The gospel spreads into Palestine, 6:1-12:25

ix] Paul preaches fearlessly in Jesus' name


Following his conversion, and without the approval of the apostles, Saul immediately begins proclaiming the gospel throughout the synagogues in Damascus. Inevitably, Saul stirs up a hornets-nest of opposition, and is forced to escape the city, lowered down the city wall in a basket. On reaching Jerusalem, Barnabas sponsors Saul and so, although initially wary of him, "the disciples" welcome him into the fellowship of believers. Saul then takes up Stephen's role of debating boldly with the Hellenist Jews. Trouble soon develops, and so the believers spirit him away to Caesarea and then on to Tarsus.


iThe apostle Paul is a divinely appointed evangelist, approved by the apostolic community, but independent of them.

iThrough struggle and trial the gospel triumphs.


i] Context: See 6:1-7.


ii] Background:

iThe theological structure of the gospel; 3:11-26;

iContextualising the gospel, 16:1-15.


iii] Structure, Paul preaches fearlessly in Jesus' name:

Saul evangelises Damascus, 19b-22;

Growing opposition in Damascus, v23-25;

Saul's visit to Jerusalem, v26-30;

The Way flourishes peacefully in Palestine, v31.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke's purpose in Acts is to detail the movement of the gospel to the ends of the earth, and its centre, Rome, and this at the hand of the apostle Paul. Yet, before Paul's mission to the Gentiles properly gets underway, Luke has more to say of the gospel's spread into Palestine. So, we are given a shorthand description of Paul's ministry in Samaria and Jerusalem, and his move to take up residence in Tarsus. Luke will refocus again on Paul in chapter 11 when Barnabas seeks him out in Tarsus to help out in Antioch.

It is interesting to note the differences between Luke's account of Paul's early years in ministry, and his own account of those years in Galatians 1:11-24. Following his conversion, Paul mentions a time in Arabia, after which he returns to Damascus. It is very likely that Paul's three year retreat in Arabia (for study and prayer??) is bookended by his times in Damascus. After these three years, he goes up Jerusalem for three weeks, during which time he gets to meet Peter, as well as James, the Lord's brother, and then off to Syria and Cilicia. As for the differences, Dunn makes the point that "Paul is emphasising his independence from the Jerusalem apostles; Luke is emphasising his acceptance by them."

It is also worth noting that in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul mentions his escape from Damascus, although the Jews are not the perpetrators, but rather Nabataean Arabs under king Aretas. Is Luke not across the details of Paul's escape from Damascus (so Barrett), or is he just identifying the prime instigators of the troubles (so Bock)? Fitzmyer sees not conflict in the historic details; it's all just a matter of perspective.

Barrett suggests the theme of "the victory of the word of God" has coloured Luke's account of the events. It certainly seems likely that Luke truncates the account of these early years, selecting material that reinforces his themes. It is important to note that this victory of the word is "defined, not by numbers but by faithfulness in giving out the gospel", Bock. The victory of the word of God also aligns with the victory of the church, which, although at times set upon, ultimately lives at peace in the wider community, so promoting gospel outreach, cf., v31.

"This whole section shows how quickly the Lord's words about Saul in 9:15-16 are fulfilled. The persecutor soon becomes the persecuted", Peterson D. Yet, in the midst of this fire, Luke sets out to reveal that "Paul was a great independent evangelist and formative influence in Christian theology", Barrett. Luke presents Paul as a great preacher, and independent thinker, affirmed by the founding apostles, but not dependent upon them.

In passing, it is worth noting that we can date Luke's account, given that king Aretas was given full power after the death of Tiberius, AD 37, and that he died in AD 39.


v] Homiletics:

Verse 31 lends itself to an expository sermon, as outlined in the notes below. In a godless world, persecution of the church is inevitable, but Luke is making the point in this verse that the normal state of affairs is peace, a peace which enables the church to work for the upbuilding of God's people and outreach to the lost. It is for this reason that the church offers up prayers for the state so that peace, rather than anarchy, may prevail.

Text - 9:19b

Saul preaches fearlessly for Jesus: i] Saul evangelises Damascus, v19b-22. Following his conversion, Saul becomes an accepted member of the fellowship of believers in Damascus and sets about proclaiming the gospel. Luke summarises his message in the terms of a proclamation that Jesus is "the Son of God", v20. This is the first and only time Luke uses this shorthand version of the gospel in Acts, although Paul himself uses the phrase as a messianic equivalent of the glorious anointed one of God, mediator and Lord, cf., Gal.2:20, Eph.4:13, ...; Luke has already used this messianic title a number of times in his gospel, 1:35, .... Saul is preaching to Jews in Damascus and so a gospel message employing messianic terminology concerning "the Christ", v22, is appropriate for his audience. Saul "confounded" the Damascene Jews with his arguments.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

meta + gen. "with [the disciples]" - [he became = was] with [the disciples in damascus certain = some days]


As noted above, Luke does not mention Saul's time in Arabia (for prayer, reflection and study??), so his initial time in Damascus may be limited and it is only after his return from Arabia that his evangelistic ministry in Damascus begins in earnest. None-the-less, Luke tells us that at the outset, Saul testifies that Jesus is the messiah, "the Son of God"

euqewV adv. "at once" - immediately, [in the synagogues]. This temporal adverb is used for dramatic effect.

ekhrussen (khrussw) imperf. "he began to preach" - he was preaching [jesus]. The imperfect is probably inceptive, stressing the beginning of the action, as NIV.

oJti "that" - that. The NIV treats oJti as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what Saul is preaching; "preaching that Jesus was the Son of God", Moffatt. It seems likely that "Jesus" is the direct object of the verb "to preach", so the recitative element of the dependent statement is "this one = he is the Son of God"; "he proclaimed Jesus, namely that he is the Son of God." "Saul ... at once preached Jesus in the synagogues, saying that He is the Son of God", Berkeley, so also ESV, Barclay, ....

tou qeou "[Son] of God" - [this one is the son] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational. The phrase "Son of God" is a messianic title, as is oJ CristoV, "Christ / Messiah", v22, ie., both titles are synonymous. The title identifies Jesus as the anointed one of Jewish messianic expectation. The phrase does not go so far as to imply a filial relationship with God the Father, but it may imply an association with divinity, or at least godlikeness.


Saul the persecutor (porqhsaV, "destroyer, plunderer, violent oppressor") becomes Saul the proclaimer (euaggelisthV, (a preacher of the gospel), and the people are amazed.

oiJ akounteV (akouw) pres. part. "[all] those who heard" - [but/and all] the ones hearing [were amazed. and they were saying]. The participle, limited by the adjective "all", serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to amaze."

ouc "[is]n't" - [is] not [this one]. This negation is used in a question expecting a positive answer; "'Isn't this the man,' they said, 'who in Jerusalem carried out a merciless campaign against those who call on the name?", Barclay.

oJ porqhsaV (porqew) aor. part. "who raised havoc" - the one having destroyed [into jerusalem]. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative of the verb to-be.

touV epikaloumenouV (epikalew) pres. mid. part. "those who call on" - the ones calling upon [the name]. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative object of the participle "having destroyed." As in 9:14, those calling on "the name", are those who call on the person of Jesus / the Lord / God. As such, it serves as a common descriptor for the faithful; they are the saved ones; "wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers", Peterson.

eiV + acc. "-" - [and has come here] into = for [this purpose]. Here expressing purpose / end-view.

iJna + subj. "to [take them]" - that [he might take them]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that ..."

dedemenouV (dew) perf. mid. part. "as prisoners" - having been bound [upon = before the chief priests]? The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object autouV, "them", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "them"; "to bring them bound before the chief priests", ESV.


"Their suspicions didn't slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he ploughed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah", Peterson.

mallon adv. "[grew] more and more [powerful]" - [but/and, saul] more [was made strong and was confusing = confounding the jews]. Comparative adverb used to strengthen the imperfect verb "to be strong"; "he increased all the more in power", Cassirer.

touV katoikountaV pres. part. "living [in Damascus]" - the ones dwelling [in damascus]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Jews"; "the Jews who lived in Damascus", ESV.

sumbibazwn (sumbibazw) pres. part. "by proving" - advising = demonstrating. The participle is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, as NIV; "by demonstrating", Cassirer, or better, "proving", ESV, Berkeley, .....

oJti "that" - that [this one is the christ]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Saul was "demonstrating" to the Damascene Jews.


ii] Growing opposition in Damascus, v23-25. As the Lord promised, Paul's mission to take the gospel to the ends of the world, comes with suffering, 9:16. So, trouble ensues, but the spread of the gospel cannot be confined. In time terms, Luke's temporal phrase "when was fulfilled many days" = "after a considerable period of time", takes us past Saul's initial ministry in Damascus and his sabbatical in Arabia, to the end of his ministry in Damascus. As already noted, the exact sequence of events is somewhat unclear.

wJV "after" - [but/and] as = when, while [many days were fulfilled]. Here the conjunction is temporal, introducing a temporal clause.

anelein (anairew) aor. inf. "to kill" - [the jews advised = plotted] to kill [him]. The infinitive is best classified as complementary, so Culy and Kellum, but it may also be treated as recitative, introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, where the infinitive serves to express what the Jews determined as they "counselled, advised = plotted" together; "they conspired together to murder / that they would murder him." "The Jews hatched a plot against his life", REB.


"It did not take Saul long to uncover the plot. They had put every gate in the city under twenty-four hour a day surveillance, in hopes of capturing and lynching him", Junkins.

tw/ Saulw/ (oV) dat. "Saul" - [but/and, the plot of them was made known] to saul. Dative of indirect object. The genitive autwn, "of them", is adjectival, possessive, "their plot", or verbal, subjective, "the plot hatched by them."

te kai "[day] and [night]" - [but/and they were watching and = also the gates] both [of day] and [of night]. Correlative construction, coordinating "day" and "night". The genitives, "night" and "day", are temporal.

oJpwV + subj. "in order to kill [him]" - that [they might destroy, kill = murder him]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, as NIV.


Paul also speaks of his escape from Damascus in 2Corinthians 11:33, although he uses it as an example of his weakness.

autou gen. pro. "his [followers]" - [but/and the disciples] of him. A variant auton, "him", exists, but it is not well supported, giving the sense "the disciples having taken him during the night." Even though the NT usually only refers to Jesus' disciples, Metzger still opts for auton, as do Packer, Haenchen, ...; "his converts", NEB.

labonteV (lambanw) aor. part. "took him" - having taken him. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to let down."

nuktoV (ux uktoV) gen. "by night" - of night. The genitive is adverbial, temporal, "during the night."

calasanteV (calaw) aor. part. "lowered [him]" - [they let down him] lowering [in a basket]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as either instrumental, expressing means, "by lowering him", or modal, expressing manner.

dia + gen. "through [an opening in the wall]" - through [the wall]. Local, expressing space; "through" in spatial terms, although some translations opt for "over the wall", REB, Barclay, .... In 2Cor.11:33, Paul says he was lowered through (dia + gen.) a quridoV, "opening = window" in the wall. Barrett argues that it is unlikely that Luke has used Paul's second letter to the Corinthians as his source for this story.


iii] Saul's visit to Jerusalem, v26-30: Given Paul's/Saul's history, he is not warmly welcomed by the members of the Way when he arrives in Jerusalem. On the occasion Saul had gone after the church, he was arresting men and women alike. Barnabas intervenes and takes Saul to see the apostles. As Peterson D notes, if the apostles give Saul the seal of approval then the wider Christian community will follow. Accepted as a genuine believer, Saul then sets to work, preaching the gospel and suneqhtei, "debating, arguing, disputing" with his old friends, the Hellenists. Again, there is a violent reaction, and the adelfoi, "brothers = believers", arrange a quick exit, back home in Tarsus, a town in Cilicia, southeast Asia Minor.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

paragenomenoV (paraginomai) aor. part. "when he came" - having come [into jerusalem]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

kollasqai (kollaw) pres. mid. inf. "[he tried] to join" - [he was attempting, trying] to be united to, joined to, associated with. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to try."

toiV maqhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "the disciples" - the disciples [and all were afraid of him]. Dative of direct object after the infinitive, "to be joined to".

pisteuonteV (pisteuw) pres. part. "[not] believing" - [not] believing. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "because they were unable to believer that he really was a disciple."

oJti "that" - that [he is a disciple]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they did not believe.


As already noted, Luke's account does not fit exactly with Paul's account in Galatians 1:17-19. Paul tells us that the only apostle he met was Peter, but also the Lord's brother, James, and that it was three years after his conversion that he went up to Jerusalem.

epilabomenoV (epilambanw) aor. part. "took hold" - [but/and barnabas] having taken hold of [him and brought him toward the apostles]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to bring." We would expect an epi prefix participle like "having taken hold of" to take the genitive of direct object "him", but this verb often takes an accusative object, so auton rather than autou.

autoiV dat. pro. "[told] them" - [and told] them. Dative of indirect object.

pwV .... oJti "how [..... and] that" - how [in = on the way = road he saw the lord and] that [he spoke to him]. Both conjunctions serve to introduce two conjoined object clauses for the verb "to tell" / dependent statements of indirect speech expressing what Barnabas is telling the apostles. Culy, quoting Porter G, Idioms, indicates that whereas oJti details content, pwV provides general information about the content.

pwV "[and] how" - [and] how [in damascus he spoke boldly]. As above.

en "in [the name of Jesus]" - in [the name of jesus]. With respect to the action of preaching or baptising, more often than not, the phrase is introduced with a local en, expressing sphere, metaphorical, "in the sphere of the name Jesus", or means, "by / with the name Jesus." Calvin was of the view that "the name" referred to the "the authority and power" of Jesus, adding that "We must not dream that there is magic virtue in the sound of the word." So, as Kellum puts it, speaking in " the name" of someone involves "speaking as an authorised agent." Yet, when referring to "the name" of someone, we are primarily referring to their person - a person's name represents the person themselves. On many occasions, preaching "in the name of Jesus" (so also baptising / immersing; see Water Baptism in Acts, 2:37-41) virtually means preaching the gospel, preaching about Jesus, his person and works = he is Lord - "the name that is above every name", Phil.2:9. So, speaking "in the name of Jesus" primarily means speaking about Jesus, although Barrett argues for something stronger; "it is to speak on his behalf, almost in his person." Culy suggests that the sense here is that the person who opposed Jesus now speaks "in favour" of him.


Again, Paul's statement in Galatians that "he was not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea" does not quite fit with Luke's account here.

h\n ..... eisoporeuomenoV (eisporeuomai) aor. part. "moved about freely" - [and] he was entering [and going out with them into jerusalem]. Along with the participle, "going out", this participle, with the imperfect verb to-be, forms an imperfect periphrastic construction, probably emphasising aspect, ie., ongoing movement about Jerusalem. The terminology is used to express free movement, so Zerwick; "Saul freely moved around Jerusalem, with no questions asked." Luke uses this terminology to describe Jesus' ministry, his getting-about, here-and-there, to preach the gospel. So, it's probably more about getting-about than moving-freely - Saul, like Jesus, is busy communicating the gospel, when and where he can.

parrhsaizomenoV (parrhsaizomai) pres. part. "speaking boldly" - speaking boldly [in the name of the lord]. This participle may link with the verb to-be h\n to form a third periphrastic construction, although it seems more likely to be adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of Saul's getting about, as NIV; he is getting about speaking boldly. As indicated in v27, "in the name of the Lord" may express the authority by which he is speaking boldly, but content seems more likely; Saul is boldly proclaiming the gospel.


Saul sets out to engage with the very people who led the attack on Stephen. Three years before, Saul was associated with the Hellenists, and was possibly even their leader, so, his speaking for the sect that he once persecuted is inevitably going to cause trouble.

te kai "[he talked] and [debated]" - and [he was] both [speaking] and [debating toward = with the hellenists]. Correlating construction, coordinating "speaking" and "debating".

anelein (anairew) aor. inf. "to kill" - [but/and they were attempting] to destroy, kill [him]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to attempt."


Given that Saul is about to face violence from the Hellenists, some of the "brothers" (probably used here of believers, the brotherhood, cf., 1:15) whisk him off to Caesarea, and then (possibly by boat) to his home town in Tarsus. Stott says of Saul's early years, that "it was Christ-centred, driven by the Spirit, courageous and costly."

epignonteV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "when [the believers] learned of this" - [but/and] having known, [the brothers lead down him into caesarea and sent away him into tarsus]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV, although, as is often the case, a causal sense is also present. "When the friends learned of the plot, they got him out", Peterson.


iv] The Way flourishes peacefully in Palestine, v31. This verse serves as another key summary of the state of affairs for the Jewish sect known as the Way, cf., 2:41-47, 4:32-37, 5:12-16, 6:7.. The church, as it established itself in Jerusalem, and as it spread into Palestine, suffered persecution, but now it is at peace (because of Saul's removal!!!!). "The concluding words imply that the community continued to enjoy the sense of the Holy Spirit's protection when the persecution was over", Haenchen. "The overall impression is of a period of relative peace, consolidation and steady growth", Dunn.

Luke describes the state of affairs that existed in the church with five descriptors:

ieicen eirhnhn, "having peace = at peace." For Luke, the gospel brings with it peace (Lk.1:79, 2:14, 29, 7:50, .....), peace with God and with mankind. It seems that Luke is describing the natural state of affairs for the church.

ieplhquneto, "it was increasing"; here referring to a growth in numbers, as in 6:1, 7, 7:17. "It greatly increased in the numbers of its followers", Cassirer. Although this verb sits at the end of the verse and is often translated that way, as NIV, it likely stands with eicen.

ioikodomoumenh, "being built up". The church is going through a time of founding, formation, stabilisation, ...... in organisation, but spiritual development may be intended, so, "the church ..... was at peace and became established", Goodspeed, or the church is "being edified", "built itself up in the faith", Cassirer.

iporeuomenh, "going = walking = living" - used here in the sense of conducting one's life - as in "a way of life".

itw/ fobw/, "in fear" of the Lord = "in respect for the Lord / its piety."

ith/ paraklhsei, "in encouragement, comfort, consoling" = "encouraged by, comforted by, upheld by, ....", possibly "under the influence of ....", so Barrett. Referring to a spiritual encouragement provided by the Holy Spirit; "The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them", Peterson.

The relationship between the two main verbs, the two coordinated participles, and the two coordinated dative / prepositional modifiers, in this sentence, is somewhat unclear. Numerous arrangements are proposed; the following is but one possibility, cf., Bock:

The church

was having peace and

was increasing (in numbers)

being built up = and as a result it was built up

(established, or edified)

walking / living = and as a result was walking / living

in (sphere of) fear of (toward) the Lord, ie., godliness

in (sphere of) encouragement of (by) the Spirit.

men oun "-" - therefore. Transitional. The conjunction oun is inferential, expressing a logical conclusion, while men indicates the addition of a further linked element to the previous verses; See men 1:6.

kaq (kata) + gen. "throughout" - [the church] throughout [all of judea and galilee and samaria had peace]. Spatial, distributive, as NIV.

oikodomoumenh (oikodomew) pres. mid. part. "was strengthened" - being built up [and going on, walking = living]. Both participles, "being built up" and "going on", are adverbial, probably best treated as modifying the coordinated sense of the imperfect verbs "were having [peace]" and "were increasing"; "the church ..... was at peace and growing numerically". The modification is unclear. Bruce Gk suggests that they are modal, expressing manner. Culy and Kellum suggest that they are temporal. Yet, it seems more likely that they are consecutive, expressing result, so Bock; "The church ...... was at peace and growing numerically, and as a result was becoming established / was being built up in the faith and going forward in respect toward the Lord and the encouragement of / offered by the Holy Spirit."

tw/ fobw/ (oV) "in the fear" - in the fear. Here with the sense "respect". As also for the dative "in the comfort", the dative may be adverbial, modal, expressing manner, so Culy, although it may be better to follow Kellum who suggests that they are local, sphere, "in the sphere of a respect for the Lord and in the sphere of the encouragement given by the Holy Spirit."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of the Lord" - of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, probably objective; "respect for / toward the Lord."

tou ... pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "by the [Holy] Spirit" - [and in the encouragement] of the [holy] spirit. The genitive is adjectival, probably subjective, "encouragement offered by the Holy Spirit", as NIV.


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