Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised 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…. 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.
We see many times throughout Scripture that God calls and uses the people who are least expected to carry His message. No one goes unnoticed or overlooked. God’s plan to transform someone like Saul to carry His message reached thousands of people.
In the passage above, we see see several different reactions to Paul’s (also known as “Saul”) conversion to Christianity and his subsequent ministry:
- The bystanders and even disciples are judgmental and skeptical towards Paul.
- Humankind can be made new and turn from old ways. Saul used to be a Pharisee who despised and persecuted followers of Christ, but is seen in this passage preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ because he has truly been changed and knows the truth.
- Barnabas defends Paul and testifies regarding his changed character. We need people like Barnabas in our lives to come alongside us in agreement of faith. We are not meant to do this Christian walk alone. We need community and accountability.
We can walk firm in our faith as a new believer or someone who has believed for a long time. Paul is so sold out for the mission that God gave him that he does everything he can to witness to people, embodying 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Paul does not cower away in timidity because of lack of knowledge and newness to the faith. He simply declares Jesus is Lord and testifies of how God appeared to him. What might you say if you’re ever asked to give a reason for why you believe?
Father, help us to be bold in our faith and unwavering in what we believe about You. Help us to stand firm on the foundation of truth laid before us in Your word. Let The Holy Spirit come upon us when we are to give an answer to those who ask us about You, Lord. Allow us to not be discouraged by our past ways, but equip and prepare us with a genuine witness of grace to share Your love to others through our testimony. Amen.