“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
Pastor Burk Parsons writes, “The apostle Paul was indeed a man of strength, bravery, boldness, and confidence, and he was a man who cared deeply about the world, about others, and about all things religious. He was a man who very much concerned himself with servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love. He was a man of such spiritual fortitude that he understood that he was strongest in Christ when he was weakest in himself (2 Cor. 12:10). He was a man who knew that his only confidence was in Christ, not in his own natural abilities (Phil. 3:3). He was a man who cared so much for the people of God that he was willing to suffer the persecutions of men rather than be at home with Christ (Phil. 1:21).”
When I first was converted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I became a member of not only the church of the living God, but also a local church. It was in this local congregation that I began to grow in the Lord, worship God in spirit and in truth, minister to and be ministered by fellow believers, learn how to share the Gospel, and fellowship with people who would become lifelong and dear friends.
I was not rejected, but accepted. I was not shunned but embraced. I was not rebuked but gently instructed and nurtured. Was I rough around the edges? Certainly! Did I have a lot to learn regarding personal holiness? Absolutely! However, I became part of the family of God, represented by a local congregation and its pastor.
It strikes me as troubling that while Saul was accepted by the saints in Damascus, such was not the case with the church in Jerusalem. Much like Ananias, who initially balked at God’s directive to minister to Saul, the disciples in Jerusalem did not readily receive Saul into their fellowship. The reason was because they were afraid of him. The reason they were afraid of him was because they did not believe he was truly converted. They did not believe he was truly a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Apparently, the disciples’ negative reaction towards Saul was widespread. It would take more than just a personal testimony to convince the believers in Jerusalem that the one time persecutor of the faithful was now a member of the faithful. Skepticism remained high and acceptance was seemingly very low, it not non-existent for Saul.
However, we shall soon see that there was one man who was willing to step out in faith, and perhaps also out of his comfort zone, in order to take a chance on Saul. The man’s name was Barnabas.
I trust that you also found acceptance, along with the sweet communion of becoming a part of an evangelical church, when you were converted by the Gospel. I also trust that acceptance and sweet communion remains to this day.
Soli deo Gloria!