Thursday, 11 August 2022
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Acts 9:27
The previous verse noted Saul’s coming to Jerusalem and trying to join the disciples, but they were all wary of him because of his past. With that, Luke continues, saying, “But Barnabas.” It is unknown how there came to be a connection between the two that allowed Barnabas to accept him while no others did.
One speculation is that they previously knew one another. As Barnabas was originally from Cyprus (Acts 4:36) and Saul is from Tarsus, it is possible they received schooling together. It also could be that Barnabas had actually been to Damascus and had met Saul (Paul) during his time there. Or Barnabas may have been informed of this by someone else who was fully aware of the situation. Regardless of what brought the two together, Barnabas sided with Saul and “took him and brought him to the apostles.”
Here is where Paul’s words of Galatians 1:18, 19 fill in the missing information –
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”
Paul told those in Galatia that he only encountered Peter and James. It could be that the other apostles had gone out to see how things were going elsewhere. This has already occurred in Acts 8 where Peter and John went to Samaria after the Samaritans had believed. For this or whatever other reason, these are the only two that Saul encountered at the time. After being brought to the apostles it says, “And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road.”
The “he” here appears to be Barnabas. It is he who gave the overall narrative which would have been explained in detail by Saul. As for having seen the Lord on the road, it is an obvious place to start. In Acts 9:2, Saul was going to Damascus to arrest any who were of the Way (Greek: hodos). Now it says in this verse that while he was on the road (Greek: hodos), he encountered the Lord. The similarity between Saul’s encounter and that of Balaam recorded in Numbers 22 may have come to the apostles’ minds while hearing his words.
The Lord was standing in the way (Hebrew: derek) of Balaam and his donkey. Eventually, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way [Hebrew: derek] is perverse before Me” (Numbers 22:32).
Peter will later refer to the account of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15), showing that he was fully aware of the story. As such, the apostles have past precedent from Scripture to demonstrate that the Lord does directly intervene in such a manner in order to bring about a desired change in an outcome. With this in mind, Luke continues with the explanation of Saul’s conversion, saying, “and that He had spoken to him.”
A calling was made, and a conversation continued during that calling. Barnabas relayed this to the apostles and Saul probably gave a full and exacting account of what was said to him in order to convince them that what occurred was true and reliable. With that, the words of the verse finish with, “and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”
In order for Barnabas to relay this to Peter and James, he had to have been aware of it from someone other than Paul. Throughout Acts, Saul is almost always noted as being accompanied by others. It appears that he was unable to venture out alone, maybe because of a physical affliction such as bad eyesight.
Because of this, it is unlikely that Saul traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem alone. As such, it leads credence to the thought (above) that Barnabas had either personally met with Saul in Damascus or that he had personally talked with someone who had accompanied him back from Damascus. No matter what, Barnabas was fully qualified to testify to the truth of the matter and that Paul had been a bold witness for the name of Jesus in Damascus.
As for the words “preached boldly,” they come from a new word in Scripture, parrésiazomai. It will be seen seven times in Acts and then again in Ephesians 6:20 and 1 Thessalonians 2:2. It is derived from the word parrésia, meaning freedom, openness, etc. Hence, this word means “to be frank in utterance, or confident in spirit and demeanor” (Strong’s).
Paul’s words were not just a show, but they were words of confidence that what he proclaimed was absolutely true and verifiable. Having been a Pharisee, he had the knowledge necessary to make the connections from Scripture that fully supported the notion that Jesus is Lord and that He is the fulfillment of all that the Hebrew Scriptures proclaimed.
Life application: You, or someone you know, may feel unacceptable to speak out concerning Jesus because of what occurred in the past. You may have belittled Christians or harmed them in some way. Because of this, you may feel unworthy of doing anything within the church except sit in the pew and listen. But this is exactly the opposite of what the Bible reveals.
The change that occurs in a person is intended to be a complete change. Where you were belittled, you can now build up. Where you were harmed, you can now provide healing. The past is gone. As Paul says –
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
God has saved you through the giving of His Son. The internal change that has taken place can, and should, be used to help others in the same way. Be willing to open up about your past, tell others who you were and who you are now, and give them confidence that they too are acceptable to God because of what Jesus has done.
Lord God, even the very best of us were totally corrupt before You. We had no chance of ever standing in Your presence. But then came Jesus. Our lives are changed, and we have put on garments of righteousness – His righteousness – in order to be acceptable to You. May we never hold back from telling others about this glorious transformation. Thank You for the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.