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Study in the Acts of the Apostles

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  1. Study in the Acts of the Apostles Presentation 20

  2. Reaction To Conversion Chapter 9v10-31 Presentation 20

  3. Introduction When a man is converted, changed by the supernatural intervention of God, then a whole variety of reactions are set into motion. Some, perturbed by the thought that God can change other people's lives, try to explain away this change. In Paul’s case some have tried to explain away his encounter with God by suggesting he was struck by lightening, or that the glare of the sun burnt the corneas in his eyes, or that he simply hallucinated. There is no end to man's ingenuity as he tries to dismiss God at work in the human heart. It is therefore helpful to be aware of the reaction to Saul's conversion. Presentation 20

  4. Reaction Of The Church The first reaction to note is one of incredulity, v13, "God you've got it all wrong, Saul can't be one of us". Ananias was convinced that God had made a mistake. He doubtless adhered to a creedal statement that said, God could do the impossible. But in practice he found that hard to swallow! Are we like that? How big is your God? How great is his power? How far-reaching is his grace? Is he only able to influence lives that stand tottering on the threshold of his kingdom, where all they need is a little nudge, or is he able to turn those who are determined to run away from him for all they are worth? Do we expect too little from God? Presentation 20

  5. Reaction Of The Church After his conversion, the thing Saul needed most was acceptance. During his three days of blindness he must have given thought to what now lay ahead. He would be ostracised from the Jewish community and ridiculed by former friends. He must have felt terribly alone, vulnerable and exposed. Ananias, having had his thinking straightened out by God, laid his hands on this former persecutor and said, "Brother Saul". Imagine the sense of belonging that those two words gave. Presentation 20

  6. Reaction Of The Church There is an important lesson to be learned here. When the church comes across people who have abandoned their former sinful way of life and as a result have been estranged by family and friends, then her task is one of loving acceptance. And that involves much more than a friendly smile and a warm handshake. It involves opening our hearts to them and making them feel that they belong. It means assuring them that they are part of the family of God. God can help us do that! Presentation 20

  7. Reaction Of The Church Secondly, the church in Jerusalem were suspicious of Saul's claims v26. They weren’t convinced that his conversion was genuine. They felt Saul had an ulterior motive in joining the church, perhaps to spy on them prior to making multiple arrests. You may feel that with Saul's track record their fears were justified. He was a man with a reputation to live down! As a result Saul was in real danger of being ostracised. It is not easy to give opponents of the gospel the benefit of the doubt when they profess conversion. The natural response is to push them away. Presentation 20

  8. Reaction Of The Church Sadly some years ago a senior elder said of Muslim converts in his congregation, "We trust no one until they prove themselves trustworthy and even then we do not trust them". Can you imagine the devastating effect that had? Muslim converts were purposefully kept at arms length and lived constantly under a cloud of suspicion. What they really needed was someone to open their hearts to them, accept them and to encourage them as they sought God's purposes of grace for their lives. Presentation 20

  9. Reaction Of The Church Thankfully, there was in Jerusalem a man named Barnabas who believed that Saul was genuine. He went out of his way to help integrate him into the church. Barnabas means "Son of encouragement“ 4v36 and he lived up to his name. He refused to allow Saul to be kept in a spiritual no-go area, for God had work for him to do. Finding a Barnabas in church can mean a great deal to struggling Christians; someone who is patient with their failures and sees the potential in their lives. Many believers recognise how much they owe to the wise and sympathetic understanding of some discerning father in the faith. Presentation 20

  10. Saul's Own Reaction We now ask how Saul reacted to his conversion? First of all, he wanted to publicly identify himself with Jesus. He was quite happy for news of his conversion to Christ to spread. He wasn't going to be a secret disciple or hide his light under a bushel. He wasn't going to try and side-step ridicule and the mockery of the world. What did Jesus say? “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words… the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the father and of the angels”. Mark 8v38 Presentation 20

  11. Saul's Own Reaction Secondly, we find that Saul was eager to be involved in Christian service, “he immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” v20. This text is often used as justification for pushing young Christians into evangelism and encouraging them to speak/preach on public platforms before they have even found their feet as Christians. However, a great deal of damage can be done by parading new converts around in this way. Presentation 20

  12. Saul's Own Reaction Years ago a young man told me that when he first came to faith he was paraded around from church to church to tell others how he had become a Christian. He said, that he was singled out in this way because he was the only black convert in a primarily white community. Some in the church attempted to give him some kind of super-star status. He was a young and immature Christian and this treatment went to his head and almost shipwrecked his Christian service. Presentation 20

  13. Saul's Own Reaction If God hadn't dragged Paul, the enthusiastic evangelist, off into the desert for training, much of his future service may have been spoiled and rendered ineffective. Indeed, Paul did not start his missionary activities until 14 years after his conversion. What scholars call ‘the silent years’, were for Paul years of preparation. Many young converts fired with zeal for God can burn out if they engage prematurely in Christian service. Zeal needs to be restrained until it can be instructed and fruitfully channelled and all of that takes time. It can take years of exposure to the Word of God to shape us for Christian service. Thank God that he overruled Saul’s initial response to be immediately involved in communicating the gospel. Presentation 20

  14. Reaction Of The Jews Finally, consider the reaction of the Jews to Saul's conversion. Remember that he had once been a mighty champion of their cause, their strongest ally, their most zealous defender. When someone like that changes sides, people begin to sit up and take notice. Some years ago some missionaries in the Amazon basin made contact with a stone age tribe of Auca Indians. The whole missionary team was killed by the tribe. Some time later a few of those Indians came into contact with the gospel and were converted. Presentation 20

  15. Reaction Of The Jews In time these converts began to preach to their own people and they received a remarkable hearing. Why? Because they now promoted the gospel they had once persecuted. People argued that there must be something to this gospel if it can produce such a transformation. Now that is precisely the effect Saul's conversion had upon the Jewish community and the Jewish leaders were concerned about Saul's influence. Presentation 20

  16. Reaction Of The Jews But more than that they could not refute his preaching or explain its power. As Saul once had no answer to Stephen’s preaching so now the Jewish leaders had no answer to Saul's. There solution was simple. Saul had to go. He had to be dispensed with. It is frightening to see the lengths some men will go to, to silence the gospel cf. v23 v29. It is a mystery to many young Christians, why their simple profession of faith meets with such violent opposition from those near and dear to them. Why should a gospel, that does so much to reconstitute our humanity and produce the fruit of God's Spirit in our lives provoke such violent hostility? The answer is that it also makes demands, it calls upon men and women to surrender to the rule of Jesus. And that is something that many refuse to do. Presentation 20

  17. Conclusion God's converting work in the heart of men produces a variety of reactions. What reaction does it produce in you? When you hear that someone has been converted to faith in Christ is that met with, excitement and acceptance, encouragement, openness, or by incredulity, suspicion and opposition? The answer to that question tells us a very great deal about where we stand spiritually. The angels in heaven rejoice over the news of one sinner who repents. Do we possess that ‘party spirit’. And are we eager to play our part in the nurture process of those who come to faith in Jesus? Presentation 20