College & Career Class Lesson Summary, October 14, 2018
We decided to do our intro to the book now as it goes nicely with what we’ve chatted about from Chapter 2 and what Paul opens with in Chapter 3. I opted to not do this at the beginning because I didn’t want it to be forgotten information once we got to this section of the letter. We looked at Paul’s calling, ministry and message.
In Acts 7, we find Stephen, a believer who waxes bold to stand in the face of the Jewish elders of the day and preach how they are no different than their fathers, who rejected all of the men that God has sent even up to rejecting the coming of the “Just One” (Jesus Christ. Stephen outright accuses them of betraying their God and murdering Him. Instead of realizing their error, they instead go after Stephen to kill him.
Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
This man named Saul (who is also called Paul in Acts 13:9) was a pharisee who was fancied himself as a devout man of God.
Acts 22:3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
And, a few chapters later,
Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
However, what Paul considered to be “zealous toward God” was not at all in line with what God wanted. As a side note, that should be a lesson to all of us that “being on fire for God” may not always be in line with what God is after. I fear many believers go off on a tangent in their own lives and attach God’s name to it when God had nothing to do with their efforts. Anyway, Paul really fancied himself as God’s man. In Philippians 3, Paul writes that he was zealous of the law above many of his own equals. But, Paul was committing atrocities in the name of God.
Acts 22:4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 22:5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
Acts 26:9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 26:10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 26:11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
When writing to the Galatians,
Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 1:14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
When writing to Timothy,
1Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Paul was very aware of his past – as was many whom he wrote to. It is common belief that Paul started these churches that he wrote to, but unless expressly stated in scripture, we shouldn’t be too hasty to make such a conclusion. After all, Acts 8 shows that the persecution that he was leading served to scatter believers abroad and as they were scattered, they were preaching the word. Now, Paul must write to these same scattered believers (that he scattered) and attempt to convince them that he is now on their side. You see this more in the Acts period before word began to spread about Paul. Paul alludes to this when writing to the Galatians,
Galatians 1:21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 1:23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
Paul wasn’t known by face to these folks, but word was getting around that he is now preaching the same faith he once destroyed. This is true because the Lord expressed a great desire for Paul and reached down to Paul out of the abundance of His grace. When Paul wrote to Timothy, Paul said that it was a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and of those sinners, Paul said to look no further than he, for he saw himself as chief. Yet, Paul says that Christ made an example of Paul – a pattern of how the Savior of sinners accomplishes His salvation. As the chief of sinners, Paul is then transformed into the chief example of grace.
1Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Some attempt to make a case about the word “hereafter” in verse 16 – that something new about salvation started with Paul. I’ll confess I used to take this view, but if the context of 1Timothy isn’t enough to lay aside that viewpoint, I’d like to point out that the phrase “to them which should hereafter” is actually just one word in the source material and it simply means “to be about”. In other words, to those who would believe, Paul is the example of their salvation. It isn’t a statement of time or process-beginning, but is a statement of association. Paul is simply associating himself with every other sinner whom would believe on Christ.
Paul is on the road to Damascus, pressing forward with his goal of eradicating the region of believers when Christ reaches down to Paul. Paul immediately submits to the Lord. Some use this to say, “See, you have to make Jesus Lord of your life” to be saved. However, we shouldn’t be so haughty to think we have any creative power nor authority to make Jesus be anything. It isn’t within our abilities to make Jesus Lord. In fact, we don’t have to concern ourselves with that task – God already handled it:
Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
God made Jesus Lord – Paul simply submitted to who Jesus ALREADY is. You cannot separate the Lordship of Jesus from Him as if it is a separate being, just as you can’t separate the Christ-ship of Jesus. He was made BOTH Lord and Christ. You and I, as Paul did, simply decide to submit to the reality of Christ, or not. Paul submitted and was forever declared faithful by God and God’s mysterious purpose was set in motion.
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
I say mysterious because there is something special about what Paul was given. Paul’s ministry had no focus other than all people, yet, some of this all people group still believed there was a distinction between them – Jews, as they looked upon Gentiles. Paul is going to express something to them that God had been keeping secret. There are benefits to their belief that God had kept hidden until it was due time to testify of such. We’ll talk more about this mystery in our next lesson, but suffice it to say, there is a garden of unity and equal footing that Paul is about to plow as he focuses everyone on the source of unification, the risen Jesus Christ.
Paul is set out on many journeys and it during these journeys that writes many of his letters. After these journeys end and he is put in house-arrest in Rome, he writes the rest of his letters. Click the link below to see the breakdown of the book of Acts, as it relates to Paul’s ministry.
As I mentioned above, in our next lesson, we’ll pick up on discussing the message of Paul and as we move further into the book of Ephesians, we’ll see the impacts of this message of unity and what it means for you and I in the body of Christ.
Our story continues…