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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 11: Paul: Background and Call *
Introduction: Three weeks ago we witnessed Jesus sharing the gospel
with a Samaritan woman at the well. Two weeks ago, we learned about
Peter's vision that led him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a
Roman Centurion. Last week, we read the great things Philip did to
bring the gospel to Ethiopia and Samaria. Paul, the man we study this
week and the next, is the early church leader most identified with
bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. Let's jump into our study of the
Bible and learn more about his amazing story!
- The Conversion
- Read Acts 9:1-2. When the text says, "still breathing out
murderous threats," to what does the "still" refer? (This
is the stoning of Stephen that we touched upon when we
studied Philip. Saul approved of Stephen's death and was
at the center of the resulting persecution of the early
church. Acts 7:57-Acts 8:3.)
- What does it mean that Saul is going to the
synagogues in Damascus? (He caused the early
believers to flee Jerusalem, now he is following them
- Why should Saul have any police authority over anyone
who lives in Syria? (This gives us an interesting
insight about how the early believers were viewed.
The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem must have claimed
authority over synagogues outside Israel, even though
Rome was the dominant power. This suggests the Jews
considered the new Christians to be a type of
- Read Acts 9:3-5. What are you thinking if you are Saul?
- Read Acts 9:6-7. What do the witnesses confirm? (This is
written in an odd way. It seems that the men with Saul saw
the light and heard the voice of Jesus. However, they did
not see any person.)
- Read Acts 9:8-9. What do you think made Saul blind? (The
light. Intense lights will blind you for at least a
- Why didn't Saul eat or drink? (Put yourself in his
place: Jesus is alive and apparently God, and you
have been attacking His followers. Not a good
- Read Acts 9:10-14. Does Ananias think God has not been
following the news lately? God somehow missed the
articles in the Jerusalem Post about this guy Saul? (This
sounds like a great gospel opportunity until Ananias hears
the name of the man he is visiting. Thankfully, God
tolerates dumb responses from us.)
- Read Acts 9:15-16. Will this instruction make Ananias feel
better? (God shows that He knows about Saul. My guess is
that the reference to Saul suffering is intended to make
Ananias feel better about Saul's record of persecution.)
- Read Acts 9:17-19. Is this what Saul expected?
- Has Saul repented? Is there any reason to believe he
has changed? (Read Acts 9:11-12. Saul has been
praying and God sent him a message about Ananias and
him being healed.)
- Have you been involved in some serious sin, and then
repented and felt the relief of forgiveness? Has that
happened to Saul?(This seems to be that moment for
Saul. He is baptized, eats and regains his strength
after this ordeal.)
- Read Acts 9:20-22. Why didn't Saul take a couple of
years, study the Bible, get some lessons from leading
disciples, and then go out and preach? (Read Acts 23:6 and
Acts 22:2-3. As a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, Saul
was a top student of the Bible. He took his existing
knowledge, and reoriented it to fit the revelation that
Jesus was the promised Messiah. We also know from
Galatians 1:15-18 that later Saul left Damascus and spent
three years studying.)
- Read Acts 9:23-25 What is the official reaction to Saul's
conversion? (The Jews wanted to kill him.)
- Read Acts 9:26. Did Saul travel straight to Jerusalem from
Damascus? (No. Paul does not give us an exact time line,
but he spent three years in Arabia before he returned to
Jerusalem. Galatians 1:18. After three years of study
("God ... was pleased to reveal His Son to me so that I
might preach Him among the Gentiles," Galatians 1:15-16),
he returned to the Jerusalem headquarters.)
- Would you have been afraid of Saul? (Saul starts a
persecution that involves killing Christians, then
falls off the map for three years, then comes back
with a new name. Acts 13:9. Yes, I would be
- Read Acts 9:27-30. Is Paul's time at headquarters
worthwhile? (Yes. Barnabas is brave and accepts Paul.
Then, the Christians at headquarters help Paul slip away
from those who want to kill him.)
- The Work
- Read Galatians 2:1. Recall that Paul slipped out of
Jerusalem to escape those who wanted to kill him. This 14
year period appears to mark the time Paul was on his
mission to the Gentiles in Asia Minor.)
- Read Galatians 2:2. Why would Paul be running in vain?
(The leaders might not accept his work with the Gentiles
as being legitimate.)
- Paul says "those who seem to be leaders." Doesn't he
know who are the leaders of the church?
- Read Galatians 2:3-5. What is Paul's view on whether new
converts need to be circumcised in accord with the
instructions God gave to Abraham ( Genesis 17:9-11)?
- Why would the brothers be "false" if they are simply
arguing for what God told Abraham?
- Read Galatians 2:6-7. How deferential to leadership does
Paul sound? (Some criticism of church leadership causes me
to cringe. But, Paul hardly seems deferential here.)
- Read Galatians 2:8. Who does Paul say is the important
point of reference for determining if you are doing the
right thing? (God being at work in your ministry.)
- Consider that test. Are there religious organizations
that you think are not promoting the Kingdom of God,
but which seem to prosper?
- If so, how do you explain that? (Read Mark
9:38-40. Clearly, God was with Paul. Jesus
teaches that the "tent" is big when it comes to
promoting the gospel.)
- Read Galatians 2:9-10. Are "James, Peter and John" pillars
of the early church? (Yes!)
- Is this more of Paul not being deferential to the
acknowledged leaders of the church?
- Or, should we consider that Paul has been out of town
for 14 years? (The best way to look at this is that
long ago, when Paul was in town, he met with Peter
and James for only a short time. Galatians 1:18-19.
Paul is not a Jerusalem insider. He says his work for
the Gentiles is supported by those who he thought
were the leaders of the early church.)
- Read Galatians 2:11-13. Has your opinion changed now?
Isn't Paul now criticizing both Peter and James, the
"reputed pillars" of the early church? (The weight of the
evidence shows that Paul is not being deferential.)
- What is the lesson for our missionary work? (Leaders
are not always perfect. They do not always thoroughly
understand God's will. Peter has a message directly
from God - that is his point in Galatians 1:15-17. In
this situation he is not going to defer to humans.)
- Read Galatians 2:14-16. How important is Paul's point? (It
is the essence of the gospel! It is the essence of
righteousness by faith. We see now why Paul would not bend
on this point.)
- Re-read Galatians 2:13. Barnabas is Paul's trusted
partner. How difficult is this issue? (It shows that
people of good faith are on both sides of the
circumcision issue. But, Paul argues that there is
only one right side, and it is the side that is
consistent with Christ's sacrifice, but inconsistent
with God's instruction to Abraham.)
- Do we have issues like that in the church today?
- Read Galatians 2:20-21. Friend, have you set aside grace?
If so, why not decide right now to join Paul in his
determination to live a life of righteousness by faith!
- Next week: Paul: Mission and Message.
* Copr. 2015, 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.