Persecutor To Preacher

Opening Prayer

Thank God for the reality of true conversion. Pray for someone you know whom God might touch in this way.

Read Acts 9:19b–31

19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Reflect

Do you know anyone who is facing upheaval in his or her life right now?

Saul’s dramatic conversion from persecutor to preacher took time to sink in, and at first was not believed by many. It was his fearless preaching in Damascus, a matter of days after his conversion, that convinced the believers that his conversion was genuine. He preached that Jesus is the Son of God (20), doubtless relating his own story of meeting the risen Lord on the road. He preached that Jesus is the Messiah (22), probably drawing on his own knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures to prove this. But it was too much for some. When a plot to have Saul killed was uncovered, the very people he had come to Damascus to kill now saved his life (25).
Arriving in Jerusalem, the story is repeated. Mistrust leads to amazement and acceptance. Powerful preaching leads to opposition and a death threat from those outraged at his heresy. Once again, Saul must flee—this time back to the city of his birth (30). And so comes the calm after the storm (31).
By these extraordinary events, the church was being shaped. As we will see, much that follows depends on these moments of upheaval.

Apply

Pray today for the persecuted believers around the world. Can you take any practical action for their relief?

Closing prayer

God, give me strength to cope with life’s curve balls and the grace to see Your hand at work.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider