Pulpit Today Sermon
The Acts of Ananias
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.
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 that’s fully capable of performing the Lord’s business. In fact, I want you to notice the mighty endowment of the Holy Spirit by which Ananias operated:
He supernaturally received a vision.
He miraculously opened Saul’s blinded eyes.
Ananias ministered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to him.
And then, he accurately prophesied the future to Saul.
Can you believe God used a mere “layman” to perform such exploits? But yes, God used Ananias to illustrate how ordinary Christians can change the course of history! And in today’s message, I want to point out several distinctions that made Ananias God’s choice for ministering to Saul of Tarsus. You too can claim these spiritual distinctions that will remarkably equip you for Kingdom service.
(Transition) The first characteristic that marked this otherwise unknown Christian is this: Ananias was a devout disciple. Discipleship is the chief characteristic for making one useful for Jesus Christ.
I. Ananias was a Disciple
The early Church did not recognize Ananias as part of its ordained clergy. He’s described as a “disciple”; just a “disciple.” But that’s the fundamental position in the Kingdom of God, and there is nothing that more explicitly describes one’s commitment to Christ than being known by this title.
(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 all Christians are Disciples
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 devotion to Christ and his ways. It involves hearing Christ and then obeying him; it’s learning of Christ and following him.
And there’s a wonderful reward of Christian discipleship. When Christians devote themselves to Christ and model his ways, 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.” Moreover, Adam’s purpose involved reflecting God’s image and likeness upon 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 Adam’s rebellion. Adam’s disobedience has replenished in the earth!
You see, in a sense, our behavior continues to live. It carries a life of its own! And when our behavior is sinful, it reproduces a destructive wave upon others! 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? Please sweetheart, sit right where you are. 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 dare touch it.
So first, Ananias was qualified to minister to Saul because he was a disciple He lived in ways that beautifully modeled his Savior Jesus Christ He followed the Lord’s commands, and in so doing, he was a foremost example to the entire first century church as to how Christians should live.
(Transition) But secondly, Ananias was chosen for this task because he was devout.
II. Ananias was Devout
Devout. That’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.”
(Definition) 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 of the New Testament 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? It’s something common with Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah. The common element among all these people is this: All these mighty Believers had keen enlightenment of spiritual matters. This is not coincidental, but devout Believers of Scripture were given keen spiritual perception.
Let me show you the keen spiritual perception that God had given to Ananias before he even met Saul of Tarsus. 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 of Saul’s conversion in his prayer closet.
And 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? Full-time 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 days. 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 some years back when I needed to borrow someone’s vehicle for a couple of days. A lady in the church named Vaudene, who was about 70 years old, wanted me to use her car. Vaudene 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! You’re marked!
Let me apply that illustration because some here are wondering if that’s possible: God wants you totally devoted and marked for Him. Not that God requires our testimony to be as ostentatious as that stickered, glittering, canary yellow car. 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. Can you do that?
(Transition) Then thirdly, Ananias was chosen for a high responsibility in addition to being 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 it’s important to recognize that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in all that happened between Ananias and Saul of Tarsus.
Ananias’ vision would have been impossible without the Holy Spirit.
The prophetic word that Ananias delivered to Saul concerning his future occurred because the Holy Spirit provided Ananias with this insight.
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. It doesn’t matter if you’re a layman, a pastor, an evangelist, or a seminary professor, the secret to your spiritual victories rests upon the Holy Spirit’s presence and power upon your life.
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 wants us endued 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.
Jesus wanted the life-breath of his being to be the life-breath of their being. He 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 can testify that I do not 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 sheer power of character relentlessly 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, acquired, and then put into practice.
(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 salesman that worked with me on the project was busy with another customer, so I was “cashing out” with another clerk. There was a mix-up on the price that day because neither I nor the clerk helping me knew the precise price. The clerk guessed at the price and I wrote him a check for his suggestion. However, he had undercharged me by $25.00. Before leaving the office, 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.”
Ananias had no official position in the Church; he was without ecclesiastical power; he was even a gentile! But none of that mattered! That which gave spiritual force to Ananias is attributed to this: Ananias was a disciple, he was a devoted disciple, he was a Spirit-filled disciple, and he was “highly respected” by the community. Thus, as Ananias modeled the Christian life, God used him to deliver a marvelous touch upon Saul of Tarsus that led toward his transformation into the world’s greatest apostle.
(Transition) I want to close with a poem:
Christ Has No Hands
Annie Johnston Flint
Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today,
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?