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Lesson 1: For Such a Time As This: The Apostle Paul *

Introduction: Have you noticed the pattern in the Bible that God loves to work through weakness? Old Testament battles are won by using fewer soldiers (Judges 7) or going into combat leading with the choir (2 Chronicles 20). In 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 God plainly says that He uses the foolish and weak things of the earth to defeat the worldly wise and strong things of men. Why? God doesn't want humans to get confused about who is responsible for the victory. If you are a Christian and you generally consider yourself to be weak and foolish, this is good news. What about the rest of us who do not like to think we are weak or foolish most of the time? This is the good news about studying the life of the apostle Paul. He was smart and sophisticated and God did great things through him. Let's dive into our study of Paul and find out more!

  1. Paul - The Early Days

    1. Read Acts 22:2-3. Where was Paul raised? (He says "in this city." Acts 21:31 shows that this was Jerusalem.)

      1. Who was Paul's main teacher? (Gamaliel.)

        1. What do we know about him? (He was "honored by all the people. Acts 5:34. He was a famous teacher. Paul essentially went to an "Ivy league" school.)

    2. Read Galatians 1:14. How did Paul compare to other Jews of his age? (He was a leading young rabbi.)

    3. Read Acts 22:4-5. Who did Paul know? (He not only knew the High Priest and the Council (the Sanhedrin), he was an authorized representative to eradicate the followers of Jesus.)

      1. How ambitious was Paul? (He says that he was zealous and killed Christians. You would not want him after you!)

  2. Paul - The Chosen One

    1. Read Acts 22:6-8. Why would Paul (Saul) call the voice coming out of the light "Lord?" (Clearly, Paul thought this was supernatural. This was not a lightning strike or Paul getting dizzy and light-headed.)

    2. Read Acts 22:10. As you read this story, what makes you think it is the truth (other than the fact you find it in the Bible)? What makes you think that this actually happened to Paul?(Imagine you had the best education, you were one of the top men in your field in your generation, you knew all the power-brokers and you were their authorized representative. Would you just walk away from all that? Of course not. Paul believed that Jesus spoke to him and gave him a new assignment and direction in life.)

      1. What would be the modern American equivalent of this? (You graduated from Yale law school, joined the White House staff and advised the President. One day when you were on a mission for the President, something supernatural happened and you thought you should be a missionary to Iraq - something far outside your comfort (and safety) zone!)

    1. In the introduction, we talked about how God has a history of choosing the weak and foolish as His instrument for defeating the bad guys on earth. Why would He choose Paul? (The good news is that you do not have to be weak and foolish to do great things for God. (Although you might have to be knocked off your horse first.) The reason God chose Paul was because he was "zealous" for God. He was just misdirected.)

  1. Paul - the Mission

    1. Read Acts 22:17. Put yourself in God's place for just a minute. If you were assigning mission work for Paul, would you not send him where he knew the territory, had great contacts and was thoroughly acquainted with the local religion? (God says He is doing what seems illogical on the surface because He knows the locals will not accept Paul's testimony.)

      1. Read Acts 22:19. Did Paul debate this with God? (That is how I read Paul's response: Paul says, "Wait a minute. These guys know me and know I was on their side. They will listen to me.)

    2. Read Acts 22:21. Does God debate the point with Paul? (No. He just says "Go!)

      1. What has happened to much of Paul's worldly advantage? Is there a lesson in this for us? (Paul was a talented and educated man, but God left a lot of his "old connections" behind. He was heading into new territory. When God clearly says "Go" we should go even when we do not understand the logic.)

    3. Read Acts 22:22. As you look over the story Paul was telling in Acts 22:1-21, what point caused the Jews to decide that Paul was pond scum, and should be killed? (The "tipping point" seems to be when he says he was sent as a missionary to the Gentiles.)

      1. Why was that so maddening? (The part of Paul's statement of prophecy that the Jews would not accept him is probably not making them mad. They were not accepting him. No dispute there. That means it must have been the idea that he would go to the Gentiles to share the knowledge of God.)

        1. If this so enraged the Jews, what does that tell us about Paul's life-long thinking on the subject? (That he previously thought this was a bad idea.)

        2. What lesson can we find in this for our life and work for God? (God has given Paul a task he would not have chosen and is not suited to his career so far. This is not only a practical lesson for us, it further supports the truth of this story.)

        1. Did Paul stop sharing the gospel with the Jews? (Read Acts 13:43-47. Paul went "first" to the Jews. But, he understood his mission to be a "light to the Gentiles.")

          1. Does this make sense? Why not put your mission focus first? (It made sense since Christianity was not an entirely new religion - far from it. Paul preached that Jesus was the anticipated Messiah. He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and worship practices. Jews, more than anyone else, should most easily understand this. You would not have to start from "scratch" with a Jew.)

  1. Paul - the Human

    1. Read Acts 15:36-40. Will Bible heroes always agree? (Apparently not.)

      1. Is that okay?

      2. Who was wrong here? (Read 2 Timothy 4:11. In this and other texts we see that Mark works with Paul later in Paul's life. Paul now calls Mark "helpful to me in my ministry.")

        1. What lesson do we learn from this? (That great leaders of God can disagree and even be wrong!)

    2. Read Romans 7:14-17. Was Paul always pleased with his behavior? (No.)

    3. Read Romans 7:18-20. What separates Paul from the average bad person? (He desires to do good.)

    4. Read 1 John 3:7-9. John wants us to get this right. If Paul has a good attitude, but keeps on sinning is he "of the devil?"

    5. Read Romans 7:21-25. Is this the life of the Christian, to be wretched? (Paul speaks of the possibility of a "rescue.")

    6. Read Romans 8:1-4. How are the "righteous requirements of the law fully met in us [sinners]?" (Through the life and death of Jesus.)

    7. Read Romans 8:5-8. If Jesus lived the perfect life for us, does it matter what we do? Does it matter what we think? (Paul teaches us that if we set our minds on "what the Spirit desires" our actions will follow.)

    8. Consider your relationship with other church members. Which have you been most concerned about: what you did or what you thought? (We think it is our actions which are most important. But, the Bible teaches us that it is our mind that is most important.)

      1. If your mind is the most important, what steps should you take to "set" your mind "on what the Spirit desires?"

    9. Friend, Paul's life shows that God can use talented people in addition to the less talented. But when God says, "Go!" we need to obey even if we do not see the logic of it. Whether or not God has given you a great mission like Paul's, He has given you the mission of getting your heart and mind set in the right direction. Will you determine today to, like Paul, follow God's lead?

  2. Next week: "All Things to All Men": Paul Preaches to the World.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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