- Sermon Notes
Embracing the Changed
Illus. Can and will.
This morning we continue in Acts 9 and we see the beginning scenes associate with Saul’s changed life. He had met Jesus on the road to Damascus powerfully, and from there he begins to preach. As we pick up the story, we are going to look at the approach toward Paul from different groups of people, and ask ourselves the question, how should we, as God’s people approach changed people.
When Jesus receives a person, and sets them free, what should our posture toward them be? We of all people, those who have received extravagant grace, love, and mercy, should be a people who are ready, willing, and able to embrace the changed, and walk with those who have be transformed by Christ.
Read: Acts 9:20-31
After Saul gives his life to Christ, he spends several days with the disciples in Damascus, and then immediately begins to preach the in synagogues. Saul would be amongst Jewish people in the synagogues, those who had heard stories about Saul, the one breathing threats and murder toward Christians, but now they would be surprised to hear him preach about Jesus Christ.
Their first reaction and response would be questions about his new direction and how different it was from what they had seen previously from his life. And this brings us to the first point this morning in embracing the changed in this life.
- Get on Board Where God’s Good Work Begins
- Saul’s message to the people in the synagogues was a message about Jesus, he proclaimed the name of Jesus by telling the people “He is the Son of God.”
- This is the only time in the book of Acts that the phrase “Son of God” is used.
- In Jesus’ day, to be called the “son of” something or someone meant total identification with that thing or person, their identity was your identity.
- When Jesus was on trial in Matthew 26:63, Jesus is asked whether he is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus responded, “it is as you said,” and because of His response, he was accused of blasphemy, of calling himself God, and was sentenced to death. By acknowledging that He is the Son of God, He was confirming that He is God.
- As Paul begins preaching in the synagogue, he is claiming the same, Jesus is Lord, He is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
- In verse 21, we read that all who heard him were amazed. The word there in Greek carries the meaning of being thrown out of position, displaced, to be beside oneself, or out of one’s mind. They were shocked.
- Verse 21, “Is this not the one who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”
- Perhaps their expectation when Saul showed up was that he would begin arresting Christians. This was the reason he came to Damascus in the first place. In the beginning of the chapter, we learned he had obtained letters from the High Priest to seize Christians and take them back to Jerusalem in chains to stand trial.
- They seem to be thinking, is this a joke? Isn’t this the guy who destroyed people to spoke this way?
- The people were skeptical, and based upon history, the reality of the situation is, you and I would probably be skeptical too. But this scene is only the beginning. It is the beginning of the good work God was beginning.
Philippians 1:6, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB 95’)
Acts 9:22, Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
- The Lord was perfecting the work in Saul day by day, and we see that he increased in strength and as he did, his direction was made more and more clear.
- Paul took to confounding the Jews, which means literally to throw into consternation. He continued to debate and educate the Jewish people. He would put together Old Testament prophecies and tie them to the life of Jesus Christ, using his education and understanding to point the people to Jesus Christ.
Acts 9:23, When many days had elapsed…
- In verse 23, we read that “many days had passed,” which many believe is a period of three years.
- Verse 23 to 25 is a time more clearly defined in Galatians 1:16-18. It is there Paul tells us that after he gave his life to Christ, he did not go up to Jerusalem immediately, but he went away to Arabia, then returned once more to Damascus and three years later, he went to Jerusalem.
- In verse 26 we will see him go to Jerusalem, so it seems that the three-year period is most appropriately tied to verse 23, where “many days had elapsed.”
- Paul would spend that three-year period preparing for the powerful ministry ahead.
Galatians 1:11-12, For I would have you know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel which was preached by me is not of human invention. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
- After three years, Paul returns, he begins preaching more powerfully than ever, but the people he was once a leader amongst, those who once listened to him and cheered him on in the pursuit of his life to do away with Christians, were now done with him, they wanted his life to end.
Acts 9:23(b) – 25, …the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also closely watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.
- What Paul experienced is a picture of what can happen to the changed that I think we must acknowledge.
- The people they once hung with, the people who once enjoyed their company, or cheered their walk and way of life previously, are not generally on board with the good work God begins.
- This is to be expected, we understand this. Based on Saul’s own posture toward those who had chosen and given their lives to Christ, he was probably not surprised that they wanted to do away with him…
- But what would things look like after he left the Jewish people and began to attempt getting involved with the Christians?
- Take to Taking Hold of Others
Acts 9:26-27(a), When he came to Jerusalem, he tried repeatedly to associate with the disciples; and yet they were all afraid of him, as they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles.
- Saul had come to Jerusalem after escaping the threat of death, and upon arriving in Jerusalem, he repeatedly tries to associate with the disciples.
- The picture we get is that he was trying to associate, but was having no success, and the reason he was unsuccessful was that the people were all afraid of him, and they did not believe he had truly given his life to Christ.
- I would imagine that Saul was looking forward to meeting and being around the church in Jerusalem, that he was looking forward to associating with the disciples.
- Surely, they would understand the reality of a changed life!
- But nobody in the church group, none of the disciples believed he was converted. They were suspicious, they knew who he had been, they knew of his approving the death of Stephen, many of them had likely experience his severe persecution.
- Saul seems to be a man without a home at this point. He is not welcome in the synagogues, not welcome in the temple courts, all who see him from his previous life see him as a traitor after he gave his life to Christ; and now the early church won’t accept him. He is a man without a home.
- The question for us as a community is, when people attempt to leave their past behind show up to the church, what will they find?
- We don’t know exactly for how long or how many days Saul’s attempts went on, but we know we was welcomed in after Barnabas took hold of him.
Acts 9:27, 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 he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus at Damascus.
- Barnabas was introduced to us in Acts 4:36, his birth name was Joseph, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means the “Son of Encouragement.”
- Here Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, encourages Saul by taking hold of him and bringing him in. He heard Saul’s story, learned about his ministry, took hold of him, and welcomed him in.
Matthew 5:7, Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Luke 6:37-38, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
- The word “give” is often associated with giving financially. But from the context, we understand that Jesus is talking not of money, but of mercy.
- If you are merciful, forgiving, and compassionate towards others, then when that is what you need, it will be given to you. But if you are judgmental and merciless, when you need mercy from others, judgement will be merciless to you.
James 2:13, Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
- In comparison to what the fruit of Saul’s ministry would eventually be, what Barnabas was able to see and say was pretty limited, still, he chose mercy.
- Here is what Barnabas knew at the time, he had heard that Saul had seen Jesus on the road, that Jesus had spoken to him, and that he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus at Damascus…. That is all he had to go off at the time.
- The body of Saul’s work for the kingdom was not complete, it had only just begun.
- Know that it Takes Time for Fruit to Grow
- While it takes time, we know that fruit is an important component.
Matthew 7:1, Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
- Certainly, there are many ways in which the term “judge” can be understood.
- In Matthew 7, Jesus is referring to the private, judgmental attitudes that judge a person to the point of condemnation.
- Many might throw around the phrase “don’t judge,” assuming that Jesus is commanding universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching.
Matthew 7:15-16, Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…
- Certainly, this requires discernment, assessment, and identification.
- Jesus also encourages to caution and advise others who are going the wrong way in order to help them.
Matthew 18:15, If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
- Paul instructs the early church to keep an eye on those who cause division in the church ( 16:17).
- So, there is a need to judge, but that need is for restoration and identification, not for condemnation.
- Because I care for another, I am willing to go to them directly, and point them back to the Lord for the purpose or restoration.
Illus. What will it be?
- Know that fruit takes time to grow, and also that fruit can be checked on as it is grown.
Matthew 7:16-17, You will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
- Jesus is not talking about judging, and condemning another, He is talking about discernment.
- We guard ourselves from false prophets by taking heed to their fruits.
- With all this said, Jesus said you will know if people are ravenous wolves inwardly by their fruit. But it is important to know that the fulness of the fruit is not fully going to be seen at point a person gives their life to Christ.
- So too, when you plant a fruit tree, it takes time for the fruit to grow. There are little signs of fruit and over time you will see the fullness of the fruit. It is the same with people, it is the same when we embrace the changed. The fullness of the fruit in their lives is still yet future.
John 15:4-5, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.
- Barnabas went off what he knew, what he could see, he knew that the fulness of the fruit was going to take time to grow.
- The people in the church were ultimately willing to welcome Saul in.
Acts 9:28-29, 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.
- From Galatians 1:18 we know that Saul stayed in Jerusalem for 15 days. He went and preached boldly to the same group Stephen had previously preached to…And just like Stephen, they desired to put Saul to death.
Acts 9:30-31, Now when the brothers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace, as it was being built up; and as it continued in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it kept increasing.
- When we embrace the changed, we choose to pursue what Jesus would do. And in this life, we are His hands and feet, let us be a people who embrace and equip the changed.