Summary: It seems like the more faithful you are to Christ, the more worldly abuse and persecution you receive.
Last time we saw Saul being relieved of his blindness by Ananias. Saul hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days. Before he ate, though, he was baptized. And now begins his ministry.
READ v. 19. As I said, Saul has spent three days without food or drink. He was drained and wrung out. He immediately received food. It’s like he was so weak that he HAD to be fed. Whatever the case, he was strengthened by the food and by the Lord. So the food and the Lord were actively strengthening him. He was being strengthened by the food and by God so he could do what God wanted him to do.
After this, Saul joined and became associated with other believers. What happened to Saul was critical because it holds a message for every generation of believers. Saul joined the other believers because now he was a TRUE believer. His old nature was gone, his new nature had started. This is probably why Paul could say later on, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
He was bound to join others now with common interests and beliefs. He wanted to share in their fellowship, their love, their beliefs, their study of the Word, their growth in Christ, their building up of each other, their witness, and their service. What a change had come over Saul?
He became associated with the church so that the world might know that he was a believer. He wanted to openly and publicly declare that he was now a new creation in Christ.
READ v. 20. Saul didn’t procrastinate or hesitate. He immediately began preaching. What did he preach—that Jesus is the Son of God. He no longer preached religion, tradition, ceremony, or ritual. He didn’t preach his testimony of his experience on the road to Damascus. He preached Christ and Him alone.
READ v. 21. Saul stood as a testimony to the community. The public as well as the leaders of the synagogue were astonished at what they were seeing. They were expecting the old Saul, storming the homes and meeting places of those who called on the name of Jesus. They knew he had been sent to arrest and chain no only the men, but the women followers and to drag them back to Jerusalem for treason or death.
Instead, they were witnessing a man radically changed—a man associating and identifying himself with those he had come to destroy. They witnessed a man preaching like an evangelists, proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah and the Son of God.
READ v. 22. Saul was faithful and steadfast no matter what they thought was going on. Note that he continued to grow spiritually, increasing more and more in spiritual strength. The Greek words used for “grew more and more” meant literally to get stronger within, to gain inner strength, to increase spiritually.
Did you notice that the more he grew in the Lord, the more he was able to confuse those who opposed and reveled against the gospel? And so he continued to preach that Jesus is the Messiah.
READ v. 23-25. It seems like the more faithful you are to Christ, the more worldly abuse and persecution you receive. Saul had apparently been witnessing in Damascus for some time, preaching Christ and proving that Jesus was the Savior promised by God. He was strong in the Lord. His spiritual strength was evident and his preaching confused those who rebelled against the Lord.
So the Jews plotted to kill Saul. Why did they hate him so much? Because they considered him a traitor to their religion and nation and cause? Do you remember how friends and family treated you right after you became a Christian?
Saul was sharper than they were in a debate. He out-argued them and they felt ashamed and embarrassed. They were unable to get the best of him mentally and spiritually, so they set out to retaliate physically.
The message of the gospel convicted and threatened them. They convinced the civil authorities, the governor of Damascus, that Saul was a fanatic, a threat to the peace of the city. The Jews were so convincing that the governor sent patrols out on a manhunt for Saul and posted guards all around the city to prevent his escape.
But Saul escaped. Somehow he heard about the plot to kill him. Patrols and guards were everywhere. The city was surrounded by a wall. The disciples put him in a basket and lowered him down outside the wall. Saul’s faithfulness to witnessing wasn’t hindered by him being called a fanatic or by the threats on his life. Go will always make a way to escape if we are faithful in our witness. He will either deliver us from the difficulty or carry us through the difficulty.