Sometimes when you move from one Church to another, perhaps in a different area or province, you might find it very difficult to make friends because at times Church people could be very clicquey. I have experienced this both in our country and two other countries. You go to a Church and are welcomed at the door, then during the service you are welcomed again and told how good it is to be with them, the warm, loving community of God’s people, only to find that after the service you go for refreshments and are ignored. O, you are smiled at and even greeted but almost no one wants to invite you into their little circle of friends having coffee. This happened to Saul … not because he was new but because he was the maniac, Pharisee who was determined to destroy the Christian Church:
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.
1) Can you really blame the Church in Jerusalem for being cautious about Saul? After all, he went out from Jerusalem, being authorized by the high priest to destroy God’s Church (Christianity). There he directed the murder of Stephen. He persecuted the Church. He was arresting believers … fear, rightly so. These blessed souls belonging to Jesus were weary, cautious, and protective of their community. They could have been asking themselves … “Is this Saul just a pretense to gain acceptance and then infiltrate the Church, now knowing who the Christians are and where they live?” And then with this intelligence, have them all arrested? What were they to do? It is right that we protect our local Churches and stand together to protect the greater Church. Although not all Christians are saved, those who are, are our eternal family!
2) God provides the protection and assistance Saul needs. He provided Barnabas!
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.
(1) Barnabas was one of those who was an earlier believer and financial supporter of the Early Church.
Ac 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
This verse tells us much about him. His Jewish name was Joseph. He hailed from the Island of Cyrus and he was a Levite. There was a large Jewish Community there and he as a Levite most likely conducted some sort of religious duties for his Jewish community.
(2) Names tell stories. In calling him Barnabas, the apostles nicked named him after his main spiritual gift at the time which was encouragement. That is what Barnabas means. Not only did he sell this field to raise money to support the struggling Christians, history says this was his ongoing nature. Not everyone is able to support poor Christians financially and materially, but all are able to collect names of such people and pray for them.
(3) Barnabas seems to have been one of the long standing believers in Jerusalem, and being a Levite would have been groomed in the Law of Moses. He quickly identified God’s Spirit in Saul and when the believers in Jerusalem feared his sincerity, found him and took him to the apostles. Somehow Barnabas had inside information about Saul’s conversion and ministry which he shared with 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. Although Luke gives us a snapshot of the information proved, this would have been full information. It is right and proper that we as believers provide others with true reports of Christian Workers. Not only does this validate their conversion and ministry, it opens to door to more service for the Lord Jesus. Credit needs to be given where credit is due.
3) Becoming involved spreading the Gospel in Jerusalem.
Ac 9:28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
This was the next step in starting to fulfil Jesus’ mandate for Saul. Preach to the Israelites. Once accepted by the apostles as authentic, he enjoyed freedom of movement to proclaim Jesus without obstruction. The believers now received him, giving him their support. I am aware that in the day in which we live there are many who have jumped onto the “Gospel Band Wagon” to draw a crowd and rake in the money. Having said this, there are many true, sincere and called by God to proclaim the Gospel and expound the Word. Once we come across them … and they are proved genuine, we ought to be their encouragers, praying that God will use them wonderfully for His glory. 4) Acceptance leads to boldness. Once he was accepted as genuine amongst the Church of God, Saul ventured into the community of Grecian Jews who were adamantly anti Jesus and the Gospel.
Ac 9:29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
He tried to dialogue with them to explain that Jesus was the Messiah. Because of their stubborn, hard hearts, they resorted to attempting to get rid of Saul by killing him. It’s alarming that throughout our world, many who oppose the Gospel resort to dirty tactics. They refuse to reason, discuss, debate, or use Biblical evidence. No, they want to kill to remove what they see as a threat. Just as Saul displayed boldness in evangelism because he knew the Gospel is God’s Truth, so ought we to be confident in the power of the Gospel message, because we saw recently, as Paul put it:
Ro 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
(Don’t be confused. At this moment in Acts, Paul was still Saul, but when he penned Romans he was still Paul.)
5) Once again the brothers to the rescue.
Ac 9:30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Convinced that Saul was God’s messenger, these men protected Saul by sending him off to Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast, just under 90 kilometers away. From there he was shipped to Tarsus in Cilicia which was 490 kilometer. Why? To get him as far away as possible for personal safety. He had preached to Jews and some Gentiles but he would be God’s apostle to the Gentile World as well as to kings. It is our duty to protect those whom God has called to proclaim the Gospel. Far too many pastors, evangelists and missionaries live on the edge and in fear (political, economic and physical) simply because no one seems to protect them and enable them to serve God.
Father, thank You for those who protect Your servants, enabling them to work Your vineyard. Graciously send others to help and protect those in dangerous environments as we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.