Threats and Danger do not stop Progress†
Jerry A. Collins
ń What does it take to stop you from witnessing of Christ?
ń How is Barnabas an encouragement to Paul?
ń Why is the name ĎJesusí important in our witness?
Sometimes some of the most amazing and unbelievable transformations take place in peopleís lives. I attended the 20th anniversary of Bridge to Life, a ministry designed to assist struggling marriages and strengthen healthy ones. A couple who used to be divorced shared about their reconciliation and subsequent† remarriage to each other after months of separation. God, they said, had accomplished an amazing transformation in their lives. Those who knew them may have thot it unbelievable. Luke wrote the following information in Acts 9:20-31 so that we would understand the transformation that had taken place in Saul of Tarsusí life. He does that by stressing the genuineness of Saulís conversion and revealing to us the radical change it made in his life. As unbelievable as it may have seemed, Saul was a changed man.
1. A LIFE TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST BECOMES A WITNESS OF CHRIST† 19b-25
Confession is vital to a vigorous Christian life. Romans 10:8-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation.
The testimony of Saul does not await his growth but accompanies it. He begins to witness immediately vs. 20. Notice the relationship between his witness in vs. 20 and in vs. 22. First is the fact he had discovered on the Damascus road namely Christ was the Son of God vs. 20. Second, is seen an increase in his comprehension of how the facts of Jesusí life and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecy vs. 22. So there is an implied growth in strength related to an increased understanding and depth in the Word (both the oral facts of Jesusí earthly ministry later written down and the OT). So he is able now to prove the truth. So if we begin by testifying to what we know, our basic experience with Christ, God will give us more. The discussions provoked by witnessing will force us to study and dig more deeply as was likely the case with Saul. Notice that his witness increases in itís effectiveness. (1) vs. 21 he amazes (they were beside themselves, struck out of their senses; same response to Jesus Mk 2:12; 5:42; 6:51) and in vs. 22 he confounds (to be bewildered, confused). (2) vs.20 he preaches or proclaims and in vs. 22 he proves. He used this strategy of preaching in the synagogues on his missionary journeys (1st 13:5; 2nd 17:2; 3rd 19:8). We also learn that our witness may have a three-fold effect: (1) It amazes those who have known us before vs. 21. The Jews find it hard to believe this is the same person and in a sense it is not! His reputation in Jerusalem had raised havoc there. We always speak of those things that are vital to us and for Saul and us it is Christ. (2) It confounds those who oppose us with their arguments vs. 22. Saul had the finest education 1st-century Judaism could offer and these Jews could not hope to match his knowledge of the Scripture. Once he understood who Jesus was, he had the key that unlocked the whole OT and put that vast knowledge to use brilliantly proving that this Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Our skillful use of Godís Word can confound anyone who might resist itís truth. (3) It arouses those who reject the message and may lead to suffering in our lives vs. 23-25. Here is recorded his first taste of the suffering ordained for him by the Lord† vs. 16. Though this antagonism could have been aroused much sooner, it does not come until Saul has spent †many days vs. 23 of witnessing while he simultaneously increased in strength. So God waits until His servant has acquired this strength so that he is able to bear the suffering associated with the witness. If witnessing leads to this in our lives it is for our eternal good† For to you it has been granted for Christís sake not only to believe in Him† but also to suffer for His sake experiencing the same conflict you saw in me and now hear to be in me Phil 1:29-30 It is clear from 2 Cor 11:32-33 that a joint effort between the governor and of Jews conspired to kill Saul. Ironically, the persecutor becomes the persecuted. He had entered the city blind and he leaves it in a basket for his life.
2. BOLD CONFIDENCE IN †& CONFESSION OF CHRISTíS NAME GENUINE MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP 26-30
Discipleship is principal background of this chapter (1, 10, 19, 25, 26). Paul becomes the ideal disciple and Acts 9 commences his career as a disciple unsurpassed in Christian history. First, converted Saul cannot immediately prove his discipleship vs. 26. We know that for 3 years after his conversion he was in Arabia and then stayed in Damascus to witness (Gal 1:15-19) before traveling to Jerusalem. The apostles had not met him personally yet so their suspicions aroused. Second, another disciple vouches for him and offers a twofold proof of Saulís discipleship each beginning with the word how. (a) How he had seen the Lord on the road and that he had talked to him vs. 27. This is the first step in discipleship--salvation. Saulís personal experience with the Lord was a true conversion. (b) and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus vs. 27. For the 1st time disciples are described as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus. In their hour of trial disciples appealed with confidence in a Name and throne higher than Caeserís. Barnabas willingly reached out to a new convert in Jerusalem as Annanias had done in Damascus. God used these men to prepare and reveal a genuine disciple who boldly displayed confidence in and confession of Jesus Christ. God wants to use you this way. Third, he resumed Stephens work of debating Hellenistic Jews 29. Ironically God replaces Stephen with one who had approved his death as a replacement in witness of Christ. Fourth, they now want to eliminate Saul as they had Stephen vs. 29-30. Whereas Stephen life cut off, Saul escapes the same plotters living years of fruitful service. God is sovereign in the differing careers of his disciples! Twice in Acts 9 Saul flees danger vs. 25 & 30. Boldness in discipleship not synonymous with being reckless. He does not brazenly walk thru Damascus gate or persist witnessing in Jerusalem. The disciple does not seek suffering but obedience to Godís Word. It is not wrong to avoid suffering unless by doing so we avoid the will of God. Notice at every crucial point fellow xians help him (Ananias, the disciples 25, Barnabas 27, the brethren 30). So God is preparing him to explain the relationship of ministry within the body of Christ by these encounters.
3. THE THIRD PROGRESS REPORT 31
Church here is singular probably referring to all believers at this time. Saulís departure from Israel brot greater peace and the church was being built up, going on in fear/comfort & increased accordingly