Saul Transformed

Posted: October 7, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 9:20-31, “Saul Transformed”

Some say people never change. They’re wrong…at least, in part. From the perspective of the world, they’re often right. Left to our own devices and our own strength of will, people rarely change. We’re far too comfortable with the familiar, and people tend to fear being different. That’s why so many patients ignore the advice of their doctors regarding diet and exercise (not to mention why so many doctors refuse to take their own advice!), and why so many people stay tied to the addictions they claim to hate. People don’t change because people don’t want to change…we simply lack the strength to do it.

But again, that’s from the perspective of the world – that’s for people trying to change themselves. Left to ourselves, humans are weak; what we need is power. Specifically, we need the power of God. It’s not a “higher power” that breaks people out of addictions – it’s not clinging to generic religious rituals that transforms anyone. What we need is real power from the living God, and that only comes through Jesus Christ. When a person believes upon Jesus, Jesus changes that person – transforming him/her from the inside-out.

If you’re a born-again Christian, that’s something you know – it’s something you’ve personally experienced. You were one thing; now you are someone totally different. You were lost; now you are found. You were dead; now you’re alive. You were a sinner doomed for hell; now you are a child of God destined for eternal life. That is true change, and that’s something that only comes from Jesus!

That kind of change is what is demonstrated in the life of Saul (Paul the apostle). Saul had been totally lost, a true enemy of Christ – but he was radically transformed by Jesus, and his life was never the same.

Remember what had happened to bring Saul to this point. Originally, he was a zealous young Pharisee, trained up at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and just starting to make a name for himself among the Jewish Sanhedrin. It was Saul who gave approval to the mob-led killing of Stephen, after Stephen had been arrested and tried for his powerful preaching to the Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) Jews in their synagogue. (Saul perhaps being present in that synagogue himself.) When the crowd rushed forward to stone Stephen to death, Saul was the one holding their coats, agreeing with their actions (Acts 8:58). This event touched off a new wave of persecution against the Christians, and they scattered from Jerusalem to all the region of Judea and Samaria, and even beyond. At the forefront of this persecution was Saul, pursuing the Christians wherever he found them, hauling off both men and women to jail.

As the gospel continued to spread, Saul’s zeal against it grew stronger, and he requested (and received) international permission to extradite Christians from other nations and haul them back to Jerusalem for either prison or death. Saul was on his way to Damascus in Syria to start this new round of persecution, when he was abruptly stopped on the road by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Appearing and speaking to Saul in a personal vision (while his companions only saw a light and heard an undiscernible noise), Jesus confronted him on the evil of his actions, and Saul came face-to-face with the truth. Saul surrendered himself to the Lord, and Jesus immediately called him to service.

The encounter left Saul blinded, and it was a man named Ananias whom Jesus called to bring healing to Saul and to pray for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul received his sight, was baptized, and entered into a time of recovery and discipleship.

What happened next? Saul got started in service. It wasn’t the ministry for which he would later be known, but it was ministry just the same. How could it be otherwise? Saul had been transformed by Jesus, thus Saul became bold for Jesus. Jesus had changed his life, and there was no way Saul could hide it (nor did he want to). 

Jesus still changes lives. He can change you, too!

Acts 9:20–31

  • Saul in Damascus (20-25). The ministry of a new believer.

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

  1. Note the “immediately”…there was no time wasted! However many days he spent with the disciples in Damascus, Saul didn’t simply twiddle his thumbs while he was there. Jesus had changed his life, and he couldn’t stop himself from telling others about Him. How could he not? After all, Saul had just experienced a life-changing encounter. He had seen the Resurrected Lord Jesus, and through his blindness, Saul finally saw the truth for the first time. He had seen the Living God for who He is, and that was something others needed to know. As a zealous Jew opposing the Christians (followers of “the Way”), Saul had believed he was serving God in righteousness, but he was terribly wrong. Saul hadn’t been serving God; he was persecuting God. Saul did the very opposite of what he intended to do. Instead of purging the faith of heretics, Saul had become the heretic and made himself an enemy of the God he claimed to love. From Saul’s perspective, if he had done that, how many other Jews were in the same situation? They had to be told, and Saul was the one to tell them. They didn’t know they were opposing the Lord – they didn’t know they were working against God. Even if they weren’t zealously persecuting the church as Saul had, if they had rejected Jesus as the Messiah then they had rejected God Himself. How could Saul stay silent? He was compelled to say something. People had to be told of their danger, and Saul quickly understood his responsibility to tell them.
    1. Beloved, the urgency is no less with us…yet we’ve often lost sight of it. We are surrounded by people who are totally lost, doomed for hell as they are rebellious enemies of God. But they don’t know it. They need to be told, and we are the ones to tell them! We are the ones who have been saved and forgiven by the resurrected Lord Jesus, so we are the ones to tell others how they can experience the same thing. How can we not? How can we experience eternal life, forgiveness, safety, and fellowship with God, and not extend to others the same opportunity? We have a responsibility; may we be faithful to carry it out!
  2. Where did Saul go? The synagogues. It was a logical beginning point. After all, who else in Damascus would be familiar with the Holy Scriptures? Who else would have been looking for the Messiah to come, and for the promises of God to be fulfilled? It only makes sense to begin with the Jews. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of the promises of God to Abraham, Moses, and David. Saul went to first to the synagogues, because Jesus came first for Israel, and then for the rest of the world. This would prove to be the pattern throughout Saul’s ministry. He’d begin with the local Jews, and only after he was rejected with them would he go to the Gentiles.
    1. Should we do the same today? Yes and no. Yes, by all means we should preach the gospel to the Jews whenever we have the opportunity…but being Gentiles in a Gentile culture, we don’t often have the opportunity. Saul was a birth-born Hebrew; we are not. As a church, we do support a missionary to Israel, and we encourage Jewish evangelism, but most of the people whom God has given us are Gentiles. Proclaim Christ to the people around you. You can be sure God will care for the rest.
  3. What did Saul say? He preached Jesus! He proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), the Son of God. To preach Jesus as God’s Son is not to preach Him as less than God; it is to preach Jesus as Although the term is rare in the Old Testament (other than to refer to angels as “sons of God”), it was readily understood by the Jews of the day. The demons cast out by Jesus would often call Jesus the Son of God, just before Jesus forbid them from speaking. When the disciples saw the power of Jesus to calm the storm and waves on the Sea of Galilee, they acknowledged Him as the Son of God (Mt 14:33). When Jesus first called Nathanael to be a disciple, Nathanael understood Jesus to be the Son of God, the King of Israel (Jn 1:49). When Saul preached Jesus to be the Son of God, Saul wasn’t describing Jesus as an angel; Saul was confessing the truth of Jesus as the Christ, God in the flesh come to dwell among men and women for our salvation.
    1. This is the gospel! The gospel is the good news about Jesus. It isn’t how to live a better life (or your best life now) – it isn’t how to be free from trouble or how to feel better about yourself. It isn’t even about some kind of higher spirituality, in which people commit themselves to religion. The good news we preach is Jesus Himself! Jesus is God, and it was God incarnate who died for our sins upon the cross. It was God in the flesh who paid the penalty we deserve for our crimes. And it was God Himself who physically rose from the dead and offers us life and salvation in His name. When we proclaim the gospel, we proclaim Jesus. (Don’t settle for anything less!)
    2. Before we get any further…have you believed the gospel? Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus as the Son of God, crucified and resurrected for you?
  4. This was quite the ministry from Saul, and he received quite the reaction from the local Jews in Damascus.

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?”

  1. They were “” The word in English doesn’t really do the Greek justice. It is to be confused, astounded, astonished…made insane. To say that the Damascus Jews were amazed at the preaching of Paul was for them to be flabbergasted – to do double & triple-takes, just to ensure that what they heard with their own ears was what Saul actually said. 
  2. The reason for the amazement? It didn’t make any sense. Saul had come to Damascus to round up and destroy followers of the Way; not to become a follower himself! Try to put it in modern terms. Imagine if Osama Bin Laden, the man most responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks walked into an American assembly and started extolling the United States of America, renouncing everything he ever proclaimed about Islamic conquest. It wouldn’t make any sense. We’d think either he was lying, or that we were hearing things. That was the response of the Damascus Jews toward Saul. He was supposed to be the inquisitor for Israel, the one sent to be hammer against the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Now he was preaching the same message the Christians preached. He seemed to sincerely believe that Jesus was the Son of God risen from the dead. Talk about a reversal! It could have hardly been more dramatic.
  3. What happened? Saul had been transformed. He had been radically changed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Saul had seen the Living Jesus on the road, and that changed everything. Whatever it was Saul had previously believed about Jesus was all turned on its head. There was no way he could ignore the truth – his life had been flipped upside-down, turned inside-out. And that was exactly the way it should have been! When we come to faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, we are (in Jesus’ words) born-again (Jn 3:3). Just like a newborn baby breathes air for the first time when leaving the womb, so does a new-born Christian experience new life for the first time when coming to faith. It’s a new world for a new creation, for that is exactly what we have become. Paul wrote as much to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” There is no more rebel doomed for hell; there is only a child of God. There is new beginnings, new life, new everything, for we are new creations!
    1. This is the change for which we long! This is the change that comes from the Lord Jesus and His gospel. Again, it’s not about being made “better” people. Better people might simply be more moral men and women on their way to hell. What is needed is something totally different, totally new. We need a new life and new eternal destiny, and that only comes through Jesus.
  4. Saul had been truly changed – the truth of Jesus changed his mission and his message. And that transformation was lasting. This wasn’t a temporary phase; it was a true transformation of the man.

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

  1. Saul didn’t grow weak in the face of Jewish opposition & accusations of betrayal; he “increased all the more in strength.” Saul became a powerful apologist for Jesus. Keep in mind this was before his calling as a missionary. That wouldn’t come for several years later when he was serving in Antioch. For now, he was a fairly new convert – another Christian, like any other Christian. Granted, he had a strong theological background as a rabbi and Pharisee – but he had no “official” position within the church. Even so, he stood strong for Jesus, and became stronger day by day.
  2. How do we grow stronger in our faith? Do we need a fancy program or specialized teaching? Not at all. What did Saul have? He had prayer, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of other believers. That was all he needed. Likewise with us. We too, can be continually filled with the Holy Spirit – we spend time with our Lord Jesus in prayer – we dig deep into the written word of God, worshipping Him and being built up by His instruction – and we spend time with other believers in the local church, bearing one another’s burdens and loving them as Christ loved us. Christians who do that will be strong, indeed!
    1. Have you ever felt weak in your faith? Which one of those four things is lacking? We so often look for quick fixes or emotional “highs” so we buy books, go to conferences, search for the “right” worship song, etc. What we need is what God has already provided for us: prayer, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the local church. If you want to grow in strength, start there!
  3. BTW – Can it be proven that “Jesus is the Christ”? Yes! Saul was able to convince the Jews in the Damascus synagogues, leading them to the logical conclusion that Jesus is the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy. (And was the cause of consternation and aggravation for many!) But that’s exactly the purpose of prophecy: to point us to the truth of God. According to some counts, there are well over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament already fulfilled by Jesus. Saul could point to any number of them to prove to a Jewish congregation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. For example:
    1. Jesus is the Prophet like Moses, with the authority and power of God (Dt 18:15).
    2. Jesus is the son of David (2 Sam 7:12-14), but not the son of the cursed line (Jeconiah, Jer 22:30).
    3. Jesus was crucified, ridiculed by onlookers, with His garments gambled for (Ps 22:1-18).
    4. Jesus died among wicked criminals, and was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isa 53:9).
    5. Jesus did not remain in the grave, nor have His body see corruption, but was raised from the dead (Ps 16:8-11, Jonah).
    6. And the list could go on! No other person has ever fulfilled Messianic prophecy, but Jesus has fulfilled it all. An honest, unbiased look at Scripture proves Jesus is the Christ!
  4. Imagine for a moment being there in the Damascus synagogue. Day after day, no matter what Scripture is put to Saul, he is able to show its fulfillment in Jesus. It was a message that couldn’t be countered; it could only be ignored if one’s eyes & ears were willfully shut. To the Jewish leadership, Saul had become dangerous. He was the one who was supposed to root out the Christians; now he had become their most powerful advocate. Something had to be done, so they took action. 

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.

  1. What incredible irony! Saul went from being a persecutor to being persecuted. He had gone to Damascus to haul Christians to prison or death, and now death was being plotted against him. He was too theologically dangerous for the Jews to allow to live, so they decided to ignore Jewish law (specifically the 6th Commandment: “You shall not murder”) and kill him.
    1. Was this the wonderful plan God had for Saul’s life? As a matter of fact, yes. Coming to faith in Jesus didn’t guarantee Saul an easy comfortable earthly existence. On the contrary, Jesus promises trials and tribulations for His followers – this was just the very first that Saul would experience. But was it wonderful? Yes! Not in the sense of “ease,” but in the sense of glory. For the first time since Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection, Saul was being faithful to the King of Creation – so much so that his unswerving faith and dedication to the Lord was recognized by the enemies of Jesus. That may not be glamorous, but it is glorious!
  2. When did all of this plotting and conspiracy take place? There’s a bit of ambiguity on that point. At first glance, it seems as if all of this is right on the heels of Saul’s conversion, but that’s not necessarily the case. Luke writes “after many days were past,” but never says how many days were past. From elsewhere in Paul’s writings, we have some more information about this time, and it seems that quite a bit of time had elapsed. Years, even… Galatians 1:15–19, “(15) But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, (16) to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, (17) nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. (19) But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” At some point during Paul’s stay in Damascus, he went to Arabia. What happened in Arabia, we aren’t told – most theorize that it was there that Saul was personally instructed by the Lord Jesus, and he grew deeper in his faith. Three years (approximately) elapsed, and he returned to Damascus to the only other Christians he knew. It seems that this was when the Damascus Jews were fed up with him and conspired to hill him.
  3. All of that led to a dramatic plot and escape! Conspiracy, intrigue, covert actions – it has all the makings of a wonderful movie! (Maybe someday some director will do it justice?) Paul later wrote about it in his own words to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 11:32–33, “(32) 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.” The Jews weren’t alone in their conspiracy – they had an agreement with the Gentile governor of Damascus (which seemed to have more political influence from the king of Nabatea than the Caesar of Rome), and Saul had to escape them all if he was going to live. They snuck out to the city wall by night, found a window through which Saul could fit, and they lowered him in a basket. It wasn’t the most awe-inspiring of exits (he didn’t exactly leave the city as a victorious debater!), but Saul survived.
  4. Question: Was it wrong for Saul to try and escape? Absolutely not! Jesus had shown Saul the things he would suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 9:16), but that meant that Saul had to live to see those days. Persecution is a reality for those who live godly for Christ Jesus, but it doesn’t mean we need to blindly walk into it. Christians are called to godliness, and part of godliness is wisdom. Saul demonstrated it when he escaped the city…and it wouldn’t be the last time he was forced to do so.
  • Saul in Jerusalem (26-30). Overcoming a bad reputation.

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.

  1. On one hand, their fear was understandable. After all, Saul personally oversaw the lynching/stoning of Stephen. Saul had personally pursued Christian men and women to prison and death. He had breathed out murder and threats of violence towards those who believed in Jesus, willing to persecute them as far as he could find them. Saul had a track record of hate, and that’s not an easy thing to shed.
  2. On the other hand, it had been three years! (Gal 1:18) Saul had actively preached the gospel in Damascus over a period of weeks – not just once, but twice. He had himself been persecuted, just barely escaping death. Granted, it’s not as if news of the day travelled at the speed of Twitter, but surely there was some news that had spread of Saul’s change. After all, Saul’s reputation had preceded him to Damascus, to the point that Ananias had not only heard of Saul, but knew of Saul’s plans to imprison Christians…surely news would spread in the other direction. Besides all that, three years had gone by without Saul doing anything to Christians. Obviously, the Jerusalem Christians knew what Saul had done in the past, but that was a long time ago. Why hadn’t they heard of any recent persecutions? Why hadn’t they seen Saul dragging men and women through the streets to the Sanhedrin? Doubtless, Saul had attempted to share his testimony with the Jerusalem Christians, but sadly, no one believed him.
  3. Part of us can empathize with how difficult it must have been, but there’s no question that their deep seeded distrust of Saul was tragic. After all, that goes to the heart of the gospel. Remember: Jesus changes lives…but He does it for more people than just us. How willing are we to believe that Jesus makes people into new creations? We want to believe it of ourselves, but do we believe it of others? There are some people of whom we have good reason to distrust, but all reasons have good reason to change when Jesus is involved! Jesus can change anyone – even those whom we hate and fear.
    1. Consider for a moment the person you believe is least likely to come to faith in Christ. What would be your attitude towards him/her if he/she did? Would you be willing to believe Jesus made them into a new creation – that Jesus did a work of transformation in their life? Your answer reveals much of what you believe about forgiveness – it reveals much about what you believe about the power of Christ.
    2. Beloved, if Jesus can forgive me & Jesus can forgive you, then Jesus can forgive anyone. Be willing to believe the best!

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.

  1. Remember who Barnabas was: the Son of Encouragement, last seen in Acts 4:36-37 just before the event with the Jerusalem Ananias & Sapphira. He was a Levite with a truly generous heart, having given the proceeds from a real estate transaction to the church, and he had a sterling reputation among the Christians of Jerusalem. He was an encouragement to those who needed it, and there was someone who needed it now!
  2. Apparently, Barnabas knew Saul’s testimony, and he spoke up in Saul’s behalf. How did Barnabas learn everything that had happened to Saul? We don’t know. Perhaps Barnabas had learned it from the Christians in Damascus. Saul had spent quite a bit of time there preaching Jesus in the synagogues, and the Damascus Christians had witnessed Saul’s change first-hand. They would have heard Saul’s testimony for themselves, and perhaps news got back to Barnabas. Barnabas would have spoken to Saul personally before presenting him to Peter & James (the only two apostles he saw at the time – per Gal 1:18-19), thus confirming anything else he had already heard. Whatever it was, Barnabas heard Saul’s testimony and believed him at his word. Barnabas understood the transformation Jesus can work in the lives of His people.
    1. Anyone can be changed and transformed! Writing to the Corinthians to correct some of their worldly carnal behavior, Paul reminded them what Jesus had done in their lives. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, “(9) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” What they were vs. what they are. What they were, they are no longer – praise God! Jesus changes us!
  3. Keep in mind, Saul also had actions to back up his words. He didn’t only claim he had faith in Jesus; his witnessing in the Damascus synagogues proved it to be true. Perhaps if Saul had made a profession of faith, but then hid himself in the house in Damascus, never saying anything for Jesus, never fellowshipping with other believers, then people would have had reason to doubt. Certainly if Saul had resumed his work as a persecutor of Christians, claiming to separate his religious life from his work life, people should have questioned his faith. But that’s not what happened. Saul’s life had completely changed, exactly as should have been expected for someone who encountered the living Lord Jesus. There was fruit of faith in his life – there was evidence.
    1. If someone questioned your faith in Christ, what would be the evidence? Fruit doesn’t save us – we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. But a real faith in Jesus produces real fruit. There ought to be some evidence of the work Jesus has done within us. There’s a love for the Lord God, and love for His people – a compassionate and forgiving heart – an obedience to the commands found in Scripture, etc. Saul had these things…do you?
  4. Whatever it was Barnabas said on Saul’s account, it was enough for Peter, James, and the other Jerusalem Christians. Saul was accepted into their ranks.

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.

  1. What Saul did in Damascus, Saul did in Jerusalem. He went among the Jews and preached Jesus. Whether or not Saul did it in the synagogue is unsaid, but when in Jerusalem, Saul didn’t need to go to the synagogues to find Jews. That may have been necessary 135 miles away in Damascus, but not in the heart of Judea.
  2. Interestingly, Saul specifically “disputed against the Hellenists,” the Greek-speaking Jews of Jerusalem. Saul himself came from a Hellenist background. Even though he was a Hebrew of Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5), he was born a Roman citizen in the city of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia (Acts 22:3). He was fluent in both Greek and Aramaic (and probably Hebrew and Latin as well), and would have been thought of by other Jews as a Hellenistic Jew. Thus, that was where he started in his Jerusalem ministry.
  3. If it sounds familiar, it’s also the same thing done by Stephen in Jerusalem three years earlier. Saul picked up where Stephen left off, perhaps debating some of the same people with whom he once sided against Stephen. Just as the Hellenistic Jews opposed Stephen, they also opposed Saul. This time, instead of trumping up charges to have Saul arrested and tried, they followed in the footsteps of those in Damascus and conspired to murder him.

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

  1. Just as the Christians in Damascus had to help Saul escape their city, so did the Christians in Jerusalem. By the grace of God, they learned of the plot against Saul’s life, and they sent home to Tarsus for his own safety. This is where Saul will remain until Acts 11, where none other than Barnabas will seek him out for help in ministry.
  2. So Saul has now preached the gospel in two cities, faced death threats in two cities, and was forced to escape two cities. Now he’s in his hometown, far away from all of the ministry “action.” Had he failed? Did he do something wrong, to get sent back to the “minors”? Not at all! This wasn’t God’s hand of discipline on his life – this wasn’t some kind of punishment for Saul’s past sins. This was God’s sovereign hand of protection and blessing on him! Jesus had a specific ministry in mind for Saul; the timing simply wasn’t yet right. By no means was being sent to Tarsus a setback for Saul; it was the will of God for him.
  3. BTW – What did Saul do while in Tarsus? We don’t know. No biblical record exists of that time. But we can make an educated guess: evangelism. If Saul had twice preached the gospel in two different cities, what else would he have done back in Tarsus? No doubt that would have been a tough area of ministry. His family, who had sent him to Jerusalem to become a rabbi through the training of Gamaliel, would have learned of Saul’s faith in Christ. So would his former colleagues and synagogue friends. Would they accept Saul as he now was? Would they believe? Whatever happened in Tarsus, Saul’s time there was not easy by any measure; it would have been the place that his faith was first put to the test.
    1. Sometimes the most difficult people to reach with the gospel are the people we love the most.
  • Summary update (31)

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.

  1. Just as Luke has done at other points, he gives a brief conclusion of the narrative section, wrapping up Acts 6-9. Although the church had encountered its first real bout of persecution, persecution hadn’t stopped the church. On the contrary, it flourished! Christians may have been opposed, but they continued to preach the gospel as they experienced the peace and power of God. Did the opposition from the Jews stop? Not necessarily; just the forceful persecution led by the single individual of Saul.
  2. What did the church do in the meantime? Exactly what they were supposed to do: they walked in reverence & worship, they lived in the comfort of God, and they continued to share the gospel with those around them.
  3. Sum it up: change hadn’t only come to just one man; change came to all Christians! ALL the believers experienced the transformation brought to them by the Lord Jesus.

Conclusion:

Jesus transforms lives! He transformed the lives of all the Christians in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and Jesus especially transformed the life of the former Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. No longer did he pursue Christians to death; he pursued Christ in obedience. He was compelled to preach the good news of Jesus to the Jews around him, and as a result he went from being the persecutor to the persecuted. There was a cost that came with Saul’s change, but the cost was worth it. After all, what were threats of death when, for the first time, Saul had assurance of eternal life? Saul had been soundly saved by the living Lord Jesus – he could not help but share Jesus with others, and people could not help but see it. (Even if some were slower to see than others.)

If you’re a believer, Jesus has changed you, too! You who have repented of your sins and placed all your faith and hope in the Lord Jesus for salvation, have been born anew by the Holy Spirit and been made a child of God. You have been made a brand-new creation, fully transformed from the inside-out to the glory of God. You are not the same & will never be the same, so don’t let anyone tell you that you are the same. We do not define ourselves by the categories of the world; we are defined by the word and judgment of God. God has said we are new, thus we are new!

So live as a new creation! Be bold for Jesus! Live as a transformed man or woman for the glory of God. Tell others of the change that Jesus has made in you – tell others of who He is: the Son of God. For Saul, he saw the urgency for others to hear the gospel…may we experience that same urgency. May we understand how short time is, and take advantage of every opportunity.

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