When Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus, determined to arrest Christians, he suddenly saw a super bright light, and fell to the ground. There, Jesus spoke to him, and after this, Saul (afterwards known as Paul) became a Christian.
The story of Paul's Damascus road experience is one that many Christians know. However, there is much less focus on how Paul, known as a persecutor of Christians, was able to integrate with those he previously tried to arrest. How was he able to do this? This question was the focus of the sermon today.
We do see much hesitancy by other Christians to meet with Paul. After Paul enters Damascus, blinded since encountering Jesus in the impossibly bright light, God speaks to a believer named Ananias and tells him to go to Paul to restore his sight. Ananias shows hesitancy, with Acts 9:15 recording him saying:
“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
In this case, God tells him to go anyway, and Ananias went and met with Paul to restore his sight.
Paul preaches in Damascus, but after a while, some Jews in Damascus plot to kill him, and he escapes from the city to return to Jerusalem. However, the people of Jerusalem don't yet know that Paul is a Christian:
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! - Acts 9:26
So Paul encounters this problem again as he tries to integrate.
Dusty actually connects Paul's struggle to integrate with the methods Baptist Churches have of determining membership of their churches. For example, one way to determine if a supposed believer and possible new member should join a church is by statement. The person may give a statement about their faith. Or someone else can give a statement and vouch for them. This is actually what happens to Paul - Barnabas steps in:
Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. - Acts 9:27
Lucky that Barnabas graciously did that. Even if Paul had wanted to connect with the Jerusalem Christians by saying that he was one too, they might of seen it as a trick to smoke them out.
Another option for transferring membership among Baptist churches is by letter. A previous church one was at can send a letter to a their new church. The new church can then check with the old one and verify that the person is who they say they are.
Today, not all Baptist churches, and certainly not all churches of other denominations, practice this kind of membership, so keep that in mind.
Let's keep God in our mind this week and make sure that even though we need to make sure the faiths of other purported Christians are valid, we need them to lead toward God no matter who they are.
Photo by NONRESIDENT on Unsplash
Service from August 21, 2022