Saul and the spread of the Gospel
26 And when he 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 and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him.
30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. ”
Acts 9:26–31 ESV Read More
Barnabas is becoming more and more of a supporting hero in Acts. He was one of the people that sold land that he owed and gave the money to the disciples. He was also described as a Levite from Cyprus. Levites were the priests that typically I ran the synagogue at this point. For him to live in Cyprus meant that he had been dispersed far and wide and was no longer connected by family or land to Jerusalem or even Israel. He was probably Hellenized a little bit, like Saul, so they would get along with each other.
The “he” mentioned throughout here is Saul. He has just converted and is preaching with passion that Jesus is the Messiah that the Jewish people have been waiting for since Moses.
Saul was preaching with ferocity and many people were coming to believe in Jesus. Along with that, many people were coming to oppose the Christians by more violent means. The church has suffered persecution at this point in many extremes. The men and women that Saul arrested may still be in jail. People have been killed for being Christians. People are plotting to kill Saul. So what do they do?
Do they ‘stand their ground’ and not budge?
Do they take up their place in the temple and over-run it with the Christian message and some ‘truth grenades’?
They sent Saul off to Tarsus. They sent him back to his hometown. Was he grounded? Was he put in time out? No, but check the maps in the back of your study bible and you might think so. Tarsus was 355 miles away from Jerusalem. Yes, as in from the Tri-state to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
And they didn’t have interstates.
Saul probably went by boat from Caesarea to Tarsus, and then he stayed there for at least ten years.
You read that right. Ten years in Tarsus.
We know from elsewhere in the book of Acts that he preached a lot during this time and grew in the Lord. But as far as he knew, he’d be staying in Tarsus, with tons of Greek-influenced Gentiles, for the rest of his days.
And all over Jerusalem and Samaria the church grew for those years. In fear of the Lord (not their persecutors) and the comfort of the Holy Spirit they spread the Gospel.