The Lord asked Ananias to go see Saul, who was persecuting Christ’s followers unto the death (Acts 9:10-17). That was perhaps the hardest test of faith in the Bible, but Ananias was able to pass it because he was “a devout man” (22:12).
“Devout” is the adjective form of the word devoted, which means to take something that is yours and say it is the Lord’s (Lev. 27:16, 21). That’s what Ananias did with himself before his hardest test of faith came. That’s how he passed it. Your hardest test may be yet to come, but you too can pass it if you devote yourself to the Lord in advance like he did!
Saul was “praying” (11) like you probably were right after you got saved. I hope you never stopped! Paul had to write “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17) because when grace believers learn God isn’t answering prayer in the miraculous manner in which He used to answer prayer, some of them cease praying. Paul didn’t, and neither should we! God still answers prayer through His Word working in His people.
A “vessel” (v. 15) is something you put things in to carry them from one place to another. Your blood vessels carry life-giving blood and oxygen to the furthest extremities of your body so you can have life. The Lord chose Saul to carry His name to the Gentiles so that they might have eternal life.
That means the Lord was calling Saul to a different kind of ministry than that to which He called the twelve, who were not sent to the Gentiles (Mt. 10:1-6). The Lord didn’t say that because He didn’t like Gentiles. He planned to use the Jews to reach the Gentiles! That means in time past Israel was God’s chosen vessel to bear His name before the Gentiles.
But when the Jews refused to be the ambassadors that God sent them to be among the Gentiles, He allowed them to be “swallowed up” of the Gentiles (Hos. 8:8), and instead they go “among the Gentiles” as His prisoners in Babylon instead of as His ambassadors. God would have been pleased with them if they’d have obeyed Him, but when they didn’t, they became “a vessel wherein is no pleasure.”
God eventually let them out of Babylonian captivity. But when He tried to use Israel to reach the Gentiles in the New Testament and they responded by rocking Stephen to sleep, that was the last straw. God chose Saul to be His new chosen vessel to bear His name to the Gentiles.
But when Acts 9:15 mentions the Jews last, that means God is now reaching us Gentiles first and using us to carry His name to the Jews. But His plan to use Paul and us to carry His name to the Gentiles was different from His plan to use the Jews to do it in many ways. We see one very important way in Verse 16 when the Lord told Ananias that He’d show Saul how great things he’d have to suffer for Him.
When God used the Jews to reach the Gentiles, any suffering they had to suffer was of their own making! God told them that if they obeyed Him that He’d protect them from sickness and their enemies. But the Lord promised Saul—and us!—that we will suffer for Him (Acts 14:22). But after all that the Lord suffered for us on the cross, it’s a privilege to suffer for Him to get the truth of the mystery out to the rest of the Body of Christ as Paul did (Col. 1:23,24).
The filling of the Spirit back then (Acts 9:17) empowered men to be able to speak in tongues (2:4) and heal the sick (5:15, 16). But today it empowers us to thank God in “all things,” and empowers wives to submit to husbands and children to submit to parents and servants to obey their masters (Eph. 5:18-6:5). That’s way more powerful!
Saul was baptized (Acts 9:18)—but not for the remission of sins (cf. 2:38). We know he was saved before he was baptized, after he called Jesus “Lord” (Acts 9:6 cf. I Cor. 12:3). Ananias asked him to be baptized because that was the only message he knew. The new program of salvation without baptism wasn’t revealed to him, it was revealed later to Paul!
To make it so Saul could kick back with the disciples he’d come to kill (Acts 9:19) God had to change the nature of that “wolf” to get him to lay back with those lambs (cf. Isa. 11:6). God can still do that today in the most violent of men. He’s the answer to all the violence we’re seeing lately!
This sermon is also available on YouTube: Ananias Passes the Test! – Acts 9:10-19