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April 20, 2014
Increasing In Strength
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:10-22)
After Saul’s conversion, Luke makes the observation that Saul increased in strength. At first glance, some think that this is a statement referring to what was said in verse 19 in regard to physical strength. However, more immediately, the statement seems to indicate that the increase in strength must have been spiritual, because, coupled with being strengthened, Saul was able to confound the Jews and proving that Jesus he was preaching was “the Christ” and indeed “the Son of God.” This “proving” is that of comparing things and forming a conclusion. This kind of strength indicates something other than physical strength.
Saul, who later became Paul, knew the value of spiritual strength. He personally strengthened disciples (Acts 18:23) and wrote to admonish others to be the same. “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 2:1). “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1Corinthians 16:13).
How can people have spiritual strength? The Lord helped Saul in some ways to be strengthened (Philippians 4:13; 1Timothy 1:12). Saul became the apostle Paul and was “not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles” (2Corinthians 11:5). Paul was not indicating the existence of “Head” apostle or some “Head” group of apostles, but was merely piercing his detractors’ accusations that he was no apostle.
Certainly, none today are apostles like Paul. None are in his situation or circumstance. None will increase in strength in the same way as did Paul. But there are a number of ways in which all Christians can be strengthened.
Strength comes from GROWTH in the word of God. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1Peter 2:1-3). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2Peter 3:18). When growth takes place, others will be taught and will grow as well. Lack of growth is a detriment (Hebrews 5:11,12).
Strength comes from ADDING the traits of character of true Christians. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2Peter 1:5-11).
Strength comes from LOVING the brethren. “may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1Thessalonians 3:12-13).
Strength comes when TRUTH is spoken in love. “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16).
Everyone should be concerned with increasing in strength! Summed up, it is evident that strength comes with the appreciation of spiritual things. May we all live Paul’s prayer and make it our own. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.