In his account in Acts 9, Luke does not mention everything that happened to Saul after his conversion. He omits to say that, shortly after his conversion, Saul went to Arabia for an unspecified time and then returned to Damascus for three years (Gal. 2:17-18). Arabia is not the country that we call by that name today. In Saul’s time, it would have included the countryside around Damascus, so we don’t need to imagine that he travelled very far, although some speculate that he travelled down to Mt. Sinai. We are not too surprised at his decision to go to the countryside, to a place of quietness, because it was important for him to get his focus right. He needed to discover who Jesus was and what he had done for sinners and also to grasp the implications of all this for his future.
Saul’s experience here is a reminder that a new convert usually learns most doctrines in the first few weeks or months of the Christian life. No doubt, later experience will enlarge his or her understanding of the faith. And there will be some doctrines, which the Bible classifies as strong meat, which will have to be left to later. Yet there will still be a great amount of new insights in the first few weeks of the Christian pathway.
What effects would his time in Arabia have on Saul? Surely, there would have been an increasing sense of wonder as he realised who Jesus was and what he had done for sinners. He had discovered on the Damascus Road that the risen Jesus was the divine Son of God. In Arabia he would have pondered how the Son of God became a man, how he met the demands of God’s law in his life and death, how he had ascended to heaven after his resurrection, and how he was going to return in the future. And as all his knowledge of the Old Testament predictions of and descriptions of the promised Messiah flowed through his mind Saul would be amazed at the fulness of blessings there are in Jesus Christ. The future apostle would be astonished at his discoveries.
In addition to a sense of wonder, there would also be desire to worship Jesus. This is always the ambition of any who come to know Jesus accurately. Their roads to Jesus will be different, yet when they realise who he is and what he has done, they will imitate Thomas and say to Jesus, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Saul was not only an amazed disciple, he was also an adoring disciple. Surely, a true convert will have those desires in the early days of his or her relationship with Jesus.
Saul as he thought about Jesus would develop a burning desire to witness for him. He could not stay in Arabia for ever and eventually he would have to tell others about the Saviour that he had discovered. So he made his way back to Damascus and begun to tell others about Jesus. And the rest is history.
What are our intentions after coming to know Jesus?