In this class, we will discuss Acts 9:1-31 and focus on Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) being introduced into the book of Acts, the story of his conversion and the time spent in Damascus and Jerusalem preaching. Also, in this reading, we will see the first of a few places where the church is called "the Way".
Darris: Welcome back to the next class of Acts. We have covered eight chapters to this point, and now we are ready to get into chapter 9 of Acts. Luke shifts the scene from the previous story with Philip and Samaria, and then the Ethiopian eunuch. And he does that with that one word at the beginning of chapter 9:1, "Then", and then we shift. And now we are focusing upon the individual with whom we are going to spend a lot of time in the Book of Acts, and that is Saul or better known as Paul, Paul the Apostle. Saul is his Hebrew name. He's named after the first king of Israel, King Saul. And, of course, remember Saul at this point, I'll probably just start calling him Paul for just consistency.
But Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and so was Saul. And so Saul was named for his most prominent famous member of that tribe of Benjamin, King Saul. But later we will see that his name has changed to Paul. And there's nothing said about the change other than from one verse almost to the next, Luke begins to refer to him as Paul. Paul is the Roman name, the Latin name for Saul. That's the difference. And it's done at the time that Paul begins with, at that time, Barnabas to go out into the Roman world, the Gentile world preaching the gospel. And so most seem to think that the name change, at least as far as Luke is concerned, is to emphasize that the distinctive nature and change of his ministry as he goes out. So, we'll come to that. But this is where we at least have one chapter introducing Saul into the story of Acts. And then in a few chapters, he'll become the dominant story for the remainder of the Book of Acts.
Acts 9:1-2 Says, "Then Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."
So keep in mind at the beginning of chapter 8, after the death of Steven, of which Paul was consenting to his death.
Acts 8:1 Says, "They put down their cloaks at the feet of Saul." Remember? "And then Saul was consenting to his death. And at that time a great persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem."
So, Luke goes back to that theme, and he focuses down on the one figure of Saul who is leading this, it seems, and is breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Now, that's a pretty strong revelation of our hero. Paul's a hero, right? He's going to be the dominant figure in the rest of the book. He writes all these letters that formed the core of the New Testament, writings for us, and we are introduced to him as a man who is actually persecuting to the point of murder. That's strong and that's bad, but that's true. This is what Saul was doing and he was doing it in Jerusalem, and now he wants to go to Damascus.
Damascus, this map shows to be up here north and east of Jerusalem in what was the province of Syria at that time. And today, it's still in the nation of Syria. Damascus is a very old city. It was an old city at the time here of the New Testament period, and it's even older now, 2000 years later, still the same city or on the same location, obviously, grown large into a more modern city, but it's in Syria. So, we have it right here. And this is where Paul is headed. And it is a momentous trip that he is on. You look at this map, it kind of a topographical map. Jerusalem is down here, and it shows the route that he would've gone north up through Samaria and into Galilee.
He would've then crossed over, found his way going up here. It could have been the particular route would have taken him possibly around the western edge of the Sea of Galilee here, and he would've picked up this road that would've taken it on up here. That's the way the road normally went. It was part of what was called the way of the sea that eventually it branched off and it went down along the sea. But he starts here. Now, what's interesting to note, if you look at this and you go back to your Old Testament history, and particularly the armies of Assyria and Babylon, the two nations that Syria captured the northern nation of Israel, then Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar comes and takes Judah in the whole story. But what's interesting to just observe, the route that they would've taken, the Assyrian and the Babylonian armies would have been largely this route.
The Babylonian armies would've come out of Mesopotamia up and down this route, and then down along the spine of these hills to Jerusalem. Assyria did the same thing. In fact, in Isaiah 10, have you gone through Isaiah in your prophets? Okay. In Isaiah 10, there is a route of the enemy, the Assyrian that is mentioned, and city by city, from the north to the south are listed in Isaiah 10 until it comes to Nob. And Nob is just on the north edge of Jerusalem. And so Isaiah, in that particular part of the story shows that Assyrian army coming down this way. And so my point is that the route Paul follows in a different direction is the same route that the Old Testament persecutors, Syria, Babylon, or the people of God traveled as they came to Jerusalem.
Now, Paul, in a sense, reverses that, he's a persecutor of now the Church, and it's not the nation. And so he goes the opposite direction that these armies had gone, but it's the same route. Paul's just going north. Just an interesting observation of how these stories are intertwined in this way. Now, Paul goes north and his outcome is going to be a bit different from the Assyrian or the Babylonian. He's going to have an encounter with God as he nears Damascus. And now he has letters, it says in verse 2.
Acts 9:2 "From the high priest to the synagogues of Damascus, that if there were found any of that Way, men or women, he could bring them bound to Jerusalem."
What we're being told here is that the synagogues of the day dispersed throughout the Greco-Roman world, beyond the bounds of Jerusalem and Judea, they were knit together. There was communication, and there was a jurisdiction understood by the high priest in Jerusalem as an authority in this whole system, to which Paul then can have, you know, a warrant. It would've been rolled up, you know, probably again, in a scroll-type situation, not much bigger than this. And this is what he would've had, a warrant for their arrest. From the high priest, that he would go into a synagogue in Damascus with this and say, we want you to help us identify any of these people of the Way, and I'm going to take them to Jerusalem, and they're going to be held accountable. They're going to be tried, possibly murdered.
The high priest in the Sanhedrin within the Roman structure had that authority to operate like that. And, you know, as long as it didn't upset the Roman order of things, the Romans didn't care. That's a Jewish issue. You guys deal with it yourselves. And so this is what Paul is doing. So, he's got a warrant of arrest in his hand as he starts out. And he's got, you know, some people with him as he moves. And you might hold your place here and go to chapter 26 of Acts. And this particular account of Paul's conversion, this story is told three times in the book of Acts. It's told again in chapter 22 and is told again in chapter 26. Chapter 22 and 26, Paul tells it. Here in chapter 9, Luke is telling it. And there are some variations that add a bit of additional information. Some seem to be contradictory, but if you take half a step back and look at it, doesn't have to be.
But look at chapter 26:11, when Paul recounts this, he's a prisoner later, and he's telling him his story.
Acts 26:11 He said, "I punished them often," meaning the church, "In every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme." In other words, to renounce Christ. "And being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
That's Acts 26:11. And so now go back then to Acts 9. Paul is going to a foreign city, Damascus, and he's got this warrant in hand to bring them bound to Jerusalem. And this is Paul right in the center of this persecution, against the church. And the wording here in some of the other translations will use terms like he was ravaging. He made havoc. All right? That's an interesting word for, you know, just upsetting the apple cart. He's ripping things apart in the fabric of the community of the church. He's essentially, and really in the Greek wording, it means to lay waste and to destroy. Lay waste. Paul wanted to obliterate those in the church.
One other thing here we should note in verse 2, he found any who were of the Way, this is the first of a few places where we find that the church is called the Way. It's not called the Church of God. It's called the Way. Now, we will find in a short time in Antioch, the church is first called Christians. But we'll talk about that at that point. Here it's called the Way. You will find today there's a Christian movement. They used to be headquartered up here north of us in between here and I think Lima, Ohio, and a little bit to the west, near the Indiana border. They had their headquarters called the Way, and they would publish...they used to have a bible that they put out years ago, but they called themselves the Way, and they just modeled...they took the name here out of Acts. You know, I think you can look at this and see that it's a good descriptor of the church as a way of life.
These people, these members literally believed it. They were sharing their goods among themselves, as we studied earlier, selling their goods like Barnabas, he sold his possessions, laid them at the feet of the apostles, and you had the matter with Ananias and Sapphira. So, there's a tight-knit community there. They are living what they believe, which is what we do. We believe the Bible and the word of God. We keep the Sabbath, the holy days. We seek to live by every word of God, and it becomes a way of life for us, doesn't it? And there's no other way to describe it. So, this is a perfect descriptor, it's not a bad way to understand what this is that the church is and we are a part of it. And what Paul is doing here is acting out against the church.
Now, Galatians 1:3, you could turn over there. Galatians 1:13, I'm sorry, Galatians 1:13, another comment that Paul makes about what he was doing is good to note here. Galatians 1:13, when he is writing to the churches in Galatia, and, you know, I think you haven't gone through Galatians yet, but these are churches that over in this part of Asia Minor. This is Galatia over through here. The map doesn't have it quite right. The Galatia that he's talking about is in through here, okay? Kind of south of this area of the Galatians.
Galatians 1:13 Paul says, "You have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it," or lay waste to it.
Now, this speaks to how much he really didn't like this church, and what he was doing. It's a whole study in itself, but Paul probably understood as well, and better than most of the Jews, what this meant, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they killed, was resurrected, and these people were worshiping him.
He understood what that meant. What that meant was that his faith of Judaism was over. His whole life, all of his studies, all the books on his shelf, all the degrees that he had meant nothing. All things have become new. If that man Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected and broke the bonds of death, everything was new. Everything that he believed was turned upside down. And at this point, he can't accept that. He's fighting against it. He doesn't believe it. But he keeps the Sabbath, he keeps the holy days, he keeps kosher. He keeps the law, as he will write to later. I believe it's in the Philippians. He was a Pharisee, and he kept it to the letter. You want a legalistic, clean slate, you got it with Paul. Virtually spotless. But now he's killing people. And again, in the constructs of Judaism, that's okay. You can be a good Jew and kill these heretics. Hard for us to think about that being true today. But that's how they thought. This was a different world. But this is what's driving him as he takes his warrants of arrest and begins to move. So, let's understand that. Let's go to verse 3.
Acts 9:3 "As he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven." Light shone around him from heaven. He was going along this main artery to get to Damascus, and he has this encounter. Here's a painting done by Italian artist, Caravaggio. That's not too bad to try to explain what this is. It's a bit dark as you would look at it there. But you see Saul on the bottom there with his hands over his eyes and his traveling companions around him, he's kind of fallen off a horse, probably was on a horse. And this is a close-up of that, all right? And you see the way the artist has shown the light around him at this way, which is pretty good. Caravaggio did this, and so let's go back with that kind of image in our mind.
Acts 9:4-5 "He fell to the ground." Verse 4, "He heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He hears this voice and that's all he hears. "And he said, who are you, Lord? Then the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." So, we're very clear who it is that is addressing Saul. "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
So, this is what it said, "It's hard for you to kick against the goads." This is an idiom. You know, Paul would've understood what he was saying. Goad was a sharp stick that was put on a carriage if you had oxen pulling the carriage. And if the oxen would not pull that carriage and do what they're supposed to do, and if they would stop and allow the bit of slack there to engage and the carriage move a little bit forward, and they might move a little bit backward in their backside, they'd be stuck by this pointed goad, what's called a goad or a protrusion from the cart. And it was meant that basically tell that beast, you know, that hurts, move forward. The only way they would keep away from that goad is by pulling and taking up the slack in the yoke to keep their backside off of that pointed goad.
But if they didn't, then, you know, they might try to kick against that, but it's not going to do any good because it's part of the carriage. They're not going to be able to knock it apart. They're just going to hurt themselves more as they get kind of mangled and entangled in that. And this is what Jesus is saying to Saul, and it's kind of hard. You're kicking against something that you're not going to win, and it's going to just hurt you and others even more. That's really what he's saying here. I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now, this tells us that his warrants of arrest and his murders and persecution against the church is really against Christ.
Acts 9:6-9 "And so Paul or Saul trembling then and astonished said, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ The Lord said, ‘arise, go into the city and you'll be told what you must do.’ And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no one." Hearing a voice, but seeing no one. "And Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one, but they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank."
And so he takes his hands off, he still can't see. The others have heard a voice, but they cannot distinguish it. And that's the best way to understand what took place here. We'll talk about some of the other descriptions of this when we come to them. I'm not going to take the time to turn to them today. We'll pick them up later, but this essentially gives a true description of what happened.
And so he's led on, brought into Damascus, and for three days and nights, he doesn't have any sight, and that's pretty scary. So, he has gone from this dominating, hard-charging Pharisee, nearing Damascus thinking he's nearing his goal, he's going to do what he's going to do, to being knocked off of his horse by a blinding light, addressed by Christ. He understands that, you know, who he's talking to, and he knows this. And he has gone through a traumatic experience that, you know, is really best understood about total change and conversion through this experience. His whole life is turned around. Now, verse 10 tells us that there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias.
Acts 9:10 "And to him, the Lord said, in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘here I am Lord.’"
All right. So, the scene shifts into Damascus during this three-day interregnum, and there's a certain disciple, Ananias, how does he get there? Who is he? Well, he's Ananias. How's he get there? Probably that's his home. How did he become a disciple? By that, we interpret a member of the church of the Way. We don't know. We're not told. Was he in Jerusalem at the time of the Pentecostal experience of Acts 2? We don't know. Did somebody go from that experience to Damascus and in the synagogue, start talking about it and others believe it, and you know, in the meantime, they begin to have some type of correspondence with the Way in Jerusalem? We don't know. We just know that he's a devout man. He is in Damascus. God appears to him. He's responsive to God, and he's ready to do the job that God has asked him to do. What is it he wants to do? The Lord said to him in verse 11.
Acts 9:11-12 "Arise, go to the street called Straight, inquire at the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, putting his hand on him so that he might receive his sight."
So, God's given to Saul in a vision during this period of time, this knowledge that you're going to be visited by a man named Ananias. And so then he's telling Ananias, go there, he's expecting you. This is how God works at this time. But Ananias who wants to be responsive, he answers in verse 13.
Acts 9:13-14 He says, "Lord, I've heard about this man.” We know him. “He's done much harm to your saints in Jerusalem. And we hear he has authority from the priest to bind all who call on your name."
You know, he's kind of, are you sure you know what you're doing? I don't really want to go see this guy.
Acts 9:15-16 "But the Lord said to him, go. For he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Where I will show him many so many things he must suffer for my name's sake." Now, to this in Galatians 1:15, Paul adds that God knew him from his mother's womb, for what he says here, God wants Saul to do. And that is to go before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. It's an amazing thing how God works. Even from the earliest stages of childhood with those that he has intended for, in this case, you know, a very unique role. But, you know, Jeremiah was known from his mother's womb. David says he was. And Saul says that, you know.
Romans 1:1 "I was separated from my mother's womb for the Gospel of God."
And so, you know, the picture quickly comes together that God had his eye on Saul of Tarsus for a long, long time. Saul came to realize this later on. Was this braggadocio? Was this vanity? No, it was just a statement of a fact and truth under the inspiration of God as to what Paul came to realize. Did he know this at that moment of his conversion? No. Did he know it when he was persecuting, murdering? No. He thought he was a good Jew. He was doing the work of Judaism. He was trying to stamp out this heretical group. But later on, he came to realize that his life had been developed along a certain way.
Don't ever underestimate in your life what God may be doing with you today and how He can work through you as you yield and respond to Him. God always has great plans for us. The statement from Jeremiah that "I have, you know, things planned for you," is a part of how God works and the art of living a godly life is to think of ourselves really, as called and chosen, certainly part of the Church of God. Again, without getting into grandiose thoughts of ambition and vanity. But when we yield our lives to God, when we do what is right, God can then use us. I think that that's God's intent from the time that He calls us. And I think God, you know, is working together His purpose. And God is better than the greatest chess master. He thinks many, many, many, more than many moves ahead. God thinks the game out generations ahead. And we have to understand that about the God we serve. We're going to talk about Genesis 49 and Jacob's prophecies to his sons today in my program.
God thinks generations ahead. The only limitation is us. When we say no, when we say, "I'm going to do my own thing, I'm not going to obey. I'm going to go my own way. I'm going to leave this church. I'm going to go and do my life the way I want to do it." Then in a sense, God has hands off unless or until we repent. And I think we have to live our life that way and do it with humility. But why would you not think that God was working with you when He began to call your parents, your aunt, your uncle, your grandparents into the church? Or if you're the first one, or your parents were the first in the family, why would you not think that the God of the universe, the God who thought it all out, the Alpha and the Omega, was not working generations back for you, through your father, through your grandmother, grandfather, a great grandparent, and you are the next in line. You're the tip of the spear in this lineage. And to the degree you yield yourself to God, he can work through you.
So, at a point in your life, you could look back and say, I was separated from my mother's womb. I had hands laid upon me as a child and blessed in the church. And I see how God guided me and shaped me along the way to guide my steps in the selection of a mate, the children, and this and that. I believe that. I believe that. And we have the individual responsibility to submit to God and let him work with us according to his purpose and plan and fit it in. I think that's how to understand what Paul says as he looks back on his life, even with his mistakes. As he came to recognize the grace of God, the forgiveness of God, and that he was indeed, as verse 15 says, a chosen vessel to bear his name. Now, he says in verse 15, Paul's going to go before Gentiles, which he does. He's going to go before kings, which he does, and the children of Israel. He does, he did that too. And he suffered many things for God's name's sake, verse 16. And so all of this came later on.
So, you know, one of the great lessons of Acts is learning to be responsive to the lead of God's spirit. As I've said from the beginning, the book is really about the acts of God through his disciples, through his servants. And if we can believe that our lives are led by God, prepared for his service to his work, there's no end to what God can do in our lives. And when we remove our own pride, excessive ambition, and we look for God's hand in our life and we submit to that, God can do what he wants to with us and He can do far more, than we think we can. I look at my life and I'm very grateful that I made certain key decisions to keep me in the Way and where I am today. Because I could pretty well write the alternative universe story of my life had I not. I probably would've been divorced at least once, pretty miserable, and probably dead by now.
I won't tell you how and why I threw all of those things, but I knew my proclivities and I knew my family history. And had I walked away from the church at age 18, I know probably the way that some of the things that would've caught me up. What about you? I thank God that I, you know, made the decisions that I made. And Paul was doing it this way. So, let's go on to verse 17.
Acts 9:17-18 "Ananias went his way. He entered the house laying his hands on him. He said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as he as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately there fell from his eyes, something like scales. And he received a sight at once and he arose and was baptized."
Why was he baptized? He was a good Jew, keeping a Sabbath. He knew the one God, he thought. And then all of a sudden he had an encounter with the resurrected God, Jesus. So, he was baptized. You know, this is a great verse to use to people who think that their former baptism is valid or they don't need to be baptized once they come to know God or the Sabbath or whatever. Sometimes, you know, we encounter people who feel that their previous baptism, while they were keeping Sunday, et cetera, believing in the Trinity is sufficient, they don't need to be baptized. Well, yes they do. And this is a pretty good example here. Saul, who had been a devout Pharisee, keeping the law rigorously, immediately got baptized. Why? Because he had come face-to-face with the true God. Not just the God of Israel, that he understood as the one God, but the one who had come as Jesus and died and was resurrected, the true God. Not a triune God either.
As we look at this today, the real kicker for just about anybody wanting to examine their baptism comes down to the issue of God. Which again, is why what we're studying right now in our fundamentals about the nature of God is the whole enchilada. Really is. It's everything. And this is what Paul had come in to encounter, God. He thought he knew God. Now he really knew God. He'd gone in one sense, it's a Job story, but in a different way. And now he knows that God and he has to be cleaned. Keep in mind that baptism is a burial of the old self. Paul will later write this in Romans 6, where we are with him in death, and as we come up, we are with him in resurrection.
He knew he needed to be washed clean of sin. At that moment, he recognized the depth of his persecution and what he was doing, and he turned from that. And he wanted to get into that water as quick as he could to be clean before God. That was the reality. You know how you come in and I come in from working out in the yard all day, we're sweaty, tired, dirty, what do you want to do? Most of us, I hope all of us. First thing, I don't want to eat, maybe drink some water real quick. I want to get clean. I jump for the shower. And when I'm washed off all the dirt of the day and the sweat, then I'm ready to, you know, in a sense emerge better for what lies ahead. There's a cleansing that baptism did for Paul that then prepared him for what lay ahead. And there's no question.
Acts 9:19-21 Tells us "He received food, he was strengthened. And Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus." And verse 20 tells us, "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that he is the son of God. All who heard him were amazed and said, is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem and has come here for that purpose so that he might bring them bound to the chief priest."
So, Paul just jumped in with both feet, and then among the synagogue to the Jews, and then to those that were of the Way, because there was probably a mixture of them in the synagogue. But it says in verse 22.
Acts 9:22 "He increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus proving that this Jesus is the Christ."
And so he goes to work in his sense of testifying and bearing witness of Christ and the fallacy, the faults of his own life, and what happens during this time. But his life has changed. And, you know, we could talk a long time about this moment of his conversion. And it's a unique conversion, as I said because he's already keeping the Sabbath, but it's to the heart of coming face-to-face with God that he does this. But what he does, when he hears the voice of Jesus, and He says, "I am Jesus whom you persecute." Paul then knows that by the fact of, that the truth that that man was resurrected, changed everything. Everything. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after three days and three nights, that changes everything.
Why that teaching? Why that central foundational truth of scripture is so important? As I was pointing out the other day, as we were talking about the nature of God. Remember? The very fact that Christ or the Word came in the flesh, became God in the flesh, that's it. That's it. He lived a perfect life. He died for our sins. And then as importantly, he was resurrected because it is through his resurrection that we have the hope of eternal life. The crucifixion, his death pays the penalty for our sins. But the fact that he was resurrected gives us hope of a resurrection and a change to immortality. That's why that's important, and that's why it's important that it was the son of God who did that. And that's what Paul began to understand, that this Jesus indeed was the son of God. That he had come in the flesh, that God had penetrated the physical world, and now he had gone back to glory.
And that changed everything. And then Paul knew that mankind could go on that path and have the hope of immortality and to share that glory, be it co-heir with Christ. That ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and all the ships at sea is the whole enchilada. It really is. You smile, what is he talking about? It is. Don't ever forget that. That's why we do what we do. That's why we go to church. That's why we love one another and love God. That's why we keep His word, His law. It is because of that. And that's what Paul in this moment understood. And that's why he knew everything had changed. And Judaism, everything he'd been a part of, he ripped it all off. He took all his diplomas down, meant nothing, to gain Christ as he will say, and to have that relationship. And that's where he goes, and that's why he's in the synagogues and going about. Now, at this point, it goes on, it says in verse 23.
Acts 9:23-24 "After many days were passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul, and they watched the gates day and night to kill him."
As Luke tells it here in chapter 9, he doesn't tell the whole story. We have to go over to the book of Galatians chapter 1, to see that there's a period of time here that's longer than just a few days or a few weeks. So, turn over to Galatians. I'm going to get this in before we conclude the class. Galatians 1:6. Well, let's read verse 15.
Galatians 1:15-18 "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb," I alluded to this earlier, "And called me through this grace to reveal his son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles. I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. But I went to Arabia and returned again to Damascus." Paul does this, and it says, "After three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter."
All right. So, he tells us something in Galatians that Luke does not tell us here in the account in chapter 9 of Acts. And that is that, you know, after many days of verse 23, puts us toward the end of this period where he has gone down into it says to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.
There's about a three-year period here in the life of Paul, where he goes from Damascus into Arabia. And most scholars put that down in this area, and it puts it around the area of Petra, which would've been at that time a very thriving kingdom and city, the Nabataean Kingdom. It was a major hub on the trade routes coming out of the east and going into Egypt and going into Syria, up into Asia. Petra was, I've said before, it was the Las Vegas of the time. It was in the desert, but they channeled water in and it was a thriving community, kingdom, very wealthy. There were gardens and pools of water. Again, you go to Las Vegas today in the middle of the Nevada desert, and without water, it dries up and it becomes nothing.
Petra was kind of like that in its day. It was a Las Vegas of the time. And when you go there, you see the channels where the water was brought were brought in. You see what's left of large palatial estates and garden areas all that they have dug up. They haven’t restored them. It's pretty dry and dusty in Petra. But this is where Paul goes, and probably, you know, he's preaching where he goes. And then he goes back up to Damascus. And then, you know, then he goes there's a plot in verse 23 of Acts 8 to kill him, Acts 9, there's a plot to kill him. All these other things have happened down in Petra during that period of time. We don't know any other details.
Acts 9:24 "The plot became known to Saul," verse 24, "And they watched the gates day and night to kill him."
And so the Jews they want to do away with this former ally of theirs, because now he's a traitor turncoat and he's working against them. So, they're going to do to him what he wanted to do to the church.
Acts 9:25 "So, the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket."
So, through the wall tells us that there were rooms in that wall, and they opened a window, and then he went down. Walls in an ancient city were quite big, and they would've had kind of apartments. Go back to the story of Rahab at Jericho. And you get the view of what I'm talking about. So, you know, they let him down through the wall. It's not over the wall, it was through the wall. So, there was an opening there, there was a room there, probably, you know, an apartment or some other type of place there. And the walls were big.
Acts 9:26 "And so he goes to Jerusalem," verse 26, "He tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was a disciple."
Hello. He's killed their brothers and sisters. And now after all these years, he's come back to them. Rhys, what would you do? You'd book it? Think about this. Paul walks into wherever the church is meeting in Jerusalem on the first Sabbath. He comes to the door and you're a greeter on the door. And here comes Saul of Tarsus. You haven't seen this guy in three years. You've heard some strange stories about him. What do you do? "Well, welcome brother Saul." Or do you take a step back and think, "Do I call security?" But he goes on in, you let him in. And he goes into the room and you're in that room. What do you do? You see this guy walk through the door, he's got a reputation. What do they do? They were afraid, and they did not believe he was a disciple.
They gave him the room. They just kind of moved back to the corner. And they said, "I've got a job to do. I’ve got to get those songbooks handed out. We've got to get the coffee going. I’ve got to check that coffee pot to see if there's enough coffee." And Saul just kind of comes in with his hands in his pocket looking for a place to sit and nobody's going to talk to him because everybody's kind of moved away. That's kind of the way I envision it here. And then what happens? Look at verse 27.
Acts 9:27 "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles."
This is the Barnabas we read about earlier, who had sold everything that he had on the island of Cyprus and came to Jerusalem before the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The same Barnabas, son of encouragement.
"He took him and brought him to the disciples." Barnabas was the only one who had the courage to walk across the room and say, "Welcome to church, welcome to Sabbath services. Saul. Do you need a seat? I've got an extra seat right here next to me." That took courage. But it speaks to the type of man Barnabas was. He had heard the stories and he believed that there was a different Saul now.
Acts 9:27-29 "And so he goes and he took him, brought him to the disciples, and he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had spoken to him and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So, he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out, and he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists."
Probably the same group he had been a part of earlier. The synagogue or the Freedman probably would've been included in that. And they attempted to kill him. So, his former brothers turned against him.
Acts 9:30-31 "And when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and they sent him out to Tarsus. Then all the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
So that brings us to the close of this episode with Paul. His conversion comes back into the church at Jerusalem. When I pick this up next time, we'll talk a little bit about Tarsus and what Paul might have done during this period of time now after he goes back to his hometown. Home area of Tarsus. We don't read about him for about 10 years. What was he doing during that time? We'll talk about that next class and pick up the story and get into that of Peter.