What does Acts 9:3 mean?
ESV: Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
NIV: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
NASB: Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
CSB: As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.
NLT: As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
KJV: And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
NKJV: As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
Verse Commentary:
Saul is a young Jewish man, fiercely against Jesus and anyone who follows Him. He watched with approval when a mob killed Stephen. He persecuted the Jesus-followers in Jerusalem so violently they fled (Acts 7:58—8:3). As Christians spread through Judea, Samaria, and parts north, they taught other Jews how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures. So many more have believed that Saul feels driven to follow and bring every Jesus-follower he can find back to Jerusalem for trial before the Sanhedrin, where he will either force them to deny Jesus or he will vote for their deaths (Acts 26:9–11).

This brings Saul to a road outside of Damascus, 133 miles north of Jerusalem, about noon (Acts 22:6). He has heard that Jesus-followers have infiltrated the synagogues there, and he wants to root them out. Suddenly, he's surrounded by a light from the sky: God's glory. He falls to the ground, and a voice asks him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4). His companions hear the voice and see the light but can neither see the speaker nor understand the words (Acts 9:7; 22:9).

Though not stated in this verse, Jesus apparently appears in the light. Ananias and Barnabas later affirm Jesus' appearance (Acts 9:17, 27), and Saul testifies to it (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:16).
Verse Context:
Acts 9:1–9 tells the story of how the lead persecutor of the early church meets Jesus. Saul, who had arrested the Jesus-followers in Jerusalem (Act 7:58; 8:1–3), expands his terror outside of Judea and travels north to Damascus. Jesus stops Saul and reveals He is not only alive, He is glorified by the light of heaven. Saul is stunned—and blinded. His companions lead him into the city where he waits, without food or drink, for three day until Jesus' messenger comes to tell him what to do. Saul goes into further detail in Acts 22:6–16 and 26:9–18.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 9 sets the stage for the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Saul continues the persecution of the church by traveling to Damascus to arrest Jesus-followers. Before he reaches the city, Jesus confronts him. Saul realizes Jesus is the Messiah and immediately starts spreading the news, first in Damascus and later in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Peter travels to modern-day Tel Aviv to heal a paralyzed man and bring a dead woman back to life. The miracles aren't unusual, but the story leaves him in Joppa, poised to take the next step in Jesus' mandate to be His witness (Acts 1:8).
Chapter Context:
The murder of the Jesus-follower Stephen has ignited a fierce persecution against the church, led by a young Pharisee-trained man named Saul (Acts 7:54—8:3; 9:1–2). When he realizes Jesus truly is the Messiah, that fervor fuels his own evangelism (Acts 9:3–30). Meanwhile, Peter travels to the coast of Judea. Soon, he will teach a prominent Gentile household about Jesus and discover that Gentiles can be saved (Acts 10). The stage will be set for Saul to spread the saving news of Jesus to ''the end of the earth'' (Acts 1:8) under the Greek version of his name: Paul.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 6/14/2024 9:51:10 PM
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