Saul and Peter on Mission
Saul and Peter on Mission
- Saul’s Proclamation of Christ 19b-22
- The Plot against Saul 23-25
- Saul’s Progress and that of the gospel and community 26-31
- Peter’s Ministry 32-43
- Saul’s Proclamation of Christ
As we have seen Saul’s conversion was a dramatic turn from his murderous rampage.
We see this conversion in five ways in verses 19-22.
- New creation: His threats and his zeal to persecute the church was stopped dead when Christ Himself stood in His path. Isn’t that true of all of us no matter how dramatic our conversion? For some of us Christ stood in our path from a young age and we were taught to trust Him. We will give account for the years we have had to respond and serve Him. For others, Christ stood in your path as you heard the gospel of your salvation and followed Him in faith and repentance. Still others have found this Christ to be standing in their path in their adulthood radically changing their life’s direction and course from self serving to kingdom endeavors. And, there are still others this morning who may have Christ standing in their paths this very morning and they have yet to respond to Him and acknowledge His Lordship and power over their very lives. There are also those who are yet to believe through our witness to the ends of the earth. Regardless, we see Saul converted. He is changed, his goals different, his passion different, his goals gone and the great commission on his radar. This Jesus saved Saul! It is as he wrote to the Corinthians
“therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For, our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- New desires: Saul now had the desire to follow, let alone preach Christ. If you sit here this morning and you think nothing of Christ and His kingdom, His priorities over yours, His praise over your comforts, perhaps you have not met this Christ. In these precious pages He longs to reveal Himself unto you! Will you hear Him out or would you rather grovel about in your blindness and self dependency. It’s a rather miserable experience. But to be a new creation, oh the glories of partaking daily in Christ and his holiness. To understand peace rather than enmity with God.
- New family-
So this religious terrorist turned believer, is now found here in verse 19 with the disciples in Damascus. A fitting place to be wouldn’t you say? Who do you desire to be around if you are a child of the King? Around others who claim the same name! How many today hold on to their “issues” rather than spending time with the disciples in their locale. As Hebrews says, “do not forsake the gathering of yourselves together as some are in the habit of doing.” You see fellow disciples offered the gospel and community to Saul and he began to learn this and live it out. In fact much of his letters to the Corinthians show how much he learned and grasped this truth as he sought to encourage the work of Christ in the local churches he planted. Which leads me to my fourth point.
- New message and mission –
Now, notice the outcome after this time with the disciples. Vs. 20 says that he immediately proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the son of God.” You see it is not just his conversion but the fruit of it that bears witness here, he proclaims Jesus as the Son of God. Is that your message, our is your message something else, or shall I say even something in addition? Christ is our message!
- A New Reputation – look at verse 21 “is this not the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?and has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” You see many may have thought Saul to be playing and seeking to fool them into thinking he was one of theirs by way of deception and then to imprison them all.
As 1 John4:2-3 says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
So this was no deception but the real deal. Saul had a new reputation, no longer terrorist but teacher of the son of God. Verse 22 tells us that Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”
- The Plot vs. 23-25
Now, verse 23 says that after many days passed….. Turn to Galatians 1. If we cross reference this with Galatians 1:11-24 we hear first hand what Luke is portraying here in Acts 9.
“11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.”
So, what is chronicled for us is Paul’s return visit to Damascus. Three years pass between verse 22-23. Luke, the author of Acts does the same with the rest of this passage merely summarizing the activities of Saul now Paul.
So verse 23 takes us back to the murderous thoughts of the Jews. Why would they want to kill him? For the same reason Saul wanted to kill people like himself. They were rocking the boat with teaching that they didn’t hold to, drawing many to this great gospel which challenged the Jews authority. To them, the teaching of Christ was heresy. It had to be stopped even if they had to kill him. I do find it interesting that there is no record in the time of Jesus’ trial or following here in the time of the apostles where the Jews merely just asked God for wisdom concerning this growing church. They always revert to murder. Christ and any associated with him were to be done away with…..do you see how awesome conversion is? It takes us truly from death to life! So these Jews are plotting to kill him and it doesn’t say how but verse 24 says that their plot became known to Saul. It doesn’t say how but maybe the way they were watching the gates of Damascus day and night. Nevertheless verse 25 instructs us that his disciples took him and lowered him down through the wall in a basket. Now Luke doesn’t mention this here, but this may have been a regrettable fleeing for his life. Paul mentions this in 2 Corinthians 11:30-33:
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.”
III. Saul’s Progress and that of the gospel and community 26-31
Luke doesn’t cover this, but Paul says in Galatians 1 that he had gone to Arabia for a time and then went back to Damascus. So, Luke brings the narrative on Saul to a close and doesn’t return to Saul until Ch.13 of Acts. So, here in Acts 9 Saul escapes Damascus, he goes to Jerusalem to join the disciples and they were afraid of him. Rightfully so, but just as at Damascus, people are hesitant at first they are convinced. Just as the disciples at Damascus were convinced, so the disciples at Jerusalem had to be convinced. The text implies that he had made many attempts at joining the disciples. This is where Barnabas steps in. What a joyous character Barnabas is. We learn about him in this book and in Paul’s writings that he indeed is an encourager. Isn’t it nice to have people like Barnabas that come alongside and encourage? Here however, Barnabas takes up for him. He declares to the apostles Saul’s Damascus road introduction to Jesus and his subsequent preaching ministry that had begun. Vs. 28 “ …he went in and out among them at Jerusalem preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke to the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews) but they also wanted to kill him. It seems Saul had been accepted and was in Jerusalem for maybe 15 days before they wanted to kill him. Sometimes there are those gifts by God to stir up things that should have been stirred up long ago. It is unclear why Peter escaped more immediate persecution in those years prior to this but of course we have recorded his imprisonments and perhaps the authorities just got tired of arresting him since God continued to set him free.
So, just as in verse 25 in Damascus so here in verse 30, Saul is taken by the brothers away from Jerusalem so as to protect him and he is in Caesarea and then sent off to Tarsus, which was his birthplace.
Several years pass before Luke picks up with Saul’s story in Ch. 13, but it is important to note from other New testament passages that this is the time period that Paul probably preached Christ in Syria and Cilicia and most definitely planted churches there. Verse 31 records that the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it multiplied. Isn’t that great. The word was going forth, the church is being built up and multiplying while they fear God and are comforted by Him. These are simultaneously going on. Persecutions, missions, multiplication of disciples and peace at the same time. This should instruct our hearts how God is at work in all that is going on and He is to be glorified and enjoyed in all circumstances. The gospel preached and community of believers growing and thriving. Now, Luke turns the narrative from Saul to Peter, let take a look at:
- Peter’s Ministry Acts 9:32-43
Peter was going from place to place probably checking on the churches in the region. We do not have any sort of administrative information on how Peter and the apostles organized but I rejoice that this historical narrative is in fact silent on this issue. Why? Because ultimately it is unimportant. We see God leading His church and we must always be careful to somehow interject our forms and organizing thoughts into God’s work. In fact God hates the smell of human sweat and is glorified in and through us as we submit to Him and Him alone. The apostles learned this early not to separate the person of God from the work of God. This is why the Holy Spirit was given. They were about His business and that required the very Spirit of God indwelling them. As we will see Peter is used by God to perform some miracles. So while we often see Peter before crowds in the early parts of Acts we see here that intertwined in the Bibles narrative that these apostles and servants of Christ were never so busy as to not take time for individuals.
So Peter goes to Lydda, meets Aeneas a bedridden paralyzed man. Peter simply says, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” You see, Peter was also big on house chores and so he wanted Aeneas to make his bed, his mother taught him well, after all you never know what the apostles might come over. 🙂
But, notice the outcome of this miracle. Vs. 35 The residents of Lydda and nearby Sharon see him and turn to the Lord. Is this not the ultimate outworking of all we do? We desire to see many turn to the Lord. We cannot do anything for them but point them to the One who can, the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you turning to others for help? Turn first to Jesus and in an amazing way He tends to use people to answers our deepest prayers.
Luke shares yet another event. Vs. 36, A woman Tabitha (Aramaic) Dorcas (Greek) her shortened nickname was “dork” kidding. Notice what the scriptures say about her. She was full of good works and charity. Wouldn’t it be great to be known for that. Quite an epitaph as verse 37 instructs us that she became ill and died. They prepared her body for burial and laid he in an upper room. Some men were sent to get Peter in Lydda which was near Joppa.
Vs. 39 so Peter goes with the men and comes to where Dorcas was. When he got there notice what is happening. The widows were beside him weeping and showing tunics (chitons) and other garments that Dorcas had made while she was alive. A very normal practice when someone passes away. You are grieving and talking of memories and items that remind you of the one who passed. But do not overlook this, while our attention goes to the miraculous wonders done on behalf of Aeneas and Tabitha, let us not miss the ordinary work of a charitable and good working woman. She is noted here in scripture as one who made things for other people. Never underestimate what you do in the name of Jesus on behalf of others. Do it unto Him and it will not be forgotten. Do not forget that taking care of the poor and starting hospitals and caring for the mentally ill and other such “ministries” as we would term them, came from the gospel first conquering and as people turned in faith and repentance to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no different today, God uses all things to draw many unto Him.
So, just as we have lost loved ones and share the memories and very much miss them, one of the joys of knowing Christ is that the are not in fact dead but very much alive! While their bodies are left behind and we put them in the ground, they will rise again to an inheritance incorruptible, amen?
It is astonishing that within this gathering, Peter puts them out kneels down, prays and then tells Tabitha to arise. She opens her eyes, sits up and Peter gives his hand to her to help her up and then calls the saints and the widows back in and presents her alive.
Verse 42 – it becomes known throughout all Joppa, and notice again……many believed in the Lord. The Lord was drawing many to Himself through all these things and Luke is careful to explain that in the narrative. Are we in awe of God and His grace or merely the things He does? This same Jesus is here this morning, the one we worship and trust and wait with great expectation for His return. Are you trusting Him, leaning on Him in every circumstance, or are you wound up with the worries of this life. Won’t you trust Him? You believe He can raise the dead and so why not trust Him with the impossible situations facing you today?
Vs. 43 Peter stays in Joppa with Simon and it is interesting to note that he is a tanner. This is important in setting up our next text in chapter 10 for tanner often dealt with dead animals making them unclean to Jews. But Peter is seeing God working among the gentiles already and is about to see and learn more about God’s heart for the nations and that this Gospel is for all not just a select group.
Are you converted?
Are you indeed a new creation in Christ? Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation believing that His death justified you before God and that He is no longer your judge but your Father? Do you believe He rose again, has sent His Spirit as a guarantee of the inheritance that you have in Him when He returns?
Are you on mission in His name? Are you seeing the gospel progressing through you and community of believers strengthened? While there is not much persecution around us do we use this as an opportunity to advance the gospel or retreat into our corners?
I encourage you to consider these things before God and then go in great joy, serving the Lord in gladness of heart.
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