Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
There is nothing worse for a group of people who have an ally than when that ally turns on them. Saul had been the Jewish leaders ally and now he does a complete flip-flop on them. This actually becomes problematic for Paul on both fronts. One the Jewish leadership see Saul as a traitor and want him dead for it. Two the Christians don’t trust him because he was so actively persecuting him before. Saul finds himself in a Catch-22 situation until those few Christians that do trust him to help him out.
The first form this help takes it to get him out of the city of Damascus so he does not get killed by the religious leaders. The real help will come when a respected member of the church Barnabas lets everyone know that Saul’s conversion is legitimate. It is then that the church helps him truly get some place safe – his home town of Tarsus.
According to Galatians, Saul at this point spends some time rethinking his beliefs and coming to a better understanding of Christ before he ventures back into preaching the gospel. Really this time accomplishes a couple of things. One it gives everyone time so that a) the religious leaders are no longer actively searching for Saul and b) gives the church some time to accept Saul’s ministry and Christianity as legitimate. The next time we see Saul, he will have a new name and a whole new vision for himself and his place in God’s kingdom.
Next: Peter’s Ministry