By Daniel H. King
When Paul made his way back to the city of Jerusalem in Acts 9:26, he was entering into a new phase of his life. According to the parallel material found in Galatians 1:17ff, he had spent some time preaching the gospel in Arabia and Damascus, some three years to be specific. It was a different attitude toward him that he met within the city this time. He had left a hero three years before. He had gone off on a Holy Crusade to bring back heretics from Damascus, those troublesome schismatics who held to the messiahship of Jesus and split synagogues everywhere they traveled. But when he returned he was one of them. He was a Christian. Of all things, a Christian!
A lesser man would have avoided any association with this unpopular group, especially in the Jewish homeland and capital. But the Bible says that Paul “assayed to join himself to the disciples” (Acts 9:26). That is, he attempted to identify himself with them. He actually made an overt effort at having himself connected in the public mind with the church in Jerusalem. That took an enormous amount of courage.
But, allow me to point out that it takes courage for you to do the same thing today. The church was then “everywhere spoken against” (Acts 28:22). Similarly, though to a lesser degree in the USA, the church is attacked by lies and slanderous charges. She is ridiculed and reproached in the popular mind and in the media. But she has stood her ground because there are some who do indeed have the courage to do what Paul did back then.
What did he do? Let me break it down into its components, so you can see it plainly:
1. He associated himself with what the church believed and stood for. It was well known in the community that the Christians believed that Christ was the Son of God and that the Father had raised Him from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. By far the largest element of the community did not share this faith. In fact, many were fully prepared, as Paul had been, to persecute and even kill those who so believed. For Paul to become identified with the church meant that all would know what he believed and where he stood on these issues. They could quite easily pigeon-hole him because of his commitment. He was guilty by association. Yet Paul did not hesitate to make it, because it was the commitment which every genuine Christian must make to stand with Christ. For, you see, to stand with Christ, you must stand with other Christians.
2. He threw his influence behind the church. By letting it be known that he was a disciple of Christ in this way, Paul intended to throw what weight he had behind the church. All of us possess some influence upon others. We influence the way they think and act. That precious influence can be used by us for good or ill. Paul threw his influence squarely on the side of good. He made it known that he was a child of God, a disciple of Christ, and a member of the church of Christ. He did that by “joining himself unto the disciples,” becoming a part of the church in Jerusalem.
3. He worked for the growth and benefit of the church. After having let it be known that he was to be identified with the saints, Paul did not sit down and wait for others to do the work that needed doing. He became personally and actively supportive of the church. “He was with them going in and out at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:28). Moreover, he “preached boldly in the name of the Lord” (v. 29). Paul wanted to see the church grow and increase.
4. He worshiped with faithful saints at Jerusalem. After he had sought out and found faithful brethren at Jerusalem, Paul was “with them” in every way. I cannot imagine that to mean that, when they met to worship God, Paul was intentionally absent from such services. Rather, I see it as his custom to assemble to worship with them as he did elsewhere (see Acts 11:26).
If you are not yet so fully committed to Christ and His Cause as was Paul, why not make it so? Associate yourself with faithful saints and let it be known that your heart is with them.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 23, p. 714
December 6, 1984