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Paul – A New Creation. Acts 9:20-31


A New Creation.

Text: Acts 9:20-31, Galatians 1:11ff 

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul would write ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’   Our passage in Acts helps us to understand how radical that change in Paul’s life was after conversion, and how sudden, in its effect.   One of the first effects of conversion on Saul’s life, was that he straight away began telling others.  Let’s see how this worked out in Paul’s early Christian life:-


Telling Others   –  Image by  GraphicMama from Pixabay

1 Telling Others Where He Was.

Remember that Saul has just been visited by Ananias, has just received back his sight, and has received, (probably from his fellow Christians), some food, a meal and fellowship, and encouragement…  Now..

  • His Instant Witness. v20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, There’s a joy about the New Birth – you really do just want to tell everyone you meet!  Right away!  It’s instinctive.   So it is with new converts!  Paul couldn’t wait to tell others about Jesus, about his new life in Christ, and he had every right to preach in the synagogues, for he had the qualifications, because of his education under Gamaliel, and because he had letters of introduction from the Sanhedrin.
  • His Impactful Witness.  V21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?  The Jews of Damascus had been expecting Saul, knowing his reputation, they were gathered to hear a sermon from a fiery Pharisee stirring them up to go out into the streets and avenues and round up Christians, and deliver them up to the police for arrest and torture and execution at Jerusalem. Instead Saul began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God who had died on the cross and rose again for sinners.  Shock?  Disbelief? Amazement!
  • His Instructive Witness.  Paul learned and grew from this experience.  v22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus.  As Paul is preaching he is  growing in strength. There is no doubt that sharing your faith greatly contribute to your confidence as a Christian.  Romans 10:9 Part of our Christian response to what God has done in bringing us to the new birth is to confess the faith – to tell others what the Lord has done.
  • His Incomplex Witness.   These are early days in Paul’s Christian life.  His testimony is:-
    • Basic doctrine. Look at its content: ‘that he is the Son of God.’  ‘proving that this is very Christ.’  Two very simple doctrinal statements.  To the Corinthians, Paul writes that there is an irreducible minimum of doctrine, to which every Christian must subscribe. It is very similar to his early preaching, and it’s basic Christianity 101. 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4.
    • Extraordinarily Effective!  Now notice the effect of this dramatic change.  It was not at all welcomed by his former friends and co-religionists.  Keep this in mind when you witness.   People WILL REACT.   IT MAY NOT BE THE REACTION YOU WANT!  Eventually, the Jews at Damascus were so incensed by Paul’s preaching that they wanted him dead.

However, – not right away.   Luke just says, v23, ’And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him’ What Luke compresses into ‘many days’ was around three years, during which Paul had spent time in Nabatean Arabia.


2 Telling Others In The Church.

This is the second area of witness.  Not only will the new convert want to tell others in the place where he/she is, but there will come a time, sooner, rather than later, when they will need to tell the church, or perhaps the elders of the church, of their conversion.  Hopefully such an elder will by that time have taken an interest in the new convert and encouraged them to speak about their new found faith.  For Saul, that encounter came three years after his conversion.   Paul tells us in Galatians 1, that after a short time at Damascus, he went to ‘Arabia.  Galatians 1:15-17. Logically, you would think he would gone home to Jerusalem, but that would hardly be wise, considering his total about-turn.  The authorities would be enraged with him, and the Christians would be suspicious of him.  So he went over to modern Jordan, then Nabatean Arabia, (not modern Saudi Arabia!) and no doubt there he continued to preach the gospel, the first fulfilment of his call to the Gentiles.  It was when he returned from Arabia to Damascus, (Not a huge journey, the borders of Arabia almost abutted the city walls of Damascus) and resumed preaching in the synagogues there, that the plot to kill him gained support, with the help of King Aretas of Arabia.  2 Corinthians 11:32   Luke records,  Acts 9:24,    From Paul’s conversion to his escape from Damascus was three years.  Galatians 1:18   So, Paul has come to meet the Church leadership, not for instruction, he reminds us in Galatians 1, but to meet the other Apostles.  Let’s see what happened there…

  • Suspicion! V26.  Who would blame them!  They would have remembered Saul’s reputation, and wondered whether this wasn’t a new ploy to infiltrate the church. Perhaps they would be remembering the warning in Jeremiah 13:23  
  • Sponsorship. V27-28 Barnabas is doing here what Barnabas always did – he was being an encouragement to others.  He wanted to help Paul, and he brought him to meet the apostles.  Later on we learn that it was just two of the apostles, Peter and James, and that meeting, at least with Peter lasted just 15 days.  Galatians 1:18-19  
  • Speaking out. V29   Paul is back witnessing again, going right into the place where he had started, into a synagogue full of Greek speaking Jews, people just like himself, (Greek was probably his first language) where previously he would have been a member in good standing, fearlessly defending the faith, practising Christian apologetics in debate and dispute.  See how his understanding had grown?  His simple witness after conversion is now an ability to hold his own against the professional teacher of the Jewish religion.

For some new believers, that meeting with the elders of the church will be a formal interview, perhaps taking place prior to baptism, or upon application for church membership, but sometimes, it’s just a friendly, encouraging brother like Barnabas, having a friendly chat with the new Christian and asking about his relationship with Christ.  


3 Telling Others at Home.

There is one more place where the new convert must witness and it’s the hardest place of all.  At home.  Home really is the hardest place to witness, the place where we are known best, the place where we are most likely to let the Lord down…. But Saul has already preached at Damascus and Jerusalem, and when Jerusalem becomes too dangerous, the brethren there knew what they must do.  He had to go home, and there he would have to live out his Christian faith before his family and friends. V30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

There is just one more thing to note in V30, – the apostles, and the believers at Jerusalem, who had been so suspicious of Saul, are the ‘brothers’ of Paul.  The term is a term of endearment.  He is one of us, one of the family, a brother in Christ, and when a brother is in trouble the other brethren rush to his aid.


Applications and Uses:

Finally, some practical conclusions.

  • Being a Christian brought Saul to his knees in more ways than one. v25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. One of the results of Paul’s conversion was a huge change in his status in the eyes of the Jews, his own people and former supporters.  See the proud Pharisee now, sneaking away in the night, being lowered down a wall in a basket.  What a change!  But wasn’t it worth it, to lose face, and reputation in the eyes of the world – to gain Christ?  Philippians 3:8.  Becoming a Christian will mean humility, and being a disciple will be no different.  Humility will be a characteristic of a true believer.
  • Telling others is not just for new converts.  Paul’s desire to tell others about Christ was lifelong.  It continued even when he knew his end was near,  when he could say, 2 Timothy 4:6-8  

Telling others!  Can we say ‘My life’s work is telling others?’  –  Just like Paul’s was.

From → Acts, Bible Study

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