Our First Introduction to Saul of Tarsus and beginnings of Persecution
His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.Acts 7:58, 8:1-4
- Why does Luke introduce Paul as he does?
- If Paul was such a major figure of the New Testament why does he get such a bad introduction?
- Why does Luke split the coverage of (S)Paul into two parts?
- Is the persecution that came on the church linked to Paul? (Paul)
- It seems as though Saul was one of the religious leaders in Jerusalam, Ian. Is that true? (Cynthia)
- Did Paul really go from house to house to find the Christians and put them in prison? Could that happen to us? (Gillian)
Picking up on Saul Again . . .
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are You, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to Me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon Your name.” But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown. The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.Acts 9:1-31
Notice that we are not dealing with an introduction to Paul, we are dealing with the introduction to Saul. Oh you and I know it is Paul Luke was talking about, but Luke didn’t refer to him as Paul, he called him Saul consistently until a certain point. Have you ever noticed that before? Let’s stick closely with what Luke wrote for us. As Prof Brown used to say, “stick closely to the text before us. Let the text of what Luke wrote guide you in terms of what you investigate”. Notice the details of the way Luke approaches the introduction to Saul. Match that with the big picture markers and try to determine Luke’s purpose overall in the way he has begun the introduction of Saul. Notice too that in verse 32 Luke switches back to focus on Peter. So there are some higher level things you need to pay attention to as well as dealing with details given related to “Paul’s Testimony”. We all call it Paul’s Testimony but strictly speaking in Lukan terms it’s Saul’s Testimony. Luke knows Paul well. He spent some time travelling with him on his journeys. He knows this chief apostle as a close friend and travelling companion, yet for a time he refers to him as Saul and not Paul. But you will see there is a particular point where he switches from Saul to Paul. Take note!
If you don’t use the details of the text of what Luke wrote to guide you in what you follow up on, you are in danger of [eisegesis] and not [exegesis]. Exegesis is the standard Greek word for drawing out of the Scripture the point of what the author was intending. Eisegesis is a Greek word which means to read into the text something which was not intended by the author. At high school I used to argue with some English teachers who would tell us the point of a poem and what the poet was meaning. In some instance it was clear and in others it was cloudy and I felt we couldn’t tell if that is what the poet meant or not. So let’s stick to what Luke has written to determine what his intention was. More important than Luke’s intention is what was the God’s intention behind this book, the reasons why Luke was inspired to write the book the way he did in the first place.
If after your investigation you run out of leads from Luke to follow up on, read ahead on the macro scale and see what interesting things you find which you think are worthy of study. That is what a Deeper Bibler does. A CSU detective will not always find each investigative method will turn up something interesting on every occasion. Sometimes the leads we follow will come to a dead end. When that happens we have to go back to the start again. It always helps to know what is ahead in order to rightly interpret the passage before us at any one time. Spend some time at some stage over the break looking on the macro scale at what Luke has written for us. Notice he switches back and forth between Saul and Peter and suddenly we realise we are talking about Paul and not Saul. It happens subtilely. It kind of sneaks up on you. Like Mary, ponder these things in your heart. See what jumps out at you and follow up on that. Remember to look for specific details and get a feel for the big picture at the same time. To get the big picture you have to read large connected portions.
The quality of your life is set by the questions you ask yourself. The more honest & brave the questions, the further you’ll go.Rick Warren
Life is less a matter of getting the right answers and more a matter of asking the right questions.Anon
A wise man can learn more from a foolish QUESTION than a fool can from a wise ANSWER.Anon
Always ask this question: If I don’t have time to do it right, will I have time to do it again?Ian Vail
Ask yourself what makes you come ALIVE. Now go & DO that. Because what the world needs is people who have come ALIVE.Sidney Mohede
Be in church. Be in the Word. Be in prayer. This is where your enthusiasm for God and life are found.Ian Vail
Change not only focuses on the outer man, it should include the inner man as well! God wants to give you a makeover from the inside out!Anon