Thursday: Return to Jerusalem

Having escaped from Damascus, Paul returned to Jerusalem for the first time since he had left as a persecutor. This happened three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:18). It was not an easy return, as he faced problems both inside and outside the church.

Read Acts 9:26-30. What happened to Paul when he arrived in Jerusalem?

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In Jerusalem, Paul tried to join the apostles. Though by that time he had already been a Christian for three years, the news of his conversion sounded so incredible that the apostles, like Ananias before them, were rather skeptical. They feared it was just part of a carefully elaborated plot. It was Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus (Acts 4:36-37), thus a Hellenist, who broke the apostles’ resistance and introduced Paul to them. They, too, must have marveled at what God had done to Paul; that is, once they realized that he was genuine.

Such resistance, however, would never entirely disappear, if not because of Paul’s past actions in persecuting the church, then at least because of the gospel he preached. As in the case of Stephen, the Judean believers, including the apostles, were quite slow to understand the universal scope of the Christian faith, a faith no longer based in the Old Testament ceremonial system, especially in the sacrificial system, which had lost its validity with Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul’s closest circle of relationship within the church in Judea would always be the Hellenistic believers: besides Barnabas himself, it included Philip, one of the Seven (Acts 21:8), and Mnason, also from Cyprus (Acts 21:16). Several years later, the Jerusalem church leaders would still accuse Paul of preaching basically the same doctrine Stephen had preached before (Acts 21:21).

During the fifteen days he stayed in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18), Paul apparently decided to share the gospel with the same nonbelieving Jews whom he had incited against Stephen some time before. As with Stephen, however, his efforts met with strong opposition, posing a threat to his own life. In a vision, Jesus told him to leave Jerusalem for his own safety (Acts 22:17-21). With the help of the brethren, he went down to the city port of Caesarea and from there to his hometown in Cilicia, where he would stay for several years before starting his missionary journeys.

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons