Sandy sedimentary layers and erosion makes pointy things.
Wednesday, 10 August 2022
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. Acts 9:26
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous verse had Saul (Paul) being let down through the wall of the city of Damascus in a large basket. We now see where he went after leaving there. Luke records, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem.”
As was noted in verse 9:19, Saul probably was converted, immediately went to Arabia, returned to Damascus and preached, and then was forced to leave “after many days.” From there, he went to Jerusalem. However, some say that he was converted, stayed in Damascus for an extended period, left there, and went to Arabia. After his time in Arabia, he then went to Jerusalem.
That is less likely and does not fit with Paul’s words of Galatians 1 where he says –
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.” Galatians 1:15-18
The two accounts fit more naturally with 1) conversion, 2) immediate trip to Arabia, 3) return to Damascus for “many days” (meaning Arabia and Damascus totaled three years – Galatians 1), and then 4) trip to Jerusalem. This, not the other scenario, properly reconciles Acts and Galatians. Now, while having finally returned to Jerusalem after such a long time, it says, “he tried to join the disciples.”
Nothing is said here of how he did this, nor is it explained in Galatians. But it may be as simple as having gone to wherever they met, knocked on the door, and tried to sit down and fellowship with them. However, it says, “but they were all afraid of him.”
Imagining the scenario just mentioned, we could see a couple of the disciples coming to the door and saying, “Yeah, we know who you are. You’ve come to spy on us and have us arrested.” There was terror in seeing him and remembering what he had previously done. Continuing on with that thought, it next says, “and did not believe that he was a disciple.”
Paul probably protested that he had been converted and was a changed man, but the fear of the past wouldn’t allow them to believe that he was sincere. Rather, they probably thought it was a ploy to get them to let their guard down, and then they would all be rounded up and arrested. This is all speculation, but it fits the idea of what Luke records.
The next few verses do not contradict what is now recorded. Here, the word “disciples” is used. In the next verse, and in Galatians 1, the word “apostles” is used. As such, the two accounts can be reconciled as the same visit without any difficulty. That will be seen when those verses are looked at.
Life application: The verses of Acts 9 are a long series of narrative style writing. Throughout the entire chapter, whether the focus is on Saul or Peter (coming later in the chapter), nothing is prescribed. This is generally how Acts is written. It is a recorded account of what occurred in the early church.
There are several healings (and raising the dead in one case) in Acts 9, which are then misapplied by modern churches and used as examples of how to heal others, claiming that all we need is faith to do what the apostles did.
The problem with this is that nothing in Acts 9 is prescriptive. Nobody takes the account of Paul being let down in a basket through a window in the wall as something that we should be doing. And yet, it is in the same narrative format as Peter’s healing of Tabitha later in the chapter (Acts 9:36-43).
Let us remember the context of passages when we evaluate them and let us remember the style of writing that is used. What is the purpose of what is being said? Why did the Lord include a particular story? How is it relevant to the greater story?
Be sure to ask such questions. The answer to them will then remind you that what is stated is not telling us to do the same thing, nor is it giving us instruction on how to do those things. It makes as much sense to use Peter’s healing of Aeneas (Acts 9:33-35) for a class on healing as it does to use the story of Paul’s escape from Damascus to have a class on basket weaving.
Stick to what is reasonable, and don’t get sidetracked by people who claim what is clearly not theirs to claim. For right doctrine, consult the epistles.
Heavenly Father, Acts is such a wonderful book. Thank You for how it confirms the things later referred to in the epistles, so that we have a sure and reasonable account of what occurred and why these stories given in Acts will later help with the explanation of right doctrine in the epistles. Each book has its purpose. So, help us to use them accordingly. Amen.