Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Scripture: Acts 11:18, Acts 6:9-15, 1 Samuel 16:7
Date: 07/01/2017  Lesson: 1
"While we need zeal and fervor for what we believe, how do we learn to temper our zeal with the realization that, at times, we just might be wrong?"

365 Amazing Answers to Big Bible Questions Devotional by Doug Batchelor

365 Amazing Answers to Big Bible Questions Devotional by Doug Batchelor
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Good morning, friends, welcome to Sabbath school study hour coming to you here from the Granite Bay seventh-day adventist church near Sacramento, California. A very warm welcome to our online members who join us across the country and around the world. And also to those watching on the various television networks; I'd like to warmly welcome you to our Sabbath school lesson study time this morning. Also, to the members and the visitors right here at granite bay, always good to see you coming out week after week so we can spend time studying the word. Well, we're starting a brand-new lesson quarterly on the book of Galatians and, for our members here and those visiting, if you don't have a copy of the lesson quarterly that we'll be looking at over the next thirteen weeks, please be sure to receive one or pick one up as you leave the sanctuary, there in the foyer.

For our friends watching online, if you don't have a copy of our new set of lessons, just go to the Amazing Facts website: amazingfacts.org and you can download lesson #1, which is our study for this morning entitled Paul: apostle to the gentiles, or you can go visit an adventist church nearby and you'll be able to receive the entire thirteen lessons right there. We have a free offer that goes along with our study today, a book written by Joe Crews entitled riches of grace - and this is our free offer for today. For those watching in North America, if you'd like to receive a free copy of the book, call us on our resource phone number. That number is 866-788-3966 and you can ask for offer #152. Well, before we get to our lesson, as normal, we like to begin by lifting our voices in song and our song leaders will lead us at this time.

Thank you, Pastor Ross. It is always our pleasure to sing along with you every time we study together. Music is truly a part of worship. Today we're going to sing about how wonderful God is as our creator and God. If you'll pull out your hymnals - those of you who are at home and right here in our studio.

Hymn #92 - this is my father's world. As we look around this planet it is a far cry from what he meant it to be, but soon and very soon, I know, because His Word promises us that it is going to be restored to its former glory. I can hardly wait for that day. Hymn #92 - we'll sing all three verses - this is my father's world. I'm so grateful, today, that God looks at me as his child, amen? At this time Pastor Ross will lead us in opening prayer.

(Soft piano music) let us bow our heads for prayer. Dear Father in Heaven, what a privilege to be able to gather in your house and study Your Word. And, as we begin our new journey in the book of Galatians, we want to invite the Holy Spirit to come and guide our hearts and our minds. So many important lessons, Lord, in this book for us today. So we pray for the Spirit's leading bless our time together today, in Jesus' Name, amen.

Our lesson this morning, launching us into our new study of Galatians is going to be brought to us by dr. Derose. Thank you. Well, it's always good to be studying together and to begin a new journey together. So, as Pastor Ross introduced it, we are starting a series on the book of Galatians - that great message of the Gospel presented in that letter that Paul wrote to the churches of galatia.

And, as we begin our study, lesson #1 actually begins by looking at the author of the book of Galatians - a focus on the apostle Paul - Paul: apostle to the gentiles is the title of the lesson. And, as we pick up the background of the apostle Paul, our minds are drawn to a chapter in the book of acts. And, actually, not the most flattering chapter, when we think about the early church. We begin in acts chapter 6 - that's where I'm turning - and some of us like to idealize - we like to glorify things that happened in the past. And many say, 'boy, if I could just be a part of that early church.

Everyone had everything in common - they were living in harmony'. That's what the account says but, by the time we get to acts we see there are some challenges in the church and that's the context in which the apostle Paul will ultimately emerge and the lesson rightly points us in that direction as we begin. So we're looking at acts chapter 6, beginning with verse 1. I'm reading from the new king James version. It says, "now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the hEllenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

" Now, if you have the King James version, it says there was a 'controversy' between the Hebrews, or the jews, and the Greeks, or the grecians. Now this term 'Greek' in the Hebrew, actually it's - the new testament is in the Greek - the term 'Greek' in the Greek language, in which the new testament was written, is kind of a nebulous term. Here, in acts 6 - I'm actually preaching from the andrews study Bible and it makes, I think, a very - very insightful comment there about the Hebrews and the hEllenists. Listen to it. It says, "among the early Christians, who were all jews, tension developed between Hebrew (Jewish Christians from palestine who spoke mainly aramaic and/or Hebrew) and hEllenists (Jewish Christians from outside palestine who spoke mainly Greek).

So, if you get the picture here, this term for Greeks or grecians, in the King James, often translated 'hEllenists' in the new king James and in other translations, often refers to Greek-speaking jews. So, at this time, the Greek culture had pretty much permeated the holy land and the then-known world there, in which God's people were living. So you had those that spoke Greek that were more assimilated into the dominant culture, and then you have those who were still speaking the indigenous middle eastern languages like aramaic and Hebrew. And so, this is where the controversy arises. Now I mention that point because sometimes the King James version continues to use that term 'hEllenists' when sometimes it's speaking of gentile Greeks.

And, as you read through the book of acts, you will find that kind of tension. So the Greeks are sometimes Greek-speaking jews, as we're reading about in acts 6. Other times they're actually people of Greek ethnicity who are gentiles. So, it's a little bit confusing whether you use the King James translation or a modern translation. But here, in acts 6, it's clear we're speaking only of jews because there really is no discussion about gentiles coming into the church at the point of acts 6.

That comes just a little bit later. So, you see, though, there's a problem in the church and, to me, it's instructive that even in this pristine early church, there was dissension - there were challenges. How many of you can relate to this? Have you ever been in a church where there were problems? Now, I'm not speaking here of the Granite Bay church. I'm not aware of any great problems that are going on here in the church. If they are, they've been carefully concealed from me.

And, usually if there's deep problems in the church, everyone is aware of it, right? And I haven't noticed - no one tells me if I sit on one side of the congregation that I'm sitting on the wrong side and I should be sitting over on the other side because there's factions in the church. I haven't noticed it here and, you know, praise the Lord for that because some tuning in may be actually attending a church where there's factions. But it's true of the early church here. There are factions. It says - there's an accusation, in fact - that some of the widows were being neglected.

Now I don't really think they were being neglected. You could say, 'well you can't get that right out of the text', but it would be contrary to Gospel principles, and yet, they don't enter into a large discussion about whether this was or was not happening. What did they do? They actually go about solving the problem, answering the concerns - and, in verse 2 of acts 6 we read this: "then the twelve" - referring to the twelve apostles - "summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'it is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the holy spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'" So, of course, this is the context in which the seven deacons are set apart. And what was their special role, according to the context here? Yeah, their special role was to be involved in the distribution of the food - to take care of practical needs of the body of Christ.

Now, we have to pause here because, as we get into today's lesson, we're going to see that this lesson has some very powerful lessons for all of us. It's looking at the life of the apostle Paul, but Paul, really, is someone who, in his life and ministry, speaks to every one of us. So, what we're going to find out is that one of the lessons has to do about calling - calling. Were there people in acts 6 who had a calling? There were. It actually enumerates them.

In verse 5 it says they chose something that pleased the whole multitude. They chose seven individuals: "...stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, prochorus, nicanor, timon, parmenas, and nicolas," - that's seven - "a proselyte from antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." I mean, isn't this a fascinating passage? So it starts with division and it ends up with a class of people coming into the church who no one likely would have expected, the priests themselves. Remarkable, isn't' it? Now, we're talking about calling and we're going to see Paul's calling in just a few minutes, but we're going to come in just a moment - someone actually has a Scripture reading for us in just a moment - acts 6, verses 8-10 - so we have someone with that for us shortly - but let's just make sure we've got the context here. What are these seven called to do? Especially to be involved in practical ministry, right? Now, the apostles said their focus was going to be on what? Did you catch it in verse 4? Prayer and to the ministry of the word.

So then, does this absolve the deacons from being involved with prayer and ministry of the word? What do you think? No, just because God has called you to do one thing doesn't mean that he won't call you to do something else as well. Are you aware of that? You know, I'm often worried by discussions that we have about spiritual gifts in the Christian church. Now, it doesn't worry me that we're talking about spiritual gifts - it's a biblical concept. In fact, Paul makes it very clear that every believer is given spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives you gifts that are to equip you for ministry and to build up the church.

But what I've often noticed, when we speak about spiritual gifts in the church, we often end up - at least I often end up hearing - people telling me things like, 'well, that's not my gift'. How many of you have heard that before? Okay? More often than not I've heard people telling me what their gifts are not, rather than what their gifts are. Can any of you relate to this? Now, you might say, 'well, that's because you've served as a pastor and you're asking people to do things.' I haven't found that as an individual member here in the church, but I see many of you nodding your heads. And it's very easy for us to disqualify ourselves, but listen carefully now, we're going to hear about the first of these deacons - the first one mentioned in verses 8 through , as we listen to this Scripture reading. Please, share with us.

"And stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the synagogue of the freedmen (cyrenians, alexandrians, and those from cilicia and asia), disputing with stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." So who, now, becomes the central figure in acts chapter ? It's stephen. He's preaching - he's preaching the word and he's in confrontation, now, with a group of jews that are called the 'synagogue of the freedmen'. Apparently, these were individuals who had been slaves at one time - they were liberated - and now they're worshiping as jews in the synagogue and they are controverting the Gospel.

So stephen is sharing the good news about Jesus and these individuals are opposing him. Did you notice where they're from? Cyrenians, alexandrians, and those from cilicia and asia. Do any of you know a prominent city in cilicia? Right on the tips of your tongues, isn't it? Tarsus - tarsus - where was Saul from? Tarsus. So, among those that had a key role in this church in Jerusalem are individuals from an area hundreds of miles away, called cilicia, which would be in modern-day turkey and one of the prominent cities there is tarsus. Very interesting.

Many believe that it's likely that Paul - we call him Paul but he was referred to as Saul in that era - that Saul was actually trained in Jerusalem but it is very likely that he went back to his home in cilicia. And it's very possible that because of this heated contention with stephen, that Saul was actually called to be involved in these disputations - in these debates. So it's very possible Saul came for the express reason of being one of the front line people that was going to put down the arguments of stephen. And you saw the assessment there. In verse 10, what happened? How successful were the jews in controverting the Gospel that stephen was preaching? It says they were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

Now it's worth pausing right here because sometimes we might get a little bit uneasy if we're invited, in any setting, to share our faith. Now, some of you are actively sharing your faith and witnessing, but sometimes you might be in a situation where someone asks you about your faith. You've been there before? Maybe you're in a setting where you feel a little uneasy. Maybe there's not a lot of people who identify themselves as Christians - maybe in your workplace. So what do you do when someone says, 'well, what do Christians believe? What do you believe about this?' What is it that gave stephen power when he spoke? Do you notice it there? Wisdom and spirit - and the Spirit.

How do we get the Spirit? That's right, just ask, right? Jesus said the Heavenly Father is willing - if you're earthly father is willing to give you good gifts, your Heavenly Father is much more willing to give you good gifts. And in the parallel passage it says, 'willing to give the holy spirit to those who ask him.' So we just have to ask Jesus for his spirit if he's calling us to do a work. Even if we think we've been set apart to do common tasks. By the way, no common task is unimportant. Are you aware of that? Amen.

In fact, I've often pointed out to people who are doing common tasks, how nothing would really happen if it wasn't for their work. I work in a medical clinic. Can you imagine how many people would actually turn around and walk out of the clinic if we didn't have a cleaning staff who cleaned the rooms and took care of the bathrooms? Are you following along with me? These things that seem like such common activities are very important, so don't ever minimize them. But just because you're called to do things that other people label as common, doesn't mean that God isn't calling you to do something that is actually less common. And so stephen is this front line person here and to convert the jews is what he's - he's sharing the Gospel - but the jews are not particularly receptive and, among them, we see something develops.

Look at your lesson, if you will - we've actually been walking through it. We've been looking at the background that's provided in Sunday's lesson and we find there that it focuses us then on some of the arguments that are brought against stephen. So we're still in acts chapter 6 - and what arguments are leveled against stephen? We're picking up the account in verse 11. It says, "then they secretly induced men to say, 'we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.' And then in verse 13 they stirred up false witnesses who said 'this man has not ceased to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.' So people were being paid off, right? Money under the table to get them to say things that were true or untrue about stephen's preaching. Lies.

They were lies - that's what it says - they were untrue. So is the Holy Spirit leading? The Holy Spirit's leading. Why is the Holy Spirit - why is God allowing lies to be said? Have you ever wondered that? Something bad's happening. Have you ever asked the question, 'why did God allow this'? Okay, so the response is 'bad guys have free choice just like good guys.' God doesn't take away anyone's freedom of choice, but God is orchestrating events. He is allowing things to play out.

And he's allowing a confrontation to develop here, in the sixth chapter of acts, that sets the stage for stephen to be called before the high priest. Now, some of you, as you're reading through this, you might say, 'you know, these charges are not all that different than charges that were leveled at Jesus in Matthew's Gospel or charges that will later be leveled against Paul, himself'. Right? The jews were very concerned about the temple. In fact, you may remember when Jeremiah was called to prophesy against a nation that had apostatized from God, they were saying nothing bad could happen. In one place they were saying 'the temple of the Lord.

The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord.' You know, sometimes I wonder if God doesn't bless us more because, when God blesses us, we're in danger of relying on our past experience. We somehow think we're privileged - we're - we're - you know, God's blessing is just on anything that I do. And if God sometimes blessed us as much as we'd like him to bless us, is there a danger that we would do just what the jews did? Look at this beautiful temple - God, actually, was the driving force behind this temple. 'God gave us the sanctuary service.

How could anything bad happen to us? We have the temple.' Do you follow along? Can we fall into that same trap as Christians? As seventh-day adventists? Can we look at how God has led in the past and can we feel that there's absolutely no danger for us in the future? Now, it is true, it's important to remember the past, right? But the danger is that we'll rest on our laurels, right? We'll think we're a blessed people - that was what the jews got into trouble with. May it not be said of us today. So we come to acts chapter 7, Peter is not on the scene, stephen is on the scene. James is not in the focal point, but stephen, this deacon, preaching before the high priest. And it's a wonderful sermon.

We won't look at it in detail. He traces the history of God's people. And, finally, he gets down to the point where, as you read through the story, it seems like he makes an abrupt turn. He's very tactful as he's going through acts chapter 7, verse , but it seems, as he starts speaking about God dwelling in heaven, not dwelling in temples made with hands - remember, one of the things - one of the sensitive points for the jews was the temple and maybe they sensed that stephen is transitioning away from the importance of the temple. After all, what did Jesus say when he was - during - living on this earth during his ministry? What did he say of the temple? He said, 'your house is left unto you desolate'.

And you remember what happened when Jesus was on the cross? That veil of the temple was ripped in two - a heavenly sign that the sanctuary service - the earthly sanctuary service was no longer needed. The whole reason for the sanctuary service was pointing to what? Was pointing to Jesus, our Savior. He was the lamb of God, right? We don't need to sacrifice lambs any longer. God had, in clear messages through the ministry of Jesus and through those signs that attended the cross, said that the sanctuary service was no longer of any significance. And so, as stephen begins to venture onto that, if you will, in the Jewish mind, hallowed ground, what happens? In my mind's eye I can see the jews becoming very agitated as - as stephen is going through that message.

And, as he comes to verse 50 - of course, it wasn't a verse then, he was just preaching, I could see them, basically, at the point where they're just going to lynch him - of course, they didn't lynch in that - in those days - they stoned him and stephen apparently saw it, because I don't think he lost his tact in verse 51. Some say, 'well, why did he just suddenly, you know, make this crazy statement that agitated everyone?' I think they were already agitated and the Holy Spirit, who was guiding him, basically says, 'I mean it's - you're done - and give them one last message.' And so he says it in verse 51 of acts chapter 7, 'you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the holy spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers no persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the just one, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.'" It says when they heard that - verse 54 "...they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the holy spirit," - listen to what happens: he actually is given a vision of heaven. So here, the jews are focused on an earthly temple that has lost its significance and stephen, in the hour of trial, what happens to stephen? He was actually given a vision.

His eyes are open and it says he gazes into heaven, he sees the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. What is he seeing? What is he seeing? Where is he looking? That's right, he's looking at the temple in heaven. So they're all focused on this earthly temple and stephen is given a vision of the heavenly temple. Boy, here's a good point, just to pause for a minute: when we're having difficulties, when we're going through problems on this earth, where does satan seek to focus our attention? That's right, away from heaven and on this earth, right? Just like he was doing there in acts chapter 7. And when we start looking at this earth, what do things look like? Doesn't look too good.

I mean, you say, 'dr. Derose it's all beautiful things out there - beautiful nature and beautiful people here at granite bay church - beautiful music'. But, I mean, the world - in fact, the Bible says there is a prince of this world - adam and eve sold out their dominion and they, basically signed this world over to satan. Now Jesus is ultimately in charge, right? But satan is the prince of this world, and much of what happens on this planet is under his direction. Have you noticed that? And so, this world doesn't look all that pretty.

Even the Spiritual things in this world - by the way, were these jews, who were about to kill stephen, in the story, were they spiritual people? Yes. They were church leaders. They were attending church. They were faithful tithe payers. Are you catching the picture? But their focus was where? Their focus was on earth.

And stephen is given a glimpse into heaven. By the way, how difficult is it for us to see into heaven? Well, you might say, 'yeah, hopefully not but, I mean, can I just look up and see into the heavenly sanctuary? I mean visibly, with my eyes, can I actually - do I actually just get a vision at will? No, of course not. But through the words of Scripture, right? We can see into heaven. And one of the things that I so value is that Jesus is willing to meet with me anytime. And when I carve out time in my day, I actually have the privilege of seeing into heaven.

Isn't that wonderful? So I would encourage you, if you're not already doing it, before you start your day with, you know, listening to the news or checking, you know, what's happening in your e-mail or on Facebook, get on your knees and open up your Bible. You think that'll change your day? Yes. I mean, I've seen this over the years. It's powerful how God speaks to us - gives us a vision of heaven. And he did that for stephen in a very literal way but that didn't inspire anyone, at least, to change their course.

They actually stopped their ears. And it says, in verse 58 of acts , they end up stoning stephen and it says "they laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." Now, as you read through the lesson, it might sound as if Saul was just an insignificant player in this drama. We've already suggested that Saul was much more significant than just happening to be at this venue. And we get that, actually from the Scriptures itself. Look at chapter 8 in acts, verse - acts 8, verse 1 - and it says, "now Saul was" - what? Consenting.

"Consenting to his death." This phrase indicates that Saul was more than just an innocent bystander. It suggests that Saul's consent was somehow of value in the drama that played out; that somehow he had a say in it. Are you following along with me? It wasn't just 'Saul didn't speak up'. You would say, 'well, just not speaking up is consenting.' No, it seems that it's stronger there. So, as Luke, under inspiration, is writing this, it seems to indicate that Saul was involved in the decision-making process.

He wasn't just happening to be there - just some young kid - and they said, 'hey, by the way, watch our coats.' And he said, 'well, boy, what else could I do? These are all more important people than me, you know? I just watched their coats.' It seems like there was much more to it. And then you know what happens in verse 1 of acts 8, not only was Saul consenting to his death, but in the next breath - in the next line - Luke writes, "at that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him." And then, another telling insight about Saul. What about Saul? Verse 3, "...he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." Actually, if you're following along in the lesson, in Monday's lesson it comments on the Greek significance of that word translated, 'wreaking havoc' or 'ravaging' the church. And it points out to us that in the septuagint - the Greek translation of the old testament - it uses that same word to describe - did you catch it? The uncontrolled and destructive behavior of a wild boar.

Have you ever dealt with wild pigs or wild boars? We used to live in Oklahoma and we would have wild boars sometimes wander onto our property. You did not want to get in the way of those wild pigs, okay? Ravening - ravenous - okay? You get the picture? And so, this is how Paul is being described - Saul, as he's still being referred to at that time in his life - is he just an insignificant figure? By the way, as the story plays out, we're going to see that Saul was so well known that for hundreds of miles people knew about Saul. Really? And although the account transitions, in acts 8, to focus on another of the deacons, this time on Philip, by the time we come to chapter 9, we're back to a focus on Saul. And so that's where we're going right now - acts chapter 9. And the account is continuing as we read through the book of acts - acts chapter 9 it says, "then Saul," - and there's tHis Word there - "still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest" - acts 9, verse 2 - he asks for letters - for formal documents - so that he can go from Jerusalem to damascus and if he finds any of the way - any Christians - whether men or women, he's going to bring them back bound to Jerusalem.

Wow. Now word gets to damascus before Saul get there - we'll see in the account - that he is on his way. He's no small player. Saul is this front line - this central figure in the drama of the early church. And, by the way, how many of you would want to meet Saul if you were a believer living in damascus in that day? How many of you would be praying that you'd have a chance to witness to Saul? How many of you would be - would think you would have that - no, no, you'd be - you'd be saying, 'Lord, please, you know, have something happen - have Saul's, you know, chariot wheels fall off.

' Or, you know, whatever - I mean, he probably wasn't traveling in a chariot, but some did then. In acts 8 you had someone in a chariot that - the Ethiopian eunuch, who Philip came up along side of, but the point is, however he was traveling, you'd probably be praying that something would change in his plans, right? You were praying for freedom from persecution. By the way, that's perfectly appropriate to pray for. But God doesn't answer the prayer that way. Someone's going to be reading for us, in just a minute, from acts 9, verses 3 to 5 - do we have someone with that? Okay, acts 9:3-5 we'll look at in just a moment.

But, again, I want you to try to put yourself in the situation. You're a believer in damascus - many miles away from Jerusalem - prosperous, prosperous city. You're a member of the church - the Christian church. You're a jew - that's what the church was made up - that early stage - you were a jew who had come to faith in Jesus. Perhaps the message had come to you at pentecost.

Maybe you were attending there in Jerusalem when the holy spirit was poured out. You went back home to damascus and syria and now, on his way there, is Saul of tarsus. Here's the events that transpire - so well known - verses 3 through 5. Please read for us. As he journeyed he came near damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.

Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And he said, 'who are you, Lord?' Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" Can you imagine the situation? What is Saul's whole life focused on? His whole life is focused on defending God from this heresy that was started by this false pretender, Jesus, right? He's trying to root out the name of Jesus Christ and, on the damascus road, who confronts him? Jesus. Jesus. 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.' You know, there's a number of times in the Bible where God speaks of his intimate connection with every individual - every individual - every believer. In the old testament it says, 'in all their affliction he was afflicted - in Isaiah 63.

When Jesus is speaking of the great judgment in Matthew 25, 'whatever you did to the least of your brothers, that you did to? Me. Jesus says, 'I feel with you when you're going through difficulty. When you're suffering, I feel with you.' The church is being persecuted. Jesus says to Saul, 'you're not just persecuting people. You're not just persecuting Christians.

' Who did Jesus say he was persecuting? Persecuting him. Take courage this morning. Take courage. If you're struggling right now, Jesus is feeling with you. Do you see that picture here? Jesus is hurting with you.

If there's something - some trouble in your life - Jesus feels with you and he hasn't forgotten you. And so, as it looks like God has forgotten the church - right? I mean, here's this guy, he's about to wipe - drag people out of the church - drag them out of their homes and bring them to be killed in Jerusalem. God has not forgotten and God is working on the hearts of those who are causing grief in your life as well. Saul's response, in verse 6 - it says he was trembling and astonished - trembling and astonished. And he asked the simple question: "Lord, what do you want me to do?" Now, could Jesus have spelled out all his plans for the apostle right there? Could he have done it? I mean, he could have done it, right? He was God, he could have said, 'okay, here's what's going to happen.

' But all he says to Saul is "arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And it says, in verse 8, that when Saul got up from the ground he was totally blind. They have to lead him by the hand into damascus and he was there three days without sight and he neither ate nor drank. Have you ever been there? Has something been going great in your life? By the way, from Saul's perspective, how do you think he thought his life was playing out? Tremendous, right? I mean, he's a young guy, he's given all this authority - he's a pharisee, he later says. As you read the account of his life he's in a leadership position. He's doing great things for - for God, in his eyes.

He's on his way to this great campaign with authority from the leaders of the church. And, instead of coming in the proud Christian hunter, how does Saul end up coming to damascus? Blind, realizing that everything his life had been focused on, the rug had just been pulled out from under him. Now, we know the story of Saul's life and we're all rejoicing, right? That Saul had that encounter on the damascus road, but how does it feel if God abruptly changes your direction? How does it feel when it seems like things are going well and all of a sudden things seem like they're falling apart? Have you been there? But God allows it because he has a greater purpose for Saul. Now what's so fascinating in this story - what's so fascinating - as we read through this whole section in acts, there's an operative word - a key word - now, I maybe have to use a few medical illustrations for you here. Now, in medicine, we sometimes have to look very carefully at the potency of remedies.

This can be true of natural remedies as well as pharmaceutical remedies. Some remedies are very potent - just a little bit goes a long way. One of the remedies that is commonly used today is a deadly poison - it can kill you - it's botulinum toxin - are you aware of this? They call it botox. But it's used, sometimes, in small amounts for spastic conditions - very, very tiny amounts - it's a very potent compound. So we have to think in terms of potency, but potency is also true of the english language.

Have you ever thought about this? There's a very potent word in the english language. In fact, for it's volume, it is perhaps the most potent word. It is the only verb that I know of that has such power and only has two letters. How many of you know the two-letter verb that occurs repeatedly in acts chapters 9 and 10? That's right, the word is 'go'. Did you see it already in acts 9? Did you pick up on it? Where do you see it there in acts 9? That's right.

When Saul asks 'who are you?' He says, 'I'm Jesus.' And then, as he engages in dialogue with him, in verse 6, Jesus says, 'arise and go.' Go. No we come to ananias. Now, there's more than one ananias in the Bible. There's a high priest named ananias. There's an unfaithful believer who was struck dead.

And now here's the faithful ananias in verse 10. Saul is there praying for three days - fasting - and it says in verse 10 ananias is given a vision. How does the vision begin? His name is spoken. the Lord speaks to him. "Ananias.

" Is there any question Jesus is speaking to him? No question. "Ananias." He says, "here I am, Lord." Verse 11, "so the Lord said to him, 'arise and go to the street called straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he" - Saul - "has seen a man named ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." Well, we're going to read ananias' response in just a moment. Does someone have verses 13 and onward? We'll go there in just a moment, but are you catching the operative word that is initially given to ananias with his mission? What is he supposed to do? Just like Saul, he's called to arise and go. Okay? Now, does he immediately catch the significance? Let's listen as our sister reads from verses 13 and 14 of acts 9.

"Then ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." So, does he get it? Does ananias get the message at first? Have you been there before? How many times have you reasoned with God when he's telling you what to do? 'Now, Lord, I think you misunderstand. You know, I really can't do - go to church every Sabbath? I mean, do you understand? I mean, I work on Sabbaths. What? You want me - I mean, Lord, do -' how many of you have been there before? 'Talk to that person? What do you - I mean, that's not the Holy Spirit, I mean, how can I talk -' have you been there? So the Holy Spirit - here it says Jesus himself, the Lord, speaking to ananias says, 'arise and go' and what does he say? It's like, 'Lord, I've got to kind of fill you in on some of the details.' So what does God say? 'Oh, oh, I made a mistake.' Does he say that? What is his next - his next words? We're speaking of the divine word. What is God's Word to him in verse 15? Go.

I have a missionary friend, he's serving in a foreign field. And he once said to me, 'how come we read so much about the word 'go' but everyone wants to stay?' What do you think about that? Does he have some insight? Is there some truth in that? You know, the question is, 'what is God calling me to do? Is he calling me to go somewhere? And, by the way, going somewhere doesn't mean you have to transfer your membership out of the Granite Bay church, but it may mean that he's calling you to go and spend some time visiting your next-door neighbor. Or maybe going on that short-term mission trip. Or it may be going to a different place of employment. I don't know what it is, but I know in God's leading in my life he typically has not led me in places where I said, 'oh, good, Lord.

I'm glad. That's just where I wanted to go.' It's usually not that way. And so it is with ananias here. So after hearing it twice - verse 17 - ananias goes. He enters the house - and I love verse 17 of acts 9 - I love how ananias greets Saul.

What does he say? Brother. "Brother Saul" - brother Saul. Isn't that tremendous, brother Saul? By the way, how much time had transpired from Saul being the determined persecutor of the church to the converted Paul? Three days. We're talking about a - we're talking about three days. Now some people say, 'hey, that's too soon, dr.

Derose. You know, someone can't be converted and, you know, come into the church and be baptized in three days. Can't happen.' Now, granted, all these quick conversions in the new testament, people had a lot of preparation behind them. Paul, you know, he was very familiar with the old testament Scriptures. But, you know, as a physician, I know how this works.

I know how something that, you know, things just don't line up and then all of a sudden you just get one piece of information and the whole puzzle all comes together. One of the classic diagnoses that physicians miss, you know, may play out something like this: someone comes to the emergency room - terrible chest pain - and they end up doing all the heart work-up and it's all negative. And a few days later, maybe the same doctor seeing the patient, they come back in - still terrible pain - and they look, again, at their chest and they see a little blister. And all of a sudden - just - all of the pieces just come together. They have shingles, okay? Fairly a common diagnosis that's missed.

It can present with terrible pain, initially. So you say - well, all the pieces of the puzzle were still there - they were all the same - but you get that one essential ingredient and then everything falls together. 'Oh yes, that's what it was! They weren't having a heart attack.' So it is with Saul. All these pieces - the Lord said he was kicking against the goads. God was trying to lead Saul and he was resisting.

He was listening to his teachers. He was giving more deference to the religious leaders than he was to the Holy Spirit's convictions on his heart. But, finally, there's that telling piece of evidence. Jesus says 'you're persecuting me.. And then all of a sudden, in those three days, all of the dots just come together.

And he realizes Jesus is who? The Messiah. He is the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah. And it's amazing what happens because Saul, there, in the presence of ananias, if you read some of the parallel accounts - by the way, acts 9 is not the only place in the new testament where we read this story. Paul recites his own conversion in acts 22 and in acts 26 - you can read - the parallel accounts, some of them give you a little bit more of the nuances of the story than you even read in acts 9.

And it seems that the holy spirit was moving on ananias to appeal to Paul to be baptized. And so he's baptized there after three days. And he ends up becoming the champion of the church. Go with me to Galatians 1 because this is where we'll be picking up the story in our next lesson. But this is not just some incidental background to the author.

The story of Paul's conversion is foundational to understanding the book of Galatians because he emphasizes early in that book that his authority is based on his very calling and that that calling came not from the early church, not from going to an evangelistic meeting, but it came from Jesus personally calling him. Look at Galatians 1, verse 1 - Galatians 1:1 - Paul says, I'm "an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God The Father who raised him from the dead)," - and then, as you read on in verse 11 of Galatians 1, "but I make known to you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the Revelation of Jesus Christ." So there, on that damascus road, begins Paul's journey. And in those three days of fasting and prayer in damascus, God is opening his eyes and, as you read through Galatians - actually you pick up on another detail that you may not pick up in reading acts 9, in fact, you won't. It says - look at this - in verse 16 - when God was pleased "to reveal his son in me, that I might preach him among the gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to arabia, and returned again to damascus.

" So as you read through acts 9 you may not pick up that detail, but during Saul's time there in damascus he's converted, begins to preach, then he leaves for a period of several years, to arabia where, again, he's taught by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel - the good news that Jesus is the Messiah - that we can all come to him - that Jesus wants to do for everyone of us just what he did for Saul. He wants to stop us in the midst of our worldly pursuits and he wants to tell us to go and tell the world. Have you heard that message yet? I believe he's trying to communicate it again, to me, and he'll continue to do that by God's grace, as we continue through this lesson. Make sure you continue to study with us next week - lesson #2 - the Gospel in Galatians - if you didn't catch it at the beginning, we've got a special gift offer that goes along with today's lesson. It's Joe Crews' book riches of grace .

For anyone in North America you can simply give us a call at -study-more, that's -788-3966 - it's offer #152 - riches of grace. Well, until next week, we'll look forward to seeing what God does in your life as we continue to study and press close to him. May God bless you. I'm here in the beautiful island nation of fiji that's filled with exotic animals, beautiful vegetation, and spectacular scenery. The people here are some of the nicest in the world, but it hasn't always been that way.

This was once known as the cannibal islands. The fijian warriors were some of the fiercest in the south pacific and greatly feared - you can understand why - this is one of the weapons they used for breaking the neck of their adversaries. And, long before they were killing and eating missionaries, they were fighting with and killing and eating each other. In fact, as you go to the different tourist locations on the island, they'll sell you remakes of some of the forks they used for eating human brains. In fact, there was one cannibal chief, ratu udre udre, during the 1800s that is in the guinness book of world records for having killed and eaten the most victims.

He bragged that every time he killed someone he set a stone aside and by the end of his life he had a pretty big pile of stones. It's estimated he ate somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 people - oh my. You know, the fijians were not the only ones who had a monopoly on cannibalism, in fact, the Bible says that we are all capable of being cannibals. Galatians 5:15 says if we bite and devour one another, we may end up consuming one another. That's talking about destroying people's reputation by mean gossip.

One famous missionary named patton, when he was preparing to go to the cannibal isles, his friends and family begged him not to go. They said, 'you'll be eaten.' He said, 'it doesn't matter to me if I die and am eaten by worms or if God wills that I'm eaten by cannibals, as long as I'm doing the will of God. Well, he went to the cannibal isles and brought many to Christ and died peacefully in his old age. Some of the ancient cannibal cultures believed that when you killed and when you devoured your enemy, you would somehow take within you their spiritual strengths or powers. But that's really absurd - but there is a kind of cannibalism endorsed in Scripture.

That's right, Jesus said, 'in John chapter 6, verse 53, "except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. And you don't need these tools to do it. What you need is to read his word and learn about his life. Accept by faith his sacrifice in your place and you can have a new heart and be a new creature. You can even do it right now.

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