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 9:26-31
Your Questions this passage prompted:
- Why was Barnabas the one to guarantee Saul before the apostles in Jerusalem?
- How come he is the only one who received Saul, while others were afraid (the natural response)?
- It seems like Barnabas knew a lot about Saul and even spoke about him to the other believer in Jerusalem. How?
- Can we assume the Barnabas mentioned here is the same person with the one mentioned in Acts 4?
- Why were the apostles in Jerusalem? I thought they were scattered and all left Jerusalem? Now it seems they are all back there again? I am confused?
- When Saul travelled all around to these different places was he “on the run” or was God leading him?
- Why are Jews always the ones how want to murder Saul, Peter and the apostles and Jesus?
- Are the brothers or brethren believers? Are these the people in the church?
- Why did they send him to Caesarea and then to Tarsus?
It seems when Saul first went to back to Jerusalem after his conversion that believers there didn’t trust him at all. They had not had the benefit of seeing him in action in Damascus as those there had done. As I said in an earlier Gem, at this time in Saul’s life his old friends, the Jews, were now his enemies and the Christians were wary of him. Saul was desperately in need of friends and supporters. Ananias had been the one to take him under his wing in Damascus. Now here in Jerusalem the task seems to have been given to Barnabas. Why was it Barnabas who took Saul under his wing? We are not told specifically. We are just told that Barnabas was the one who took hold of him. The word here is the Greek word [epilambanomai] – to take hold of, to take up, take on, to grasp. The text tells us that Barnabas took Saul and brought him to the apostles. There is more to those words than seen at face value. Barnabas accepted him and took him under his wing. It seems that he must have spent time with Saul to get to know him or check him out first. It was Barnabas who understood Saul’s journey so they clearly must have talked about Saul’s experience. As a result Barnabas is the one who becomes the go-between and explains to the apostles what had happened to Saul, namely that Saul had encountered the risen Jesus who had spoken to him. They of all people had seen the risen Jesus as well so were more open to the possibility in Saul’s case I am sure. I assume that Saul also told his testimony to Barnabas as well, much as we have it recorded in other places. Remember too that Barnabas was known as “the son of encouragement”. (Yes Barnabas is the same one who was mentioned in Acts 4). How typical of his nature for Barnabas to be the one to have taken Saul in and introduced him to the others. It was Barnabas who told the others that Saul had seen Christ and talked with Him. That said, what else needs to be said. The apostles are the ones primed and ready to believe it because it had happened to them too. The text tells us literally he went in and out among them. So he spent some time there with them getting to know them and they him.
We are told that Saul then spends time with the apostles and goes all around Jerusalem with them preaching boldly about the LORD. If you remember I drew your attention to the fact that the believers were scattered but many of the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem. They had developed enough boldness from their earlier experiences to realise God was going to protect as He had many times. They were learning that being in God’s hands is the safest place for anyone to be. They had come to understand that God would either keep them from harm or use the bad things that happened for their ultimate good. When you realise that important life lesson there is nothing more to fear. There is fear and there is fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord trumps (to use a card term) just plain fear any day of the week. It is an important lesson to learn and those disciples closest to Christ had learned that lesson. It was this new found boldness which was the seed of The Way.
That is a good question: was Saul “on the run” or was God leading him? A very insightful question. At times I am not sure Saul was sure of the difference between the two; that only comes with experience and knowing and understanding God’s prompting. But it seems those around Saul were largely instrumental too in warning him and helping him to flee. Like the Kenny Roger’s song you have “to know when to hold up and know when to fold up”. That is based on a sensitivity to God, learned over time. I have learned that it is only in retrospect that we understand that God knew all things and was taking us through what we have just been through for our good. In Damascus, those around Saul were the ones to encourage him and help him to flee out of the window and into the basket in the night. Now in Jerusalem it is the believers (the brothers, the members of the church) who took him away and went with him to Caesarea. They clearly got word that Saul’s bold preaching and debate with the Hellenistic Jews (those who had adopted Greek culture and were now speaking Greek) had caused them to want to kill him. Yes you are right Cynthia, it always seems to be the Jews who oppose Saul, Peter and the apostles and Jesus and want to murder them. Simply because they hold to Judaism strongly and passionately and sensed that this New Way was overturning all their traditions and things they held dear. Jesus came preaching a radical new message. Remember we investigated the relationship between the wineskins and the new wine. The two don’t mix. And when you try to mix them the old wine skins will burst. I am speaking metaphorically on the basis of Jesus’ parable on the matter. After all Jesus did say if they hated him they will hate His followers too. Therein lies the essence of the animosity. The words Jesus spoke to Saul must have been a major encouragement to him as to why all these things were happening.
And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’Acts 26:15-18
Notice the text tells us “they took him down to Caesarea (i.e. went with him to Caesarea) and then sent him on to Tarsus, his hometown, assumedly in the company of others. As I have told you before, travellers most often moved around in caravans or convoys so they had protection from thieves, highwaymen and looters. Especially so in this case when the Hellenistic Jews were now planning to kill him. So God again provides him with those who would protect him. The opposition would always be looking to for the moment Saul was alone, but the believers ensure that didn’t happen. If the opposition wanted Saul they would have to deal with them all. It was less likely they were bold enough to do that. Note that Saul, who was a Hellenistic Jew, has now traded places with Stephen, whose death his condoned, and is now the one who has taken on Stephen’s role to defend the faith and to make clear to the opposition in the much the same way Stephen did, the nature of this new Way. Ironic isn’t it?
Now for the last question in this bracket – Why did they send him to Caesarea and then to Tarsus? Another good question. Getting him out of Jerusalem to Caesarea on the coast was a good move. For one thing it increased his options to escape. Either he could have gone to Tarsus by road or by ship. There was a group of Christians in Caesarea who could help in the process. The Jerusalem believers escorted Saul to the coast and then likely some of the Caesarean believers escorted him to Tarsus and the Jerusalem believers returned. Why Tarsus? Why was Paul bound for there? Well largely because he came from there and so would have had contacts to look after him there and could have caught up with relatives there. But perhaps more importantly Tarsus was one of the free cities, a city of refuge. Was that more likely the reason Saul was taken there? I don’t know, you will have to ask him when you see him. Stand in line.
If complaining can solve my problems, I’d love to do it. But mostly, it only makes things worse, so I try not to.Ian Vail
Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your burdens.Ian Vail
Obviously patience is important. Why else would God create so many opportunities to teach you to wait?Lavonia Grabau
A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words!Ian Vail
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.John Maxwell