1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Chapter 9 tells of Saul’s conversion; Saul turned Paul. Luke recorded his conversion three times. Paul would become the apostle to the Gentiles (Ga 2:8; Eph 3:8). Acts 9 shows the total transformation from Saul, the persecutor of the church, to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. The story of Paul’s conversion was so important to the Holy Spirit and Luke that Luke told the story three times—in Acts 9:1-30, 22:3-21, and 26:2-23. This repetition indicates the stark importance of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. The first occurrence was conveyed by Luke, the second by Paul to a mob, and the third by Paul to Roman rulers. The prominence of this event in Acts shows its enormous importance.
Verses 1-3 took place in Jerusalem before Saul started his journey to Damascus.
Luke strategically placed the story of Saul, who became Paul, in the book of Acts. Paul became an apostle because he saw and met the risen Savior. That witness consumed him to share Christ with the world. He became the greatest missionary in the world. Most of Acts from this point is about his ministry in the world.
Saul was born at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39), an ancient city and the seat of the provincial governor. The city had a major university focusing on Greek thought. Thus, Saul had training in Greek thinking and culture. He also trained as a Pharisee under Gamaliel in Jerusalem, a prominent Jewish Pharisee scholar (Ac 22:3; Ga 1:14). Saul was from a Jewish family of wealth and was a Roman citizen.
Then [meanwhile] Saul,
During or shortly after Philip’s mission to the Mediterranean coast, Saul went on a relentless mission to prosecute the church. He must have begun his godless task shortly after Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1-3).
still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,
Galatians 1:13 and Philippians 3:6 also report Saul’s persecution of the church. He intended to stamp out the young church. On his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, Saul encountered something unanticipated.
went to the high priest [Caiaphas]
Saul requested of the high priest legal permission to prosecute the church.
and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus,
Saul sought legal permission from the high priest to extradite to Jerusalem those Christians who fled to Damascus. He needed authorization to carry out his dire deed.
Damascus was an important commercial trade center between Egypt and Mesopotamia. The location of Damascus is in modern-day Syria. It was a six-day walk from Jerusalem to Damascus. The city was about 135 miles from Jerusalem.
so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
“The Way” was an early name for those who professed Jesus as Savior (Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). Jesus claimed to be “the way” (Jn 14:6); that is, the way of salvation.
It is a wonder of God’s grace to save such sinners as a man like Saul.
The transformation of Christ’s greatest persecutor to His greatest advocate is a story of God’s amazing grace. Paul speaks of his conversion in his epistles: 1 Co 15:8f; Ga 1:12-17; Php 3:4-7;1 Tim 1:12-16.