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In studying the conversion of Saul, we saw the initiation of the Sovereign God at work. Salvation is wholly a work of God by His amazing grace. He draws us to Himself and makes it possible for us to respond in repentance and faith. He removes us from bondage to Satan and makes us His own precious child. He baptizes us into the body of Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit so that we are members one of another. Yes He does all of this somehow without compromising our personal accountability to respond to the gospel command. He does not believe for us; we must actively trust Him.

When it comes to ministry we must take some initiative. Yes God is still at work in putting us in the right situation; Yes God is the one who has gifted us. Yes we can do nothing apart from the grace of God. But we must take the initiative or nothing happens. God gives us opportunities and we must act to take advantage of them. We must step out in faith and bear testimony to our Savior. We must open our mouth and proclaim the truth.

Today we will study Saul’s rookie ministry in two key cities: Damascus (the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world) and Jerusalem. I always go back to sports analogies and certainly for it being the offseason, the NFL has managed to dominate the news. First there were the activities last week at the combine where the incoming rookies got to show off their talents to try to improve their draft position. Then there is all the rhetoric and positioning about the labor situation. It is quite an adjustment for a rookie to step up to the highest level of competition and become a valued, contributing member of his new team.

Imagine a hated rival switching teams – it happens more now than it used to. There is a lot more player movement with the salary cap. Imagine the Ravens acquiring Heinz Ward or the Steelers recruiting Ray Lewis …. At least they would come to their new team with a lot of veteran respect …

But Saul entered into Christian ministry as a raw rookie – and one who formerly had a highly visible position of persecuting the church of Jesus Christ. How would he be received? How would he establish an effective ministry?


– From within the church – issue of acceptance; embracing the ministry; credibility

– From outside the church – opposition and persecution



A. (:19) Requirement #1: Integration Into the Church – Cautious Church –

Acceptance Into the Church – Becoming a member of the Team

“Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,”

1. Integration Stumbling Blocks – Skepticism and Fear

Must have been difficult for Saul to be so alone in his young faith; regarded as a traitor by the Jews who were so consumed with hatred for the Christians; isolated by the believing community until they had enough trust to accept him fully into their midst

You have to gain the confidence of people

What stumbling blocks do we put up for new believers? What cliques that make it hard for them to fit in?

2. Integration Sponsor = Ananias – reluctant at first to play this role but obedient to the insistent command of God

Wouldn’t we love to have a sponsor – someone who would go around to the Christian community and testify to the validity of the biblical model that we are advocating … you hate to have people who are attacking you – maybe even hoping you fail

3. Integration Success = emphasis in this paragraph – first two steps had been addressed in previous paragraph; it must have been a joy for him to fully join in with the believing community

B. (:20-22) Requirement #2: Involvement in Key Ministry – Confident Claims —

Aggressive Evangelism – Playing a Key Role on the Team

1. (:20) Boldly Proclaiming the Sovereign Deity of Jesus

“and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”

Amazing that he so quickly sets the example; in his new conversion zeal he cannot be restrained from proclaiming Christ

Guzik: It is true that young Christians shouldn’t hastily be put in positions of authority in the church (1 Timothy 3:6), but you don’t need a position of authority to serve the Lord!

MacArthur: Now Saul preached immediately, and he preached that Jesus is the Son of God. The content of Saul’s proclamation (Gk. kerugma) was teaching, or doctrine (Gk. didache). It didn’t include his testimony…and he had a testimony that wouldn’t quit. He could have told a story that would have made their hair stand on end. He could have produced a colossal testimony. He could have said, “Let me tell you what happened to me on the road to Damascus,” and related all the circumstances surrounding his conversion.

There is nothing wrong with your testimony, it’s just that your testimony is relatively inconsequential in relation to the importance of the presentation of who Christ is. Your testimony as a supplement to the gospel is fine, but your testimony as the witness itself isn’t enough. All good preaching and witnessing is doctrinal. Unfortunately the church has gone overboard on the testimonies of people and their experiences. I’m afraid that we have created a subjective approach to Christianity.

2. (:21) Befuddling the Masses with a Transformed Life by the Grace of God

“And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’”

3. (:22) Building Maturity by Focusing on the Sufficiency of the Promised Messiah

“But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”

C. (:23-25) Requirement #3: Improvising Expedient Contingency Plan – Close Call —

Assisted Escape – The Team has Your Back

1. (:23, 24b) Insidious Plot

“And when many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,” . . .

“And they were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death;”

Stott: We know from Galatians 1:17-18 that these “many days” actually lasted three years, and that during this period Saul was in Arabia. He need not have travelled far, because at that time the north-west tip of Arabia reached nearly to Damascus. But why did he go to Arabia? Some think he went on a preaching mission, but others suggest more cogently that he needed time to be quiet, and that Jesus now revealed to him those distinctive truths of Jewish-Gentile solidarity in the body of Christ which he would later call “the mystery made known to me by revelation”, “my gospel” and “the gospel . . . I received by revelation from Jesus Christ”. Some have even conjectured that those three years in Arabia were a deliberate compensation for the three years with Jesus which the other apostles had had but Saul had not.

2. (:24a) Intelligence Radar

“but their plot became known to Saul.

We see that Paul’s preaching had some converts and he made some disciples; one of them must have alerted him to the dangers

3. (:25) Improvised Escape Route

“but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.”

Kent: “his disciples” – Saul’s preaching had already won some adherents in Damascus

Talk about becoming a basket case!

Not a cowardly option, but an expedient and practical choice; don’t recant in the face of persecution … but don’t just naively accept it without attempting to avoid it and move on to other strategic ministry

A humbling and disgraceful experience for one used to a position of leadership and authority

Some people might argue that you should never leave a church situation – stay at all costs; God will work things out in the long run; but you have to be strategic about what you are doing as well


A. (:26-28a) Requirement #1: Integration Into the Church – Cautious Church –

Acceptance Into the Church – Becoming a member of the Team

1. (:26) Integration Stumbling Blocks – Skepticism and Fear

And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.”

Suspected of now trying to infiltrate the church by the Trojan horse methodology

Imperfect – repeated attempts to connect with the church

2. (:27) Integration Sponsor = Barnabas

“But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”

“son of encouragement” – took the initiative to knit Paul into the body of believers

Bock: “took hold of him” – taking him under his wing

Required some careful vetting; a rehearsal of his genuine conversion experience and transformed life

3. (:28a) Integration Success

“And he was with them moving about freely in Jerusalem,”

We know he spent 2 weeks there (Gal. 1:18)

Who are you with throughout the week?

B. (:28b-29a) Requirement #2: Involvement in Key Ministry – Confident Claims —

Aggressive Evangelism – Playing a Key Role on the Team

“speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews;”

Kent: This was the very work in which Stephen had engaged before his death. What must have been Saul’s feelings as he took up the same task which once he had helped to interrupt?

C. (:29b-30) Requirement #3: Improvising Expedient Contingency Plan – Close Call —

Assisted Escape – The Team has Your Back

1. (:29b) Insidious Plot

“but they were attempting to put him to death.”

Constable: Evidently Saul continued evangelizing in Jerusalem until it became obvious to the other believers that he must leave immediately or suffer death as Stephen had. They probably envisioned a recurrence of the persecution of the disciples that followed Stephen’s martyrdom.

2. (:30a) Intelligence Radar (cf. 22:17-21)

“But when the brethren learned of it,”

In Damascus, we see Saul himself getting wind of the plot; here the intelligence is gathered by the believing community

3. (:30b) Improvised Escape Route

“they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.”

Stott: his home town, where he stayed incognito for the next seven or eight years

We forget about the lonely periods of isolation and training in the life of Saul


Having seen all of these difficulties and challenges … why bother initiating new ministries?? Let someone else take the risk and put up with the headaches and the frustration.

It always gets back to being a faithful servant of Jesus Christ – and being genuinely concerned to bring the gospel to the lost who so desperately need it. 2 Cor. 3-4 – the Lord knows how the construction should take place. The Apostle Paul gives us the example to follow. Let’s be careful to build in the right fashion.

“Let a man regard us in this manner as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” 2 Cor. 4:1-2