A Joint Effort – Acts 9:19-31

by Roger McCay
22 Sept 2019
Sermon Passage: Acts 19:19-31
Link to Audio Version

You’ve heard the term “lone wolf,” I’m sure. It’s something people are called when they shun others in favor of living or working alone independent of others. The term comes from what we see among wolves, who normally thrive as a pack working together while led by an alpha. The pack system is a marvel. There is a constant communication between the wolves, and a hierarchy, where every wolf has a place with a role and responsibilities towards the good of the whole. They work together in the hunt. They keep each other warm in the cold. They protect one another, and they also play together. A lone wolf is one that is either kicked out of the pack or decides to head off on its own for whatever reason. They lose out on the benefits pack life, and, unsurprisingly, most don’t remain lone wolves forever. They just can’t thrive without a pack.

Examples of similar social behaviors among creatures abound, including Lions, Elk, Canadian Geese, Starlings, Cattle Egrets, Dolphins, Orcas, Ants, and Honeybees, among many others.

Humans are at the top of the list of creatures that are social. As God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, he created woman, and from there human society came to be. Society wasn’t a new thing either. Society existed from eternity in the very being of God himself. It’s in the very nature of God, and we are created in his image.

Even more, the Bible teaches that Christians are part of the organism that is the body of Christ on this earth. The head of the body is Christ (Col. 1:18). We are each a part of Christ’s body functioning together—1 Cor. 12:27: “You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” The rest of 1 Cor. 12 explains how this all works, and how the same Spirit indwells each of us. Hence, we are united in the body of Christ as a single organism. Everyone has an important place in the body and we work together and rely on one another.

Yet, despite God’s design, some folks tend to want to be a lone wolf, and ignore the support of the pack. The thing is, lone wolves cannot thrive, and the body loses out due to their absence. Every Christian needs the body, just as the body needs every Christian.

In our passage today, we see this working out in the example of Saul and the church. Saul is the central figure we follow, going from location to location. Luke paints a picture of the Spirit of God working through his church, the body of Christ—working together to assist Saul in his individual calling—to take the name of Jesus, the gospel, to the Gentiles, Kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).

As a part of this organism that is the body of Christ, every believer has their calling. Saul, of course, gets the most attention in our passage. But we cannot forget that he was carrying out his calling in the midst of other Christians who were carrying out their callings. He was part of “a joint effort,” with the Holy Spirit working through the whole process.

In Acts 9:19-25, we see the events that occurred after Saul’s conversion in Damascus. The timeframe for this is given in fairly vague terms (“For some days” v. 19; and “When many days had passed” – v. 23). In these passages, Luke is just giving a general rundown. Paul elaborates on his time in Damascus a bit more in Gal. 1:17. At some point he went away to Arabia (a time which some have called his “seminary” time), and then he returned to Damascus. Gal. 1:18 explains that it was after three years before he went to Jerusalem. So, vv. 19-25 occur a little over a three-year period.

Concerning the events specified in Acts 9, we see that Saul, while in Damascus spent some time with the body of Christ, the disciples, enjoying their hospitality and fellowship. They would have worshipped the Lord together; examined the scriptures together; and we can imagine the conversations, as they spoke with him at great length about what it meant to follow Jesus, discipling him.

But, Saul was a very special recruit to the cause of the Lord—called to be an apostle. He was exceptionally brilliant and bold. The Lord’s personal revelation to him along with his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures fell together in his mind and he got busy doing. Verse 20:

20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Despite the incredulity of those who heard him (“Wasn’t this the guy who was supposed to arrest those who called on Jesus’ name?”) … despite their incredulity … v. 22:

22 Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Saul was called by Jesus to proclaim his name—arise, go, and do. So, he jumped to it. And, like his pattern would be in his missionary journeys, the first place he went was to the synagogues—to the Jews. There, at the heart of his message, he proclaimed, “Jesus is the Son of God” and he proved that “Jesus was the Christ.”