Ratification of Conversion ( Acts 9:19b-25).
Ratification of Saul’s conversion and call was neither by man nor by a committee but rather by the power of God in acts of service after his conversion. His service and message ratified his call, conversion, and commission. He later noted that he was “not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). Luke shows the ratification of Saul’s new faith by showing the radical change it made in him.
There can be no doubt that Paul began his ministry in Damascus, outside the land of Israel. This reinforces his ministry beyond the borders of Israel, outside the land, and to the Gentiles. For a more comprehensive view of his early service, we must also rely on the book of Galatians which gives us information about this time that is not recorded by Luke in Acts. Most agree that the events of these early years are:
· Saul’s Conversion (Acts 9:1-19a). Preaching in Damascus immediately (9:19b-22).
· Prolonged visit to Arabia (Gal. 1:17).
· Return to Damascus (Acts 9:23-25).
· First visit to Jerusalem three years after conversion (Acts 9:26-29; Gal. 1:18-19).
· Goes to Tarsus (Acts 9:30-31, Gal. 1:21-24).
- Evangelistic Preaching the Faith (9:19b-22).
“Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus.” So begins his life as a believer. Little doubt that the several days refer to his days in the city before he went to Arabia. The narrative here suggests a very short time period (9:19-20). As soon as Paul was able, he began preaching and contending in the synagogues. He “proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 2:20). His message centered upon Jesus in a twofold manner: First, Jesus “is the Son of God.” This is the only occurrence of this full title in Acts. He will later use it in his epistles (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Thess. 1:10). This is a “complete reversal of his previous position.” It is a realization of the Sonship of Jesus, indicating both Jesus’ intimate relationship with God the Father, and His matchless unique status. Paul will indicate this status was from the beginning of creation (Rom. 8:3; Col. 1:13-20). In response, the people continue to be amazed. They could hardly believe what they were witnessing and heard. Was this not the one sent to bind them and bring them to the chief priest? (Acts 9:21). What a testimony to the Grace of God in this total transformation of Saul! Worthy are comments of Harrison:
God had done a marvelous thing. Not only had he demonstrated care for His own by halting the persecution on their very doorstep, but in the process He had gained for Himself a herald of the message of grace. Men would have counted it a great thing if the hand of God had rewarded the persecutor by striking him dead (cf. 12:1, 23). But to salvage the opponent and enlist him on behalf of the cause was a far greater victory.
Second, he kept on preaching that “Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:22). Not only is Jesus the Son of God, but He is Israel’s Messiah. The word Christ is better understood and translated Messiah. He is contending that Jesus was the Messiah, which is his continual message in the synagogues (cf. 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:2, 10, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8). The word proving has the idea of convincing, combining facts to show or convince of the truth.
Luke leaves out the Arabia experience of Paul, which Paul reports in Galatians. Luke’s purpose is not to give a compete accounting of Paul’s service during this time, but rather he compresses this period of time and limits it to Damascus. Omission and compression of historical accounts and chronology is a common method of editing by the Biblical writers. Luke seems to limit his comments to Damascus to contrast the purpose from persecuting believers to preaching to believers. Paul reveals he was in Arabia during this time, which would have occurred between Acts 9:22-23. Silence about the events by both Luke and Paul speaks loudly. Why he was there is not revealed. Many say it was a time of training and meditation on what was revealed to Him. However, it is hard to imagine that Paul would have been silent about Christ, and not preached during this time. In fact, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 indicates that whatever Paul did in Arabia it displeased Aretas, who controlled the Nabathean kingdom, which was in Arabia. What set Aretas off? It is unlikely that Paul’s presence and meditation for some of spiritual retreat would have caused the reaction. It is more likely the message that he was preaching. Murphy-O’Connor correctly says, “The only explanation is that Paul was trying to made converts.” There is no doubt that what Paul is referring to are his days after his conversion which began in Damascus and ended in Damascus. In Acts, Luke limits his discussion to Damascus.
- Escaping the Plot (9:23-25).
“When many days had elapsed…” (Acts 9:23). While the time reference is vague, there is no doubt that it refers to the end of his ministry in Damascus. It was in two stages, with the visit to Arabia sandwiched in between. The phrase is consistent with the gap between his conversion and his first journey to Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 1:17-18). Clearly the trouble was after he came back to Damascus from Arabia. There was a plot by the Jews to exterminate him (Acts 9:24). This was the first of many plots against him (cf. Acts 9:23-24; 20:3, 19; 23:20). This plot must be seen in conjunction with 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. It may have been a conspiracy instigated by the puppet of Aretas that riled up the Jews against Saul. It is not revealed how this happen and Luke nor Paul give us enough information to clarify the situation, except that he was in danger of his life. There is clear indication that both parties had the motive to kill him and enough similarity in both accounts to see them as one event. They were guarding the city gates, an ideal place to ambush someone.
Learning of the plot, “his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket” (Acts 9:25). In this verse we learn that Paul’s ministry was extensive enough his own following, for it is no longer “the,” but “his” disciples. This indicates that his preaching had already resulted in converts to faith in Jesus. The word disciples in Acts denote that the members of the Christian community (e.g., 6:1-2, 7; 9:19; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 15:10). These disciples aid in his get away by a hamper basket. Such an escape was not uncommon (cf. spies of Jericho—Joshua 2:15; David—1 Samuel 19:12). The result is Paul now goes one to reach the Gentiles and spread the Gospel as God's ambassador to the Roman Empire.
There is a parallel between these events in Acts and the ministry of Jesus recorded by Luke in his gospel (Luke 4:16-30). There are four points of similarity:
· Jesus and Paul begin their ministry in the synagogue preaching salvation.
· The audiences react in amazement.
· The audience in both cases cannot believe who is speaking.
· Both escape a violent response to their message.
(End of Series)
 Robertson, WORD PICTURES, 3:122.
 Harrison, ACTS, 164.
 Murphy-O’Connor, PAUL: A CRITICAL LIFE, 82. He also points out because of the political conflict between the Jews and the Nabatheans such activity would not be acceptable to Aretas. He also sees this as Paul’s first attempt to preach to pagans (Gentiles) in obedience to his commission. Also see Bruce, ACTS, 191-192; PAUL, 81, where he says, “The implication of his own narrative relates his Arabian visit rather closely to his call to preach Christ among the Gentiles.”
 Witherington, ACTS, 320.