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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Day 321: The conversion of Saul

The Christians seem unstoppable, but the Jews have a secret weapon - a psychopath named Saul.
Saul persecutes the church
Acts 8:1-4
Philip’s ministry in Samaria
Acts 8:5-13
Simon the sorceror’s hypocrisy
Acts 8:14-25
Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch
Acts 8:26-40
Saul’s conversion
Acts 9:1-9
He preaches Christ
Acts 9:10-22
His escape
Acts 9:23-25
His early experiences
Galatians 1:17-19
Barnabas befriends him
Acts 9:26-29
He is sent to Tarsus
Acts 9:30-31

The death of Stephen seems to mark a change in the Jewish authorities’ policy against the Christians. They are no longer content to follow Gamaliel’s advice and see if it will all blow over - they are now declaring outright war on the Christians. Jerusalem is no longer a safe place for them, so most of them scatter for safety, preaching about Jesus wherever they go. Philip, another of the deacons, starts telling the hated Samaritans about Jesus, with great effect. He is then sent by God to talk to an important official from Ethiopia, who presumably carried the message of Jesus back home with him. The gospel is shooting off in all directions.
Other Christians have started a new cell in Damascus, and Saul sets off to try and root them out. Before he can get there, he has the most famous conversion experience in history. We don’t know what he thought about Jesus Christ, but I think it’s certain he didn’t imagine that he was hurting him. To be told by a blinding light, “You are persecuting me.” is food for thought.
Then a very brave little disciple is dispatched to pray for Saul, and the one time persecutor of the churches begins preaching in them.
It takes a while for him to accepted by the Christians though, and Barnabas is the person to break the ice. Paul, writing about it years later doesn’t mention him (they’d fallen out by then) but if it hadn’t been for him, he might never have been accepted, and the early church would have lost its best advocate and evangelist.

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