Acts 9 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 9)

Verse 3

[3] And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

And suddenly — When God suddenly and vehemently attacks a sinner, it is the highest act of mercy. So Saul, when his rage was come to the height, is taught not to breathe slaughter. And what was wanting in time to confirm him in his discipleship, is compensated by the inexpressible terror he sustained. By his also the suddenly constituted apostle was guarded against the grand snare into which novices are apt to fall.

Verse 4

[4] And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

He heard a voice — Severe, yet full of grace.

Verse 5

[5] And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

To kick against the goads — is a Syriac proverb, expressing an attempt that brings nothing but pain.

Verse 6

[6] And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

It shall be told thee — So God himself sends Saul to be taught by a man, as the angel does Cornelius, Acts 10:5. Admirable condescension! that the Lord deals with us by men, like ourselves.

Verse 7

[7] And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

The men — stood - Having risen before Saul; for they also fell to the ground, Acts 26:14. It is probable they all journeyed on foot.

Hearing the noise — But not an articulate voice. And seeing the light, but not Jesus himself, Acts 26:13, etc.

Verse 9

[9] And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And he was three days — An important season! So long he seems to have been in the pangs of the new birth.

Without sight — By scales growing over his eyes, to intimate to him the blindness of the state he had been in, to impress him with a deeper sense of the almighty power of Christ, and to turn his thoughts inward, while he was less capable of conversing with outward objects. This was likewise a manifest token to others, of what had happened to him in his journey, and ought to have humbled and convinced those bigoted Jews, to whom he had been sent from the sanhedrim.

Verse 11

[11] And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

Behold he is praying — He was shown thus to Ananias.

Verse 12

[12] And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

A man called Ananias — His name also was revealed to Saul.

Verse 13

[13] Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

But he answered — How natural it is to reason against God.

Verse 14

[14] And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

All that call on thy name — That is, all Christians.

Verse 15

[15] But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

He is a chosen vessel to bear my name — That is, to testify of me. It is undeniable, that some men are unconditionally chosen or elected, to do some works for God

Verse 16

[16] For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

For I — Do thou as thou art commanded. I will take care of the rest; will show him - In fact, through the whole course of his ministry.

How great things he must suffer — So far will he be now from persecuting others.

Verse 17

[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.

The Lord hath sent me — Ananias does not tell Saul all which Christ had said concerning him. It was not expedient that he should know yet to how great a dignity he was called.

Verse 24

[24] But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

They guarded the gates day and night — That is, the governor did, at their request, 2 Corinthians 11:32.

Verse 26

[26] And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

And coming to Jerusalem — Three years after, Galatians 1:18. These three years St. Paul passes over, Acts 22:17, likewise.

Verse 27

[27] But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

To the apostles — Peter and James, Gal. i, 18, 19. Galatians 1:18,19 And declared - He who has been an enemy to the truth ought not to be trusted till he gives proof that he is changed.

Verse 31

[31] 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.

Then the Church — The whole body of Christian believers, had peace - Their bitterest persecutor being converted.

And being built up — In holy, loving faith, continually increasing, and walking in - That is, speaking and acting only from this principle, the fear of God and the comfort of the Holy Ghost - An excellent mixture of inward and outward peace, tempered with filial fear.

Verse 35

[35] And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.

Lydda was a large town, one day's journey from Jerusalem. It stood in the plain or valley of Sharon, which extended from Cesarea to Joppa, and was noted for its fruitfulness.

Verse 36

[36] Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Tabitha, which is by interpretation Dorcas — She was probably a Hellenist Jew, known among the Hebrews by the Syriac name Tabitha, while the Greeks called her in their own language, Dorcas. They are both words of the same import, and signify a roe or fawn.

Verse 38

[38] And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.

The disciples sent to him — Probably none of those at Joppa had the gift of miracles. Nor is it certain that they expected a miracle from him.

Verse 39

[39] Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

While she was with the in — That is, before she died.

Verse 40

[40] But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

Peter having put them all out — That he might have the better opportunity of wrestling with God in prayer, said, Tabitha, arise.

And she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, sat up — Who can imagine the surprise of Dorcas, when called back to life? Or of her friends, when they saw her alive? For the sake of themselves, and of the poor, there was cause of rejoicing, and much more, for such a confirmation of the Gospel. Yet to herself it was matter of resignation, not joy, to be called back to these scenes of vanity: but doubtless, her remaining days were still more zealously spent in the service of her Saviour and her God. Thus was a richer treasure laid up for her in heaven, and she afterward returned to a more exceeding weight of glory, than that from which so astonishing a providence had recalled her for a season.