In Isolation Thoughts 2

Hymn: Immortal, Invisible, God only wise

Bible Reading: Acts 9. 19-43

 

FEAR & FAVOUR

After the miracle of Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, and his healing and commitment to the new Way, it is not surprising that there was opposition to accepting him when he began to preach in Damascus. The fear that had preceded him was still there, was this a new scheme to catch the Christians, was he an undercover agent?

Past Actions have Consequences

The church in Damascus had arrived from Jerusalem fleeing persecution from the Authorities, mainly at the fervent instigation of Saul. They knew he was coming to arrest them, so they still feared him. They knew of the havoc that had been caused in Jerusalem. Saul’s changed life was not accepted as genuine. In some sense we can have sympathy with their response. It raises the question about the change that can be seen in a person when they take an opposite view to their original stance. It takes some believing, especially when the original stance was so fervently enacted. Looking at the situation from another view, it shows how a person who accepts Jesus Christ as Saviour and commits their life to Him can change. However, it does beg the question of the sincerity of the change. As we know the whole picture, we are clear that it was a complete change, a conversion to a new way of life dependant on Christ. It eventually took time for this to be realised, though Saul had no doubts at all.

Present Opportunities are Taken

Saul’s old life was in some ways very useful in his new experience. He had been educated to the highest level in Jewish Law and Tradition, he knew the Old Testament books in detail. His training had led him to have trust in the Word of God, but what was new and had been provided by the Holy Spirit, was the interpretation of it in the light of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Saul was fully aware of the OT promises, but now he was clear that Jesus fulfilled all of them, He was the Messiah. He used his knowledge and understanding to show to the Jews in the city that Jesus was the Messiah. This caused opposition to Saul, just as he had opposed the very concept of Christ as Messiah, his old life had put the Christians in fear for their lives, his new life was now under threat from those who supported his old life. What complications had come from his change of life! As Christians we should not expect everyone to accept our view and our way of life, it is contrary to the way in which the majority of people live, they are under the power of Satan and not Christ.

Persecution is Inevitable

In this chapter of Acts, there appears to be a three-year gap which is not mentioned. In Acts 16, Galatians 1 and 2Corinthians 11, Paul mentions the three years that he spent in Arabia, this would not be the current Saudi Arabia, but part of modern-day Syria and Jordan, it was the region that was trans-Jordan, also referred to as the Decapolis. It would appear that he went away from Damascus for this period and then returned. The opposition to Saul’s preaching became as strong as his old life fervour, so it is not unexpected that there was a plot to kill him. God made the believers in Damascus aware of the situation and with Saul, kept a close watch on what was happening and the threat level. It is clear that the intention was to kill Saul, so he was lowered over the city wall at night and escaped to Jerusalem. Here he was also under suspicion, but Barnabus took him into his house and told the Apostles what had happened on the Damascus Road and subsequently in the city. Details of his preaching and teaching were accepted and he became well known in Jerusalem as a preacher. Again, there were Jews who were not happy with this and plotted to kill him, so they sent Saul to Caesarea and he went back to his hometown of Tarsus. It is estimated that at this time he only spent a couple of weeks in Jerusalem. This event marked the end of the current persecution in Jerusalem and the believers had a peaceful time and the church increased.

Running parallel to these events, as recorded by Luke, was the journeys of Peter. He went around the country, preaching and healing. Completely opposite to Saul, he found favour wherever he went.

Healed by the Name of Christ

Peter came across Aeneas in Lydda, suffering paralysis for eight years. Peter called on the name of Jesus and Aeneas got up and walked. What a witness this was and led to many becoming Christians in Lydda and Sharon. Peter continued his ministry in that region and was urgently called to go to Joppa

Healed by the Power of Christ

Here Peter is told about a woman, who was a disciple. Tabitha or Dorcas, who was supportive of those in need in the church and the community of Joppa. She fell ill and died and was laid out for burial in an upstairs room. Peter went into the house and was taken to the room where her body was laid. The community were mourning her death, but Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt at the side of her body and prayed. He knew the power of Christ and in faith called on her to get up! She opened her eyes and sat up on seeing Peter.  He helped her to her feet and called for the mourners to join him and showed them Dorcas alive. Another powerful act of witness to Christ. So Peter now stayed in Joppa and many were saved and joined the church. While he was there, Peter lodged with Simon the tanner.

What is there for us to learn from these incidents?

  • When Christ is preached there will be opposition.
  • We need to be aware of what is going on around us and take appropriate action.
  • God will open the way for His will to be done.
  • Moving on when the opposition gets too fierce is not cowardice, but is what Jesus taught His disciples to do when he sent them out.
  • Look for the opportunities to present Jesus to others.
  • When there is growth in the church, thank God and continue.
  • Preparation and solitude, time alone with God is always beneficial.
  • Don’t give up, our lives are a miracle so live life on the brink of a miracle and look for other miracles to happen.

Hymn: Close to Thee

Benediction

 


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