Summary: Acts records the breathtaking story of Paul's escape from Damascus, being lowered down the city wall in a basket. This aid to a new bold believer by fellow Christians is a symbol of how the church must disciple and aid new believers, missionaries, etc.
HOLDING THE ROPES FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
A. HUMOR: IDEAS OF RELIEF
1. When their car broke down in the desert, John, Paul, and Tim the Aggie decided to go their separate ways.
2. John took the radiator out of the car so he would have some water for the way. Paul took the mats from the car so he could shield the sun a bit.
3. Tim the Aggie, however, removed the door and started to walk. “Wait a minute,” said John. “Why are you taking the door with you?” “In case I need some air,” replied Tim. “I can roll down the window.”
B. ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY THE GOSPEL
1. Emperor Diocletian in 303 A.D. issued 4 proclamations to wipe out the Christian faith. For 8 years persecution swept the Empire.
2. Many churches were demolished. Many copies of the Bible were burned. Christians were killed.
3. To the Emperor, the purge looked so complete that he issued a new coin with the inscription, “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods is restored.”
4. What he didn’t know was that God had a call on the next emperor – Constantine (313 A.D.) – who established the Roman Empire as a Christian Empire! You can’t stop God!
5. The French atheist Voltaire boasted in the 1700’s that in 100 years Christianity would cease to exist, but within 50 years the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to publish Bibles (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, 1986, pp. 123, 124).
6. The Communists gathered Bibles and burned them. Hitler burned Bibles and declared he would write his own.
7. Nations have risen and fallen, but the Word of God lives on! Emperors, Kings and Dictators have attempted to stamp it out, but the Word of God lives on!
8. Many philosophers and educators have mocked the Bible, but today they are dead and the Word of God lives on!
C. CONVERSION OF THE GREATEST PERSECUTOR
1. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the greatest persecutor of the Early Church, was a turning point in the history of Christianity. His vision of the Risen Christ was one of the most compelling confirmations of Jesus’ resurrection!
2. The Bible tells what happened after his conversion: ACTS 9:20-25; “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. 23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.”
2. Paul retold the story in 2 Corinthians; “In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.” 2 COR. 11:32-33.
1. Paul had an exciting life, but also a dangerous one. Here we find Paul’s life threatened. He must get out of the city of Damascus or be killed. Under cover of darkness his Christian friends lowered him over the city walls to safety -- an example to believers of all ages as to what our responsibility is before God to provide for the next generation.
2. Paul would become the greatest teacher, preacher and missionary the world had ever known. Yet he would’ve been stopped before his great ministry had hardly gotten started, if not for other Christians coming to his aid.
3. We have a duty to “hold the ropes” for the next generation -- for at least three different groups; THE CHURCH, NEW BELIEVERS, and for MISSIONARIES.
I. HOLD THE ROPES FOR THE CHURCH
A. THE CHURCH HAS HAD DANGEROUS HOURS
1. Like Paul trapped in Damascus, the Church has also had moments when it appeared its existence was in jeopardy. This is true of the Church as a whole, but also of individual churches in particular.
2. Just as it is important for the first church among a people group to survive, so it’s important for a local church in a community to survive; it is God’s vehicle to reach that community. Paul called the Church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15).