The Lord's Purpose In Sending Ananias To Saul
The Lord's purpose in sending Ananias to Saul was two fold. He was sent that Saul might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:17) The purpose of this article is to give attention to the two things which the Lord accomplished in sending Ananias to Saul.
That Thou Mayest Receive Thy Sight The restoration of physical sight to Saul was dependent upon Ananias laying his hands on him. Acts 9:12, "And he hath seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight." It is definitely stated here that the thing to be accomplished by Ananias laying his hands on him, was, "that he might receive his sight." Ananias did not lay his hands on him that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit. 'While the statement as to why the Lord sent him embraces both accomplishments yet the end to be accomplished by, laying his hands on him is limited to Saul's receiving his sight.
This was evidently the sign whereby Ananias was to be identified to Saul as the Lord's Messenger to tell him "What he must do" for the Lord told Ananias that Saul "hath seen a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight." The Lord had told Saul, "but rise, and enter into the city and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (Acts 9:6) Out of all the people in the city how was Saul to know which was the Lord's spokesman? The Lord confirmed his messenger by the sign of restoring sight to Saul.
And Be Filled With the Holy Spirit The expression "filled with the Holy Spirit" occurs several times in the New Testament. It is difficult to determine the exact meaning in every case. That it describes the effect of the Holy Spirit baptism in Acts 2:4 is evident when considered in connection with Acts 1:5. The apostles "were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" when Christ baptized them in the Holy Spirit. This being filled with the Holy Spirit was affected by Christ's baptizing them in the Holy Spirit.
Another instance of the use of the expression is found in Eph. 5:18, "And be not drunken with wine wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." What it is to be filled with the Spirit is here made clear by studying the parallel passage, Col. 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God." These passages are addressed to Christians, they are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, that is to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly.
The angel told Zacharias that the son to be born by his wife Elizabeth would be "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1:14) John the baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb. That this was not Holy Spirit baptism is evident from the consideration that it was John the baptist who announced that Christ would "baptize you in the Holy Spirit."
The seven to be appointed to serve tables were to be men "full of the Spirit." (Acts 6:3) It is said of Stephen, one of the seven, that he was a "man full of faith and ofthe Holy Spirit." (Acts 6:5) Apparently the expression here simply means men who were full of the Spirit in the sense of their lives exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit.
Again we have the statement in Acts 13:9 that, "Saul who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on him, and said." The scathing condemnation and statement that the hand of the Lord was upon Elymas which was here expressed by the lips of Saul is to be attributed to the Holy Spirit.
This brief examination of several instances in which the clause "filled with the Holy Spirit occurs" will serve to show us that the precise meaning to be attached to the expression must largely be determined by the context and that in several of these instances it is very difficult to determine the exact thing meant. From this general study we turn to consider the expression in the passage we are studying.
From the language of Acts 9:17 it seems clear that the Lord sent Ananias that two things might be accomplished: first, the restoration of Saul's sight, and second, that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit. We have seen that Saul's receiving his sight was accomplished by Ananias laying his hands on him. This, however, is not the means utilized by the Lord in order to Saul's being filled with the Holy Spirit. A study of the language describing what resulted from Ananias going to Saul should help in determining the part played by Ananias in Saul's being "filled with the Holy Spirit." Verse 18 tells us that, "straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight, and he arose and was baptized." There is no question but that Ananias was the agent through whom the Lord restored Saul's sight and answered his question, "What shall I do, Lord?" He was told to "arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16)
I see no basis in this account for the conclusion that Ananias imparted Holy Spirit baptism. Men could not impart Holy Spirit baptism. The Lord Jesus was the only administrator of Holy Spirit baptism. (Matt. 3:11)
That the apostles had to be present to bestow the miraculous gifts is seen from the following considerations. In Acts 8:18 we have this significant statement, "Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles hands the Holy Spirit was given — ." Simon did not see something that was not there for that was the purpose of the apostle's visit from Jerusalem, Acts 8:15-17, "Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." According to Acts 2:38 these who had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was promised to the obedient. This is not what the apostles imparted to the people of Samaria. In Rom. 1:11 Paul wrote to the members of the church at Rome, "For I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established." Why did Paul long to see them if it were unnecessary for an apostle to be present to impart these spiritual gifts. No instance can be found where any one other than an apostle possessed the power to impart these spiritual gifts. Ananias was not an apostle hence did not have such power. He did not lay his hands on Saul to impart some spiritual gift or to baptize Saul with the Spirit. He laid his hands on him that he might restore his sight.
What part did Ananias have in Saul's being "filled with the Holy Spirit"? Whether or not we agree as to what is embraced in the clause, in this instance, we can learn the nature of human agency by observing what Ananias did. After Saul received his sight by Ananias laying his hands on him, the record relates that he told him to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. This was in answer to Saul's question, "What must I do?" Saul's baptism was antecedent to his being filled with the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what is embraced in the clause "filled with the Holy Spirit," whether it is the ordinary gift promised to all who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38) or the reception of power as an apostle of Christ (Acts 1:8) it must be preceded by obedience. Saul could not obey until he was told what to do. This was the purpose served by Ananias' being sent that Saul might be filled with the Holy Spirit. He told Saul, "Arise and be baptized." Ananias fulfilled his mission by laying his hands on Saul that he might receive his sight and by telling him to "arise and be baptized." No one should question that Ananias did what he was sent to do. His commission can be understood in the light of his action in fulfilling it. Whatever "being filled with the Holy Spirit" means in this case, it depended on Saul's obedience to the instructions given him by Ananias the messenger of the Lord.