OCTOBER 22 - Nº 295 Acts 9:23-29; 22:17-21; 2 Corinthians 11:32 – 12:7; Galatians 1:15-21
The Jewish leaders in Damascus became concerned about the influence Saul was having on their people. Because of his teaching, many Jews were putting their faith in Jesus and claiming that he was the Messiah. Whenever the religious leaders tried to debate Saul, his arguments were far more persuasive than theirs. This upset the leaders so much that they plotted to kill him. They set a secret guard at the city gate and planned to capture him as he left town. But some of the new believers discovered the conspiracy and lowered Saul over the city wall in a large basket! After escaping from Damascus, Saul went back to Jerusalem. But the Jewish believers there were too afraid to welcome him—and the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him as a traitor! While he was praying at the Temple, and before he could meet with any of the apostles, the Lord spoke to Saul and said, “I want you to leave Jerusalem immediately! The people here will not listen to what you say about me.” Saul argued. He felt that he was the right person to convince the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. Since he had been so adamantly opposed and so recently converted to Christianity, he felt he could counter any objections the Jewish leaders might raise. But God had different plans. “Go,” He commanded, “and I will send you far away to the Gentiles!” God led Saul to Arabia (see Galatians 1:15-17). During the next three years the Holy Spirit revealed to Saul how important his ministry to the Gentile nations would be. Saul learned a lot about his new faith while he was alone in the desert. Later in one of his letters to the believers in Corinth, Saul wrote that he had actually been taken up into heaven where God had revealed amazing truths to him (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-7). This probably took place while he was in Arabia. When Saul finally returned to Jerusalem, he tried to join the believers there. But they were still too afraid to welcome him into their meetings or their homes. Only Barnabas (first mentioned in #289 - October 16) believed him and stood up for him. He personally brought Saul before Peter and James (the brother of Jesus). These two men had become the leaders of the church (the group of believers) in Jerusalem. Barnabas told them about Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and how God had spoken to him personally. He emphasized Saul’s boldness in sharing his new faith—even when he faced persecution. Because of Barnabas’ testimony, the apostles accepted Saul, and he lived with them for a short time. Soon other believers realized how genuine his conversion had been as he courageously taught about Jesus all over Jerusalem. But once again, some of the Jewish leaders who opposed Saul (and lost debates to him) became upset and plotted to kill him. When the believers in Jerusalem learned that there was a plot to take Saul’s life, they escorted him to the port in Caesarea and sent him back to his home in Tarsus in the country of Cilicia (now part of Turkey). During this time, the believers in Israel had peace for a while and their numbers grew.
When Saul became a believer, he exuberantly and academically defended his new faith. But he had so much to learn before he was adequately prepared to share it. God took him to Arabia—a quiet, desert place to teach him. When you find yourself in a spiritual desert, stop and listen! No doubt, God has something special He wants to teach you!