December 28, 2014 – January 3, 2015
The Life of Paul
“He [Saul] is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15, 16.
Study Help: Early Writings, 197–202.
“He [Saul] had a knowledge of the Scriptures, and after his conversion a divine light shone upon the prophecies concerning Jesus, which enabled him to clearly and boldly present the truth, and to correct any perversion of the Scriptures.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 92.
1 THE HEAD DEACON
- How did the Lord use Stephen as a powerful instrument in the early church? Acts 6:2–8.
Note: “The church … selected seven men full of faith and the wisdom of the Spirit of God, to attend to the business pertaining to the cause. Stephen was chosen first; he was a Jew by birth and religion, but spoke the Greek language, and was conversant with the customs and manners of the Greeks. He was therefore considered the most proper person to stand at the head, and have supervision of the disbursement of the funds appropriated to the widows, orphans, and the worthy poor. …
“The seven chosen men were solemnly set apart for their duties by prayer and the laying on of hands. Those who were thus ordained, were not thereby excluded from teaching the faith. On the contrary, it is recorded that ‘Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people’ (Acts 6:8). … They were also men of calm judgment and discretion, well calculated to deal with difficult cases of trial, of murmuring or jealousy.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 292, 293.
- What was it about Stephen that aroused the ire of the Jews? Acts 6:9–14.
2 AN UNFORGETTABLE DEATH
- When Stephen was called to testify of his faith in Jesus and to relate the history of Israel’s rebellion, describe the contrasting difference between his attitude and that of the Jewish council. Acts 6:15; 7:54–60.
- Who is named as one who was present and took notice of it all—and how did he later describe himself as an accessory to the crime? Acts 7:58; 22:20.
Note: “The martyrdom of Stephen made a deep impression upon all who witnessed it. The memory of the signet of God upon his face; his words, which touched the very souls of those who heard them, remained in the minds of the beholders, and testified to the truth of that which he had proclaimed. His death was a sore trial to the church, but it resulted in the conviction of Saul, who could not efface from his memory the faith and constancy of the martyr, and the glory that had rested on his countenance.” The Acts of the Apostles, 101.
- In keeping with the traditional mentality of his countrymen, to what did Saul devote his energies after the death of Stephen? Acts 8:1–3.
Note: “A Roman citizen, born in a Gentile city; a Jew, not only by descent but by lifelong training, patriotic devotion, and religious faith; educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis, and instructed in all the laws and traditions of the fathers, Saul of Tarsus shared to the fullest extent the pride and the prejudices of his nation. …
“In the theological schools of Judea the word of God had been set aside for human speculations; it was robbed of its power by the interpretations and traditions of the rabbis. Self-aggrandizement, love of domination, jealous exclusiveness, bigotry and contemptuous pride, were the ruling principles and motives of these teachers.
“The rabbis gloried in their superiority, not only to the people of other nations, but to the masses of their own. With their fierce hatred of their Roman oppressors, they cherished the determination to recover by force of arms their national supremacy. The followers of Jesus, whose message of peace was so contrary to their schemes of ambition, they hated and put to death. In this persecution, Saul was one of the most bitter and relentless actors.” Education, 64, 65.
3 THE PRICK OF CONSCIENCE
- Describe the believers’ response to Saul’s persecution of the church and the furious steps that Saul took. Acts 8:3, 4; 9:1, 2. Deep-down, what had always been his goal, even from his youth? Acts 23:1; Hebrews 13:18.
Note: “He [Saul] was looked upon as a man of promise, a zealous defender of the ancient faith.” Education, 64.
- When we sincerely desire to follow God, what does Jesus reveal as the reason why we will eventually feel uncomfortable when doing wrong? John 16:7, 8.
Note: “Our love to Christ will be in proportion to the depth of our conviction of sin, and by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Faith and Works, 96.
“You may have a conscience and that conscience may bring conviction to you, but the question is, Is that conviction a working agent? Does that conviction reach your heart and the doings of the inner man? Is there a purification of the soul temple of its defilement? That is what we want.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 324.
- What startling phenomenon abruptly stopped Saul in his tracks? Acts 9:3, 4. Who was it that spoke, and what should all realize about the reference to Saul’s “kicking against the pricks”? Acts 9:5.
Note: “He [Saul] had witnessed Stephen’s forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith.
“All these things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded fanatics.” The Acts of the Apostles, 116, 117.
“Every effort to stay the onward progress of the gospel results in injury and suffering to the opposer. Sooner or later his own heart will condemn him; he will find that he has, indeed, been kicking against the pricks.” The Review and Herald, March 16, 1911.
4 THE TURNING POINT
- Describe the way Saul was suddenly humbled. Acts 9:6–9.
Note: “In persecuting the followers of Jesus, Saul had struck directly against the Lord of heaven. In falsely accusing and testifying against them, he had falsely accused and testified against the Saviour of the world.” The Acts of the Apostles, 117.
- Who was Ananias, and what did Jesus tell him to do? Acts 9:10–12. Why was Ananias reluctant to follow this command, and what reassurance was he given? Acts 9:13–16. Why was the highly educated Saul sent to Ananias, a simple man?
Note: “The light of heavenly illumination deprived Saul of sight; but Jesus, the great Healer, did not at once restore it. All blessings flow from Christ, but He had now established a church as His representative on earth, and to it belonged the work of directing the repentant sinner in the way of life. The very men whom Saul had purposed to destroy were to be his instructors in the religion he had despised and persecuted.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 29.
- How did Ananias address Saul, and what beautiful victories were achieved upon their encounter? Acts 9:17–19.
Note: “Jesus might have done all this work for Paul directly, but this was not His plan. Paul had something to do in the line of confession to the men whose destruction he had premeditated, and God had a responsible work for the men to do whom He had ordained to act in His stead. Paul was to take those steps necessary in conversion. He was required to unite himself to the very people whom he had persecuted for their religion. Christ here gives all His people an example of the manner of His working for the salvation of men. The Son of God identified Himself with the office and authority of His organized church. His blessings were to come through the agencies that He has ordained, thus connecting man with the channel through which His blessings come. Paul’s being strictly conscientious in his work of persecuting the saints does not make him guiltless when the knowledge of his cruel work is impressed upon him by the Spirit of God. He is to become a learner of the disciples.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 431, 432.
5 BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST’S BODY
- Why was the following step which Saul then took such an important one? Mark 16:16.
Note: “By the light of the moral law, which he had believed himself to be zealously keeping, Saul saw himself a sinner of sinners. He repented, that is, died to sin, became obedient to the law of God, exercised faith in Jesus Christ as his Saviour, was baptized, and preached Jesus as earnestly and zealously as he had once denounced Him.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 31.
- Why does Christ have an organized body on earth—and what is the church to be known as? Matthew 16:18, 19; I Timothy 3:15.
- Why is the church so precious to Jesus? Ephesians 5:25, last part, 29, 30.
Note: “Jesus is the friend of sinners; His heart is touched by their woe; He has all power, both in Heaven and upon earth; but He respects the means which He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church, which He has made a channel of light to the world.
“Saul was a learned teacher in Israel; but, while in the midst of his blind error and prejudice, Christ reveals Himself to him, and then places him in communication with His church. … All is done in the name and by the authority of Christ; but the church is the channel of communication.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 31, 32.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1 How can the life of Stephen inspire us?
2 What attitude caused Stephen’s martyrdom at the hands of religious men?
3 Why did God use Ananias in the restoration of Paul’s sight?
4 Why does it not pay “to kick against the pricks”?
5 What motivated Saul to be baptized—and what is it likewise to motivate us?
Copyright © 2013 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.