Read Acts 9v19-30
Message - Scott Woodburn
In any new job there comes a period of adjustment. We all need to get to know our new colleagues and get to grips with office politics. Usually we all take a period of what we call “getting up to speed”. If Saul expected a quiet life as he settled into Christianity, he was completely mistaken.
He had come to Damascus to destroy any evidence of the Christian church and yet immediately after his dramatic conversion he went to the local synagogues proclaiming that Jesus was the Son of God (v20). Not surprisingly there were those who were absolutely amazed (v21). They knew his original motives and now here he was preaching the same Christ he had once hated.
Saul was not deterred by their amazement. Instead he grew in strength and confounded local Jews by proving that Jesus was indeed the Christ (v22). In later years Paul would speak of all that he had suffered for the sake of Jesus and he didn’t have to wait too long before his first taste of persecution.
How would Saul’s opponents silence him? By death (v23). Again we see the vindictiveness of the enemy. He thinks nothing about taking the life of God’s people. Thankfully Saul would hear of the wicked plot (v24) and instead of leaving by the gates he was lowered down the wall in a basket (v25). Saul’s new life wasn’t going to be easy, nor was it going to be glamorous.
As he returned to Jerusalem his old reputation proceeded him. The Christians were afraid of him because they doubted the authenticity of his claims (v26). Thankfully Barnabas testified to the Apostles that Saul had seen the Lord and that he had preached the Gospel boldly in Damascus (v27). Indeed he continued preaching boldly in Jerusalem (v28) and once more his opponents sought to kill him (v29).
There are many phrases for Saul’s experience. We might say that he went through a “baptism of fire” or perhaps we would describe his troubles as “thrown in at the deep end”. I think Saul (by this stage Paul) put it best when he spoke of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ in Philippians 3. As far as he was concerned he counted everything as rubbish compared to Christ. Nothing compared to the value of Jesus to the man called Saul and later Paul.
We should not be surprised when the Christian walk is difficult. The Lord made it clear that we should expect rejection just as He Himself was rejected. We may never have to flee a city in a basket, nor may we have to deal with the suspicious stares of our fellow Christians but whenever we are stung by criticism or wounded by words or fearful due to threats, may we remember the inestimable value of Christ. Peter was right “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1v6-9)
Q5 Are there more Gods than one? There is but one only, the living and true God.