February 1, 2015 – February 7, 2015
The Life of Paul
“Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” II Corinthians 2:4.
Study Help: The Acts of the Apostles, 243–254, 298–322.
“No man ever lived who was a more earnest, energetic, and self-sacrificing disciple of Christ than was Paul. … He possessed a burning desire to bring perishing men to a knowledge of the truth through a Saviour’s love.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 100, 101.
1 THE MISSIONARY TENTMAKER
- What blessing did the Lord provide for Paul upon his arrival in Corinth? Acts 18:1–3. What should we realize about Paul’s situation?
Note: “His [Paul’s] whole soul was engaged in the work of the ministry; but he seated himself to the labor of his humble trade that he might not be burdensome to the churches that were pressed with poverty. Although he had planted many churches, he refused to be supported by them, fearing that his usefulness and success as a minister of Christ might be injured by suspicions that he was preaching the gospel for gain. He would remove from his enemies all occasion to misrepresent him, and thus to detract from the force of his message.
“As a laborer in the gospel, Paul might have claimed support, instead of sustaining himself; but this right he was willing to forego. Although feeble in health, he labored during the day in serving the cause of Christ, and then toiled a large share of the night, and frequently all night, that he might make provision for his own and others’ necessities. The apostle would also give an example to the Christian ministry, dignifying and honoring industry. While thus preaching and working, he presented the highest type of Christianity.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 101.
2 THE WORK EXPANDS …
- In Corinth, whom did Paul persuade in the synagogue every Sabbath? Acts 18:4, 5. What did he decide there, and how did the Lord encourage His servant at this difficult time? Acts 18:6–11.
- Describe the next trials Paul faced, and how God blessed his labors. Acts 18:12–23.
- What can we learn from the mutual love and respect among Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla—and the way God was able to use all three of them to His glory? Acts 18:24–28; I Corinthians 3:22, 23; 4:6.
Note: “Aquila and Priscilla listened to him [Apollos], and saw that his teachings were defective. He had not a thorough knowledge of the mission of Christ, His resurrection and ascension, and of the work of His Spirit, the Comforter which He sent down to remain with His people during His absence. They accordingly sent for Apollos, and the educated orator received instruction from them with grateful surprise and joy. Through their teachings he obtained a clearer understanding of the Scriptures, and became one of the ablest defenders of the Christian church. Thus a thorough scholar and brilliant orator learned the way of the Lord more perfectly from the teachings of a Christian man and woman whose humble employment was that of tent-making.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 119.
“Aquila and Priscilla were not called to give their whole time to the ministry of the gospel, yet these humble laborers were used by God to show Apollos the way of truth more perfectly. The Lord employs various instrumentalities for the accomplishment of His purpose, and while some with special talents are chosen to devote all their energies to the work of teaching and preaching the gospel, many others, upon whom human hands have never been laid in ordination, are called to act an important part in soulsaving.
“There is a large field open before the self-supporting gospel worker. Many may gain valuable experiences in ministry while toiling a portion of the time at some form of manual labor, and by this method strong workers may be developed for important service in needy fields.” The Acts of the Apostles, 355.
3 NOT TO LOSE FOCUS
- As talented Apollos had now begun his faithful work as an apostle in Corinth, what began to occur among the believers in that city? I Corinthians 1:10–13.
- What points was Paul constrained to clarify to the Corinthians regarding the vanity of human learning and finite knowledge? I Corinthians 1:17–31.
- Although Paul could have easily spoken in such a way as to impress his Corinthian hearers with his extensive learning, how had his limited success in Athens influenced him to try a different method instead? I Corinthians 2:1–5.
Note: “In preaching the gospel in Corinth, the apostle [Paul] followed a course different from that which had marked his labors at Athens. While in the latter place, he had sought to adapt his style to the character of his audience; he had met logic with logic, science with science, philosophy with philosophy. As he thought of the time thus spent, and realized that his teaching in Athens had been productive of but little fruit, he decided to follow another plan of labor in Corinth in his efforts to arrest the attention of the careless and the indifferent. He determined to avoid elaborate arguments and discussions, and ‘not to know anything’ among the Corinthians ‘save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’ He would preach to them ‘not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (I Corinthians 2:2, 4).” The Acts of the Apostles, 244.
“Paul was an eloquent speaker. Before his conversion he had often sought to impress his hearers by flights of oratory. But now he set all this aside. Instead of indulging in poetic descriptions and fanciful representations, which might please the senses and feed the imagination, but which would not touch the daily experience, Paul sought by the use of simple language to bring home to the heart the truths that are of vital importance. Fanciful representations of truth may cause an ecstasy of feeling, but all too often truths presented in this way do not supply the food necessary to strengthen and fortify the believer for the battles of life.” Ibid., 251, 252.
4 REFUSING TO BE RIVALS
- What principles did the Corinthians need to learn about God’s apostles—and how can this apply in our midst today? I Corinthians 3:1–10. How was the problem wisely handled? I Corinthians 16:12.
Note: “There can be no stronger evidence in churches that the truths of the Bible have not sanctified the receivers, than their attachment to some favorite minister, and their unwillingness to accept the labors of some other teacher, and to be profited by them. The Lord sends help to His church as they need, not as they choose; for short-sighted mortals cannot discern what is for their highest good. It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect any one church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God sends other ministers to follow him, one after another, each possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient.
“The church should gratefully accept these servants of Christ, even as they would accept the Master Himself. They should seek to derive all the benefit possible from the instruction which ministers may give them from the word of God. But the ministers themselves are not to be idolized; there should be no religious pets and favorites among the people; it is the truths they bring which are to be accepted and appreciated in the meekness of humility.
“In the apostles’ day, one party claimed to believe in Christ, yet refused to give due respect to His ambassadors. They claimed to follow no human teacher, but to be taught directly from Christ, without the aid of ministers of the gospel. They were independent in spirit, and unwilling to submit to the voice of the church. Another party claimed Paul as their leader, and drew comparisons between him and Peter, which were unfavorable to the latter. Another declared that Apollos far exceeded Paul in address, and power of oratory. Another claimed Peter as their leader, affirming that he had been most intimate with Christ when He was upon the earth, while Paul had been a persecutor of the believers. There was danger that this party spirit would ruin the Christian church.
“Paul and Apollos were in perfect harmony. The latter was disappointed and grieved because of the dissension in the church; he took no advantage of the preference shown himself, nor did he encourage it, but hastily left the field of strife. When Paul afterward urged him to visit Corinth, he declined, and did not again labor there until long after, when the church had reached a better spiritual state.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 127, 128.
5 UPHOLDING STANDARDS
- What appeals did Paul make to the conscience of the Corinthians who, by nature, tended heavily to sensuality? I Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:13–20; 9:25–27.
- What is often the experience of an earnest teacher of reformation? II Corinthians 11:29, 30; 12:15. When Paul felt that the struggling Corinthians would not necessarily profit very much from a personal visit from him, what did he do? II Corinthians 2:4; 8:16.
Note: “When Paul sent Titus to Corinth to strengthen the believers there, he instructed him to build up that church in the grace of giving. …
“Unselfish liberality threw the early church into a transport of joy; for the believers knew that their efforts were helping to send the gospel message to those in darkness. Their benevolence testified that they had not received the grace of God in vain. What could produce such liberality but the sanctification of the Spirit? In the eyes of believers and unbelievers it was a miracle of grace.
“Spiritual prosperity is closely bound up with Christian liberality. The followers of Christ should rejoice in the privilege of revealing in their lives the beneficence of their Redeemer.” The Acts of the Apostles, 344, 345.
- What did Paul instruct Titus about expanding the gospel work into broader regions while still maintaining its purity? Titus 1:5–9, 15, 16; 2:1, 11–15; 3:9–11.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1 How can Paul inspire all who work with their hands for a livelihood?
2 Explain how humble Priscilla and Acquila could bear far-reaching fruit.
3 In seeking to win intellectuals, what can we learn from Paul in Corinth?
4 What type of attitude can ruin the effects of the varied gifts in the church?
5 Why is it so vital to uphold biblical standards of behavior in the church?
Copyright © 2013 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.