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Last time, we saw that Barnabas went the distance to vouch for Saul/Paul and to get him an audience with the core group of Christ’s followers in Jerusalem. Verses 28 and 29 tell us Saul/Paul began moving freely in Jerusalem after gaining acceptance with the others. He was speaking boldly in the name of the Lord to the townspeople. He also took over the role of Stephen whom he had helped to kill and took the message of Christ to the Hellenistic Jews (those Jews who were immersed in Greek culture).
Here is where things get tricky. The Hellenists had no part of Saul/Paul and sought to kill him right out of the starting block. Ok, so let’s discuss this for a moment. Saul/Paul was known by the Jews in Jerusalem. The fact that he had converted to Christianity was no doubt a large amount of the reason he was a target for murder. He had turned against the tide of the culture.
Now, my question is this… shouldn’t Saul/Paul’s celebrity had an impact upon those he was trying to reach? We are told this in our time. We hear people say that certain folks can better be reached by celebrities and sports heroes and etc than by just regular old Christian people.
Saul/Paul had been an unabashed enemy of the Church. Now he was proclaiming Jesus as strongly as he had ever opposed Him. Shouldn’t this testimony have convinced those in opposition to the Church?
Let’s put it this way, celebrity or notoriety may open a door for someone but only the testimony about Jesus will convert a soul according to God’s will and purpose. People do not get saved because a celebrity speaks to them. People only get saved by grace though faith as the result of hearing God’s word and being called by Him.
No amount of celebrity or public curiosity will result in God’s work being done unless God has ordained the person(s) for His purpose. I recall seeing one of Elvis’ step-brothers speak in a church in the 1980s. He was an evangelist who spoke partly about his life with Elvis and preached the gospel. The building was packed out. He preached a pretty good message as I recall and only a message that was faithful to God’s word could produce faith.
Speaking about a popular subject could fill a building but it would not produce any salvation experiences. The Bible says that faith comes from hearing the word of God. People may follow a celebrity or sports figure but no one follows anyone into Heaven. Only God can bring a soul into His kingdom.
Saul/Paul was soon escorted out of town by his new friends because of the plot against his life. In this case, God chose to use Saul/Paul in a different place. Saul/Paul’s celebrity status worked against his being effective however, God was not thwarted in His plan. God was planning to use Saul/Paul in a different way.
We should be careful not to assume certain people and/or processes derive their power from the response given by crowds. God is sovereign and He will complete His plans. It is not what people want to hear that is important. It is what they need to hear that counts… Take it the the bank!