«And whenSaul hadcome to Jerusalem,he triedto join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
There are many stories of undelivered letters. Paul’s conversion is one of them. Following God’s instruction, Ananias prayed and Paul was healed of his blindness. Then Ananias baptized him, and Paul received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He spent the next few days in Damascus, learning from the disciples and giving his testimony. He never delivered the letter he was carrying which authorized the persecution of Christians. Instead, he proclaimed the truths that he had received from a higher Authority, his testimony of God’s transforming love. Your testimony is your best sermon.
Paul’s eloquent arguments and erudite style convinced many but stirred up hatred in others. He had to flee to Arabia for a while (see Galatians 1:17) while the situation with Jewish leaders calmed down. If your testimony loses power, take time apart to commune with God and with yourself Being alone is a good way to develop your character. As we see in the story, isolation and calm communing with God prepared Paul for the difficult years of work that were in his future (see The Acts of the Apostles, ch. 13, p. 125).
When Paul returned to Damascus, fie learned about the governor’s plot against him (see 2 Corinthians 11:32). The same faithful Christians he had gone there to kill helped his escape by lowering him down over the city wall in a basket with codes. Only by the power of God can the persecutor be transformed into the persecuted, and persecuted people into instruments of salvation.
Three years after his conversion, Paul reached Jerusalem (see Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18, 19), but the Christians there still remembered him as their former enemy. Paul wanted to join the church, but they didn’t trust him. It is difficult to clean up our reputation when it has been damaged. They treated him with great caution and distrust. Fear led them to believe that Paul was concealing his true nature in order to spy on them. Fear will always lead you to doubt, to question, and to distrust.
Fortunately, God puts kind people who can help you in your path. Barnabas served as a mediator between Paul and the Jewish believers: ‘Barnabas… been acquainted with Paul when lie opposed the believers . . . He heard the testimony of Paul in regard to his miraculous conversion. He related his experience, and . . . The apostles no longer hesitated: they could not withstand God, . .. and he was now as much beloved and respected as he had formerly been feared and avoided‘(SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. l058, 1059). Be a modern “Barnabas,” encourage, teach, and help new church members to participate in activities and to get to know the rest of the church.