Having returned to Damascus from Arabia, Paul no doubt picked up where he left off in proving that Jesus was the Christ through his wonderful knowledge of Scripture. Doing this for an extended period of time, most probably three years (v.23, cf. Galatians 1.18) seems to have upset the local Jewish population. We read:
“Now after some days had passed, the Jews plotted together to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot against him. They were also watching the city gates day and night so that they could kill him. But his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall by lowering him in a basket”.
(Acts 9.23-25, NET)
Under serious threat of death but with much still to do in his ministry (9.15-16) Saul escaped. His escape was hardly swashbuckling and movie-worthy, he escaped through an opening in the wall by [being lowered] in a basket. He knew that he still had much to do for the Lord and took action to make sure that he was still alive to do it.
So often we look down on those who flee during persecution and have a misguided idea that martyrdom is the only course for a believer. But is that the case here with Saul? Was that the case for Jesus in Matthew 2? Was that the case for David in 1 Samuel 21?
Rather than narrowly saying that martyrdom is the only course of action a believer should take,
we ought to see obedience as the only course of action a believer should take.
God’s deliverance is sometimes miraculous and it is sometimes humble. Either way, God’s will will prevail and God’s plans will prosper. Just think, if Saul had been too proud to be smuggled out of the city in a basket and had stood to face certain death (v.24b) our Bibles would be a whole lot thinner. Paul would not have been around to fulfil the words of Jesus in 9.15. As James Montgomery Boice wrote:
“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul…”
We need not look down on those who flee during persecution, and the same principle is true for you and for me. In the face of difficulties, hardship, or persecution, sometimes walking away is by far the best option. Not all are called to be martyrs, and not all are called to flee. The key is to be obedient to the will of God for you in any given situation. There is no pre-defined response for the believer in any situation aside from obedience.
For more about how to find God’s will for you, read our series here: