The church centered on Jerusalem until Stephen was stoned. Then persecution – led largely by Saul - sent Christians flying away from Jerusalem (Acts 8: 1-3).
Isn’t that amazing?
The gospel spread out from Jerusalem to Judea and then to Samaria because Saul persecuted the church! In fact, Philip preached in Samaria because he was among “those who were scattered [and] went about preaching the word,” proclaiming Christ. Acts 8: 4-5
And this same persecution took the gospel to the outermost parts of the earth, the end of the earth – locations beyond Samaria. Like Damascus.
Why was Saul on the road to Damascus? Because “if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9: 2b).
Saul suspected that Christians (followers of “the Way”) were living in Damascus, perhaps having fled the persecution. Somehow the Gospel news had moved beyond Samaria.
Obviously Saul never arrived in Damascus to arrest any Christians, because he encountered Jesus on the way! When Saul DID arrive in Damascus:
…immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying,“He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 9: 20-22 ESV
I love it.
By his persecution of Christians, Saul ensured that the Gospel would spread with witnesses who moved from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria. And if the Gospel hadn’t made it to Damascus YET, the converted Saul (not yet renamed Paul) made sure that when he left, there were Christians in Damascus!
God spread Christianity to the end of the earth, first by Saul’s unconverted heart and hatred, then through his conversion – and his eventual missionary travels!
I also love the grace by which Barnabas (son of encouragement) took Saul under his wing and introduced him to the skeptical church in Jerusalem as a man changed. (vs. 27)
And what a change!
What proof that God can accomplish His will even through a horrific sinner… and that He can miraculously convert the horrific sinner in order to accomplish His will.
What hope for us! Amen!
Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 23:1-25:31, Psalm 78:40-55, Proverbs 20:3, Acts 9:19b-43. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).