Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17)
Saul, or Paul, was heading toward Damascus to arrest the Christians. But before he arrived, Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light from heaven. He identified himself and confronted Paul about what he was doing. Then he told Paul to wait in the city. For three days he was blind, and he fasted and prayed, finally realizing that the Christians were right about Jesus.
Unspiritual men think in terms of times and titles, that God would do certain things then, but not now, that he would do certain things through the apostles, but not others. For this reason, they strive hard to earn human recognition. They measure themselves according to the titles that they have received from human institutions, and they compare themselves to others by them. And this is how they think of you. You could be Jesus Christ himself, but they would say, “Which seminary did you go to? Which denomination ordained you? By whose authority do you do these things?” You could be filled with a legion of demons, but if you have the human credentials they respect, they will curtsy and call you “reverend” and “doctor.” It is a worldly and pathetic culture.
Who could be qualified to lay his hands on this Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and this soon-to-be apostle, missionary, defender of the faith, and writer of Scripture? If we think like the carnal man, who could do this, except Peter, John, or James? Perhaps even Matthew was not good enough. But Jesus sent a regular disciple – a man who had no special title. He was not called an apostle, a prophet, a teacher, an elder, or even a deacon. We are not told about his pedigree and education.
What Simon tried to purchase from Peter – the ability to impart the fullness of the Spirit by the laying on of hands – Ananias could do as a regular Christian. He was a “disciple”! He was a student of Jesus Christ. There is no need for a greater title. You cannot buy this ability. You cannot study to get it. You cannot graduate into it. You must have an actual relationship with God and a commission from Christ to operate in this kind of ministry. This makes some people very angry, angry enough to kill, that Jesus would dare work around their ecclesiastical structure. All your schooling and networking are futile if you deny that Jesus would use any disciple to perform his greater works, because you have rejected his vision for his people.
Paul was familiar with the Christian message before this. He had heard Stephen’s powerful testimony and vision of Christ. Stephen was not an apostle, but he was filled with the Spirit and worked mighty signs and wonders among the people. Under interrogation, he expounded on the works of God and showed that they led up to the coming of Jesus Christ, and he declared that the Jews had always been rebellious, culminating in perjury and murder against their own Messiah. The Jews were furious, but he looked up and saw Jesus at the right hand of God. Paul was a witness to all of this, and he approved when the Jews stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7).
So Paul knew the Christian message, and he must have heard and examined it many times since, but he did not believe it. But now he had seen this Jesus in a blinding light, and he finally realized that Stephen was right all along. The Christian faith was true all this time he had been fighting it. And for three days he fasted and prayed with this in mind.
Still, there are theologians who will tell you that Paul was not yet converted. Why? Because Ananias would come so that Paul could be filled with the Spirit, and despite all the biblical evidence to the contrary, the theologians insist that conversion to Christ is the same event as the filling of the Spirit. They insist that the two are the same so that they would not have to admit that they are deficient in their Christian pursuit. Thus they readily acknowledge that the criminal who was crucified with Christ was saved by his confession of Christ’s kingdom, but somehow Paul remained unsaved for three days after extensive exposure to the Christian message and seeing the resurrected Christ in a blinding light, with fasting and prayer afterward.
This is how low some preachers and scholars will sink in order to protect their pride and their tradition. These religious hypocrites press hard for their theological agendas regardless of what the Bible actually says. When the Bible contradicts them, it is somehow an “exception” to their doctrine. Oh, sweet exceptions! May God shower exceptions upon us in this day of theological hypocrisy. May God, as he does every time in the Acts, make an exception every time without exception, so that no one who believes and hungers for him is excepted from his grace and power. And may he make us exceptions to the snakes and scorpions who teach our people, so that we would handle his word with faith and integrity.
Christians revere the Reformation heritage. However, when people do not cling to Jesus Christ with a simple faith, then they will only turn from Catholicism to Pharisaism. But is that the point of all this? Do we turn from idolatry, only to become murderers? What is it then? The religious hypocrites who look to human approval and human authority rather than the Lord Jesus will say to me, “Who are you? Where do you come from? Which man authorized you to do these things? Which institution approved your doctrine?” I will answer, “I am Ananias. I am Vincent Cheung, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now you and what legion of demons will stop me from following the heavenly vision?”
Fight for your identity, liberty, and ability in Jesus Christ. Do not escape from slavery to unrighteousness only to come under slavery to unbelief and tradition. Serve Christ alone with confidence, and defy all those who would cheat you of your place in him. May God fill us with his Spirit, a spirit of boldness and of power, so that one by one, we will stand up to an impotent, faithless, and hypocritical religious establishment – to our preachers and theologians, our churches and seminaries, our denominations and other ecclesiastical authorities that conspire against God’s power and his Spirit – and say, “I am Ananias. But who are you? Tell me! WHO ARE YOU?!”