Paul’s Conversion Believed, Not Believed, Believed
Acts 9:19b-31 – November 27, 2022
Review: Last Sunday Pastor Luke made three points at the beginning of his message: 1 – evil never rests, 2 – Grace still abounds, 3 – Why should love take a break fore even as the world gets worse and worse we should offer more grace. I would like to double down on that by telling you the story of Candance Cameron. (handout)
Last week we learned Saul was blind for three days after meeting Jesus outside of Damascus during which time he fasted without food or drink. Three days, not unlike Jonah in belly of a giant fish or like Jesus buried for three days.
We ended last week with the verses 17-19a. After which Pastor Luke stated in his closing, “When it comes to God’s Grace, don’t count anyone out.”
We begin today with Saul’s vision restored, he has been baptized, and he has regained his physical strength by ending his fast.
Acts 9:19b-20. Saul has become a brother among the believers in Damascus. Saul immediately began to implement his great commission to take Jesus’ name to the Gentiles, their kings, and to the people of Israel.
Acts 9:21. When we read the word astonished, it is more than surprised, they were “besides themselves” or “struck out of their senses” … in other words what Saul was doing was literally almost beyond their comprehension.
Acts 9:22. From this verse alone we can observe that the more Saul preached the more confused and baffled the Jewish community became.
STOP: Between verses 22 and 23 there is a 3 year gap as described by Saul in Galatians. See Galatians 1:15-18.
Between his commissioning by Ananias and his departure described in the next few verses, three years had gone by.
Acts 9:23-25. I look at these verses beginning with After many days had gone by as occurring after Saul’s return from Arabia. The conspiracy to kill him included not only the Jews who hated his message about Jesus but included the governor of Damascus as well, who may have also been a Jew, as noted in 1 Corinthians 11:32-33.
Acts 9:26. Saul had left Jerusalem a murderer and persecutor of believers three years earlier.
Acts 9:27. As noted earlier in Galatians 1:18 Saul never met with all the apostles, but only with Peter initially and stayed with him for 15 days. Later he also met with James, the half-brother of Jesus.
Acts 9:29-30. Saul only stayed in Jerusalem for 15 days and yet that was enough time for the Hellenistic Jews to tried to kill him. The Hellenistic Jews were those in Acts 6:9 where they had first argued with Stephen. Perhaps Saul was seeking to undo all that he had done with the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 9:31. I prefer the KJV here simply because of the word edified meaning built up. Three points are made here.
First there was church rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria. The principal persecutor had just been converted, and that surely dampened the zeal of his initial followers.
Second the church was strengthened or edified while ‘walking in the fear of the Lord, in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Third growth of the church. This was a result of individuals being built up and thus growing or multiplying the Church.
Bottom Line: God can and will use anyone to bring people to the faith. A convicted murderer brought David Elkins’ father to the faith.
I am a devoted Christian. Which means that I believe that every human being bears the image of God. Because of that, I am called to love all people, and I do.
If you know me, you know that I am a person who loves fiercely and indiscriminately. My heart yearns to build bridges and bring people one step closer to God, to love others well, and to simply be a reflection of God’s huge love for all of us.
To the members of the media responsible for using this opportunity to fan flames of conflict and hate, I have a simple message: I love you anyway. To those who hate what I value and who are attacking me online: I love you. To those who have tried to assassinate my character: I love you. To everyone reading this, of any race, creed, sexuality, or political party, including those who have tried to bully me with name-calling, I love you.
I have long wanted to find a home for more faith-based programming. I am grateful to be an integral part of a young and growing network. I had also expressed in my interview, which was not included, that people of all ethnicities and identities have and will continue to contribute to the network in great ways both in front of and behind the camera, which I encourage and fully support. I’ve never been interested in proselytizing through my storytelling, but in celebrating God’s greatness in our lives through the stories I tell.
The God we serve is a wildly creative and loving God. He didn’t just capture a small part of my heart, He has captured all of my heart. He will be reflected in everything I do and say; in my family, my work and my interactions with people from all walks of life, God’s love and God’s compassion is front and center.
All of that comes from the LOVE that God himself showered upon humanity when he gave the gift of joy and forgiveness on the first Christmas morning 2000 years ago. It is why I love Christmas stories and sharing true joy and true peace with millions of people around the world.
And in the sole motivation of pure love, I hope you’ll join me in sharing God’s hope for all the world this Christmas season. Call that my Christmas wish.