20 Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”
21 But all who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul grew more capable and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah.
23 After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall.
26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. 27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
But all who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew more capable and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah.
Saul (turned Paul) is an interesting character. If there’s anybody in the Bible whose life did a 180, it’s him.
He lists off his resume in his letter to the Philippians (3:5-6): “circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.”
That might not mean much to us, but to become a Pharisee alone wasn’t easy. As a young boy, he was required to memorize all of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy! Then, he would’ve studied the Mishnah and Talmud and practiced demanding rituals, such as fasting and bathing three times a day.
He was being groomed as a leader.
What happened in his life to cause such change? At the beginning of chapter nine, he had a death warrant to take out any followers of the Way. And at the end of it, he was preaching in the very synagogues he wanted to storm.
The answer is so simple, yet complex—Jesus. Paul truly had a life-transforming encounter with the Son of God. Everything was different, including his name. Scripture said people were astonished and baffled.
We read this passage and tell ourselves we should be like Paul. Our lives should be so different that people will be “astonished” and “baffled” by us. They’ll take notice and ask, “What’s different?” Then, that’s when we’ll share.
But, let’s be honest. Has that ever really happened to you?
Maybe you’ve heard the quote by Francis of Assissi: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” But, the truth is, Francis of Assissi never said that. So, either we use this “quote” to excuse the sin of silence in our lives or we aren’t radical enough.
Then again, most of us were never Christian murderers turned lovers. Our lives look no different than before we became believers. We confuse morality with Christianity and, unfortunately, so do the rest of the world.
Look at your own life. When something good happens, you CAN’T stay quiet about it. Ask a new grandparent or a couple that just got engaged. They HAVE to share. But, it’s not just what they say and it’s not just what they do. It’s both. It’s words AND actions lining up.
Now, THAT is the story of Paul.
It’s not easy. In this story, Paul’s life was at stake. His enemies watched the city gates so they could catch him as he came or left. The only way he was able to escape was by having his followers lower him by a basket through an opening in the wall.
No, it’s not easy, but adventurous. Anything truly worth living for is also worth dying for.
If I’m anything like you, I want my life to have meaning and purpose, to count for something, to be effective.
Let’s be honest. William Barclay said, “No one persecutes a man who is ineffective. A wolf will never attack a painted sheep. Counterfeit Christianity is always safe; real Christianity is always in peril. To suffer persecution is to be paid the greatest of compliments because it is the certain proof that men think we really matter.”
+ William Barclay - Acts
- Be honest. Does your life really look different than the rest of the world?
- Are you excited about the gospel enough to share it, in word AND action? Why or why not?
- Count the cost. Are you truly willing to do whatever it takes?