On the way, he must have thought he could not be treated any worse than he had been in Damascus. The year is A.D. 37, and three years have passed since Saul’s conversion when he arrives at Jerusalem to join the disciples. There were two stages in Saul’s experience with the church in Jerusalem: rejection and acceptance. At first, the believers were afraid of him. Saul “kept trying” (Greek) to get into their fellowship, but they would not accept him.
Saul’s “disappearance” for three years in Arabia gave credence to their suspicion of his testimony. Where had he been? What was he doing? Why had he waited so long to come to Jerusalem? Furthermore, what right did he have to call himself an apostle? Apparently, the apostles hid when Saul arrived in Jerusalem.
BARNABAS. Barnabas helped the Jerusalem church accept Saul:
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27).
Barnabas was actually his nickname, given him by the apostles. It meant “Son of Encouragement,” and it was most appropriate. He was actually born Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. He was probably one of many Jews who migrated back to Jerusalem, where he became one of the earliest converts to Christianity. He sold a field shortly afterwards and gave the money to the Jerusalem church. He is described as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, who brought a great number of people to the Lord (Acts 11:24).
Unlike most Christians, Barnabas believed Saul’s conversion story, and he smoothed the way for the former persecutor to be accepted by the Jerusalem church. Barnabas was the first of Paul’s inner circle, comprised of Barnabas, Luke, Timothy, Silas, Titus, John Mark, and Priscilla and Aquila.
Later Barnabas was sent to investigate and pastor the growing church in Antioch, and Paul returned to Tarsus. He would invite Paul to come and co-pastor the Antioch church. In A.D. 46, Barnabas set off with his cousin Mark and Paul to evangelize cities in Asia Minor. Though Mark deserted the party early on, Barnabas and Paul preached, performed miracles, and endured persecution together.
One early tradition, recorded by Clement of Alexandria, says Barnabas worked briefly with Jesus, being one of the seventy sent out to evangelize Palestine. Another tradition says he preached in Alexandria and Rome after leaving Paul, founded the church on Cyprus and was finally stoned and then burned to death in about 61 in Syria.
Thanks to Barnabas, Saul got acquainted with Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days. He saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother, who became the leader of the early church (Galatians 1:19-20). Peter possessed an enormous fund of Christ’s words and actions, far more than Saul could absorb in a few days. Both apostles must have profited from their exchange of information and theology.
THE SECOND CONSPIRACY. Saul picked up the mantle of Stephen, and began to preach to Grecian Jews. It did not take long before bold and fearless preaching in the name of the Lord aroused these Hellenistic Jews, who tried to kill him. The believers were still recovering from the shock of Stephen’s death. When the brothers learned of this plot, they took Saul down to Caesarea and sent him off on a ship to Tarsus (Acts 9:30).