So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. – Acts 9:31
Saul’s turn to Christ also led to a turn of the tide of persecution against the early Church. Yet, this was at his personal cost. He was now the one being persecuted, hunted down like a prey.
It is not clear from this passage how long Saul had spent in Damascus. In Galatians 1:11-24, Saul wrote of this time. He went away into Arabia for a while, then returned to Damascus and stayed 3 years.
What was Saul doing in the 3 years? Verse 22 says he was proclaiming and proving that Jesus is the Christ. And when the non-Christian Jews wanted to kill Saul, Saul’s disciples hatched an escape plan for him at night by lowering him in a basket through a window. So in those 3 years, Saul made disciples! He must have been teaching them about Christ. Some of them may have been the fruit of his public witness. Thank God for these disciples who were willing to risk their lives to rescue Saul, and came up with an effective escape plan.
As we become disciples of Christ, the natural outflow is that we too disciple others to become disciples of Christ, and publicly witness to Christ. It’s never too early to do these.
After those 3 years, Saul escaped from Damascus to Jerusalem. There, he tried to join the church, but they were afraid of him, because he was still known as the persecutor of Christians. Thank God for Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who vouched for him as a true Christian. How do? Barnabas recounted Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus; he must have mentioned Ananias as an eyewitness and who prayed for Saul. Barnabas recounted how Saul had spent 3 years publicly proclaiming Christ in Damascus. Only then did the Jerusalem church accept Saul. There, Saul spent time with apostle Peter and James (Jesus’ brother).
Saul did not cease preaching in Jerusalem. Instead, he went about preaching Christ boldly. He argued with the Hellenist Jews over proving Jesus as the Christ. Soon enough, the Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill him. I guess Saul is one of those guys whom people wanted to kill when they couldn’t win the argument.
So the other Christians helped Saul escape back to his hometown Tarsus. And as a result of all this, verse 31 says the Church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace for a time. The persecution of Christians slowed down. And God did this by turning the chief persecutor to Himself. The chief persecutor became the persecuted one.
This verse is also significant because by this time, Jesus’ commission in Acts 1:8 was already fulfilled in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, such that the church could grow in these cities and regions. And this growth was because the Christians feared God, revered God, and the Holy Spirit comforted them through the challenges. The church grew despite persecution. The church grew despite peace. The most important thing is that the church reveres God. When the church reveres God, she lives according to what pleases God, she desires what God desires, she goes where God sends. And God the Spirit will empower her, comfort her, and go with her.
Whether in persecution or peace, are we revering God?