out of the midst of themselves! John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) Christ is the source. The church is the course. And the Holy Spirit is the force!
But now let us come to a greater wonder. Mark 1:9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. Wow!! Can you believe it? Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God was baptized in the river that the high minded Naaman thought to be beneath his station in life! And the Lord Jesus not only was not reluctant to be so, but he even urged John to accomplish the task in order to fulfill all righteousness! (Matt. 3:15).
And Naaman, after much prodding by his servants, only cleansed his own immediate flesh in washing therein. 2 Kings 5:14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
But what happened upon the baptism of Lord Christ? Mark 1:10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. He was baptized in his physical body in order that his spiritual Body, (the church), might be eternally cleansed and to be received now by a heaven opened to them! And that they might hear heaven’s word, which believed, would birth faith in their souls!
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
1 John 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
O! What a Savior! Philippians 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
He entered the cloudy waters of Jordan – the mirky waters of sin – that we might enter into the clear waters of Damascus – the sweet, life-giving flow of living waters! O! Bless His name forever! He took on our sin in order that we might take on his righteousness! 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Zechariah 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
How vile was our sin! But how eternally glorious our righteousness! 1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
We thank the Lord for being our Fountain Head from which these living waters forever flow into the church! It is by these waters of the life giving fluids of God’s very Being wherein the regenerate are fitted to produce the very fruit of the Spirit! Revelation 22:1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Pastor Gene Breed