Acts 9: 19 – 31 Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in he synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
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Saul spent a few days with the disciples in Damascus and then began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
How could he do this? He hadn’t been a witness to the earthly ministry of Jesus. What did he know of the Way? It had taken Jesus years to train the Twelve, and even then their understanding was imperfect. Look, for example at Luke 22: 24 “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.” This happened at the Last Supper, the last occasion when the earthly Jesus taught his disciples.
How could Saul, lacking that training, preach about Jesus in the synagogues?
There were three things in his favour. Firstly, he was very well trained in the Scriptures, and would have been completely familiar with the prophecies about the Messiah. Secondly, as he persecuted the church, he would have wrestled with what he heard of Jesus. He would have set what he learned of Jesus in the context of his understanding of the prophecies, to try and twist it against Jesus’ followers. And thirdly, he had the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Saul’s motivation and competence are important questions, because he played a pivotal role in what the early church believed. After becoming known as Paul, he travelled widely, and established churches in many places. He wrote letters to them which form a part of our bible. And, since the final versions of the gospels are known to have been written after St Paul’s epistles, the theology of the epistles, and of the man who wrote them, must have seeped into the gospels too.
[As I look at Saul, or Paul as he became, I feel I should attach a health warning to my blog. I am not a theologian, or a bible scholar. I’m just seeking the light. I’m reading the bible because I want to know more about Jesus.]
Look at what happened in these early days of Saul’s ministry.
Saul preached in the synagogues of Damascus, where he “baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.”
As a result of this, “After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him.” It took drastic action for Saul to escape.
Then Saul “moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”
And in the course of this, “He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.” After this, the believers in Jerusalem prudently took Saul to Caesarea and shipped him off to Tarsus.
Once Saul had gone, “the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
At least at that point in his life, Saul was trouble.
Thank you for sending Jesus to us. Please help me to draw closer to him every day.
In Jesus’ name, Amen