Saul the Student
Series: Pre Pauline Letters
Acts 11:27-30 ESV
Acts 13:9 ESV
Acts 11:30 (Willing to Serve)
Philippians 2:1-4 ESV
Acts 9:15 ESV
The next real mention we have in the book of Acts is in Acts 11:27-30, “Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”
Three things jumped out at me in the last part of that verse…
First, Saul was traveling with Barnabas who was one of Paul’s companions when he went on missionary journeys.
Second, even at this point he was still referred to as Saul. He was not yet called by his other name, Paul. We find in Acts 13:9, “But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.” Following that reference he was no longer called Saul, but he was called Paul.
Saul is a Hebrew name that means: one prayed for (https://www.thebump.com/b/saul-baby-name#:~:text=Meaning%3Aprayed%20for,Saul%20in%20early%20religious%20texts.)
Paul on the other hand is like the name Paulus and it means small or humble (https://www.thebump.com/b/paul-baby-name#.)
So, Saul humbled himself and became Paul.
I also noticed Barnabas was mentioned first before Saul, so the famous Pharisee Saul had taken a ‘backseat’ at this point. He was not sent to Judea as a teacher or as a person in charge. He was sent with Barnabas to deliver their gifts of charity.
When we consider Saul’s previous station in life as a famous Pharisee we know he would not have used his education and his talents as an errand boy delivering an offering.
No one else mentioned in this chapter had attained the same educational standard and training as Saul. None of Jesus disciples were as highly educated as Saul.
Only one of Jesus’ original disciples had a skilled trade that required expertise and training and that was Matthew the Tax Collector. Many of the disciples were fishermen.
When we meet Saul in Acts 11:30 he was willing to serve in any way possible, even to the point of delivering their offering in Judea.
It strikes me that the old Saul (prior to meeting Jesus) would not have been so willing to deliver an offering. He would have gone there to teach.
After reading of Saul’s willingness to do whatever he was asked to do, I’m inclined to see Saul in a whole new light.
He did not see himself the same way we knew him as a Hebrew Pharisee.
Later, Paul made that clear when he wrote in Philippians 2:1-4, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Do you see the change in Saul when he became Paul?
He was no longer highly educated Saul who gave orders when persecuting the people of the way.
After Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus he was no longer ambitious. He was not conceited. He valued the gifts of others.
Saul was no longer seeking his own agenda which included persecuting and bringing harm to others. Saul was learning to look out for the interests of others and join them there.
Saul was learning how to follow the Master.
At this point I’m not sure that Saul even had a long range plan. When he offered to go to Judea to deliver the offering the Christians had to share, he was looking to serve in any way possible.
The point is that when Saul surrendered to Jesus everything in his life changed. We know from Acts 9:15 when the Lord spoke to Ananias he said of Saul/Paul, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
It was God who chose Saul and renamed him Paul.
Paul was chosen to take the message of the Gospels to the Gentiles. Isn’t that more than interesting? Paul was Hebrew born and bred through and through. He was classically educated in Hebrew schools.
Isn’t that just like God to pull a switcharoo on everyone? It’s like God saw Saul and thought…wouldn’t it be wonderful to send a Hebrew of Hebrews to the Gentiles?
For whatever reason God saw something in Saul/Paul that he could accomplish with the Gentiles that was quite unlike anything anyone could imagine.
And he did!
Spiritual Practice: You
Ask God to show you what He sees in YOU.
In God, Deborah