Read Acts 9:19b-25
I. Preaching in Damascus. Saul experienced a great transformation. He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, in spite of those who remembered his being a trouble maker for the church and were suspicious about his ministry. Saul preached to Jews about Jesus being the Messiah. Some of the Jews sought to kill Saul, while his helpers worked to keep him safe.
- God’s changing of Saul. Notice in vss. 19b-21 that God can change people suddenly. First, one of the reasons that we have to be careful about assigning permanent labels to people is because God can transform/change a person. Those who behave like your enemies today can be changed and behave like your friends on tomorrow.
Second, God can make sudden changes in the lives of people. Even though some people change over time, God can change a person overnight. Divine power is stronger than human will power. Let’s work on being open to God changing people. A part of this application is to remember that God can change us, no matter how messed up we think we are today.
- Continue growing. Notice in vs. 22 that one of the ways that Saul helped the people see that his change was genuine was that he kept on growing. On one hand, there are too many people who claim with their mouths that they have been changed, but with their lives they show that they are the same. Our actions speak louder than our words.
On the other hand, if you have a track record of causing trouble and God is doing a new thing in your life, the best way to get people to believe that you have been changed is to be consistent in your behavior. Nothing builds trust quicker than doing what you say you are going to do. And nothing destroys trust quicker than breaking your promises. Let’s work on both giving people a chance to prove themselves and living up to who we say we are.
- The devil’s use of religious people. Notice in vss. 23-24, 29 that the devil is able to raise up hostile religious people to kill the servants of God. First, we should be aware of the devil’s presence and practices. He likes to use religious people to cause trouble for the people of God. Furthermore, the greater a threat he thinks you are the greater and more hostile the attention he gives you. He did not want to hurt or simply quiet Saul. He wanted to kill him.
Second, we should make sure that we don’t allow the devil to use us. If we asked the hostile Jews in the text, “Do you know that the devil is using you”? – they probably would deny it. They would probably talk about how they were right and Saul was wrong; when in reality, they were wrong and Saul was right. A good way to keep the devil from using us is to make sure we prayerfully study and strive to obey God’s word as a body of Christ and with supportive relationships with other believers. Let’s be aware of the devil’s strategies and work on keeping him from using us.
- When to run and when to fight. Notice in vss. 25, 30 that sometimes the best move is to run at night. On one hand, there are times that we stand and fight like David and use the whole armor of God discussed in Ephesians 6. If you believe that God is calling you to fight, pray for strength to win.
On the other hand, there are also times that we run like David did from Saul and Joseph did from Herod. If God is calling you to run, seek the wisdom to run and strength to keep trusting God. Let’s seek the wisdom to know how God wants us to handle the situations before us and the faith needed to obey.
Read Acts 9:26-30
II. Preaching in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Saul met some believers who were afraid that he was not really transformed. Barnabas helped Saul to be accepted by the believers in Jerusalem. Some hostile Jews rose up and sought to kill Saul, in Jerusalem. Saul was sent off to Tarsus.
- Fear and faith. Notice in vs. 26 that there were some fearful believers. On one hand, we can understand how Saul’s claim to suddenly change from being a persecutor of the church to being a preacher in the church was cause for suspicion and alarm. Think about how you would respond if a person who was guilty of multiple rapes was recently released from prison, joined your church, and claimed to be called to preach.
On the other hand, as believers, we are called to seek God’s wisdom and discernment and then seek the faith needed to be obedient. There are too many people who simply operate on what they see and believe, without ever involving God in their attempt to deal with what is before them. Let’s work on prayerfully responding to whatever situation we find ourselves in.
- The ministry of Barnabas. Notice in vs. 27 that Barnabas did a great job of helping Saul move from being an outsider to being an insider. First, there is such a need for more people like Barnabas in our churches today. In too many cases, it takes too long for people to move from being a candidate for membership or a “new member” to being an accepted member. We need more of those on the inside to help those on the outside become accepted.
Second, it was also important for Saul to do his part. Had Saul not been faithful then Barnabas would not have been as successful. In like manner, every newer member of a church should strive to be faithful, so people can feel more comfortable accepting you as someone who is serious about your walk with God. Let’s work on making the process of moving from being an outsider or new to being accepted smoother. We can do better together than we can with unhealthy division.
Read Acts 9:31
III. The Church Flourishes. The church experienced great growth. There was peace. And the believers lived in fear of the Lord, while being encouraged by the Holy Spirit and increasing in number.
- From storms to peace. Notice in vs. 31 that after the up rise and tension around killing Saul subsided, there was a time of peace and growing in strength. First, no matter how bad the storms may be in our lives, we should remember that storms don’t last always. We should seek the faith to press through our storms.
Second, notice how the period of peace included fearing the Lord, being encouraged by the Holy Spirit, and numeric growth. If we don’t fear God enough to be obey Him, we don’t fear Him enough (e.g., tithes, enthusiastic worship, service, etc.).
We must receive the encouragement that the Spirit gives, in order to be encouraged. Too many reject the Spirit’s encouragement and choose to be depressed, afraid, or angry. We should be concerned with numbers because God is concerned with numbers. They are not everything, but they are something. Let’s work on trusting God to keep us through our storms and doing our part in the period of peace that follows.
Conclusion: Let’s work on allowing God to do a great work through us and accepting what God is doing in the lives of others. God has much for those who obey His will.Please click here to let us know, if this has been quality and helpful information for you (i.e., make sure you let us know the name of the article). Feel free to share your questions and comments about the article as well.