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A man named Saul, also known as Paul, born of purest Jewish
blood, the son of a Pharisee, and also born a Roman citizen from the city of Tarsus,
persecutes the believers of Christ going from house to house dragging out both men and women and
throwing them in jail.
Saul was raised in orthodox Judaism and was a superior, zealous student tutored under the famous Gamaliel who taught the teaching of the old testament.
Saul persecuted the Christians with fanatical devotion to Judaism and was convinced that Christians were heretics and that the honor of Jehovah demanded their death.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Luke tells us that Saul was watching the cloaks of the people who were stoning Stephen to death and approved of this act.
Saul, asks the High Priest for letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus so he can arrest and bring back the followers of Jesus to Jerusalem. As Saul is near the city of Damascus, a light from the sky flashes around him. He falls to the ground and hears a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, Why Do You Persecute Me?"
Saul asks, "Who are you Lord?"
"I am Jesus, whom you persecute," the voice said. "But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do."
The men who are traveling with Saul don't see anyone, but they hear the voice. When
Saul gets up off the ground and opens his eyes, he is blind. The men lead him into
the city of Damascus and he stays there blind and not eating anything for three days. He is
praying and has a vision of a man named Ananias who comes and places his hands on him and restores
God has told Ananias, who is a Christian living in Damascus, to go to Paul and restore his sight. Ananias is afraid because of Saul's reputation and what he has come here to do.
The Lord tells Ananias, "Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake." Ananias does as the Lord has told him and Saul's sight is restored and he is baptized and his strength returns.
Saul stays with the believers in Damascus a few days and while he is there he goes to the synagogues and begins to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. All those who hear him are surprised because this is the man who killed those who worshiped Jesus and who came to arrest the believers of Jesus and take them back to Jerusalem to be punished. When the Jews question his motives, Saul's preaching becomes even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah are so convincing that the Jews who live there cannot answer him.
Saul goes to Arabia for a while, maybe to rethink his beliefs in the light of all that has happened to him at Damascus, but he returns to Damascus preaching more aggressively. The Jews are so frustrated with him, they meet together and make plans to kill him, but Saul hears of their plan and escapes the city at night with the help of the believers.
Three years after becoming a believer, Saul goes to Jerusalem to speak to Peter, but the Apostles do not believe he has changed and are afraid of him.
A man named Barnabas, who is an early Christian believer and has given money to support the poorer members of the Church
in Jerusalem, comes to Saul's aid. He takes him to Peter and explains what has happened to Saul and how he boldly
preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
The Apostles let Saul stay with them for two weeks and while Saul is there, he preaches the good news about Jesus all over Jerusalem, but the Jews living there try to kill him. When the believers find out that the Jews tried to kill Saul, they take him to Caesarea and send him home to Tarsus where he thrives as a tentmaker by profession and remains in obscurity for some years.
Peter travels everywhere preaching the good news, healing the sick, and raising those
who had died back to life. And everywhere he goes, many people become believers.
A captain in the Roman army named Cornelius and his whole family are religious and worship God. He does much to help the Jewish poor people and while he is praying, he has a vision in which he sees an angel of God who comes to him and calls his name. The angel tells him God is pleased with his prayers and works of charity and is ready to answer him. He tells Cornelius to send some men to Peter and invite him to come to your house and hear what he has to say.
Peter has just had a vision from God telling him not to consider anything unclean that God has
declared clean and then tells him not to hesitate about going with the men who have been sent to
him. Peter goes with them, along with some of the Jewish believers, to the house
When Peter gets there, Cornelious tells him about his vision and says, "You have been good enough to come and now we are all here in the presence of God, waiting to hear anything that the Lord had instructed you to say." Peter begins to speak: "I now realize that is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to."
Then Peter preaches the good news about Jesus and while he is speaking, the Holy Spirit comes down on
all those who are listening to his message. The Jewish believers who have come with Peter are amazed that God
poured out his gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, for they were speaking in strange tongues and praising
God's greatness. Peter spoke up: "These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we did.
Can anyone stop them from being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ with water?" And so the Gentiles were baptized that day.
When the Church at Jerusalem heard about the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit, they criticize Peter saying, "You were a guest in the home of uncircumcised Gentiles, and you even ate with them!"
Then Peter tells them all that happened and then he says, "I remembered what
the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy
Spirit.' It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed
in the Lord Jesus Christ; who was I, then, to try to stop God!"
When they hear this, they stop their criticism, praising God and saying, "God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!"
Some of the people who were scattered when the persecution started in Jerusalem went as far as
Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, telling the good news about Jesus to the Jews
But other believers who came from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch preaching the good news to the Gentiles.
This news reaches the Church in the Jerusalem and they send Barnabas to Antioch. He sees how God has blessed the people, so he goes to Tarsus to look for Saul and brings him back to Antioch to minister to the believers and build up the church. They stay there for a year and this church greatly supports the Church of Jerusalem with money during the next persecution by Herod.
After Herod dies, Barnabas and Saul are sent by the Holy Spirit on a missionary journey to bring the good news of Jesus to many countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. On his first journey, Saul and Barnabas sail from the coastal city of Seleucia to the large Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.
After their visit to Cyprus, Luke, the writer of Acts, changes Saul's name to 'Paul'
Paul and Barnabas travel to a different city named Antioch in Pisidia, then to Iconium,
then to Lystra where Paul is stoned, dragged out of the town and left for dead. But when the
believers gather around him, he gets back up and goes back into the town.
He leaves with Barnabas the next day and travels to Derbe. After this, they return to the cities where they had visited and formally establish churches there. After traveling through the area of Pisidia, they preached the message in Perga and Attalia, then they sail back to the church of Antioch in Syria and tell the believers how God has opened the way for the Gentiles to believe the good news about Jesus.
Barnabas and Paul stay with the believers for a long time and during their stay, some men come from Judea and start teaching the believers that they cannot be saved unless they are circumcised as the Law of Moses requires. Paul and Barnabas get into fierce arguments with them about this, which results in a trip to Jerusalem to talk to the Apostles and elders about this matter.
Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees said that the Gentiles must be circumcised and told to obey the Law of Moses.
Paul reminds them that God showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit,
just as he had the Jews.
"Then he tells them, "God made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are."
This persuaded the Apostles and elders not to require the Gentiles to be circumcised, but to require them to: eat no food that has been offered to idols; eat no blood; eat no animal that has been strangled; and keep themselves from sexual immorality.
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