Preaching, Plotting, and Peace

After meeting Jesus, Saul stayed in Damascus and immediately started to preach in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of the message the Jews in Damascus were expecting to hear from Saul the persecutor, and they are stunned. But Saul wasn’t just having a slip of the tongue. Instead, he became increasingly convinced in his belief in Jesus, and more and more dynamic in his ability to convey it. The Old Testament, which he knew inside out, was suddenly becoming alive to him: he was seeing connections, and understanding passages in a completely new way, and all the pieces were fitting together. All of a sudden Psalm 2 made sense to him: Jesus was God’s Son, and God had given Him dominion and authority, and that authority was spreading to the nations, which was where Saul himself fit in. Saul was humbled and kissed the Son, and became His servant. Jesus had turned the persecutor into a preacher.

Then, after many days had passed, as Luke tells us in verse 23, and as Galatians tells us amounted to three years, Saul’s preaching had made him enough of a nuisance among the Jews that they hatched a plot to kill Saul, since they were unable to shut him up any other way. Already we should notice how the shape of Saul’s life is beginning to match up with that of Jesus: unable to answer him in words, his opponents resort to physical attack. Of course there is also the bitter irony that Saul himself was the first one to employ these tactics against Stephen.

In the face of this wicked plot, there is confidence to be found in Psalm 2: the people plot in vain, because God has put His Son in charge of everything. The godly man laughs in the face of plotters, because he knows that God will deliver him. In verse 25, we see that Saul’s disciples, the converts he made in Damascus, sneak him out of the city, lowering him through a hole in the wall in a basket, just like God delivering the spies through Rahab before they took the promised land. Notice that God is telling the same story again: after a mighty deliverance (Egypt in the OT, the Resurrection in the NT), God prepares His people to receive the land (Promised land in the OT, the ends of the earth in the NT). What is Saul doing in Damascus? He is spying out the ends of the earth before taking it by storm through the preaching of the gospel!

And so Saul escaped from the plot on his life, and went to Jerusalem. There, he attempts to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they are afraid of him, struggling to believe that he really has changed. But Barnabas, strong in faith, takes a chance on Saul. He listens to his story, and then serves as the intermediary between him and the apostles. From that time on, Saul goes in and out among the church in Jerusalem, boldly preaching in the name of the Lord. But it doesn’t take long before this causes the Hellenists to try to kill him, so when the Christians hear this, they decide to send Saul to safety in his own hometown of Tarsus. It appears that a fiery apologist stirring up trouble is not what the church in Jerusalem needs at this time. Saul is born for trouble, but God moves him to a place where he will cause trouble for God’s enemies, and not for God’s people.

Luke then summarizes his account of Saul’s conversion in verse 31 – God has done a mighty work to overcome the biggest threat to His Church. He has taken their adversary, turned him into an apostle, and brought about peace. Having seen God overcome Saul, they walk in awe of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. They are serving the Lord with fear, and rejoicing with trembling, and God is continuing to multiply the Church.

Here is the message: preach the gospel, because Jesus is the Son of God. Laugh at the plotters, because they plot in vain. Trust in God to bring peace to His Church, and walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Posted on Wednesday, May 07, 2014 by CJ Bowen