When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but
their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night, to
kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall,
lowering him in a basket. 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. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles,
and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to
him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he
went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the
Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking
to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesare'a,
and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and
Sama'ria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in
the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.
Luke tells us that with Saul's defection he became the target of the very operation he had led. Saul had intended to arrest, imprison, try and stone the believers, but now his former colleagues were hunting him down. His life could never be the same. He escaped from Damascus and tried to find his place among the disciples in Jerusalem. The disciples were not exactly confident about him. That is when Barnabas enters our story. Barnabas attested to his conduct in the synagogue at Damascus. And so Saul became a part of the church. Any reservations - was this just an elaborate 'sting' to entrap the entire apostolic leadership? - had to be left in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
Luke uses the term "Hellenists" here. He has used the term "Jews" for those who did not accept the Messiah. But we encountered this term in Chapter 6 and there, presumably, it was the "murmuring" of a "Hellenistic" group of believers that led the apostles to lay hands on the 7 chosen deacons for the food distribution. Luke here says Saul was disputing with the Hellenists who wanted to kill him. It does not seem likely that these were believing Hellenists. The believers had fled in the persecution. Saul had been their persecutor. Now we find him in dispute with unbelieving Hellenists and his life is under threat.
It is not always clear how certain groups Luke refers came to be protected or why they were at risk. Who was fighting whom? Clearly, after making his opposition to the persecution known, Saul was at risk. He now received Jesus as the Messiah, his redeemer. So he was smuggled to Caesarea, perhaps to stay with Philip along the way, and then sent back home to Tarsus. He had to prepare himself for what the Lord Jesus wanted him to do.
Luke notes this occurred at a time of unprecedented peace and unity for the young church. The unity of Galilee, Judea and Samaria was proof positive that something mighty had taken root in their midst.