God’s Word for You
Acts 9:19b-20 Immediately he preached the Christ
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 31, 2020
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 He began to preach about Jesus right away in the synagogues, that he is Christ, the Son of God.
The chronology we have of Paul’s life is especially dependent on Galatians 1:12-2:14. Paul tells us there the following details about this early period following his conversion:
a, God revealed his Son Jesus to Paul apart from the preaching of men (Galatians 1:15-16).
b, Paul did not consult with anyone about the gospel, nor did he even travel to Jerusalem at this time (Galatians 1:17).
c, Paul went from Damascus into Arabia (Galatians 1:17).
d, After three years, he traveled from Damascus once again to Jerusalem and met with Peter for fifteen days and saw no other apostle except the Lord’s brother James (Galatians 1:18-19).
It seems that Paul spent a part of the “three years” in the desert of Arabia itself being instructed by the risen and ascended Jesus Christ, personally. We needn’t imagine constant day and night tutoring from the Lord, but that Jesus appeared to Paul in visions or dreams, or that he appeared in person from time to time, coaching Paul and giving him truths upon which to meditate. The Arabia about which Paul speaks is the desert of Arabia that extends very far, many hundreds of miles, south of the Euphrates and nearly touches the horn of Africa. Its northern extremity, however, was at this time called the Kingdom of Nabatea, and it came very close to the eastern end of the city of Damascus itself. Paul merely had to travel toward the sunrise along Straight Street until he came to the last city gate, cross the river Abana (over which there are and were many bridges), and step out onto the sands.
At some point, Paul began preaching in Damascus. Did he do this before he went into Arabia, or after? Or did he return to town from time to time to preach what he had learned? Whichever was the case, it would seem that Paul spent the better part of the three years being instructed directly by the Lord Jesus, which, incidentally, is the same amount of the time that the Twelve Apostles spent being instructed by Jesus during his years on earth.
The content of Paul’s preaching was simple and clear: This Jesus is the Son of God; the Christ (Messiah). Paul used the formula of identity: the pronoun “he/this” (οὖτός) followed by “is” (ἐστιν) and the object’s identity, in this case, “the Son of God” (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ). This is the same formula used by Jesus in the Lord’s Supper with the elements identified as his body and blood. Just as Jesus’ meaning was that the bread and wine do not represent but actually are his body and blood when received in the sacrament (“this is my body”), so also Paul said that Jesus did not merely stand for or represent the divine ideal of the Messiah, he actually is the divine Messiah himself, the very Son of God. This was a complete reversal of Paul’s conviction as a Pharisee, and could only have been brought about in the way that we have read that it happened: The risen and ascended Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision, and through the proclamation of the law and the gospel (that same way that conversion happens for everyone), he became from that moment and forever a Christian.
Pastor Timothy Smith