In making a survey of the Bible, an important inquiry to address is the question of why Luke wrote the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts records the Acts of the Apostles, or better, the acts of the Holy Spirit as the expansion of the early church is given. It is also probable that Luke wanted to give to the church an apologia, an apologetic, or a defense of the authenticity of the apostleship of Saint Paul.
In Luke’s first volume, the gospel, the central figure is Jesus. In Acts, Luke’s second volume, the central figure is Paul. Paul needed a defense, because, at the end of the ministry of Jesus, one of His apostles committed suicide after betraying the Lord of Glory. Paul was called by God to be the replacement for Judas. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,” (Gal. 1:15)
Initially, the church had thought that either Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, or Matthias were good replacement candidates, because they seemed to meet the qualifications for being an apostle, of which there were three in numbers.
An apostle had to have been a disciple before they could be an apostle. A disciple is a learner, while an apostle is one who is commissioned with power and authority to speak on behalf of the One who sent him.
An apostle had to be an eyewitness of the resurrection.
An apostle had to have a direct, and immediate call from Christ.
After prayer, the Eleven Disciples cast lots, “and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26)
The practical problem, was that Matthias had not been chosen by God, though God was said to be the One choosing him. “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,” (Acts 1:24) A lesson is learned. It is possible to ascribe a spiritual work to God in which He has no part.
In the OT era, there was a continuing struggle between authentic prophets, endowed with the Holy Spirit, and false prophets who dared to speak in the name of the Lord. When discovered, the false prophet was to be put to death. Accuracy was the distinguishing characteristic between the true and the false prophet. “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:20-22)
The true prophet was able to say, “Thus saith the LORD!” The false prophet gave their own dreams, and spoke their own opinions. They gave a human perspective, rather than the authoritative Word of God.
In support of being authentic, the true prophet of the Old Testament could verify his call. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, and others, were careful to report the circumstances of their call, because that divine call is what gave them their authority to speak the Word of God. The foundation of the church is said to be the prophets and the apostles, making them equal in authority and calling. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22)
The office of the apostle in the NT occupies a parallel authority as the office of the prophet in the OT. The apostle in the NT announces the Word of God, with nothing less than the authority of God. Therefore, the apostle’s authority must be well authenticated. And when the church got it wrong, that too had to be recorded.
One reason why the issue of qualifications for being an apostle is so important to the church, is because there are modern day individuals who assume for themselves the mantle of being an apostle, reflected in the apostles of the Mormon Church, and others. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13)
The question arises about Paul. It is argued that Paul was not a disciple of Jesus, nor was he a witness of the resurrected Christ in the same manner as others. What is claimed for Paul in the NT, and what Luke is careful to document, is that Paul did receive a direct, and immediate call from Jesus. Ananias was told that Paul was called.
Acts 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
The light which Saul witnessed was the Shekinah glory of God displaying His majesty. The voice Saul heard was in the Hebrew tongue, and it called his name twice. The repetition of Saul’s name is, in the Hebrew, for emphasize.
In the Bible, only a few people had their name repeated.
Abraham, Abraham Genesis 22:11
Jacob, Jacob Genesis 46:2
Moses, Moses Exodus 3:4
Samuel, Samuel 1 Samuel 3:10
Absalom, Absalom 2 Samuel 17:6
My father, my father 2 Kings 2:12
Martha, Martha Luke 10:41
Eli, Eli Matthew 27:46
Saul, Saul Acts 9:4
In each of these instances there is an expression of profound personal intimacy. Sometimes, this intimacy was only a profession, not a possession. Hypocrisy can be clothed in the form of God talk.
Lord, Lord Matthew 7:21, 22
Lord, Lord Luke 6:46
What Jesus said to Saul was, “I know you. I know everything about you. I know you intimately. So why are you persecuting me?” It was not just the church that Saul was persecuting, it was Jesus Himself. To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus, because the church is the body of Christ, it is the Bride of Christ. To assault His body, is to assault Jesus.
Acts 9:5 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.
It may be that Saul was being polite, and asked, “Who art thou, sir?” It is more probable, because of the luminous light, that Saul knew that the One he was speaking to was his Sovereign Lord. Because ox would sometimes kick back and hit the cart where the farmer was sitting, some farmers attached sharp sticks to the front of the cart. Then, when an ox kicked his foot back, he would be injured, and taught not to kick. To kick against the cart spikes was to hurt oneself. For Saul to persecute the church was to hurt himself.
Acts 9:6 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.
In that moment, Saul bowed before his Sovereign in submission, and asked what was to be done.
Acts 9: 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Because election is unto salvation, because election is personal, those who were with Saul stood speechless. While they heard the gospel call, they did not respond. They did not bow. They did not bend their knees to their Sovereign.
Acts 9:8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 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.
Ananias Questions the Lord
Acts 9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
The Lord Knows What He is Doing
Acts 9:15 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: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Paul himself believed he was called to be an apostle. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” (Rom. 1:1) Paul believed his authority came from Christ, and the other original apostles confirmed that belief. The life of Paul after his conversion justified the confirmation of the church that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul was obedient to the Lord, and so testified before King Agrippa. “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” (Acts 26:18)
It was a blessed day when Paul was converted.