PAUL THE APOSTLE
Paul of Tarsus is attributed with writing most of the New Testament and doing more to internationally spread Christianity than any other person. Even from a merely human point of view his achievements are remarkable. His rugged determination is an encouragement to believers of all eras. His frankness, honesty, and humility, as recorded in the New Testament, give us an adequate glimpse into this historic personality.
The Biblical account of Paul's background prior to becoming a Christian is brief and simple. He was part of the Hebrew tribe, Benjamin (Rom.11:1; Phil.3:5). He was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Quite possibly, Paul belonged to, or was at least sympathetic to, an extremist fundamentalist group known as the Synagogue of Freedmen (Acts 6:9). He was born in Tarsus, as a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37; 21:39; 22:25ff). One legend has it that Paul's grandfather served in the Roman army and was given citizenship as a reward, during a time when Rome was keen to boost its number of citizens.
1. Although Paul was born in Tarsus, where was he brought up? (Acts 22:3)
2. Who was Paul's instructor? (Acts 22:3)
Paul's instructor was highly regarded as a doctor of the Law. He intervened at the trial of the apostles in Acts 5:33-40. He was given the honour of being called Rabban which means Our Teacher, a title much higher than "Rabbi". Some Christian tradition speculates that he actually may have become a Christian. Needless to say, Paul obviously received some very solid grounding in the Scriptures under this great Jewish teacher.
3. If you were to meet someone described in the following verses, how would you picture him: 1 Cor.2:3; 2 Cor.10:10?
Some scholars refer to a statement about Paul found in some ancient writings:
''And he saw Paul coming, a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked"
CONVERSION AND EARLY MINISTRY
According to Romans 16:7, some of Paul's acquaintances had become Christians. In Acts 8:1 Paul has been the ringleader in the brutal death of Stephen. Perhaps while Stephen was being murdered he locked eyes with Paul and uttered the words "Lord, do not charge them with this sin".
4. How would you feel if you were a non-Christian who was having a lot of your close mates become Christians, and you'd just killed someone like Stephen?
5. What does the Lord's question in Acts 26:14 imply?
So it was on the road to Damascus that Christ's enemy became Christ's soldier. After this conversion experience Paul spent an unspecified amount of time in Arabian Desert in between a brief preaching stint in Damascus for three years.
6. The Jews of Damascus were so emotional about Paul's preaching, how did they express their feelings toward Paul? (Acts 9:23-24).
7. Although that sort of reaction isn't common in our culture, what are some of the other ways we get treated by our non-Christian friends now that we're Christians?
Paul fled Damascus and went to Jerusalem where Barnabas ventured to introduce him to the Church leaders. His stay in Jerusalem lasted barely two weeks due to another assassination attempt. So Paul returned to the city of his birth where he 'sat quietly' for up to ten years before Barnabas came and brought him into ministry at Antioch. After some time in that church, Paul and Barnabas were commissioned as missionary apostles.
MISSION TO GALATIA - THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM - MISSION TO GREECE
This evangelistic tour took Paul and Barnabas across to the island of Cyprus and then through southern Galatia (Acts 13-14). Their pattern was to preach to the Jews and God-fearers first, then to Gentiles. They managed to establish churches in five cities. While they were away, back home, many of the Jewish Christians were claiming that the new Gentile converts must be circumcised in accordance with the Law of Moses to be equal Christians with them. Their influence had even affected Peter's attitude.
8. What did Paul do about this when he arrived home? (Gal.2:14)
By the time Paul arrived back, this heresy had crept into the Churches in Galatia (Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe) where he and Barnabas had just been. So he wrote a stinging letter to them in which 'salvation by grace through faith', was emphasised. This was later re-affirmed in the Council meeting at Jerusalem (Acts 15) where it was recommended to gentiles that they don't put up stumbling-blocks to their Jewish brothers (abstain from food offered to idols, eating blood, and unchastity).
9. What are some things today that could be classed as stumbling blocks, although there's no exact Scripture against them?
Paul split up with Barnabas after this over John Mark's defection. Instead, he teamed up with Silas on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40; 18:22). They travelled overland to Southern Galatia and at Lystra added Timothy to their party.
10. They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to travel through Asia (Acts 16:6). Why? (Note 1 Peter 1:1)
Too many cooks can sometimes spoil the broth! At Troas Paul received a vision to go to Macedonia. Churches were established in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea as well visiting Athens and Corinth. In Corinth Paul spent almost two years founding a Christian fellowship. From there he wrote to the struggling Churches in Macedonia (such as his epistles to the Thessalonians). The Holy Spirit moved Paul on from Corinth to Ephesus.
11. Who were the two people, a husband and wife, who met Paul at Corinth? (Acts 18:2)
12. The husband and Paul became great friends while in Corinth. They also became work-mates. What was their occupation? (Acts 18:3)
13. Paul was bitterly and violently opposed by the Jews. He probably felt discouraged at the rejection of him and his Gospel. But God did two things to greatly encourage Paul. What were they?
i) Acts 18:8
ii) Acts 18:9-10
Paul left Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus to over see the fellowship there. He earnestly desired to be in Jerusalem for the upcoming feast. He set sail from Ephesus and landed at Caesarea. From there he went to Jerusalem and greeted the Church, then went north (down) to Antioch his home-base. Paul set out from Antioch, this time overland, to visit the churches of Galatia on his way to Ephesus. In his absence from Ephesus, after his first visit there, a mighty man of God had thundered his way through Ephesus. His name was Apollos.
14. What message was he preaching before Priscilla and Aquila corrected him? (Acts 18:25)
So when Paul arrived there the second time, the influence of Apollos' teaching was felt when he found some disciples (Acts 19:1ff) who had only been baptised into John's baptism.
15. How long did Paul stay in Ephesus? (Acts 20:31)
During that time he reasoned in the synagogue (19:8), taught in a Bible school (19:9), gave everyone in Asia both Jews and Gentiles the opportunity to receive the Gospel (19:10), which worked many unusual miracles (19:11), saw many delivered from the magic-arts (19:19), sent illegitimate businesses to the brink of financial collapse (19:24), caused a city-wide riot (19:29) and embarked on some short missionary stints (Acts 20).
16. While at Ephesus, what two cities had Paul set his heart on going to?
(Acts 19:21) (i)
After an emotional, prophecy-packed, late night, miracle infested farewell speech, Paul set sail for Jerusalem. He knew trials, afflictions and persecutions awaited him. In Jerusalem, he was arrested under false charges and eventually moved to the coastal town of Caesarea to prevent his murder. There, Felix the Roman governor imprisoned him for two years (AD. 58-60; Acts 23-26). Felix's successor, Festus, indicated that he might give Paul to the Jews for trial. Paul being a Roman citizen appealed to Caesar.
17. Just prior to being sent to Rome, Paul had an interview with King Agrippa and Bernice. What was the effect on King Agrippa after hearing Paul's defence? (Acts 26:28)
Thus the words of Christ to Paul in Acts 23:11 were about to be fulfilled. They sailed for Rome but spent the winter in Malta due to a ship-wreck. He arrived in Rome the following Spring. He was placed under house-arrest for two years, while he openly taught about Jesus Christ to all who would listen (Acts 28:31). The story of Acts ends before the outcome of Paul's trial before Augustus. Tradition tells us that Paul went on to be acquitted (AD.63). He then preached in Spain and the West Asian region before his arrest and cruel death at the hands of Nero (AD.67).
18. To the end Paul fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. What awaited him? (2 Tim.4:7ff)
New Testament Survey
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania