Summary: Saul was an unusual convert, to be sure. But perhaps he can serve as an example of the things the new believers go through when they come to Christ. And we can also find out how we can encourage them by reaching out like Barnabas did.
Passage: Acts 9:19-31
Intro: There are times in our lives when we undergo dramatic change.
1. moving, starting a new school, a new job.
2. many factors in these changes, but one of the most powerful is the change in relationships.
3. separate from old friends, perhaps struggle to make new friends.
4. Now we might think of Saul as a person who would be beyond these kinds of personal struggles.
5. but he was a human being, and we are social beings.
6. let’s look at this passage from Saul’s point of view, and see how God ministers to our needs.
7. God cares about His children, seeks to meet our needs.
I. Saul’s Relationships Changed Dramatically
1. he had been the star, the hero of the Hellenistic Jews, as well as the Sanhedrin
2. he may not have been liked, but he was certainly appreciated.
3. but everything changed when he met Jesus.
4. enemies became friends, and friends became enemies.
5. v19, the people who feared him became his companions. That must have been some experience!
Il) imagine sitting down to eat with Osama Bin Laden! It is strange for me sometimes to sit with Russian friends and realize that they might have considered me their enemy at one time
6. the believers accepted him, but not the same with Jewish “friends”
7. “at once” he began to preach a whole new set of truths.
8. “Jesus is the Son of God”, an absolutely radical statement, and the very one he had been persecuting believers for believing!
9. also “the Christ”, which means he was the Messiah the Jews were looking for.
PP) Matthew 26:63
10. reaction? Astonishment at first, then murderous plans because they could not defeat his logic or Biblical knowledge.
11. Saul loved his Jewish brothers, and desired that they also believe in Jesus.
12. some of you know this kind of rejection. Parents, family, friends.
13. don’t think for a moment that Saul was somehow immune to the personal pain of rejection.
II. Saul Experienced Fear-Based Rejection
1. Saul escaped from Damascus with his life.
2. retraced his steps to Jerusalem, confident that he would enjoy the same fellowship with the disciples of Jesus that he had in Damascus.
3. I’m sure his heart was joyful as he anticipated how eagerly the disciples would welcome him.
4. v26, “they were afraid of him”
5. this fear based on doubt; that he had faked his conversion, that it was a trick, they the apostles would be in danger.
6. “he tried to join to disciples”, this is, the church in general. The Twelve were now called “the apostles”
7. he was powerfully rejected, denied fellowship with the church of which he was now a part. The cause? Self-focused fear on the part of the church.
8. and the church was now in danger of losing it’s greatest theologian and church-planting evangelist!
9. this happens, doesn’t it. Perhaps someone who found Christ in prison, perhaps someone of another race.
Il) politics aside, the influx of illegals into this country is causing in all of us a response of fear that threatens to impact many relationships.
10. whatever the fear is, we close the doors to God’s people because of the potential impact on us.
11. it may not be blatant, but it happens, especially in the small church.
12. very comfortable, people “just like us.”
13. we may not erect signs that list unwelcome people, but sometimes just ignore people who have not reached our lofty level of maturity.
14. this is exactly what happened to Saul.
III. Barnabas to the Rescue
1. good old Barnabas, who’s real name was Joseph.
2. apostles had given him the name “son of encouragement.”
PP) Acts 4:36
3. imagine poor Saul, friendless in Jerusalem!
4. Jews hated him, church afraid of him. If ever a person needed a friend, it was Saul.
5. v27, “But Barnabas took him and brought him…”
6. so many wonderful things here.
7. personal identification with Saul, dared to put his reputation on the line.
Il) if Saul was faking, Barnabas would always be remembered as the guy who caused the arrest and death of the apostles.
8. he recounted Saul’s dramatic conversion, powerful transformation, and essentially put his arm around Saul and said, “This guy is one of us, I’ll stake my life on it.”
9. brothers and sisters, we owe this guy a great deal.
-he had to get past self-focus and focus on someone else.
10. without him, Saul may have gotten discouraged and distanced himself from the body of Christ.
11. instead, he immediately began to “speak boldly in the name of the Lord”
12. his turnaround had the expected impact on his former friends; they tried to kill him.