Online Bible Commentary
Living to Please God
Acts 9:20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. 23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. (NKJV)
The apostle Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia, which is now southern Turkey bordering the Mediterranean Sea. His birth name was Saul. At about the age of thirteen he moved to Jerusalem in order to study under the great Jewish religious leader Gamaliel. As a devout Pharisee Saul became the most vicious of those who persecuted Christians.
In about A.D. 35, while in his early thirties, Saul traveled from Jerusalem to Damascus to persecute the believers there. As he approached Damascus he was struck down by Jesus. Jesus called him to be the one to carry the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18). Saul was taken to Damascus, where he was baptized by Ananias and discipled by the believers there.
In this passage, we see how Saul grows in the faith during his time in Damascus. The Lord wasted no time in using him. “Immediately” he preached in the synagogues of Damascus (v. 20). Those who heard him were amazed and could not believe that he was the same man who had previously persecuted believers (v.21).
However, before he conferred too much with “flesh and blood” (Gal. 1:16), interacted with the people, it is believed that Saul left Damascus for Arabia for an undetermined period of time (Gal. 1:17). Saul was already a scholar in the Scriptures, having previously been the Pharisee of all Pharisees. This sabbatical was likely used to sharpen his defense of the gospel, for prayer, and for meditating.
After his sabbatical, Saul returned to Damascus. He was now strengthened in his new faith and better able to confound the Jews in “proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (v. 22). The Jews became so incensed with this change in Saul from prime supporter to staunch enemy that they “plotted to kill him” (v. 23).
The Jews plot became known to Saul. The Jews “watched the gates day and night, to kill him” (v. 24). The disciples knew they had to do something to save Saul’s life. So, one night, they lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall, where he was able to escape (v. 25).
When Saul became a believer he was a new creation. He was changed. Those who previously had counted him as a friend now saw him as an enemy. They soon vilified him as an apostate. He was a turncoat. They no longer could relate to him, so they tried to destroy him.
Saul’s experience was similar to experiences that new Christians of today must face. In some countries their lives are threatened. In this country it is more that they lose their friends, and, in some cases, their families.
There is a cost to becoming a Christian. The cost must be weighed before we make the decision to follow Christ. However, the cost of losing relationships is nothing compared to the gain of having Christ.
He gives us a new life, one that is far superior to our old life. He gives us new friends, other Christians who will help us to resist the sinful lifestyles of our previous friends. And He gives us a new purpose for our life. We are no longer living to please others, or even ourselves. We are now living to Please God.