Tag Archives: Road to Damascus

Follow-up is Critical to Evangelism and Here’s Why

Have you ever thought about what happened after Paul’s conversion? We tend to think about this apostle as having always been a staunch defender of the faith having been converted on the road to Damascus. He was, in fact, just that, but if we were to look closely, we see that Paul was not alone in his journey from persecutor of the church to persecuted for the church. In Acts 9:17, we read, “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit,” (ESV).  Whether or not it was Ananias or someone else who did the work, the very next verse states that Saul was baptized. Still someone had to bring him food as well. It was as if Paul had joined a new family and that family cared for him and his needs. That is indeed what happened. “For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus,” (Acts 9:19b, ESV). He stayed with them. They cared for him. It would seem that they did not have much of a chance to teach him as he states in Galatians, “I did not immediately consult with anyone, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus,” (Galatians 1:16b-17, ESV).

What happened in those three years we cannot say, but it would seem that this event took place before the riot against Paul in Damascus that can be read of in Acts 9. No one knows why Paul went into Arabia or for how long. According to Timothy George, two thoughts are given: 1) Paul went to Sinai where the law was given in order to meditate on his new-found faith and come to an understanding of the Messiah, or 2) to evangelize to the people of Arabia.[1] I would agree with George in that there is no need to choose between the two options. However, when Paul came back, he had certainly not settled all his theology, for Luke tells us, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ,” (Acts 9:22, ESV). The strength that Paul grew in was mental acumen and faith. He was able to make an argument. It is not hard to believe that those disciples with whom he stayed helped develop that theology in him, just as Aquila and Pricilla did in Apollos later on (cf. Acts 18:27).

We also read that those same disciples helped Paul escape in a basket when the Jewish mob sought to kill him. They cared not only for his spiritual growth but for his physical safety as well. When Paul escaped to Jerusalem, he had no one. The apostles and the laypersons were afraid of him (cf. Acts 9:26). If it were not for Barnabas, the son of encouragement, who stood beside Paul, he very well would have been rejected by all. Barnabas, utilizing his own name and influence, supported Paul in his endeavors, later to join him on his missionary journeys.

When the people heard and saw that Paul was a genuine believer and preaching Christ, they rejoiced (cf. Galatians 1:23). How this must have encouraged him! They urged him on to preach, and while in Antioch, he was sent on his way to be on mission to the Gentiles.

What can we then learn from this lesson on Paul? Follow-up is essential to evangelism. The new disciple needs a family. They need people to care about them, perhaps even house them if they have lost everything for the sake of Christ and the gospel. They need people to teach them, strengthen them, encourage them, rejoice over them, and have their back. They need to be trusted with the gospel and encouraged to proclaim it, letting them learn from their mistakes.

We read in Galatians 2, Paul has not only Barnabas, but Titus as well. Titus was learning from Paul. We also know Timothy did as well (though not mentioned in Galatians). It was to Timothy that Paul wrote, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV). This was a disciple who was discipled and had discipled others, expecting and instructing them to disciple other disciples who would then disciple still more disciples. Follow-up and follow-through is critical to the Christian faith and evangelism. Let us not neglect to tell the good news, but let us also not neglect to follow up with the person to whom the good news was told.

[1] Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Galatians, (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994), 124.