New Defender's Study Bible Notes
9:3 Damascus. Damascus is one of the world’s oldest cities, first mentioned in the Bible at the time of Abraham (Genesis 14:15) and still thriving today as the capital of modern Syria. In Paul’s day, it had a large Jewish population and a significant number had become Christians. Paul’s commission from the high priest, however, was probably to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem those Christians who had fled the city following the stoning of Stephen.
9:4 Saul, Saul. This repetition of the name of the person addressed always indicated a message of special importance. Other examples include the following: Abraham (Genesis 22:11); Moses (Exodus 3:4); Samuel (I Samuel 3:10); Absalom (II Samuel 18:33); Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37); Simon Peter (Luke 22:31).
9:5 whom thou persecutest. Jesus regards any persecution against His followers as persecution against himself (note John 15:20).
9:5 kick against the pricks. The future apostle is addressed here as behaving like a stubborn animal, rebelling against the pain caused by the goads in his harness. The Lord already had been speaking to him, as he would recall Stephen’s dying prayer (Acts 7:60), and possibly also through the testimony of Christian relatives (Romans 16:7). He must also, with his training and position, have learned something about the teachings of Jesus, and especially the evidence of His resurrection. Yet he had been rejecting all this testimony.
9:6 trembling and astonished. Paul’s trembling was probably the result of sudden conviction of his great guilt before the Lord in persecuting His followers. He actually saw the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ, even as he had heard Stephen testify (Acts 7:56; I Corinthians 15:8), and instantly became a believing Christian. The immediate question then was (as it should be for all new believers): “Lord, what shall I do?”
9:7 hearing a voice. Paul undoubtedly had a large company with him, in order to bring a large group of Christian prisoners back to Jerusalem with him. These men saw the great light but could not see Jesus therein. Also, they heard the voice as a sound, but could not understand the words (Acts 22:9).
9:15 chosen vessel. God had chosen Paul before he was saved. In fact, Paul later testified that God had “separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace” (Galatians 1:15).
9:15 before the Gentiles. It is noteworthy that Paul was now chosen by God to be sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21), and would even become “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). This was the same Paul who testified that he had “profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14), and who, with the other Pharisees, had been furious at Stephen’s intimations that God was now preparing to favor the Gentiles.
9:17 Brother Saul. Ananias, despite his reservations, graciously recognized Saul (“the requested one”), soon to be known as Paul, “the little one,” as “Brother.”
9:17 filled with the Holy Ghost. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, and no doubt was baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit immediately, but was not “filled with the Holy Spirit” until his sight was restored and he received spiritual sight at the same time, submitting himself fully to Christ.
9:18 baptized. Paul, like all other new converts, was immediately baptized. He had probably been kneeling in Ananias’ house as Ananias put his hands on Paul to give him his commission, as it were, but Paul could not be baptized in such a position. Accordingly, he arose and went to be baptized, probably in one of the two major rivers that flow through Damascus (Abana and Pharpar). It is also noteworthy that the Apostle Paul received his commission as an apostle, not from one of the other apostles, but from the Lord Himself, through Ananias. This undermines the principle of so-called “apostolic succession.”
9:20 preached Christ. Paul, already zealous and courageous and learned in the Scriptures, immediately understood and believed the doctrine of the deity of Christ, and that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, as well as Messiah.
9:23 many days. The “many days” may refer to the nearly three years that Paul spent east of Damascus in the Arabian desert (see note on Galatians 1:17-18).
9:23 Jews. The Jews had been anticipating Paul’s arrival in Damascus, knowing he was coming to arrest the Christians who were creating such a problem for them. When he came to the synagogue, however, instead of denouncing the Christians and their teachings, he proclaimed persuasively that Jesus was the “Christ” and the “Son of God” (Acts 9:20-22), so he only made matters worse for them. No wonder they decided to stop him.
9:25 in a basket. Note Paul’s reference to this experience in II Corinthians 11:32-33.
9:31 rest. This period of “rest” from persecution, after Paul left Jerusalem and returned to his home town of Tarsus, capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, lasted about ten years.
9:40 Tabitha, arise. The apostles were enabled to do many miracles, as evidence of the authenticity of their preaching (Hebrews 2:3-4), since the New Testament was not yet written. This was the first occasion, however, when one of them actually called a dead person back to life. The one other occasion, through Paul, is given in Acts 20:7-12.