Look: “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 9:22, NIV)
Saul, once the persecutor of the Church, encountered the risen and ascended Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was heading to that city with papers from the temple authorities in Jerusalem authorizing him to move toward the excommunication of any his fellow Jews who confessed faith in Jesus as the Messiah/Christ. But rendered blind and helpless by his meeting with Jesus, Saul came to be a believer in Christ. Under the nurturing hand of Ananias and other church leaders in Damascus, Saul began receiving what amounted to catechetical training and, in no time, was preaching of the Gospel of new life through faith in Jesus Christ.[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]
He meets with skepticism at the synagogue. “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” people ask (Acts 9:21). This reminds me of the skepticism Jesus was met with at His hometown synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:22: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Skeptics always want to cut the things of God--whether it’s God enfleshed like Jesus or Saul, a former enemy of Christ who proclaims Christ, like Saul. People do this in order to elude the lordship of Jesus.
But in verse 22, we’re told that in the face of skepticism, “Saul grew more and more powerful.” This rendering is OK, but it hardly does justice to how Luke, in the Greek in which he wrote Acts, expresses things. A more literal rendering is: “Saul however, was all the more empowered.” Σαῦλος δὲ μᾶλλον ἐνεδυναμοῦτο. That last word, transliterated into English as enedunamouto, carries the meaning of was empowered. The danger of the NIV translation is that it makes it seem that as Paul spoke, he gained greater confidence in himself and became more powerful.
But that’s not what that verb implies at all! What Luke is saying is that Saul was being filled with power from an outside source. Saul had nothing to do with the power that was enabling him to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. That was and to this day, is the work of the Holy Spirit in believers willing to share Christ and His Gospel with others.
We see how the power of a Christian’s witness grows as they make themselves available to share Christ in two separate incidents recounted in the Gospel of John.
In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman by a well outside the village of Sychar. After Jesus tells her everything about herself, she runs into the village and speaks to people she had earlier been avoiding. She starts simply by inviting these people who had been gossiping and ignoring her to come and see a man who told her everything about herself. She ends by broaching the possibility that Jesus may be Messiah.
In John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind. The religious authorities are in an uproar and ask the now-healed man to tell them what happened. As the veracity of his story is challenged and as his own fearful parents leave him to fend for himself, the blind man becomes increasingly bold in proclaiming Who the Man Who healed him must be.
In each instance, the two who dared to say a good word about Jesus in the face of skepticism and opposition, even threats in the case of the once-blind man, grew bolder in their proclamation. They became more powerful.
I think more is going on here than the growing certainty that comes to us when we repeatedly rehearse something. That verb, enedunamouto, tells me that the more we lean on the truth of God’s Word about Christ, the more we share it, the more the Holy Spirit empowers us to share that Gospel word.
In Acts 1, the risen Jesus, just before He ascends to heaven, tells the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit to to come to them before sharing the Gospel. They do, the Spirit descends at Pentecost, and they proclaim the Gospel. And the more they proclaim it, the more power--power to convince others, power to sustain the proclaimer, power to confound skeptics (Acts 9:23)--comes to those who proclaim or share the Gospel.
Listen: Here, Lord, I feel that You’re telling me not to give up on proclaiming the Gospel. I need to proclaim the Gospel, not myself. I need to do so boldly and lovingly and not give up on doing so. I need to encourage the Church to do the same thing. As we do, You will give our witness more power: more power to convict and convince (John 16:7-11), more clarity, more ability to confound those who are skeptical, critical, or even enemies of Your Gospel.
Respond: Today, I make myself available to share Your Gospel with others. Help me to do it with boldness and humility (Acts 4:29). In Jesus’ name.