Paul in Preparation
Series: Pre Pauline Letters
Acts 11:26 ESV
Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV
Galatians 1:13-17 ESV
Acts 9:20-25 ESV
Paul’s early days after his conversion would have been pivotal as he processed the monumental change in his life from persecutor of the people of the way to supporter of the people of the way.
In his new role as ‘supporter’ Paul was probably not trusted by the people of the way of Jesus.
That level of trust would take time. It also would have taken time for them to even hear about Paul’s conversion experience.
Then once they heard Paul was now a follower of Jesus, they would have needed time to trust him enough to accept him as one of them.
The followers of Jesus wouldn’t have even known how they would be identified to others.
We know from Luke’s account in the book of Acts that the people who were following the way of Jesus were soon being referred to as followers of the Christ. The term Christian was first used in Acts 11:26, “and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
Still, since there were no printing presses, it would have taken a while for the term to catch on. Use of the term would have been circulated by word of mouth from believer to believer.
At that time the new Christian’s were changing and growing rapidly and it stands to reason that God had a great plan for Paul. That’s because Paul was raised to be a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was educated and groomed to be a Pharisee. God knew nothing Paul had learned as a Hebrew scholar would be wasted and Paul would prove to be a great asset to the early church. Indeed, Paul wrote about half of the books in the New Testament. (There are 27 books and 13 or 14 were written by Paul.)
Paul understood the scriptures. He knew about church and church structure.
As Paul later wrote to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:11-16, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
We know from Paul’s letter to the church in Galatian that he went away for a time. In Galatians 1:13-17 Paul wrote, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
Even though Paul was highly educated and prepared to serve God, he still needed time to process and pray through the changes in his life.
After Paul left Damascus, we learn in the book of Acts how Paul responded when he left Damascus. In Acts 9:19-25 we read, “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 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?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.”
The disciples in Damascus heard Paul speak and (with the help of the Spirit) they believed Paul had been converted and sent by God to speak with them.
The report of the reaction to Paul is recorded in Acts 9:21-22 (as referenced above) “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?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”
Even when Paul went to Jerusalem, uncertainty surrounded him, “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. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how 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. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:26-28).
All of that groundwork occurred following Paul’s conversion experience.
Even though Saul had been zealous in persecuting the Christians, God knew after his conversion experience he would be a mighty warrior for Jesus.
Paul’s journey from persecutor to bold spokesman for Jesus was one crazy journey with God.
Paul’s life changed drastically. I can’t begin to imagine how a person could process such a drastic change. I am reminded (actually daily) that only with God and by the grace of God are all things possible!
Spiritual Practice: Change
Let God change you in some way today. If you are struggling with something, turn to God and give God permission to help you.
In God, Deborah