Acts 9:3

Artwork by Doug Kallerson.

Monday, 18 July 2022

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Acts 9:3

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse had Paul preparing for a journey to Damascus in order to bring back believers of the Way for trial in Jerusalem. Now that thought continues, saying, “As he journeyed.”

Concerning the route he would have taken, Charles Ellicott says –

“The route by which the persecutor and his companions travelled was probably that taken by the Roman road, which extended from Jerusalem to Neapolis (Sychar, or Shechem), thence to Scythopolis, and so by the shores of the Sea of Galilee and Cæsarea Philippi, and thence under the slopes of Hermon, to Damascus. … It is, however, possible that he may have taken the road by the Jordan valley by which Galilean pilgrims sometimes travelled in order to avoid Samaria; but the former was beyond all question the most direct and best frequented road.”

With that, the Greek next says “it came to pass.” This is omitted by the translators, but it can be seen in the BLB translation –

“Now in proceeding, it came to pass as he draws near to Damascus, suddenly also a light from heaven flashed around him.”

Somewhere along the journey, it came to pass as “he came near Damascus.” The meaning of the name of the city depends on several things. Abarim defines it –

“The Hebrew term for Damascus, namely דמשק (dammasq), means something like The Beginning Of Salvation. The Chronicler’s slightly adapted term for Damascus, namely דרמשק (darammasq) means Period Of Salvation or perhaps more precise Full Turn In The Pattern Of Salvation. The Greek name Damascus means Tameness or somewhat more positive Synchronicity.”

Damascus is outside of Israel’s borders which is appropriate for the calling that will occur. The apostle to the Gentiles will receive his calling outside of the set borders of Canaan, but still within the area of land originally promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:18. That promise extends the land as far as the River Euphrates. It was there, in the Gentile land close to Damascus that Paul was traveling, “and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.”

The word translated as “shone” is found only here and in Acts 22:6. It signifies to flash around like lightning. Acts 26 will further explain the intensity of this light –

“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.” Acts 26:12, 13

The magnificence of the light outshined the radiance of the sun. With this ultra-intense display of the glory of the Lord now stated, the narrative will continue in the verses ahead.

Life application: There are commentaries that will attempt to diminish the magnitude of what occurred with Saul (Paul), saying things like he was driven mad while considering his acts of persecution, and this is what produced the vision that happened in his mind. Nothing of the sort is even hinted at. And more, the effects of the light upon his eyes will demonstrate that this was not just an internalized event. Rather, it is an actual appearance of the glory of the Lord as He revealed Himself to Saul.

We need to always consider the words of Scripture in the context in which they are given. In the case of this theophany, there is no doubt about how it occurred. At the same time, we need to not be duped by people that claim they have their own visions of God. There is no need for such visions today, and it would be contrary to the word itself that they should occur.

Paul was chosen to be an apostle of Jesus, and the events that surround his conversion were necessary for the validation of his ministry, both for himself and for those who would interact with him, such as the other apostles. People’s conversions now occur in accord with what is written in Scripture, and those who are placed in the ministry have the words of Scripture to explain their requirements. There is no need for any extra validations of such things, and none should be expected.

Logically, if God is going around giving visions of Himself to people today, there is no need for the word of God in their lives. And yet, it is the word of God that reveals to us what we need to do in order to be saved, to live out our lives in accord with His will, and to appoint to the ministry those we deem to have satisfactorily met its requirements for the position.

Don’t look to the sensational when the Bible itself is sufficient for our lives, doctrine, and conduct. Let us be content with this wonderful treasure God has given us.

Yes, Lord God! What a treasure Your word is! May we hold fast to it as the rule and guide of our lives as we live them out before You. Help us to apply its precepts to our lives and to seek out the mysteries in it all our days. Amen.