The Omnipotent, Omniscient, Architect of the Ages had drawn a blueprint for Saul’s life. “This man (Saul of Tarsus) is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites” (Acts 9:15).
After the wilderness wanderings in Arabia, Saul must have pleaded with God. “When do I start? Where do I go? What are my action plans?” Maybe Saul determined to return home. But where was home? He had been born in Tarsus, the son of tentmakers. Should he return to Tarsus? He’d been educated and inducted into the fraternity of Pharisees while living in Jerusalem. Should he go to Jerusalem? He met the Living Lord on the road to Damascus and been radically saved and baptized there. “Yes Lord! I’ll follow you.” So, “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time” (Acts 9:19).
With unbounded enthusiasm, fearlessly and faithfully “he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were astounded and said, ‘Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 9:20-22). Saul, an expert in the Old Testament Scriptures, convincingly proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Promised One, “the Messiah,” the Son of David, “the Son of God.”
“After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot ... to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:23-25). Saul, once a persecutor of the church, was now an effective evangelist and champion of the church. As many were being transformed by their newfound faith in Jesus, many others were boiling with anger and resentment. The Jews who rejected Jesus but held firm to Judaism’s laws, conspired to kill Saul. Learning of their murderous plot, Saul was whisked away in the night.
Where to now? Jerusalem. “When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27). The disciples weren’t ready to trust Saul’s conversion. He had murdered and imprisoned too many of their friends and family members. They didn’t believe that he was truly a Christian. They didn’t trust him. But Barnabas interceded.
What happened in Damascus was repeated in Jerusalem. During a visit that lasted only fifteen days (Galatians 1:17-19), many were saved, and many others plotted to destroy him. “Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus” (Acts 9:28-30). Again, Saul was whisked away to safety. But where? Back home to Tarsus.
The Eternal Architect’s plan included the seclusion, rejection, resistance, and hostility of Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Tarsus. Like clay in the Potter’s hands, Saul, the once headstrong and proud Pharisee, was being fashioned and formed into an obedient and humble servant.