Sunday, 14 August 2022
When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. Acts 9:30
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The last verse revealed that the Hellenists had determined to kill Saul (Paul). With that, Luke now records, “When the brethren found out.” These words show that either Saul had already heard the threats and ignored them or that someone simply heard, and it became more widely known among the brethren.
The first option is not unlikely. Saul had a defiant streak in him that will be seen again and again in Acts. A good example of this is found in Acts 21 –
“And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’
12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’
14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’” Acts 21:10-14
However, the second option is also something that occurs elsewhere in Acts –
“And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. 14 They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.’
16 So when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him.’ 18 So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, ‘Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you.’” Acts 23:12-18
One way or another, the word concerning a threat to his life would get around and either Saul would ignore the danger, or he would have someone work on his behalf to get him out of it. In this case, it next says, “they brought him down to Caesarea.”
Instead of staying in order to continue to challenge these belligerent and threatening Hellenists, Saul leaves Jerusalem and travels to Caesarea. A trip from Jerusalem to anywhere else is always considered traveling “down.” As for the location, this is Caesarea Maritima which is a port by the sea. It was built by Herod the Great around 22-9BC. Its ruins are still there today including the great aqueduct and the amphitheater along with many other areas of note. A short video on the location that is well worth watching can be seen at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ71dph8qE8
Another point about these words, “and they brought him down,” is that Saul is almost always seen being conducted by others. This could be chalked up to simply protecting his life from the Hellenists. However, due to the frequency of such comments, it appears that Saul was not suited to traveling alone. Instead, when Acts is taken as a whole, it seems to appear that he required assistance getting from one place to another. Regardless of this, though, it was certainly a testament that they had accepted Saul and it validated that they believed he had truly become one of them. With that, it next says they “sent him out to Tarsus.”
This is where Saul was from, and it had now been an extended period since he had been there. A period of at least four years, and maybe more, had gone by since his being in Tarsus. The narrative will return to Jerusalem after this verse, but Saul’s time away is referred to by him in Galatians 1 –
“Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ 24 And they glorified God in me.” Galatians 1:21-24
While in Tarsus, he certainly would have evangelized others, and he went into these other regions as well. During this time, he probably took up his old source of employment which was making tents. It is something he could do anywhere, and it would pay for his travels as he went. During his time in Syria and Cilicia, he obviously had made converts. This can be deduced from Acts 15:41. There, it records details of the second missionary journey and refers to churches not mentioned on the first missionary journey –
“And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Acts 14:39-41
It is probable that these churches were established by Saul before he is reconnected with the details provided by Luke in Acts.
Life application: Even when out of the main picture of Acts, it is seen through a careful study that Paul was always staying active in his evangelism. It is not uncommon to hear someone say today, “I just need to get away from it all for a while.” This is even seen among Pastors who take a “sabbatical” in order to unwind. Such a notion was unheard of to Paul. There was no unwinding but rather a constant focus on his life’s mission.
Paul evangelized while in prison. He evangelized while traveling. He evangelized at the synagogues on the Sabbath and to both Jews and Gentiles throughout the week. It didn’t matter where he was or what secondary thing he was engaged in, he was telling people about Jesus. With prosperity, we have forgotten what it means to be focused. When enough time for a vacation is earned, we drop every remembrance of what we have been focused on and redirect to time away. How blessed we are that we can do this, but how unfortunate if we don’t carry the message of Jesus along with us.
Regardless of where we are going and what other things we are doing, let us not forget to continue to let people know our allegiance to Jesus and then share why we hold to it. As we travel, we may be the only ones the people we encounter will ever talk to about Jesus. If not we, then who?
Lord God, how faithful You have been to us. We called on You when we heard the gospel, and You saved us. Now, it is our turn to tell others about this same wonderful message of hope. May we get about it and tell! People need to hear this good and precious news. So be with us and prompt us to do so. To Your glory! Amen.