Last time we were learning about the spread of the Church. Damascus is today the capital of Syria, a separate nation from Israel, but in those days, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee were all provinces in the greater “country” of Syria. So the church had spread to Damascus by this time (the conversion of Saul happened about three years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ), but we learn that it is still meeting in the synagogues.
The believers in the Lord Jesus Christ did not consider themselves a separate religion from Judaism. In fact Judaism as it exists today did not exist then. There were the worshippers of the Most High God, YHVH; and the pagans. Those were the two categories. Jesus and His disciples and all Jews fell into the worshippers of the Most High category, who met in synagogues on Sabbath to hear the selection from the Law (Torah) and the selection from the Prophets read every week. A Psalm was sung every week also. There are 150 Psalms, 52 weeks in a year x 3 years = just slightly more than 150. It also took three years to read through the entire Torah on the Sabbaths, from beginning to end.
The apostles and disciples rested on the Sabbath, met in the synagogues on Sabbath, read Moses and the Prophets on the Sabbath, continued to eat according to the dietary laws that they had been raised with, and obeyed the other commandments, as we will see as we go through Acts. The notion of not obeying the Law of Moses had not entered their minds at this point — they were not trying to separate themselves from their religion or the God of their fathers.
So Saul had letters from the high priest, to go to the synagogues of Damascus and see if he could “ferret out” any of the believers in Jesus there, to bring them in chains to Jerusalem. Jesus Himself took care of the persecution which Saul was bringing against the Church, by revealing Himself to him!
Now this is important – Saul was a Pharisee and zealous for the Lord. He did not realize that in persecuting the Church, we was acting against God instead of for Him. But Jesus is only recognizable as the long- awaited Messiah (before He appears in glory at the end of this age) if He reveals Himself to someone (Mat 16:13-17).
The Torah prophesies that this would be the case. Joseph is a type of Messiah in Torah, i.e. his life prophesies about the life and ministry of Messiah. Many of the patriarchs are types of Messiah; this is one way that Moses writes about Messiah (Joh 5:45-47) when he does not mention Him directly in any way. Joseph’s life of suffering for the sins of his brothers, then being exalted to lordship over them, for the purpose of delivering their lives from destruction, mirrors the life and ministry of the Messiah (Joseph’s story is recorded in Gen 37-50).
Anyway, when Joseph’s brothers came to see him to get grain, they did not recognize him for who he was until he revealed himself to them (Gen 45:1-4). And this is a principle that is still in effect until the end of this age, when the Lord takes down the veil that has covered Judah’s eyes, which keeps him from seeing Jesus as his Messiah (Rom 11:25-27 – the veil is already being removed, and the time is short, hallelujah!).
So in a way, it was the Lord exercising His sovereignty that Saul did not recognize Him until He revealed Himself to him at the time and place of His choosing. So why did the Lord blind him and all the rest of it? I mean, Jesus came to heal all those who had been oppressed by the devil. The Lord was humbling Saul, I believe. Saul was very great in his learning as a Pharisee, and very proud of his family’s heritage as Pharisees (Php 3:4-6). He was confident in his knowledge as he had been taught under the greatest teacher in Jerusalem, Gamaliel, who proposed the wise counsel given in Acts 5:33-39.
So a little blindness, a little fasting for three days, did wonders for reminding Saul who was the omnipotent Creator of the universe and who was the man whose days are like grass, LOL.
Saul, because of his great knowledge of Torah — an education which the disciples of Jesus as poor fishermen did not have — soon became the greatest asset the Church had in showing from Torah and the Prophets that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.
All the puzzle pieces were now in place … and God allowed Dorcas to perish, in order to bring Peter to the town of Joppa, where she was raised to life again, and Peter’s position as the greatest spiritual authority in the Church, operating under the greatest anointing of the Holy Spirit, was solidified. For beginning in Joppa, the next great drama in the life of the Church would unfold, right in accordance with prophecy … stay tuned for tomorrow!