Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #13- Paul (Saul)

No person, apart from Jesus himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the apostle Paul. Even before he was a believer, his actions were significant. His frenzied persecution of Christians following Stephen's death got the church started in obeying Christ's final command to take the gospel worldwide. Paul's personal encounter with Jesus changed his life. He never lost his fierce intensity, but from then on it was channeled for the gospel.

Paul was very religious. His religious training was the finest available. His intentions and efforts were sincere. He was a good Pharisee, who knew the Bible and firmly believed that this Christian movement was dangerous to Judaism. At this time he hated the Christian faith and persecuted Christians without mercy.

Paul got permission to travel to Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem. But God stopped him in his tracks along the road. Paul personally met Jesus Christ and his life was never the same.

Until Paul's conversion, little had been done about carrying the gospel to non-Jews. Phillip had preached in Samaria and to an Ethiopian man; Cornelius, a Gentile, was converted under Peter; and in Antioch in Syria, some Greeks had joined the believers. When Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to check on this situation, he went to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him to Antioch, and together they worked among the believers there. They were then sent on a missionary journey, the first of three Paul would take, that would carry the gospel across the Roman empire.

The thorny issue of whether Gentile believers had to obey Jewish laws before they could become Christians caused many problems in the early church. Paul worked hard to convince the Jews that Gentiles were acceptable to God, but he spent even more time convincing the Gentiles that they were acceptable to God. The lives Paul touched were changed and challenged by meeting Christ through him.

God did not waste any part of Paul, his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses.

Read Acts 7:54-8:3
-What effect did Stephen's death seem to have on Saul?

Read Acts 9:1-19a
-What was still Saul's purpose?
-In what dramatic way did God get Saul's attention?
-In harassing the Christians, who had Saul really been persecuting?
-What did Jesus tell Saul to do?
-How did this encounter affect Saul physically?
-How did it affect his traveling companions?
-Why do you think Jesus chose to meet Saul in such a dramatic way?
-What words would you use to describe Ananias?
-What job did the Lord assign him? Why did he hesitate? What reassured him?
-How did his obedience demonstrate his faith?
-What was Saul's attitude as he waited to hear from God?

Note:In Galatians 1:15-18 we learn that Saul spent 3 years in Arabia. Exactly when Saul left for Arabia is not clear. However, shortly after his conversion he went away to spend time alone with God.

Read Acts 9:19b-31
-How is Saul different from verse 1 to verses 20-22, 27?
-Why would preaching in the synagogue demand courage?
-How did Paul identify Jesus to the people?
-How disturbing was Paul's preaching to the Jews?
-Why do you think God's purposes for Paul include suffering?
-Why were the Jerusalem believers hesitant to accept Paul?

Paul's letters give us encouragement and strength. They instruct us in the ways of Christian life and point us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is the last week of our on-line summer study. Please watch this blog as well as CHIMES for more Bible Study opportunities. May God bless you as you continue to study His word.


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