Acts 9:23-31

23 Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.

24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.

25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.

26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.

27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.

29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

many days (v.23) = sufficient days — a period of considerable duration — three years (Galatians 1:18) — the period of time when he was in Arabia and Damascus

The first chapter in Galatians tells us of this fact. “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me, but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). This is the only time his journey into Arabia is mentioned in the Bible. How long he spent there and what he did there is unrevealed. It is incorrect to say he spent three years in Arabia; in Galatians the statement is made that three years after his return to Damascus he went to Jerusalem. This does not mean that he was for three years in Arabia. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, page 185

watched (v.24) = kept watching narrowly and closely … In 2 Corinthians

through the wall (v.25) — through a window

basket (v.25) — In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

The ethnarch under King Aretas guarded the gates in order to apprehend Saul. Aretas was king of Arabia Petraea. We do not know how Damascus came into his hands at that time, but it can hardly have been without Roman consent. Coins which are extant prove that it was under direct Roman administration in A.D. 33-34, and again in A.D. 62-63. It must, therefore, have come into Aretas’ possession subsequent to A.d. 34; and Caligula (A.D. 37-41), who encouraged independent kingdoms in the east, is the emperor most likely to have conferred the city on the Arabian sovereign. These dates admirably suit the chronology … which gives A.d. 38 as the year in question. A comparison of the two accounts of this incident makes it clear that the Jews secured the ethnarch’s favor and cooperated in their attempt to seize Paul. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, pages 216-217.

We are told that Aretas was father-in-law to Herod Antipas and that he had made war on Herod for casting aside his daughter for his (Herod’s) brother Philip’s wife, Herodias (cf. Mark 6:17-18). It this be true the Jews at Damascus may well have sided against Herod, and the governor under Aretas may have reciprocated by trying to seize Saul for them. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 52

tried (v.26) — tense indicates “repeatedly”

afraid (v.26) — tense indicates continuing action

This first visit to Jerusalem took place three years after his conversion. Why did he not return at once? … It had to be so to prove that he had his apostleship apart from Jerusalem. This is the reason why this historical account is embodied in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians. In his defense of the gospel contained in that epistle he shows first that he is an apostle and how he became an apostle. The twelve in Jerusalem had nothing to do with it. — Gaebelein, page 186

apostles (v.27) — in this case, only Peter and James the Lord’s brother, who wasn’t one of the twelve (Galatians 1:18-19) He stayed 15 days, with Peter.

In Galatians 1 … we learn the details of this visit. He did not see all the apostles, but only Peter and James, the Lord’s brother. The other apostles he did not see. This detailed statement is made to show that no council of the apostles was called before which Saul had to appear to receive the sanction of the apostles upon his own apostleship, a kind of ordination. He did not need this; the Lord had called and ordained him. He was an apostles, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ. — Gaebelein, page 187

disputing (v.29) — Back in Acts 6:9, we read of Hellenistic Jews, Saul probably included, disputing with Stephen in the synagogues. Now Saul returns to the synagogues and disputes on the other side — against the (same?) Hellenistic Jews.

brought him down to Caesarea (v.30) — More information as to why Saul left is given in Acts 22:17-21: Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’  So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’

peace (v.31) — Saul’s persecution had ended.

Political events, too, favored the church, for the attention of the Jews was mainly concentrated on the attempts of the emperor Caligula to set up  his image for worship in the temple at Jerusalem. Their suspense only ceased with his death (A.D. 41). — Walker, page 219

edified (v.31) = built up

fear of the Lord (v.31) — holy reverence

comfort (v.31) — corresponds to the Spirit’s title, Paraclete (Comforter)

In Galatians 1:21, referring to the same period of Saul’s life [when he returned to Tarsus — v. 30], he says: “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” It may well be, then, that Tarsus was merely his base of operations from which he preached Christ in Syria and Cilicia. In fact there appears to be considerable evidence that this was the case.

We read in Acts 15:23 of the communication sent by the church at Jerusalem to “the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.” Also, in Acts 15:41 we are told that after Paul’s separation from Barnabas he “went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches.”

Now how and when did it come about that there were Gentile believers in Syria and Cilicia? who had founded the churches there?

In answer to this question it should be observed first that neither Paul nor Jewish believers from Judea could have led these Gentiles to Christ before the conversion of Cornelius for according to the testimonies of both Peter and James in Acts 15:7, 14, Cornelius and those of his household were the first Gentiles to “hear the word of the gospel and believe.”

There were men of Cilicia in Jerusalem during Stephens’ ministry there (Acts 6:9) but these could not have brought Christ to Cilicia for they themselves rejected Stephen’s testimony and had helped to bring about his martyrdom.

Those scattered by “the persecution that arose about Stephen” could hardly have brought Christ to the Gentiles of this territory, for we are distinctly told that they “traveled as far as Phonice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the Word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them … when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:9, 20). Thus these scattered believers reached as far as Antioch, but not further into Syria, much less Cilicia. Moreover Antioch is designated as the one city where they ventured to preach Christ to the Gentiles at that time.

It was the conversion of the Gentiles at Antioch, of course, that brought Saul there, and there he ministered for “a whole year” (Acts 11:26). We would not exclude the possibility that he evangelized Syria and Cilicia during that year, but again the record seems to confine his ministry to Antioch for that entire period, for it is written: “a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people” (Acts 11:26). Nor could Paul have founded these churches during his first apostolic journey, for his route is outlined for us in the record, and it did not take him further into Syria or into Cilicia.

It is true that Paul could have sent evangelists into Syria and Cilicia during the year he spent at Antioch, but in the absence of any statement to that effect it would seem more probable that these churches were founded by Paul during this so-called “period of retirement” in Tarsus. Indeed, the statement in Acts 15:41 that “he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches,” would seem to imply that these were churches which he had founded. — Stam, pages 61-63.

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