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Sabbath School Lesson Begins
Lesson 11 September 5-11
Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 9:1, Phil. 3:6,1 Cor. 15:10, Acts 9:1-22,26:18, Gal. 2:1-17.
the Lord said to Ananias, (Acts 9:15,16 NIV).
Go! This man is my chosen instrument to
proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of
Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name
One of the most central figures in the New Testament was Paul, originally Saul of Tarsus. Paul was to the early Christian church what Moses was to the children of Israel. The difference is that while Moses brought God’s people out from the Gentiles in order that Israel would be able to do God’s will, Paul brought God’s Word from Israel to the Gentiles in order that the Gentiles could do the same, that is, to do God’s will.
More is known about Paul than any other first-century Christian. He is especially remembered for his significant contributions that have influenced Christian outreach during the past two millennia. His missionary visits and activities to the nations around the Mediterranean Sea set a powerful example for Christian missions in coming generations.
Paul is credited with lifting biblical absolutes from their Jewish culture, where civil, ritual, and moral laws were so integrated into the fabric of Jewish life that there was hardly any distinction between the Jewish custom and what they thought was God’s everlasting message to the nations.
This week we will take our first look at someone who, other than Jesus Himself, is thought by many to be the most important figure in the New Testament.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 12.
Saul was born in Tarsus, an important town on the trade route between Syria and western Asia (Acts 22:3). Tarsus was a multicultural center of industry and learning and home for a short time to Rome’s most famous orator and senator, Cicero.
Saul’s parents were Diaspora Jews (Jews who were not living in the
land of Israel) from the tribe of Benjamin. His birth name was Saul
asked for (of God))—though, after he
began his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 13:9), he took the name Paul
(Latin Paulus, name of a prominent Roman family). Also, since
he was a Pharisee, Paul probably had a wife, though we know nothing
about her. In fact, we don’t know much about his family at all, though
a sister and a nephew are mentioned (Acts 23:16). Paul was also a Roman
citizen (Acts 22:25-28).
Saul was probably educated in synagogue school in Tarsus until 12
years of age, followed by rabbinic study in Jerusalem with the famous
Rabban (this honorary title meant
our rabbi) Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Like most Jewish males, he learned a trade—in his case, tent
making (Acts 18:3).
As already stated, Paul was a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). The Pharisees
separated ones) were known for insisting that all the
laws of God, both those written in the books of Moses, as well as those
handed down verbally by generations of scribes, were binding on all
Jews. Their strict patriotism and detailed obedience to Jewish laws
could make them appear to their fellow Jews as hypocritical and
judgmental. Paul, however, did not hide the fact that he and his father
were Pharisees (Acts 23:6).
Paul’s pharisaic background was an important element in his successful missionary work for both Jews and Gentiles. It equipped him with detailed knowledge of the Old Testament, the only Scriptures available to early Christians. It also acquainted him with the scribal additions to, and expansions of, the Old Testament laws. He was thus the apostle best qualified to discern between timeless, Scripture-based divine absolutes on the one hand and later Jewish cultural additions, which were not binding, and which therefore could be ignored by Gentile followers of Jesus. As we have seen, this issue would become a very important one in the life of the early church. Today, too, the role of culture in the church creates issues for the church to address.
Which of our Christian beliefs seem to conflict most sharply with the surrounding culture? How do you deal with the conflict without compromising what must never be compromised?
Personality traits are an individual’s typical responses to surrounding domestic, cultural, or educational circumstances. Character is the combination of traits, qualities and abilities that make up what sort of person an individual is.
Read Acts 9:1, Philippians 3:6,8; 1 Corinthians 15:9,10; 1 Timothy 1:16; Galatians 1:14; and 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. What do these texts tell us about Paul’s character and personality?
Paul was clearly a man of great conviction and zeal. Before his born-again experience, he used his zeal to persecute the early church. He supported the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58), took the initiative in imprisoning Christian women as well as men (Acts 8:3), made murderous threats against the disciples (Acts 9:1) and organized a raid on Christians in a foreign country (Acts 9:2, Gal. 1:13).
At the same time, too, we can see how Paul’s zeal and fervency were
to be used for good, as he dedicated his life to the preaching of the
gospel, despite incredible hardships and challenges. Only a man totally
dedicated to what he believed would have done as he did. And though he
lost all things for Christ, he counted them as
comes from a Greek word that means something which is useless, like
garbage. Paul understood what was important in life and what wasn’t.
Paul was also a humble man. No doubt, partly from the guilt of his former persecution of Christians, he viewed himself as unworthy of his high calling. And also as someone who preached the righteousness of Christ as our only hope of salvation, he knew just how sinful he was in contrast to a holy God, and such knowledge was more than enough to keep him humble, surrendered, and grateful.
One ray of the glory of God, one gleam of the purity of Christ,
penetrating the soul, makes every spot of defilement painfully
distinct, and lays bare the deformity and defects of the human
character. It makes apparent the unhallowed desires, the infidelity of
the heart, the impurity of the lips.—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 29.
None of us is immune to pride. How should focusing on the Cross, and what it means, cure anyone of that sin?
Read Acts 9:1-22, the story of Paul’s conversion. How was this experience linked to his missionary calling? See also Acts 26:16-18.
Right from the start, it was clear that the Lord had intended to use Paul to reach both Jews and Gentiles. No other event in Paul’s preparation as missionary and theologian compared in importance to his conversion; indeed, often in his witness he would talk about that experience.
(Acts 26:16 NIV). Paul
couldn’t preach or teach about what he didn’t know. No, instead he
would preach and teach out of his own experiences, with and knowledge
of the Lord, all the time in harmony with the Word of God. (See Rom.
Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to
appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and
will see of me
Read Acts 26:18. What would be the result of Paul’s work?
From this we can see five results of authentic missionary work:
If someone were to ask you,
What about your
own experience with Jesus? What can you tell me about Him?
what would you say?
and round about as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ
(Rom. 15:19, NKJV). What crucial element for
any kind of mission work can we find in this text? See also 1 Cor.
1:23; 2:2; Gal. 6:14; Phil. 1:15-18.
One thing is certain about all of Paul’s missionary endeavors: no matter where he went, the preaching of Christ and Him crucified was central to his message. By making it so, he was being faithful to the call that Christ had first given him, that he should preach about Jesus. The message for missions today is obvious: whatever else we preach and teach (and as Seventh-day Adventists, we have been given so much that needs to be shared with the world), we must keep Christ and Him crucified at the front and center of all our outreach and mission work.
Paul, though, didn’t preach Jesus just as some sort of objective
truth and then go on his merry way. Central to his work was to raise up
churches, to start Christian communities region by region throughout
his part of the world wherever he could. In the truest sense, his work
There is another element to Paul’s missionary work as well.
Read Colossians 1:28. What does it sound like Paul is saying? That is, is this evangelism or discipleship?
If one reads many of Paul’s epistles, it’s clear that they often are not evangelistic, at least in the sense that we use the term, that of reaching out to the unchurched. On the contrary, many of the letters were written to established church communities. In other words, included in Paul’s missionary endeavors was the work of pastoral care, edification, and nurturing the churches.
So we can see at least three central elements to Paul’s missionary activity: proclaiming Jesus, church planting, and nurturing established churches.
Think about the last time you witnessed to someone, in whatever capacity. How central was Jesus to what you said? How can you make sure that you always keep Him central?
Multiculturalism is a recent term, first appearing in print
in the 1960s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. For
many ancient peoples, there were only two categories of humanity—us and
them, our tribe and not our tribe. For Greeks, all non-Greeks were
For Jews, all non-Jews were
As we have seen already, the success of the Gentile mission forced the infant church and its leaders to deal with the Jew/Gentile divide. The question, at heart, was whether a Gentile could become a Christian without first becoming a Jew.
Read Galatians 2:1-17. What
happened here and how does this account illustrate, in its own way, the
multiculturalism in outreach and mission?
When Peter, at a later date, visited Antioch, he won the
confidence of many by his prudent conduct toward the Gentile converts.
For a time he acted in accordance with the light given from heaven. He
so far overcame his natural prejudice as to sit at table with the
Gentile converts. But when certain Jews who were zealous for the
ceremonial law came from Jerusalem, Peter injudiciously changed his
deportment toward the converts from paganism. . . . This revelation of
weakness on the part of those who had been respected and loved as
leaders left a most painful impression on the minds of the Gentile
believers. The church was threatened with division.—Ellen G. White,
The Acts of the Apostles, p. 198.
Paul faced the issue with Peter and took a firm stand for what today could be called a multicultural church. His Gentile converts would not have to become Jewish in order to become Christian. Paul’s complex background as a devout Pharisee, student of Rabban Gamaliel, Roman citizen, fundamentalist persecuting zealot, and finally convert and apostle of Jesus Christ, eminently qualified him to distinguish timeless, unchanging divine absolutes on one hand and their temporary cultural and religious vehicles on the other.
How do you distinguish between what are the essentials of our faith and what are purely cultural, social, or even personal preferences?
I have become all things to all people so that by
all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the
gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor.
Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV. Modern missiology applies the
contextualization to Paul’s mission methods stated here.
Contextualization is defined as
attempts to communicate the Gospel
in word and deed and to establish the church in ways that make sense to
people within their local cultural context, presenting Christianity in
such a way that it meets people’s deepest needs and penetrates their
worldview, thus allowing them to follow Christ and remain within their
own culture.— Note1 Darrell L. Whiteman,
Contextualization: The Theory,
the Gap, the Challenge, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, vol. 21 (January, 1997), p. 2.
The Jewish Christians living within sight of the temple naturally
allowed their minds to revert to the peculiar privileges of the Jews as
a nation. When they saw the Christian church departing from the
ceremonies and traditions of Judaism, and perceived that the peculiar
sacredness with which the Jewish customs had been invested would soon
be lost sight of in the light of the new faith, many grew indignant
with Paul as the one who had, in a large measure, caused this change.
Even the disciples were not all prepared to accept willingly the
decision of the council. Some were zealous for the ceremonial law, and
they regarded Paul with disfavor because they thought that his
principles in regard to the obligations of the Jewish law were lax.—Ellen
G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 197.
I wanted to call a meeting of all the clergy in my town in Sri Lanka. I thought we needed to pray and fellowship together. I reviewed the list to be sure I hadn’t forgotten any pastor. I knew that some of the clergy wouldn’t be happy that I was inviting the Adventist pastor, for they thought Adventists were a cult, but I wanted to include every minister.
I hadn’t met many of the clergy before, and it was a good chance to talk with them. I was especially interested to learn more about the Adventist church. When the Adventist pastor told me that his church worshiped on Saturday instead of Sunday, I was intrigued. But my interest was for a purely selfish reason. I decided to visit the Adventist church on Saturday and listen to the pastor’s sermons. Then I could use his material to help me preach a sermon on Sunday. It would save me a lot of work!
The next Saturday I visited the Adventist church. I was warmly welcomed by the pastor and his congregation. I listened closely to the sermon and took careful notes. The following day, I preached the same sermon I had heard in the Adventist church with just a few minor changes. This makes my life so much easier, I thought. The next Saturday, I went to the Adventist church again and took notes from the sermon. I used those notes to preach to my congregation on Sunday. The next week it was the same. Saturday night I went to sleep smiling at my brilliant idea to save work.
During the night I awakened feeling a sudden sharp pain in my shoulder. I jumped up and turned on the light. I had been bitten by a snake. My wife and I frantically searched for the snake in our room, but we couldn’t find it. My wife took me to the hospital, but we couldn’t tell the doctors what kind of snake it was so they were not able to give me the right antivenom treatment. I lost consciousness, and the doctor thought I had died.I was taken to the mortuary, and my brother brought a coffin. My family and friends started weeping over my body. After some time, someone touched me. Perhaps they felt warmth where the skin should have been cold, but they checked and found I still had a weak pulse. Excitedly, they rushed me into the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. To be continued
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Sabbath School Lesson Ends
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