Bible Reading Day 182
Day 182: July 1 (Acts 9:23-43)
Happy Canada Day! 😉
The conversion of Saul leads to many changes for the church, and for Saul himself. Since he has “defected” from the Jewish religious system, some of the Jews plot to kill him. Clearly the church, even in Damascus, is seen as a threat to the Jewish religious system. so much so, that these Jews thought it was their duty to eliminate this “enemy” of the status quo. It is interesting to reflect on how often God at work is a threat to the status quo; both before and after the resurrection. There are plentiful outbreaks of resistance to God’s activity throughout the New Testament.
Saul and the believers (they are not yet called Christians) hear about the plot to murder Saul and so he escapes by being lowered out of the city in a basket at night. While the city gates are closed the assumption is that nobody enters or leaves the city. Saul then goes back to Jerusalem as a changed man, but the believers don’t know he is changed, so justifiably they are afraid of him! This would be a problem, but for one man: Barnabas.
The one nicknamed “son of encouragement” takes Saul to the apostles. He tells them about Saul’s conversion experience, and the fruit of that when Saul preached boldly in Damascus. That would have convinced the apostles, and thus made Saul accessible to the church at large. What a difference Barnabas makes in Saul’s life! Who has God placed in your life to witness the good things God is doing and encourage you in them?
Despite the positive impact and influence of Barnabas, Saul is still a divisive figure. Even when a man is converted, his God-given personality remains. In Saul’s case, this includes an ability to debate, argue and confront. Whilst this is a gift from God, it still needs training, otherwise the result is simply offending others. Initially Saul preaches boldly as he accompanies the apostles around Jerusalem, but after a while he debates with some Greek-speaking Jews who try to murder him! Saul needs to learn how to direct his gifts for the benefit of God’s Kingdom, so they take him down to Caesarea and ship him off to his hometown for a while, to learn and grow.
Now that the chief persecutor is both saved and sent home, the church enjoys peace, and grows stronger. With the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Now we turn our attention to Peter for a while: he travels around to encourage the believers, and in Lydda he heals Aeneas (or more accurately, Jesus does). This is a powerful witness to everyone in the twin cities of Lydda and Sharon. They all knew Aeneas as a paralytic, now they see him made well, and many become believers as a result.
Meanwhile, in nearby Joppa, a well-known believer called Tabitha dies. The church sends for Peter to come because he is nearby. Arriving in Joppa, Peter prays for Tabitha and she is restored to life. The resulting wave of salvations mean that Peter stays there for a long time, living in the home of a leather maker called Simon.
So by the end of this chapter, a great deal has changed! The church has moved from persecution to peace, Saul has moved from Damascus to Jerusalem to Tarsus, and from enemy to friend of Jesus. Peter has moved from Jerusalem to Joppa, and God has moved in great power in many lives. He is working in your life too. Who has He placed in your life to witness and encourage your growth? And who around you will notice what God is doing?
Have a great day!