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“Astounded and Confounded” (Acts 9:19-31)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Have you ever been astounded and confounded by something? I recall when the iPhone was first invented. I was like, “Wow! That’s incredible! How does it work?” Or, perhaps if you’re a parent, you recall when your first child came to you. You might have thought, “This is amazing! I have a baby! Now, what do I do?”

Some of us have been astounded and confounded! We’ve been amazed, and we’ve wondered what in the world is going on.

Well, we heard last week about the miraculous transformation that took place in the life of Saul when Jesus powerfully changed him on the road to Damascus.

Now, we’re going to learn about Saul’s ministry in Damascus, and we’re going to learn that the Jewish leaders were astounded and confounded. Indeed, that’s the title of today’s sermon.

Before we go any further, let’s go to God in prayer and ask Him to speak to us through this passage.


So, let’s do a little recap here:

After His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon the early Christians, and they became witnesses for Jesus.

After the Holy Spirit came powerfully, the Church began to grow and grow as they ministered in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

After the Church began to grow, the Jewish authorities began to persecute the Christians in Jerusalem and even killed some, including a man named Stephen.

After the persecution took place, Christianity continued to grow, and expanded beyond the borders of Jerusalem as faithful Christians, like Philip, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ to those outside of Jerusalem.

After Christianity continued to spread, a man named Saul was ravaging the church and arresting followers of Jesus.

After Saul began to persecute Christians, Jesus appeared to him and radically transformed him to become like one of those he previously persecuted.

That brings us roughly to where we are today in Acts 9.

So, today, we’re going to continue the story of Saul to see what happened after he was radically transformed.

First, we’re going to learn that . . .

‌I. Saul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus.

Remember, Saul was on his way to Damascus when he had an encounter with Jesus. Then, Saul made his way to Damascus, was prayed for by Ananias, regained his sight, and was baptized.

After all that happened, Saul spent some time in Damascus. Let’s see what he was up to while he was there:

Listen to Acts 9:19–22:

And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Immediately 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.

Notice in verse 19 that it says, “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.”

Now, we don’t know exactly how long Saul was with the disciples, but we do have a hint.

Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 1:17-18 about what is probably referring to this time: “I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days.”

So, it is likely that Saul hung around Damascus and Arabia for as much as three years. That’s a long time!

Well, what is Saul doing while he is hanging around Damascus? Luke (the author of Acts) tells us in verse 20: Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.

The persecutor is now the preacher!

Saul was changed so much by Jesus that he started proclaiming, in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God!

Of course, Luke tells us what happened after Saul proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God.

In verse 21, we learn that those who heard him were astounded. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing!

They were like Ananias in last week’s passage. “Isn’t this the same guy who was bringing harm to the name of Jesus? Now, he’s proclaiming the name of Jesus!”

Not only were people astounded; they were also confounded. Not only could people not believe what they were hearing, they also could not understand what they were hearing. They were astounded and confounded.

Verse 22 says that Saul grew stronger as a disciple of the Lord, and as he spoke to the Jews there, some were absolutely helpless to stand against what he was saying.

Well, usually people who think they are powerful and brilliant don’t like to feel confounded. So, they wanted to do something about this Saul fellow.

Well, let’s see what they did.

Next, we learn that . . .

‌II. Saul escaped the Jews in Damascus.

Look at Acts 9:23–25:

After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall.”

First of all, we notice Luke’s vague words, “After many days had passed.”

Remember, this period could have been as long as three years. So, many, many days had passed.

We see in verse 25 that Saul had some disciples, meaning that he had some people who followed him and his teaching.

Remember, Saul was growing stronger in his influence in Christianity, and the long period of time that he was around Damascus allowed him to develop some followers.

However, Saul not only developed followers, he also developed enemies. Verse 23 says that the Jews came up with plans to kill Saul.

By the way, this won’t be the only time that someone tries to kill Saul.

Saul, however, learned about the planned attack and was snuck out of the city by his disciples by being lowered in a large basket from the city wall.

So, Saul escaped the Jews in Damascus.

It is at this point that Saul travels to Jerusalem.

While he was there, . . .

‌III. Saul proclaimed Jesus in Jerusalem.

Listen to what verses 26–28 say:

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. Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

Notice, first of all, that Saul intended to join up with the disciples in Jerusalem, but they were a little hesitant (as Ananias was).

Remember, persecution seemed to be heavier in Jerusalem, and Saul was quite famous as a persecutor.

They were not really sure that Saul was actually a disciple.

Then comes along our old friend Barnabas.

You may remember Barnabas from back in Acts 4 as one who sold his property and donated it to the early church.

You may also remember that his name means “Son of Encouragement.” He is acting as an encourager now as he brings together Saul and the other disciples.

Barnabas somehow knew what God had done in Saul’s life, and he explained Saul’s miraculous transformation to the disciples in Jerusalem.

So, Saul became accepted among the disciples.

Luke says in verse 28, “Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”

There seems to be a pattern here with Saul, doesn’t there? Since Saul was changed by Jesus, everywhere he went, he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus.

What caused Saul to speak so boldly? He had been changed by Jesus and he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Folks, when Jesus changes somebody, it should be evident, Amen?

As with Damascus, not everyone liked that Saul was speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

That leads to our final point:

‌IV. Saul escaped the Jews in Jerusalem.

Let’s look at Acts 9:29–31:

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. So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

We learn that Saul is conversing and debating with the Hellenistic Jews.

You may recall that the Hellenistic Jews are those Jews who carry a Greek influence in their life. They are sort of the cultured Jews, if you will.

Well, Saul was highly educated, he was full of passion, he had radically been changed by Jesus, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he had spent many days in Damascus growing stronger.

So, Saul was ready to talk about Jesus! He was not only astounding and confounding in Damascus, he was debating and conversing in Jerusalem.

The Jews in Damascus wanted to kill him because he was confounding them; now the Jews in Jerusalem want to kill him as well.

However, the brothers (who would have been some of the disciples) discovered that the Hellenistic Jews were trying to kill Saul, so they sent him off to Tarsus (which was his hometown), and they sent him by way of Caesarea by the Sea.

So, let’s look at our maps again: Saul traveled from Damascus to Jerusalem, then from Jerusalem to Caesarea by the Sea, then from Caesarea to Tarsus.

The rest of this passage tells us that as Saul is sent away, the church experiences a period of peace, strengthening, and growth.

I cannot help but think that this might have been due to the fact that Saul, one of the chief persecutors, became a convert to Christianity.

The Jewish leaders had a problem on their hands: one of their chief persecutors had become a Christian preacher.

The Jewish leaders got all stirred up about Saul; then he left town; then things sort of settled down for a bit.

Nevertheless, God was in all of these happenings, and Saul wasn’t the only one growing stronger during this time; so was the church.

Let this bottom line summarize what we’re learning today:

‌Bottom Line: The bold change in Saul made him a bold witness for Jesus.

Jesus did something amazing in Saul’s life, and Saul became a bold witness.

Church, think about this for a moment: has God done something amazing in your life? Has God brought about a bold change in your life? Well then, don’t you want to be a bold witness for Him? Jesus said in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses . . .”

Have you received power? Are you a witness?

Challenge yourself this week in this one way:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Ask God to make you bold for the name of Jesus.

Saul was bold because he experienced a bold change.

Now, I want to be clear: God may not call you to travel around and preach Jesus in the way that Saul did (or He just might).

However, God is calling you to be a bold witness for Jesus in all that you do. He is calling you to boldly share with those in your circle of influence that Jesus is Lord.

So, challenge yourself this week to ask God to make you a bold witness for the name of Jesus Christ.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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