It was at Saul’s feet the stoners of Stephen laid down their garments. I suppose he was responsible for caring for their clothing while they stoned a man to death. That sounds so heartless, because it is, and it was, however; at least it seems to have been this event; his hearing the word from Stephen, seeing and hearing his dying testimony; which had an impact on Saul coming to faith.
When Jesus confronts Saul as he is traveling to Damascus to capture, persecute, and jail Christians; Jesus says to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Acts 9:4-5 (KJV). His “kick against the pricks” is evidence that before the Lord confronted him he was deeply under the convicting power of the Spirit of God. Saul met Jesus Christ on that day, and he has been a blessing to Christians, the Church and the world ever since; because of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
THE CONVERSION OF SAUL, AND THE CHURCHES REACTION (v. 26). Upon his salvation Saul is led to a man named Ananias, who shows Saul the way he is to go for the Lord. He is received by the disciples of Damascus. Saul had spent time in Damascus preaching the gospel. He was new to it for sure, but he started in faith and kept on faithfully until the day he died by losing his head at the hands of Rome.
The church of Jerusalem was reluctant to receive him into their midst. He had been their persecutor, he had shown them nothing but hate, and now he’s wanting to come into our fellowship. Can you understand their doubtful thinking about him? I can. He had received orders from the religious establishment of Jerusalem, and it was in Jerusalem where most of the persecution was still going on, and Saul had been the chief persecutor.
The Jerusalem church could not believe that their chief persecutor was now one with them. The disciples there – not the apostles – were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple of Jesus now.
It is an awesome thing when one who has been against the church of Jesus Christ is changed and begins to walk, live, serve and glorify our Lord. Their testimony will be one of glorious change and the glory will belong to Jesus Christ. The glory will not return upon the professing individual, but go to the Lord.
BARNABAS RECEIVES SAUL, AND ENCOURAGES HIM AND THE CHURCH, AND THEY WALK AND WORK TOGETHER (vv, 27-28). Barnabas sees the rejection Saul experiences, sees a life who has been changed by the blood of Jesus Christ and takes Saul and makes him his disciple. The call of the great commission of Jesus Christ is to “Go and make disciples” there are more than twelve disciples; there are only twelve apostles; thirteen counting Saul – who later became Paul. We are not commanded to “make apostles” but disciples which is a “follower of Jesus Christ”
Known as an “encourager” Barnabas walks along side Saul when no one else will. He even takes him to see the apostles, and Saul shares with them his testimony of how he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, and they are told of his bold preaching in Damascus. After his visit with the apostles he is then seen leaving and entering the city with the apostles; they have received him as one of themselves.
The work of an encourager is a great work, and is much needed in the work of Christ and His Church. We all need someone to come alongside us, to pick us up when we are down on occasions. There are also occasions where we need to be the encourager, and pick up a friend, family member, church member, or a neighbor who needs to just get things clicking and right between them and the Lord.
SAUL’S PREACHING IN JERUSALEM IS BOLD, AND HE IS RUSHED OUT OF TOWN TO HIS OWN TOWN (vv. 29-30). Why is it a lot of preachers think they are called to popularity. Jesus was popular while He did His miracles, but when He got bloody and doctrinal concerning His body and the blood many of “His disciples left Him” (John 6:60-68). If popularity, or drawing a crowd, was the agenda of our Lord, the message would not be so hard and difficult for people to hear and believe. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the simplest message ever proclaimed, yet people do not want to hear it.
Have you ever been run out of town for your preaching? I have not, but there are some places I have not been asked to return. I am grateful for the church where I am currently pastor. The Carr Lane Baptist Church maybe small in number, but we are big in heart for hearing the word of the Lord. When a preacher can stand in the pulpit week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and preach expository messages straight from Scripture, and you hear no negative comment, and you hear an “Amen” ever once in awhile you just got to know that they are hearing God, and not you.
The preacher when he is preaching the word of the Lord can boldly proclaim the message of God without fear or favor to those who are listening; and will glorify the Lord in the preaching. An Old Testament Prophet name of Jeremiah was one who convinced me that I needed to come out of my shell, preach the word and be faithful to the Lord. Jeremiah says, “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.” Jeremiah 1:17 (KJV). When you know you are delivering the word of God you have nothing to fear. Be bold, proclaim from the rooftops what God says in His Word.
Though Saul did get rushed out of town it was for a greater purpose. He would return to Jerusalem at a later time, and then be shipped to Rome. Saul’s/Paul’s message of Jesus Christ was not loved nor appreciated. Check your message; if you have crowds following you; change your message to the message of Jesus and Saul.
THE CHURCHES OF JERUSALEM THEN, HAD REST (v. 31) It was because of the change in Saul’s life that there was rest in the Jerusalem churches. The persecutor of persecutors was now one of them and being persecuted.
A few years ago I took the thirty first verse, disected, prayed, and developed a sermon, and called it THE THREE R’s FOR THE CHURCH getting the idea from what used to be the words for education Reading, ‘Riting’ and ‘Rithmetic; but changing that to be Reverence, Rest, and Results, as three points for the sermon. You can see the Reverence, “walking in the fear of the Lord”; the Rest in, “Then had the churches rest…” and the Results, “in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” Acts 9:31 (KJV).
There is little fear of God, even in church these days we live in. There is more talk of “perfect love casts out fear”, so we don’t fear God. NOT! John’s writing has absolutely nothing to do with the reverence and fear of God. It does have to do with the condemnation of our sins, the lies of the devil, the lies of friends and family. It has to do with everyday events of life. Someone has said, “When we fear God; we need to fear nothing else.” If there is no fear of God, there will be fear of all else. Paranoia, schizoprenia, trouble and danger lurking behind every closed door, fear of darkness, fear of storms, fear of failure, fear of bankruptcy, fear of world financial failure. When even the child of God is not right with Him, out of His fellowship, we too can be fearful of these things.
Rest has come to the Jerusalem churches because the one who pursued them unto death was now one of them. He now was being persecuted. He had been pushed out of town; but unto a great endeavor of preaching the Word elsewhere; to his own home of Tarsus.
Results, come when the Christian and the church practice their faith, and live by that faith through their everyday lives. We have seen examples of this multiplication earlier in the book – 3000 saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), more were saved according to Acts 4:4. It seems that people were being saved everyday in the early church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to baptize at least one every Sunday during a worship service, maybe even more? Remembering it is the Lord who adds daily to His church. It is not programs, or money, but by and through the faithful witness of the Spirit of God through His faithful witnesses.
The rest you need can be found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may despise the gospel right now but realize, as did Saul, that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day that we all who call on His name have eternal life with Him. Call on His name believing Him, and trusting Him with all your life, confessing your sins and repenting of them.
-Tim A. Blankenship
This is the study notes for a sermon preached in the morning worship at Carr Lane Baptist Church on October 12, 2008.