Paul’s Double-edged Sword

Acts 9:26-31

 When he (Saul) had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers[a] learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”  NRSV

This passage from Acts picks up immediately following Saul’s (Paul) conversion on the road to Damascus. His fire-breathing hatred for the followers of Jesus was well-known among those early Christians. Here, we see what a struggle Saul had in convincing the Christians in Jerusalem he had changed and become one of them. Some never stopped wanting him dead.

When an individual we have known as one kind of person experiences a radical conversion into a much different kind of person we are, quite naturally, skeptical. That individual must spend time proving the conversion experience was genuine to the skeptic’s satisfaction.

Trying to do this was a double-edged sword for Paul. He had to win over the Christian skeptics and prove his loyalty to Jesus while one at the same time convincing the Jews of his “Jewishness” as a follower of Jesus.  How he interpreted these personal challenges shaped countless generations of Christians, including us.

One additional thing to note, when Paul stopped his fire-breathing crusade to wipe out the Christians, we are told, “Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up.” Go figure!

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