I"mmediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?"
But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ".
Saul Escapes Death
"Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket."
Saul at Jerusalem
"And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus".
The Church Prospers
"Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied".
"Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed." Then he arose immediately. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord."
Dorcas Restored to Life
"At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them".
"Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner". (NKJV)
In verse 18, Saul after he received his sight immediately got up and was baptized. This was the standard procedure after conversion for all the early Christian converts based on Acts 2:38-41. Saul has already received the gift of the Holy Ghost before his baptism. Now the Lord is preparing Saul for the active ministry. Saul is in a weaken condition, having gone without food for 3 days, so the Bible tells us in verse 19,Saul was fed, and he regained his strength. Saul remained in Damascus with the disciples there for a certain period of time. How long it actually was is not specified…but long enough to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ before he left Damascus. It was from Damascus that Saul traveled, starting his evangelistic ministry in Arabia, then before going to Jerusalem came back to Damascus, then after being gone from Jerusalem 3 years, returns to Jerusalem according to Galatians 1:17. (vs. 19)
Saul preaches Jesus Christ and confounds Jews at Damascus (verses 19-20)
Saul immediately from his first sermon preached Jesus Christ in the synagogues, declaring to the people under the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God, that is Jesus Christ is the Messiah! (vs. 20)
Further evidence of the power God placed in him to preach is found in the following Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16… 2 Corinthians 12:1,7…Galatians 1:11-16…and Galatians 2:7.
During the unspecified time he spent in Damascus with the disciples who resided there, Saul obvious studied the scriptures further, seeing he already had ample knowledge of the Law, They sought Jesus in the scriptures for years. The Holy Spirit showed him everywhere in the word that Jesus was the “Word made flesh” and as Paul declared to the Romans that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness sake to everyone that will believe it.
Note: Saul’s wiliness to be used immediately by the Holy Spirit was evidence that his conversion experience was real, that he was sincere in following Jesus and truly has switched his allegiance from the Sanhedrin and the way of the Pharisee to a friend and advocate of Jesus and the propagation of the Gospel message.
Reaction of the Jews in Damascus: (vs. 21)
“All that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests”?
They were amazed at his sudden change of heart and conviction. "Is not this he that destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and now does he call on this name himself, and persuade others to call upon it, and strengthen the hands of those that do?" Isn’t this Saul who persecutes the church and came here to Damascus to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem those who are members of the Way and dare to call on the name of Jesus?
Saul’s Response: increased in strength and confounded the Jews (vs. 22)
Here we can see the influence the Holy Spirit as he rest upon a submitted vessel.
a. Saul was so full of Christ himself, the Holy Spirit within him led him to preach him to others. As Jesus came to His own (the Jews) Paul was compelled to preach to the Jews first in Damascus in their synagogues where they refuted the Gospel , Christ, punish and afflict the disciples who professed Jesus and clung to the Mosaic Law. Paul faced the enemies of Christ where they were most daring, and
b. He preached Christ; that HE is the Son of God (Messiah) Paul said: “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus our Lord; nothing but Christ, and him crucified”. He preached concerning Christ, that he is the Son of God, his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased, and with us in him, and not otherwise. Paul overwhelmed them to the point tit angered them that he was so able to refute their arguments against .Jesus Christ in the same manner Stephen did. Ultimately, he cause them to rise up in a furor
II. First Murder Attempt Against Saul (verses 23-25)
The Jews (unbelieving) plotted to kill Saul. This occurred after Saul had been here 3 years and was about to leave Damascus the second time.
They secured Damascus and waited, watching the gates day and night for Saul to appear.
At night, the disciples in Damascus lowered Saul down out of the city in a basket.
Saul: In Jerusalem: “Shunned and rejected” Accepted by Barnabas (verses 26- 28)
Saul. Rejected by the Jewish disciples in Jerusalem (fear) (vs. 26)
He made every effort to get closely united to them, and to be in religious fellowship with them but had a hard time because of the following reasons:
They feared Saul still at this point and many thought his change of attitude and behavior was an elaborate trick to trap them and arrest and persecute them.
They found it hard to believe it possible that a person as hateful and fierce as Saul once was could be converted to the faith of Christ and make a complete “about face” in his beliefs.. They didn’t believe that some sins could ever be forgiven like murder.
The full power of Divine grace, in the conversion of the soul, was not yet completely known to any of the believers at this point. They understood repentance and the reason behind baptism for the remission of sin and the reception of the Holy Spirit to some degree.
The “church” was still somewhat in the early formative stages. Many doctrines were yet to be taught.
Barnabas took him and brought Saul before the Apostles in Jerusalem(vs. 27-28)
Barnabas took Saul (Paul) to see Peter and James. For some reason, you get to impression the apostles had not heard of the ministry of Saul. Apparently Barnabas was in Damascus at some point in time time during the unspecified time Saul stayed and preached in Damascus or while Saul did evangelical work traveling in Arabia. What we do know is he did take Saul to see Peter and James. Barnabas spoke up in Saul’s behalf to verify that he was a changed man.
Saul: In Jerusalem….Preached and Persecuted (verses 29- 31)
In Jerusalem, Saul spoke boldly (full of the Holy Spirit) in the authority (Name) of Jesus proclaiming Jesus Christ as Messiah, disputing against the “Grecians.” (Greek speaking Jews) (vs.29)
In response, the Grecians in angry opposition sought to kill Saul. At this point Saul was seen in the same manner they saw Stephen and Peter, as a blasphemer of the Law, the Temple and God. (2nd attempt on his life) but the brethren knew about it and helped Saul get to Caesarea. Saul began to see what Jesus meant when he told Saul through Ananias that he would suffer much because of Jesus Christ. (vs. 30)
The cost of true discipleship is very high to the extent it could cost you your life. From this point in Chapter 9 of Acts, you hear nothing else concerning Saul’s ministry. The next time you hear about Saul in any way is in Chapter 11:25. This verse earmarks 8 years of the life of Saul since his conversion experience outside Damascus.
Concerning the Welfare of the Churches (period of rest and prosperity) (vs. 31)
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied”. There were 5 evidences of “rest” during this time:
1. Rest or peace — no more persecution from the Jews
2. Edification or building up (the church got stronger spiritually)
3. Walking in the fear of the Lord (Holy reference for the Lord)
4. Walking in the comfort of the Spirit
5. Increasing in numbers (membership growth)
This verse describes briefly the blessings, purity, and overall state of the early church. The primary reason for the rest from persecution: There was a Roman edict at this time that made it mandatory that statues of the Roman emperor must be placed in the temple at Jerusalem. Rome sent an army to enforce this edict and had orders to destroy all Jews who stood in opposition to it. This action redirected the Jews focus with their own persecution thus leaving them no time for persecuting Christians. The conversion of Paul could not have stopped all the widespread persecution in all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
V. The Ministry of Peter (Continued) (verses 32- 35)
The healing of Aeneas (Palsy stricken for 8 years)
5 known types of Palsy According to Matthew 4:24
Many infirmities were included under the general name of palsy in the New Testament.
1. The paralytic shock, affecting the whole body.
2. The hemiplegy, affecting only one side of the body; the most frequent form of the disease.
3. The paraplegy, affecting all the system below the neck.
4. The catalepsy. This is caused by a contraction of the muscles in the whole or a part of the body, and is very dangerous. The effects are very violent and fatal. For instance, if, when a person is struck, he happens to have his hand extended, he is unable to draw it back; if not extended, he is unable to stretch it out. It gradually becomes diminished in size, and dried up in appearance. Hence, it was called the withered hand, Matthew 12:10-13.
5. The cramp. This, in Eastern countries, is a fearful malady, and by no means unfrequent. It originates from chills in the night. The limbs, when seized by it, remain unmovable, and the person afflicted with it resembles one undergoing a torture. This was probably the disease of the servant of the centurion, Matthew 8:6; and Luke 7:2. Death follows from this disease in a few days.
And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.(vs. 34)
Note: Peter said “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole”, for he had no power to heal but was used as an instrument whereby the Lord would bring forth healing. God chose to put honor upon those primitive preachers of his word, in order that men might see that they were commissioned from heaven.
Instructions given: Arise (get up), and make thy bed. Give now, full proof that Jesus Christ healed you completely, getting up and making up your bed. Aeneas was at home, and therefore was not commanded, as the paralytic person, to take up his bed; but he was ordered to make it up, that everybody might see that the cure was perfect.
The Effect: He got up immediately. Everybody from the region Lydda and Saron (Sharon) turned to the Lord and was converted.(vs. 35)
Healing in Joppa: Dorcas (Tabitha) (verses 36-43)
Tabitha was a woman distinguished for good works, but one day got sick and died. The people washed and prepared her body for burial, and laid her in the upper room. The disciples living there in Joppa heard Peter was in town and sent for him to come and see them.
Peter finally came and put everybody out of the upper chamber (as not to bring undo attention to himself or the woman) then Peter prayed, and turned toward her body and said: “Tabitha” (vs. 40)
Tabitha opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. Peter lifted her up by the hand, then called for the saints and widows and presented her to them alive. (vs. 41)
The word of this miracle got around all throughout Joppa and caused many to believe in the Lord Jesus. (vs. 42)
Note: This was the first miracle of this kind done through the Apostles. It wasn’t done as an act of benevolence, or the mean of strengthening the faith of the disciples, and gaining credit to the cause of Christianity. It was done also to bring many sincere converts to the Lord, so that the church was thereby both build up and multiplied.
Peter afterwards spent many days in Joppa living with Simon the Tanner.
Peter took advantage of the revival among the people by that went on in Joppa. He continued to teach and preach Christ. Peter lead them here for about three years Peter did not stay with the "millionaires" of Joppa, but lived in a humble abode with Simon the Tanner.
The “Culmination” of the First Period of the Christian Church:
During this period in the history of the church, the Gospel was preached to the Jews only. Prior to Acts Chapter 10, no Gentile before Cornelius was directly preached to. Salvation was of the Jews: theirs were the fathers, the covenants, and the promises, and from them came Christ Jesus; and it was right that they should have the first offer of a salvation which, while it was a light to lighten the Gentiles, was to be the glory of the Israelite people. When the Jews as a people and nation utterly rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the apostles turned unto the Gentiles. Among them the Christian church was founded; and thus the reprobates became the elect, and the elect became reprobates.
Culminating with the Dorcas being brought back to life from death, we have the ending of the first period of the Christian church. About 8 years had passed since Pentecost, during which time the gospel had been preached only to the Jews. Fulfilling Matthew 10:6; John 1:11; Romans 1:16. The church was founded by Jews and for Jews. God predicted that the Jews would reject the gospel, so He planned to change administrations (Matthew 21:33-46). The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was the beginning of that change.
Saul of Tarsus was not a man of a light, fickle, and uncultivated mind. His natural powers were vast, his character the most decided, and his education, as we learn from his historian, and from his writings, was at once both liberal and profound. He was born and brought up in a city which enjoyed every privilege of which Rome itself could boast, and was a successful rival both of Rome and Athens in arts and science. Though a Jew, it is evident that his education was not confined to matters that concerned his own people and country alone. He had read the best Greek writers, as his style, allusions, and quotations sufficiently prove; and, in matters which concern his own religion, he was instructed by Gamaliel, one of the most celebrated doctors the synagogue had ever produced. He was evidently master of the three great languages which were spoken among the only people who deserved the name of nations-the Hebrew, and its prevailing dialect, the Chaldaio-Syriac; the Greek, and the Latin; language which, notwithstanding all the cultivation through which the earth has passed, maintain their rank, which is a most decisive superiority over all the languages of the universe.
Dr. William Edward Boddie