Many of us have our favorite “heroes” in the Scriptures—great figures of the faith like Moses, Joshua, or Ruth, or perhaps more obscure ones like Mary, Martha, or Silas. But when we think of biblical heroes, Ananias—a seemingly random man who played a key role in Saul’s conversion and discipleship—may not immediately spring to mind. He’s not one of the “big ones,” and he only appears in a few short verses in Acts 9 and once again in Acts 22:12.
Ananias’s ear was tuned to the voice of God—a mark of all who are walking in the way of the Lord.
Even so, Ananias’s quiet presence in Scripture’s pages is a reminder that God is not merely preoccupied with big names and big deals. Rather, He looks for individuals who are ready to answer His call. So what was it that set him apart for God to use?
“A Disciple … Named Ananias”
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. (Acts 9:10)
The first thing we read about Ananias was that he was “a disciple”—not, we can safely assume, of a church or a denomination or a particular theological point of view but of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had been changed by Jesus through the Spirit, and presumably, he was becoming more and more like Jesus. Everything we observe about Ananias flowed from his discipleship.
In recounting his conversion, Paul also described Ananias as a man who loved God and loved the Word: “a devout man according to the law” (Acts 22:12). He was committed to the Scriptures. He took the words at the beginning of the Psalms to heart:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither. (Ps. 1:1–3)
Finally, Ananias’s discipleship was such that it affected the way he lived in community with others. As Paul went on to say, Ananias was “well spoken of by all the Jews who lived” in Damascus (Acts 22:12). That kind of reputation is not gained in five minutes, or even in five days, but in the ebb and flow of a consistent life. As Ananias went about his business, as he was engaged in family life, as people came over and spent time in his home, it was clear who he was and what he held dear. His conduct gave testimony to his discipleship, which led to a good reputation.
But the true test of Ananias’s discipleship came when God called him—and his response to God’s call shows a posture of readiness to listen and obey.
A Disciple Who Was Ready
The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying.” (Acts 9:10–11)
Whereas God calls most of us by His Word as His Spirit works in our hearts, God called to Ananias in a special vision and for a special purpose. Regardless of the method, though, Ananias’s ear was tuned to the voice of God—a mark of all who are walking in the way of the Lord. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Ananias was listening for the voice of his Lord, and he recognized God’s call when God spoke to him.
Ananias also had a will that was obedient to the Lord’s command. He took to heart Jesus’ words: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And he seemed ready to obey even before he knew what God was calling him to do. Ananias said, “Here I am, Lord,” and then God gave him instructions.
And Ananias was indeed obedient—but he was also honest with God, sharing the spontaneous response of his heart to God’s instructions. He had heard of the harm Saul had done to the church and his plans to do more (Acts 9:13–14). He was scared, perhaps even a little resentful. But he allowed his love for God to overcome his fear. And as Ananias was obedient to God, God gave him victory over his fear and resentment.
A Disciple Used by God
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul…” (Acts 9:17)
Can you imagine how Ananias felt as he set off to meet the infamous Saul of Tarsus? His allegiance to Christ was no secret, and yet here he was, being sent alone to pray with a notorious persecutor who had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).
Ananias knew himself to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all else—even this momentous encounter with a fearsome enemy of God’s people—emanated from that identity.
And what about Saul? How might he have felt? He had been knocked to the ground, his world had been turned upside down, and he was sitting in darkness (Acts 9:3–9). Then a door opened, and a man came in to him and put his hands on him. Whatever this man said would be important—and of all that he could have said, the man began, “Brother Saul…”
Notice the courage of Ananias: he went into the house!
Notice the warmth of Ananias: he laid hands on Saul!
Notice the love of Ananias: he called him “brother”!
Confronted with the great persecutor of the early church, Ananias didn’t keep Saul at arm’s length. Instead, he blessed the one who had cursed Christians, and he prayed for the one who had abused them (Luke 6:28). No thought or worry about what the rest of the church would think stopped him. His focus was on obeying the Lord’s word and receiving Saul with the same generous grace that God had shown him.
Ananias’s humility is remarkable. He came without a lengthy introduction, with no fanfare. He was simply “a certain disciple” (Acts 9:10, KJV) doing what disciples do—that is, what the Lord calls them to do. What a wonderful example of obedience, compassion, and gentleness! Ananias knew himself to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all else—even this momentous encounter with a fearsome enemy of God’s people—emanated from that identity.
Why Discipleship Matters
God loves to use “certain disciples” like Ananias. While he may be the subject of only a few lines in the whole of the New Testament, we can easily imagine that he was the recipient of a “Well done!” in the kingdom of heaven.
We need to concentrate on doing what disciples do: having both ears open to God’s voice, having a will obedient to God’s command, and having a life sacrificed to usefulness in God’s service.
Ananias’s example has something to teach us. Like him, we need to concentrate on doing what disciples do: having both ears open to God’s voice, having a will obedient to God’s command, and having a life sacrificed to usefulness in God’s service. We don’t need to worry about where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do, or how we’ll manage to do it. We must simply take care to listen to God’s instruction and obey, and He will set us exactly where He wants us.
That’s the call of discipleship. And that’s the example of Ananias, “a certain disciple” in Damascus, given as a reminder that there’s no greater hope than that we would be known and remembered as disciples of Jesus Christ.
This article was adapted from the sermon “Used of God” by Alistair Begg.