Robert D. Pace
Which great Christian do you admire? Which Bible character best fits your qualities as a Christian? If you’re looking for someone that embodies the virtues of a saint, then look no further than a little-known Christian in Acts 9 named Ananias. The early Church did not recognize Ananias as part of the ordained clergy. He’s described as a “disciple,” just a “disciple,” but that’s the primary position in God’s Kingdom. There is nothing more important than being a follower of Jesus Christ.
This narrative discloses how an ordinary Christian courageously welcomed Saul of Tarsus, Christianity’s chief antagonist, into the fellowship of believers. And it was Saul who became the greatest apostle in church history. It’s interesting that God didn’t choose a dynamic preacher like Peter or John or even Philip the Evangelist to minister to Saul. He chose Ananias—a layman. But here’s a layman fully capable of performing the Lord’s business.
I want you to notice that Ananias had a mighty presence of the Holy Spirit upon him to do God’s bidding here. He super-naturally received a vision; he miraculously opened Saul’s blinded eyes; Ananias ministered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to him; and then, he prophesied to Saul. Can you believe God used a mere layman to perform such exploits? God used Ananias to show us that ordinary Christians can literally change the course of humanity. Are you willing to let God use you for whatever purpose He so chooses?
In today’s message I want to discuss the qualities that make Christians useful for kingdom service. And it’s the remarkable lifestyle of Ananias that helps illustrate this. Ananias displays several qualities that show us how God can use us to accomplish His will and reveal His glory.
(Transition) The first quality that Ananias displays is this. This otherwise unknown Christian was a remarkable disciple. He was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
I. Ananias was a Disciple
(Definition) When verse ten uses the word disciple it’s a word that describes “someone that both learns from and follows another.” That’s why Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” But it is interesting that the word disciple is taken from the Greek root word we translate arithmetic. Did you know there are two keys to mastering arithmetic? Thought plus endeavor. That is, you think about the problem and then you endeavor to solve it. Sometimes you make mistakes, but you don’t give up, you ask for help and start over again.
When we apply this principle to discipleship it points to someone that both learns from Christ and then endeavors to implement His teachings. Is that what you are doing? Are you studying God’s Word and then putting it into practice? Not everyone that claims the title of Christian is a disciple. A Christian can join a church, sing in the choir, and serve on committees, but that doesn’t make him a disciple. Discipleship is achieved by a commitment to Christ; it is hearing and then obeying; it’s learning something and then living it! And there’s a wonderful reward of discipleship. When Christians devote themselves to Christ they not only reflect His image but their reflective testimony encourages others to model their behavior.
That’s been God’s plan for man since the beginning. God created Adam “in His image and likeness” and called Adam to reflect that image and likeness throughout the earth. But it didn’t stop there. God then commanded Adam to “replenish the earth.” Adam was to reflect God’s character and creativity and then have sons and daughters who would reflect his character and creativity.
Unfortunately, Adam deviated from that plan and disobeyed God. And throughout history Adam’s sons and daughters have reflected his rebellion. Adam’s disobedience has been replenished in the earth. The behavior we model is powerful. That’s why God called Christians to reflect Christ’s image and bear the fruit of the Spirit. The sheer power of Christian discipleship influences others to live for Christ.
(Example) Some Christians wonderfully model Jesus in Church but miserably fail elsewhere. At Church they act like lambs and are sweeter than honey. But at home they’re a different animal. At Church the visitor says: “Oh, did I get your seat?” “No sweetheart, that’s alright you stay put I would rather stand.” But at home . . . kids, wife, mamma, mother in law, you better not even look at his recliner, much less sit in it. You’ll be peeling yourself off the wall if you sit in it.
(Transition) Ananias was qualified to minister to Saul because he was a disciple. But secondly, Ananias was chosen for this task because he was devout.
II. Ananias was Devout
(Definition)Devout, there’s a good word. We used to hear a lot about devout Christians or devout Catholics, but not anymore. Yet Paul’s assessment of Ananias in Acts 22:12 was this: “he was a devout observer of the law.” Once again this word devout (like the word disciple) is distinctive. It is interpreted as: “one that reverently stands in awe of God and His Word and then expresses that reverence through actions.” It is very closely related to the definition of discipleship. Christians are devout only as they respect God and practice His Word.
Oddly enough, there is only one other instance in Acts where Luke describes Christians as being devout. Not because other believers didn’t measure up, it’s because Luke wrote Acts primarily as a book of church history and was more interested in recording the acts of Christians rather than their devotion. The other twenty-one epistles deal with devotion. The one other occasion Luke calls Christians devote is Acts 10:2. That verse says that Cornelius (an officer in the army) and “all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Cornelius had an inner commitment that was coupled with an outward response. A genuine work of grace upon a sinner’s heart is always coupled with outward evidence.
(Insight) There’s another spiritual principle hidden in this story. Do you know what else is common with Ananias and Cornelius? Something that’s common with Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah. They had keen enlightenment of spiritual matters. Call it coincidental, but devout Believers of Scripture were given keen spiritual perception. And before the news of Saul’s conversion circulated on the streets and before it was the ‘talk of the town,’ God had already apprised Ananias in his prayer closet . . . in secret.
Today, when God seeks someone to whom He can open His counsel He speaks to those closest to Him. He turns to those dwelling in the “secret place of the Most High” and “resting under the shadow of the almighty.” He speaks to those huddled closely to Him. That’s why Ananias perceived the vision of Saul and was chosen to minister to him, He was devout.
Do you know what it takes to become a devout Christian? Fulltime service! Devotion means you’re on duty twenty-four hours a day. We as Christians don’t use a punch-clock to start and end our day. Devotion to Christ means commitment from dawn to dusk; at home, behind the steering wheel, in the marketplace, and wherever providence leads.
(Illustration) I remember, years ago, when I needed to borrow someone’s vehicle for a couple of days. A woman in the church found out about my dilemma and insisted that I used her car. Vaudene was about 70 years old and was a unique woman with a more unique automobile. Let me describe it. I promise not to exaggerate! It had stickers plastered on it from front to back. There were two rear view mirrors on the driver’s door. She had affixed a solar heat exhaust gadget to the back window (whatever that is?). Then she had a bright glittering tag attached to the bumper that read: “Classy Lady.” Besides all that, the car was bright canary yellow! Not mellow yellow, not pastel, but bright canary yellow! If anybody has the slightest thought that you could sneak around town in that car without being noticed you’re wrong! Whomever drives this car is marked! Now, let me apply that illustration because some here are wondering if that’s possible: God wants you totally devoted and marked for Him! I’m not insisting that Christians be ostentation; but the Lord certainly doesn’t want us moving around as camouflaged Christians. He wants us to be unashamedly devoted to Him and bear His image in the world.
(Transition) Then thirdly, Ananias was chosen not only because he was a disciple of Christ and a devout man of God, he was chosen because he was “filled with the Spirit.”
III. Ananias was Filled with the Spirit
When you study this passage the central characters appear to be Ananias and Saul. But the Holy Spirit is actively involved in all that happens. Ananias’ vision would have been impossible without the Holy Spirit. His prophetic counsel of Saul’s future, and the miracle of restoring Saul’s sight would have been impossible without the Spirit’s presence.
As Christians, our every success hinges upon the Holy Spirit’s activity in our life. It’s not our skill, intellect, or our talents. You may be a mere “layman,” as Ananias was, but the secret to your spiritual success rests upon the Holy Spirit’s power and presence upon your life. Ananias had no official position in the Church; he was without ecclesiastical power; he was even a gentile. But Ananias was a disciple; he was devoted; and he was Spirit-filled. And Ananias followed the Spirit’s leading he witnessed the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into the world’s greatest apostle. The Holy Spirit is our empowerment for service, and that’s why His companionship is compulsory. The reason Jesus commanded us to be “filled with the Spirit” is because He wanted us impacted with supernatural power.
I want you to hear what Jesus said to His apostles in John 20:22. John notes that Christ “breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit.'” Do you know what Christ meant when He breathed on his disciples and said ‘receive the Holy Spirit?’
He wanted to them to breathe what He breathed.
He wanted them to receive what was circulating from the innermost part of His being.
He wanted the life-breath of His being to be the life-breath of their being. Jesus knew if the apostles breathed what He breathed they too could live supernaturally!
There are many important issues that we need to claim as Christians. Faith is important, Bible study is imperative, and trusting God’s providence is necessary. But staying full of the Holy Spirit is also mandatory! I don’t want to live without His abiding presence on my life.
(Transition) Fourthly, Ananias was chosen not only because he was a disciple of Christ, a devout man of God, and because he was filled with the Spirit, he was chosen because he was “highly respected.”
IV. Ananias was “Highly Respected”
Luke wrote in Acts 22:12 that Ananias was “highly respected by all the Jews living in [Damascus].” Remember, the Jews of the first century hated Christians. But they couldn’t help respecting this devout disciple of Christ. The world then, as today, regards those of high moral integrity. One of the greatest infractions of Christianity is a Believer with low standards of character, discipline, and morality. Nothing so defames Christ’s Name! And yet the Christian’s sheer power of Christ-like character sways men toward the Lord! The real you emanates from the character of your soul—not from your physical or mental abilities. And that means character isn’t conceived at birth, it’s developed like a skill or language or science. Character is learned and acquired.
(Illustration) Some years back I had a Plexiglas pulpit made from a local business. It was designed and then a price was agreed upon. When the pulpit was completed I went to pick it up but forgot the paperwork. The original salesman was busy with another customer and I dealt with someone else. There was a mix-up on the price that day because neither I nor the clerk helping me knew the correct price. In the end I was undercharge $25.00. I assured the clerk I would check my paperwork at home and return with the correct amount if I had been undercharged. Sure enough that was the case. I called back to tell them I was on the way back but the original salesman answered the phone. Here’s what he said: “I heard what you said at the counter and I remembered the price. I just wanted to see if you would be honest. Forget the $25.00.
Folks, the world is watching us. And the Bible says in Proverbs that “a good name is rather to be chosen than riches.”
(Transition) I want to close with a poem entitled, Christ Has No Hands and authored by Annie Johnston Flint:
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way.
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how he died,
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in word and deed;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
What if our hands are busy with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongue is speaking of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him or welcome His return?