Saul Preaches Christ
20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
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.
[As we saw at the end of last week Saul the Destroyer had become Saul the Preacher. Like many new disciples Saul had 3 obstacles to his success as a witness for Jesus Christ:
- His prior unbelief
- His present inexperience
- His future uncertainty
Satan the accuser loves to remind new Christians of their past unbelief and behavior. His goal is to shame them into inactivity by the deception of guilt for past sins. But God knows everything you ever did and he has chosen to forgive you and give you the righteousness of Christ. Accepting this forgiveness and trusting the complete redemption of salvation, means there is no more debt to pay because Christ has made you free. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free
indeed." – John 8:36
Satan's second deception is inexperience. In this idea he is often assisted by other Christians. They tell you to just sit and learn, don't' be in a hurry to get in the fight, because you might get hurt. Besides doesn't complete redemption mean you don't have to add anything to your salvation? This idea ignores two realities. 1) That you have the most important experience of all and that is your personal encounter with the Lord. How you met Jesus has instant validity, and power. You need to tell your story, and others need to hear it. 2) The second reality is that there is a sovereign God who deserves your service, and there others still lost in unbelief who need your help. Don't wait to get involved. "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." – James 2:18
The 3rd obstacle is uncertainty. Some will discourage getting too involved until God's complete will is revealed to you. But we see God's will like we are entering a dark room. Our vision is never completely adjusted to the darkness until we commit to staying in the dark room, so it is with God's will. The more committed we are to obeying it, the more it is revealed to us. "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." – 1 Corinthians 13:12
As Saul discovered the solution to these 3 obstacles is discipleship. The companionship of other active disciples provides the reassurance, support, and opportunity to serve the Lord as you learn.]
Saul Escapes Death
23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.
[I Galatians 1:17 Paul says he went to Arabia an area south and east of Damascus, later returning to Damascus this period of time covered about 3 years, and we know very little about this part of Saul's life. But we have to assume the he was some sort of witness during this time because as soon as he had returned to the Jews of Damascus, his life was in danger.]
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.
[As Saul tells of these events later he explains that the Jews of Damascus stirred up the civil authorities to arrest Saul probably warning of some sort of insurrection to be led by Saul. "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." – 2 Corinthians 11:32-33
Saul's escape also reminds us of the Story of Rahab (in Joshua 2) who hid two spies sent by Joshua into Jericho. She saved her own life by helping the spied escape out of her window in the city wall. Later when Israel took the city they spared Rahab who's window was marked by a scarlet cord. Like Joshua's spies, Saul needed help to escape. Saul's help came from the disciples of Damascus.]
Saul at Jerusalem
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.
[Though Saul was accepted and helped by the disciples of Damascus, his life was in danger there, so he decided to return to Jerusalem. Back in Jerusalem, Saul experienced isolation. He was shunned by the disciples of Jerusalem because of fear. They remembered Saul the Destroyer. They remembered the death of Stephen, and the persecution of many of their friends. His past was once again an obstacle to his Christian life.]
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. 28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.
[As I told you earlier, the answer to the problem of Saul's past, was discipleship. God gave Saul another mentor. Like Ananias in Damascus, Barnabas took Saul into his trust, brought him to the apostles, presented the evidence of his testimony and his changed life, and Saul was accepted by the apostles in Jerusalem.
Barnabas was one of those great disciples, who would take people that others were rejecting, and love them for Jesus. If you ever needed a mentor or a friend you could ask for no one better than Barnabas. Barnabas was the one who made the great offering of land in Acts 4, he was the one who gave John Mark a second chance after he had abandoned Paul, he traveled with Paul on some of his missionary Journeys. And we don't even know his real name because Barnabas was the name given to him by the apostles and it meant "Son of Encouragement". More is written about his ministry than many of the apostles, and because of him, Saul was established in Jerusalem.]
29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.
[Do you see what happening here? It was the Hellenist that disputed with Stephen then stoned him while Saul watched. Now here is Saul standing in Stephen's place, witnessing for Jesus. Apparently these Hellenist (Greek speaking Jews) has a real bad temper because they tried to kill Saul also. But the disciples or brethren found out, and helped Saul to escape again, this time to his home town which was Tarsus.]
The Church Prospers
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.
[I call this the fruit of discipleship. As these churches were obedient to the great commission they were edified or built up. They walked in the "fear of the Lord" that means reverence. They always remembered that Christ, not man, is the head of the church. Every work of the church needs to be Christ centered. They also walked in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for comfort is "paraklésis" which is also translated as encouragement, and exhortation, literally meaning "a calling to ones aid". In other words they walked with the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit, not just in the power of men. The result of their reverence for Jesus, and help of the Holy Spirit, is that they were multiplied. This clearly teaches us that discipleship is a self replicating practice. When we fulfill the great commission by making disciples as Jesus instructed, we also grow the church, both in the number of believers, and in the strength and maturity of each believer.
Those who were filled with the Holy Spirit were also obedient to the Great Commission in making disciples. As always God's power was for fulfilling God's purpose.]