Acts 9: 20-31

Written by kathleen on May 17, 2015 in - No Comments

Acts 9:19-31

A Basket Case

When people think of the life of Paul (Saul), they are likely think of…  a. His persecution of the church prior to his conversion   b. His vision of the Lord on the road to Damascus   c. His three missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts What may not be as well-known are the years immediately following his conversion that likely took place around 35-36 A.D. and that his first missionary journey began 45 A.D.What was Paul doing during his early years as a Christian? Knowing the zeal of Paul, it was not likely an idle time of his life.  This morning we will be looking at three main events that took placeI. THREE YEARS IN DAMASCUS AND ARABIA (36-39 A.D.) v. 19-20II. FIRST VISIT TO JERUSALEM (39 A.D.)  v. 26III. FIVE YEARS IN SYRIA AND CILICIA (39-43 A.D.)  v. 27-30

19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

Thinking he was custom-made to be a witness to the Jews and because he was a skilled student of the great rabbi Gamaliel, he took advantage of this opportunity and headed for the synagogues because of the custom that invited any able Jewish man to speak from the Scriptures at synagogue meetings. He knew they needed to know that Jesus is the Son of God.

Many people think when Jesus is called the Son of God it is a way of saying He is not God, or something less than God and only the son of God.

But in Jesus day, everyone knew what this title meant. To be called the son of something meant you were totally identified with that thing or person, and their identity was your identity. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God, and when others called Him that, it was understood as a clear claim to His deity.

In fact, on two occasions when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was accused of blasphemy, of calling Himself God (John 5:17-18, Matthew 26:63-65).

Everybody knew what Jesus meant in calling Himself Son of God, and everyone knew what Saul meant when he preached that Jesus is the Son of God. .

To preach that Jesus is the Son of God is also to preach the perfection of His life, and especially His work for us on the cross. It is to preach how God saves us through the work of Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus; Heb 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin

 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”

22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

The Jews in Damascus were amazed—but they weren’t converted. They were confounded, but not persuaded. Yet people were genuinely amazed at Saul’s conversion; it was hard to believe just how powerfully Jesus could change a life. Years later, Saul known as  Paul would write: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)                                          

Along with Saul’s debates with other Jews and his willingness to serve the Lord gave him great understanding of where people were coming from and with the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit he   increased all the more in spiritual strength. As we seek to become more involved with others on a spiritual level and continue to serve the Lord by serving others, God brings more strength to us to do eve greater things than we had planned.

As Saul was so zealous about Christ it aggravated the situation even more between the Jews and the Christians  

23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.

25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. Years later he recounted his narrow escape – 2Co 11:32-33

2 Cor 11:32-33 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.

Although it seemed like he was the perfect one to carry out ministry to the Jews—that was not the plan of the Lord.

In fact, his ministry to the Jews was met with such animosity and opposition that he had to be let down in a basket under cover of night to save his life

This essentially began the many things he must suffer for My names sake the Lord spoke of in verse 16. Saul now was the persecuted instead of the persecutor.

Saul is beginning to learn what it was to be persecuted for his faith, he also experienced divine protection and deliverance from God but he also learned that Gods deliverance often comes in humbling ways.

There is nothing great or awesome about sneaking out of a city by night hiding in a large basket. This was just the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t escape.

Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him as he had to suffer many things for Jesus sake.

(He was even let down by his friends when he became a basket case!)

Between verse twenty five and twenty six, there is a gap of about three years where Saul did not go immediately to Jerusalem upon leaving Damascus In Galatians 1:13-18, Paul explained more about what happened during these days as he went down to the area of Mt. Sinai in Arabia and while he was there the Lord was readjusting his understanding of the scriptures.

It was a time of solitude for him, seeking God and a time of tremendous spiritual renewal and revelation For God was revealing to him; His grace apart from the law

You could say he enrolled in a three-year course taught by the Holy Spirit on how every symbol, every sacrifice, every picture in the Old Testament related to the Person of Jesus Christ.

Seminarians today graduate with a DD, a Doctorate of Divinity. Saul graduated with a much more powerful DD, a Doctorate of the Desert.

Three years later, Paul came back and said, “Wait until you hear what I’ve got to tell you,” as he talked to the Jews once more for Saul was an expert in the Old Testament, could easily see how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Paul won all the debates, but he didn’t win their hearts.

26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple

This was his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian approximately 39AD

The Christians in Jerusalem were so suspicious of Saul even three years after his conversion. Possibly thinking that Saul was part of an elaborate or extended plot; and wondered where he had been for the past three years or why he went off by himself in Arabia; or just as likely, they probably were reluctant to accept such a dramatic conversion without seeing it with their own eyes.  They just didn’t believe that he was a disciple.   They may have been looking for proof not just words that he was pretending to be a Christian!

Saul understood that the disciples in Jerusalem remembered the Christians he killed and persecuted At this point of rejection some people might turn their back on Jesus. Saul could have said I’ve been serving the Lord for three years, preaching Jesus Christ, enduring assassination attempts and death threats. Now you don’t want to accept me as a Christian? This is the love of Jesus? Forget it!

 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

The majority of the disciples didn’t buy Paul’s conversion story. Only Barnabas, whose name means “son of consolation,”(comfort) said, “Hey, boys, give Saul a break. He really has had an experience with the Lord. I saw him in Damascus preaching Jesus; and I heard him give his conversion testimony.

Ananias and Barnabas are great examples of believers who will welcome people into the family of God with simple friendship.

This may be why Paul would later write love believes all things  (1 Corinthians 13:8).

In Galatians 1:18, Paul wrote that in this first trip to Jerusalem, he stayed with Peter for fifteen days. He also wrote that he never had a chance to meet with all the apostles, seeing only Peter and James.

This time with the apostles in Jerusalem was important, because it finally and (officially?) welcomed Saul into the family of the followers of Jesus.

Saul makes this point of the limited nature of his time with the apostles in Jerusalem to show clearly that he did not receive his gospel from the other apostles but he received his message of salvation by direct revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus. Though he was no doubt blessed and benefited from that time spent with them.

28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

The Hellenistical Jews were not Greeks proselyted to the Jewish religion, but Jews who had been born and brought up in Greece, or at least had learned the Greek language, and used the Greek Bible;

Saul spoke boldly in the name of the Lord (in their language) and was no match for them; they were not able to even come close in a debate with him; and they were being confounded and put to silence, so they were filled with indignation; and since they could not conquer him by arguments, they were for killing him.

30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.

So what started out in Damascus with the Jewish leaders trying to kill him.  Now he gets to Jerusalem and it’s the same thing as he begins to dispute with them.

Saul again faces persecution and assassination attempts. This became a recurring pattern in his life so finally, the brothers sent Saul to Gentile territory for his own protection, saying, “It’s just not working here, Paul. Go back to Tarsus.”

Saul, who had such a heart for the people of Israel, was finally sent out of Israel, into Gentile territory where he would spend the next

8 to 12 years in obscurity before he would get back into ministry by being sent out as a missionary from the church at Antioch.

And again at that time it would be Barnabas remembering him who reached out to Saul,

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you were saved ten years ago, and you had such vision, such desire to be used in ministry or service.

You thought, I’m tailor-made to do this, or, I’ve got a call upon my life for this. And you tried. But it just didn’t work out. Maybe for the past ten years, you’ve been waiting, wondering, Is the Lord ever going to use me?

As Pastor Chuck would say “Be of good cheer!” The man who would turn the world upside down—the most important preacher of  all time, the most powerful influential person who has ever lived except for the Lord Jesus Christ—had to first experience shut doors, and ten years of sitting in Tarsus while the Lord reworked and rewired him.

If the Lords timing is this in your life, don’t be discouraged don’t throw in the towel and don’t walk away. Let Him do His work and have His way. Go with the flow.

Put away your agenda. Get back to basics and say, “Lord, what You will have me to do?” then step up and become engaged in your local church beginning with something small for the Bible says we are not to despise small beginnings. Once your moving then God will be able to guide you to where  He wants you!

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

With Saul out of the picture from stirring up the Jews the persecution died down it didn’t go away but there were short times of peace

At the end of V. 31 we reach an important historical crossroads in Acts and the events of the Roman Empire. In a.d. 37, Caiaphas was replaced as high priest, first by Jonathan, then by Theophilus. In the same year, Caligula succeeded Tiberius as Roman Emperor. Caligula was extremely hostile against the Jews and was assassinated four years later.  Meanwhile the churches were edified: The word edified has the idea of being built up. The churches were growing in numbers and strength as well as spiritually.

Whenever God’s people as a church are walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, you may expect that they will also see the numbers multiplied.

The fear of the Lord the comfort of the Holy Spirit Each of these are needed in the Christian walk.  At any given moment a believer may need the fear of the Lord or the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Often, God allows the comfortable to be afflicted causing them to gain the fear of the Lord and then the afflicted to be comforted by the comfort of the Holy Spirit. This is all part of His conforming process for you; so even if your let down by your friends and you seem to be somewhat of a basket case. REMBER: there is comfort how much God loves you!

CONCLUSION “Paul’s Early Years As A Christian” was a time of relative obscurity, out of the limelight in comparison with later years, but service and experience prepared him for the work to come   In your zeal to be of great service to the Lord…Don’t discount the need for time spent in preparation, and preliminary acts of serviceHow we serve in small things will determine our usefulness in greater things; As Jesus told His disciplesHe who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much;  As we have ability and opportunity, even if it be seeminglyinsignificant, let us be faithful so that Lord might one day find us useful for greater service..