Vouching (Acts 9:26-27)

Breast cancer tumor board.


Nearly every major hospital conducts this interdisciplinary conference. The diagnosis of a patient’s breast cancer is reviewed and confirmed by the hospital pathologists. The conference is usually a collegial gathering with the patient receiving a personalized treatment plan through input from their surgeon, oncologist, radiologist, and radiation oncologist.


At university medical centers, many breast cancer patients are seeking second opinions from national and international experts. At one university medical center, there was a well-known surgical pathologist, an expert in breast cancer, who had a reputation for denigrating community surgical pathologists. He had been known to lift up a microscope slide in front of the tumor board participants, read aloud the submitted diagnosis, then belittle the referring pathologist’s diagnosis, even if there was a minor disagreement with no impact on patient care. Needless to say, his actions did not endear him to other pathologists who loathed sending any case in consultation to him, unless specifically requested by the patient or oncologist.


Several years later, in an unexpected twist, our two pathology groups merged. His previously hostile stance radically changed and when breast cancer cases were submitted from our group to his university hospital, he now praised the accuracy of our reports. We were flummoxed but accepted this reprieve and wondered if we had misjudged him. After several years the merger fell apart and his malevolent streak returned, belittling the same pathologists who just a few months earlier, he lauded.


My colleagues and I shook our heads, upset that we were so naive to trust him, realizing his true nature never changed. His attitude shifted when the financial and political circumstances were expedient for him. In our encounters with this university pathologist, there was no one to vouch for the authenticity of his changed behavior.


Thousands of years ago, a similar change in the behavior of a notorious opponent of the early Christian Church led many to doubt the sincerity of his transformation. Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Pharisee who made it his life mission to root out all followers of Jesus Christ. He was convinced that they were blasphemers, deserving of death. Saul was very successful at his job until the risen Jesus Christ met him on a road to Damascus. In a dramatic encounter, Jesus revealed Himself to Saul leading to a complete transformation of Saul’s heart. Instead of the worst enemy of Christianity, he would become Paul, the greatest defender of the Christian faith.


And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.

Acts 9:26 (ESV)


The early Christians did not believe that Saul’s conversion was true. Why should they? How could they suddenly trust someone who just a few weeks earlier, had the authority to arrest them and all of their loved ones and throw them into jail to be executed? It had all the appearance of a trap, a setup. This was simply a way that Saul would infiltrate Christians, gain their trust, then betray them. The breakthrough came when Barnabas, a respected follower, personally vouched for Saul’s conversion to Christianity.


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 9:27 (ESV)


Barnabas placed his own reputation on the line and attested to Saul’s radical transformation. Barnabas vouched for Saul and when he did, he was accepted by all of the followers of Jesus Christ.


Jesus vouches for our transformation when we confess and repent of our sins and accept Him as Lord and Savior. In life, we may never find a Barnabas, a person who will vouch for the authenticity of our conversion of faith or that of another. Thanks be to God, that Jesus Christ knows our true nature and accepts us a fellow heir of God’s Kingdom and salvation.


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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