For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to themhow on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Paul, who previously went by Saul, obviously had some passion. His persecution of Christians was passionate. However, after his conversion his zeal was turned toward good. Passion can be a good thing, but only if we are passionate for the good. It’s a double edged sword. I am a person who can have passion, but it sometimes leads me into trouble. The key is to let the will be directed by God and the emotions, or passions, to be directed by the will. When the will is a slave to our passions we become unstable and make big mistakes.
Paul also had great intellect. He had a great mind before his conversion, but his great learning was used for God after his conversion. I have heard stories of those who are suspicious of Christians with Ph.D’s or years in seminary. They say that God’s Holy Spirit is all that we need and that formal education is secular, or even worse – worldly. This suspicion of thinking seems to elevate ignorance to a virtue. However, I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said that God wants a child’s heart but a grown up’s head.
Finally, there is much in this passage about God preserving his people to complete the work that he wants to do. I have felt run down and unable to really throw myself into God’s work recently. maybe it is the result of working with Kelli to write our book. However, God seems to be working through me and giving me just enough energy to do what he wants. I have to discern if I am just being a ‘yes’ man, but when we follow God and wish for his work to be done, he will protect us and sustain us in order to complete that work.
Father, let us have passion to use the gifts that you have given us for your glory. Let us discern what you would have us do and then let us trust that you will preserve us.
- How are Paul’s gifts used by the church?
- Why would people want to kill him?
- Why would God preserve him?
- How have you grown intellectually, physically and spiritually?
- How does God use the gifts that he has given you?