I have to imagine that Paul was one of those people that created a buzz everywhere he went. People always expected something to happen when Paul was around.
Early on, it may have been vigorous study of Torah. Paul probably knew it better than anyone else around.
Then, there were those times of persecution. With that rascally church on the rise, people knew that when Paul was nearby, persecution, death, and destruction wasn’t far behind.
And after his conversion at the beginning of Acts 9, there was still the excitement and buzz, but it was somehow entirely different.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 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?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Acts 9:20-31
Paul probably didn’t have the start to his Christian life that anticipated. He started preaching and everyone was baffled. This same Paul, who had once been a great persecutor of the church, was now preaching that Jesus was the Messiah.
And people didn’t like it. Soon, there was a conspiracy to kill him. Paul escaped through a window. Paul’s start to ministry was to flee for his life in the middle of the night.
Feeling to Jerusalem, Paul eventually gained the trust of the disciples and debated in the synagogues of Jerusalem, before he was ultimately on the run again because a new group of people wanted to kill him. Paul runs to his home town for a time of further preparation, but the course of his life had already been foreshadowed: the great persecutor turned apologist for the early church would spend his life preaching and wondering about his future security in life.
As we read this story of Paul, we can learn three things for our own time.
1.) It’s never too late for grace. We like to think that sometimes we have it all figured out, that we can plot the course of someone’s life. We offer something like, “That’s just them. They’ll always be like that.” I think Paul’s story reminds us that it’s never too late for a dramatic life shift, it’s never too late for grace.
2.) God’s provision is sufficient. Paul would spend many of his future nights worrying about his life, but throughout it all he knew that God would sustain him. People wanted him dead, but he firmly believed that nothing would happen outside what would bring God glory.
3.) God always calls and equips the least likely candidates to advance his Gospel the most. Yes, Paul was well educated, but he seemed like an unlikely candidate for Christian apologist. God calls and equips those, that by earthly standards, would be easy to dismiss as too stone-hearted, uneducated, or ill-equipped.
What do you notice in the story of Paul?