God’s Word for You
Acts 9:30-31 A time of peace
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 11, 2020
30 When the brothers learned about it, they brought Saul down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
To better understand this verse, let’s listen to Paul’s own recollection from Galatians:
“Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:21-24).
Later, Paul recalled that Jesus had appeared to him in a vision at this time:
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. ‘Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 22:17-21)
Putting these events together, we see that after Paul had been in Jerusalem for two weeks the Hellenistic or Grecian Jews were already plotting to kill Paul. Then Jesus appeared to him in a vision and urged him to leave. Paul objected! What a powerful believer and how confident he was in his faith already at this point that he could object to a command from God to leave a dangerous situation. But Jesus, the Head of the Church, had plans for Paul. He didn’t want him destroyed by the Jews before he could preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The Gentiles would not be furious with Paul’s preaching the way that the Jews were. The Jews saw him as a traitor.
The Christian brothers in Jerusalem took Paul west to the coastal town of Caesarea. From there, he traveled north through Syria to his home in Cilicia, the city of Tarsus. He had not traveled extensively in Judea, and “was personally unknown to the churches of Judea.” Now he was going home.
Luke’s account leaves Paul at this time. When Paul returns to the sequence of events in Acts 11:25, several years will have passed. This part of Saul’s life reminds me of the life of Moses. After a murder was on his hands when he first tried to exercise his zeal for God’s people, the Lord sent him away for a while, to learn, to meditate, and to be prepared by God for the work he had ahead of him. Moses spent forty years as a shepherd in Midian, until he was eighty (older than most pastors today when they retire from ministry). So Saul also was sent away to learn, to meditate, and to be prepared by God for the work he had ahead of him.
31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, its numbers multiplied.
Once again, the church knew a time of peace and peaceful growth. Just as Jesus had commanded at his ascension, his followers had been his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8). What remained was the order to continue “to the ends of the earth.” The conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus had ended the persecution of Christians in Judea for the time being. No one rose up among the Jews or Romans to take Saul’s place as the great persecutor of the Christians. It would be the same Saul, soon to be known as Paul, who would be the primary instrument God would use to take the gospel to the limits of the Roman world. Paul would carry the gospel into Asia Minor, across the Aegean into Greece (and therefore into Europe), to Malta (Acts 28:1), to Sicily (Acts 28:12), to Italy and Rome (Acts 28:13-14), and perhaps even as far as Spain (Romans 15:24). Persecution had driven people outward, away from Jerusalem and Samaria, but they took the gospel message with them. Now the church had a space of time in which to grow spiritually and be strengthened by the word of God and the sacrament. The people lived their faith (“in the fear of the Lord”) as Isaac had once lived, doing whatever was necessary to live out each day and to care and provide for his family and the people who looked to him for leadership and support. Isaac saw to it that they had water in the desert (Genesis 26:18) but also that they heard the word of God (Genesis 26:25). So it should be with us. Even in a day of trouble or grief, we need to see to it that our families are fed and provided for, and that they hear the word of God for comfort, for strength, and for the health of their immortal souls.
Pastor Timothy Smith