In leaving Muizenberg this morning we visited family for about 30 minutes. They received us warmly with hugs and coffee. The fellowship was sweet. Then we had lunch with beloved friends of at least 40 years. They too welcomed us with hugs and a light lunch. Together with them we went to their daughter and son-in-law and their daughters and once again we were received with warm hugs and enjoyed a braai together. We had not seen all of these people in years but the reception was sweet, warm and loving. We had a great time together. It’s great when this happens … but it is not always like this, be it amongst non-Christians or Christians. Take Saul who was converted to Jesus. He had escaped from Damascus due to the Jews wanting to kill him there and arrived in Jerusalem.
1) Saul experienced the strangest thing.
Ac 9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
We need to remember that he was the man who tried to destroy the church. It was public knowledge, and more so was the fact that he was present giving approval to Stephen being stoned to death. He now arrives in Jerusalem and it’s not surprising that the disciples (Christians) we scared of him. For all they knew this man was trying to infiltrate the Church trying to arrest the main leaders of the Church. Take them away and the Church closes.
The word “tried” in verse 26 gives the impression that he used all options open to join the followers of Jesus. He failed. These disciples were not only afraid, they felt it hard to believe that this man was now one of them because of what he had already done to damage the Church. We know from hindsight what had happened, but these Christian did not know. Remember, no cellphone or even landlines. No computers or internet. All communication was snail mail. By the time Saul reached Jerusalem no news about his conversions seems to have reached there yet. As much as he tried he was not received and accepted.
We cannot blame the Early Church for their caution. This was part of protecting the Church. The same applies today. If someone just pops into the church and wants to become part of there needs to be caution. People need to be tried and trusted before they can become part of, especially if their desire is ministry. The Lord Jesus wants His Church to be as pure as possible. This is why Paul teaches Timothy:
1Ti 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands. Rather have less people in ministry or in eldership than to be quick to endorse someone
From personal experience, Paul knows this has the potential of ruining a Church.
2) God provided for Saul in a wonderful manner. A man named Barnabas who would become one of Saul’s (Paul’s) missionary team comes to the rescue.
Ac 9:27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
It’s interesting to know how Barnabas knew about Saul’s conversion. There are two theories that might be more true than false and both could well apply.
(1) Both Saul and Barnabas were disciples learning under Gamaliel. The reasoning here is that Barnabas recruited Saul to assist him
Ac 11:25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
(2) There is the inference that Barnabas, the Levite of Cyprus and the Saul, the tent-maker from Tarsus had been friends in earlier years. Tarsus being the seat of culture, would naturally attract a student from the neighbouring island of Cyprus. Both these theories are more than likely, so once Saul was refused participation in the Church, he looked up Barnabas, shared his conversion, seeing the Lord and the Gospel Mandate he was given. The first thing he does is take Saul and introduce him to the disciples. Look how he explains Saul’s credentials. Secondly how as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians he “had seen the Lord”. Thirdly that the Lord spoke with Saul and lastly how he preached fearlessly (passionately) in the name of Jesus (preached the Gospel). We don’t need to explain these four issues … yet this is what is needed today. Those who know the Gospel Credentials of others visiting or wanting to join the Church must make it known. A favorable introduction could go a long way to assist a church’s Gospel penetration into its surrounding community.
3) Saul ministered and was persecuted. Jesus had told him this.
Ac 9:28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. He preached the gospel powerfully. He was gifted and anointed.
Many must have been stirred and saved … yet when he debated with the Jews from Greece, they wanted to kill him. As said many times, faithful Gospel preaching targets hearts and saves souls but at the same time it angers others. You see, these Grecian Jews had the rug pulled from under them. They believed in salvation by works (Law keeping), now all of a sudden they are told that salvation is because of God’s grace in Messiah Jesus … and grace leads to faith resulting is confession, repentance and salvation. “No” they were saying … that’s far too easy … we need to do something to get saved … keep the Law. They were angered and this anger led to murderous passion. They wanted to kill the man who was one of them but now is a Christian.
4) Saved by the Church.
Ac 9:30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace.
It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. The elders saw the problem and recued Saul with the Church enjoying freedom (v31).
Lord, grant Your Church Gospel passion to be fearless in getting Your life saving Word out and peace enabling it to reach deep into society for Jesus. Amen.