The world is full of horrible, horrible events, and when you think about it, so is the Bible. A worldwide flood, destroying all of humanity, except eight souls? The earth swallowing people up? God sent His ONLY son, and He was killed, and crucified at that? Then, the people he saved were brutally persecuted? Those things would all be pretty horrible, if it weren’t for one little word. “But.”
Acts 9:27 “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.”
Acts 13:30 “But God raised him from the dead,”
The book of Acts is full of miraculous signs, beautiful conversions, and strong sermons. Yet these two verses stand out to me. Let’s take a closer look. You’ll want to pull out your Bibles here, because there isn’t enough space to type out all of the verses cited.
Acts tells much of the story of Saul. We first see him in 7:58, then in the beginning of chapter 8 we see him “ravaging the church”. With a brief look at the evangelistic work of Philip in Samaria, we return to Saul’s story in chapter 9 as he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”. In verses 3-9, we see his miraculous interview with the Lord. Then, we get to see something amazing: his conversion. This man, who has sinned continuously against the Lord’s church –while acting in the Lord’s name- is shown the error of his ways. He knew the scripture, having studied at the feet of Gamaliel, and after been shown the good news, he turned to the Way. After his amazing turn of heart, we see him preaching Jesus- boldly- as the disciples had prayed for in Acts 4:23-31. His preaching was so bold that the Jews in Damascus plotted to kill him, so he had to get out of there.
Displaced from the place of his conversion, he went to Jerusalem: the home church. In verse 26, we see that “he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” What is this? The people who had prayed for boldness in advancing the gospel are now afraid of this man who is trying to do just that? Exactly. Let us go back to Acts 8, verse 3b “and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” The Christians, (although at the time, they were not called Christians, Acts 11:26) were afraid. Saul had been active in the persecution of the Saints, before he went to Damascus to persecute the Saints who were located there. Then we come to verse 27- “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” This verse is one of the most powerful in the book of Acts. But Barnabas. We are introduced to Barnabas in Acts 4:36, with glowing report. A man who has always followed the law, sees the error of his ways, and now attempts to come and join those following Christ- and they are all afraid of him. All, that is, But! Without that little word, this account would be yet another of the horrible events in the history of the world- but thanks to it, we see hope, we see love. But Barnabas. Barnabas was willing to stand up before the whole church, and vouch for Saul, someone who had continuously persecuted the church, whom the church was afraid of, yet had been touched by Christ. Barnabas accepted the responsibility for what would happen if his faith in Saul was misplaced, and by doing so, helped establish one of the strongest missionaries of the early church. Acts 9 goes on to tell of Saul’s experience in Jerusalem, then we have the lead-in to the first Gentile conversion, telling us of the healings Peter was doing that took him to Simon the Tanner’s house in Joppa, where Cornelius’ men found him.
At the beginning of the article are written two verses, Acts 9:27, and Acts 13:30, which says only “But God raised him from the dead,”. Looking at the context, we see that Saul and Barnabas are again together, and this time are at the start of a missionary journey, fulfilling Christ’s commands in Acts 1:8 and in Matthew 28:18-20. Saul is now going by Paul, the Gentile version of his name, and is preaching in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. As he preaches the story of Christ to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles, we once again hear the news: (verse 28-29) “And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.” Is this not a horrible thing? Christ, the son of God, was killed- brutally, without honor… “But God raised him from the dead”. But God! Was there ever a more joyous statement? I highly suggest reading the rest of the sermon found in this chapter, which tells more of our salvation. But God. Without those little words, we would be left with the Son of God, our creator, buried in a tomb. We would be left without hope, without love. But God. This story is told to us over and over again, yet do we truly realize how much is going on? God could have said, “You killed him, you don’t deserve him.” But he didn’t. But God. He raised him, and through that action, we have salvation.
Horrible things will happen. Catastrophes, violence of men, rejection. There will be perverseness and deceit. But through God we have been shown hope, love, and mercy in these verses. Will we extend those to others? Will we make it able to be said of us, “But they…”?
By Hannah Lowe