Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Scripture: Acts 11:18, Acts 9:1-18, Acts 11:19-26
Date: 10/01/2011  Lesson: 1
Paul's conversion experience and the impact it had on his ministry, and the church, throughout his life.
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Good morning. And a very, very Happy Sabbath to each and every one of you who are joining us this morning. Whether you are listening on the radio, watching live at our website at saccentral.org, or on the various television networks, through dvd - we welcome you and are so glad that you are going to sing along with us this morning as you always do. And, of course, everybody here sends a very special welcome to you as well. Our first song - #229 all hail the power of Jesus' Name.

This is a good one. This is from Paulino in angola, jizelle and patrick in antigua and barbuda, joy in bahamas, jennifer in bahrain, leon, betty and gary in California, alex in hungary, bob and Paula in Idaho, Joel in india, c. Dominique in ivory coast, tina in Montana, kevin in netherlands antilles, una in New Jersey, lastenia in New York, alan in new zealand, chiemela and victoria in nigeria, jamie, jenny, vern and sandie in north carolina, cecilia and kelvin in saint lucia, chiemela in saudi arabia, ruby, rholyn, peace and yet in south korea, grace in tennessee, barbara in Texas, anton, ronell, Sarah, and andy in trinidad and tobago, Joel, maripat, and the visayan group of the seventh day adventist church in dubai in united arab emirates, and lisa in West Virginia. #229 - First, second, and fourth stanzas. Are you looking forward to that coronation day in heaven when we cast our crowns at Jesus' feet? And he is the Lord of all.

If you have a favorite song that you would like to sing with us on an upcoming Sabbath, it's very simple. Go to our website at saccentral.org, click on the contact us link and send in your hymn request. I looked last night and we're up to almost 15,000 requests since April 2004. We've sung many of those so don't be too discouraged - but it's exciting. There are so many people from around the world that love the hymns like we do.

#322 - Nothing between is our next song. #322. This is from blessing in afghanistan - I like that name - blessing in afghanistan, analia in argentina, robert, bernice, harley, trudy, nathalie, and cindy in australia, ralph and birdie in the bahamas, omar in brazil, Josephine in California, roxnel in cayman islands, davina, stuart, catherine, and arnold in england, jim, dianne, jamie and buffy in florida, lew and katie in Georgia, bob and Paula in Idaho, muriel in ireland, serah in kenya, weng in malaysia, joyann in New York, emanuela in Pennsylvania, dafne in singapore, and jenny in South Dakota. #322 - Nothing between. We'll sing all three stanzas.

Father in Heaven, it is our prayer that there will be nothing between our souls and you this morning. We ask you to please cleanse us and make us holy. Thank you so much for blessing us with this Sabbath day - the opportunity we have to come together as a church family and worship you together. I pray that you'll be with each one who is joining us, wherever they are, that they will just sense your presence and receive the blessing that you have for us today. In Jesus' Name, amen.

At this time our lesson study is going to be brought to us by pastor mike thompson. He is our health and outreach pastor here at central church. Thank you very much debbie and joy and marilyn. And Happy Sabbath to you all. It's good to see you all as usual.

Are you blessed? Amen. Michael's in his usual place so everything must be good. Good to see you Michael. We all have our own places where we sit don't we? That's good. It shows it's like home.

I'd like to wish you all again a very Happy Sabbath and those of you who are listening on amazing facts radio, or watching on live streaming video, or watching this on cable or dish after it's been edited. Welcome to you all and a very Happy Sabbath to you. Well, today school begins again. We're starting another quarter and it's the Gospel in Galatians. Galatians is one of my favorite books in the new testament.

Well, of course, they all are. Aside from the Gospels I love Romans, Hebrews, and also Galatians. There are some wonderful things in here which we need to dig, but if we do we will find the gold - the precious veins of truth. But there's a - and it's lesson #1, by the way, today. And it's Paul the apostle to the gentiles.

And there's a memory verse which I'd like to begin by reading. It's from acts chapter 11 - a little further on in the book - verse 18. This is from the new king James version. It says, "when they heard these things they became silent and they glorified God saying, 'then God has also granted to the gentiles repentance unto life.'" These words spoken by the apostles and the brethren - and you find them named there in 11 verse 1, the apostles and the leaders in Jerusalem - was a declaration of astonishment and a wonder that Peter had described to them when through some miraculous leading of God, he was led to go and visit a gentile - a gentile and his family - by the name of cornelius. And you know the story well there - it's in acts chapter 11 - acts chapter 10.

And Paul goes there and he meets with cornelius and he presents to them the Gospel, which they wanted very much indeed to hear. And not only that, Paul is giving this report to the brethren in Jerusalem after this because they said, 'Paul, we need to talk to you. What's been going on here?' Sorry, to Peter. 'We need to talk to you. What's going on here? You went and visited with some gentiles?' He says, 'I did.

' He says, 'and you know, the Lord worked a miracle. He gave me a sign and I went and I preached the Gospel. And would you know, the holy spirit was poured out upon them just like it was poured out on us on the day of pentecost.' You read that in acts chapter 2. And he said, 'there was the Holy Spirit.' And he said, 'I just felt compelled, as I presented a truth to them, that I needed to baptize them.' And that's exactly what he did. And you can read about that in more detail in acts 10 and acts chapter 11.

So, here's cornelius, and it's kind of interesting to note - it may not particularly mean anything, but I just think it's a point of interest - that cornelius, if you like, you would maybe class him as the first gentile convert to Christianity, was a roman centurion. Previously, on the cross, remember when Jesus died? Who was the first one there that publicly stated aloud, "truly this was The Son of God"? It was a roman centurion. And so, it was interesting that God should send Peter to cornelius, because cornelius, as I say, was not only a gentile, but of all things he was an officer in the hated and despised roman military, which with a heavy hand was there in Judea to keep the jews subservient to the emperor in rome. Oh how those jews they just hated - hated those Romans. But that aside, in spite of that, rome still gave the jews a lot of liberty to still practice their religion.

Now, they chose the right to be able to choose who was the high priest and the King was a puppet, really, of the Romans. So they still showed their power by being able to be able to do this. But in spite of that, the jews were still given a good measure of freedom by the Romans. They may have been occupied by the Romans and they lost a lot of their own autonomy or should we use the big word self rule? But they knew things would quickly change because they knew that the Messiah that was coming would be a warrior king, just like king David of olden times. And it's interesting, we spoke about this in the sermon last week - I didn't realize that this was in the coming lesson.

He would be a warrior king like David and he would shake off the roman yoke and he would crush the Romans and lead the nation on to superpower status. Not just out there in the middle east, as we call it, but globally. So, in spite of much discontent with the Romans being there, which irked them very much, they knew things would eventually turn - take a turn for the better. But once in a while, you know, the jews they broke into rebellion and the Romans just came down on them, just so harsh. But in spite of this, in the meantime, they were still God's chosen people.

They still had their religion. They still looked with pride upon the temple. And even the Romans, by the way, admired the temple for its beauty. It's just a beautiful building that had been added to - at the time of herod - and even one of the roman emperors, at least, had embellished it with marble and extra garnishments. So it was a beautiful, beautiful building.

So they still had the temple and everything that it stood for. And they were still the chosen recipients of the holy and sacred oracles of God. The old testament Scriptures, which contained the law, but, but - and it's a big but - which they had, the jews themselves, had over the years embellished with their own extracurricular rights and man-made traditions. And, of course, when you do that, you start adding and thinking you can improve on what God has given to us. It never brings any good.

It always goes the other way. So much so that the Spirit of the moral law, the ten commandments, which really is a law of love - the first four commandments, what are they dealing with? Love to who? God. And the last six? Love to who? Our neighbor. That's the Spirit - that was the essence of the moral law. But they lost sight of that.

Even among their own people. Somebody was sick and crippled or had leprosy, especially, 'those people deserved it. They must be sinners. They deserve to be strictly and Ruthlessly punished by God.' the Spirit of the law of love, where was it? It was gone. It was buried beneath all the other garnishments that they'd heaped upon it.

And also, with the moral law, the ten commandment law, there was the ceremonial law, which, as you know - I've used the term before - it was a picture book of the plan of salvation. It was a picture book of how God was going to deal with the sin problem. How he was going to take sinful, fallen, undeserving and totally helpless human beings, who could never in one instance manufacture their own righteousness, therefore, they would remain under eternal condemnation and suffer, ultimately, eternal death. The ceremonial law was a picture book of how God was going to take care of that. He was going to keep intact his moral law that was broken, but through the ceremonial law he showed how he was going to bring a deliverer, a redeemer, one, to Israel, who would be the Lord, their righteousness.

And all the promises given originally to Abraham, they were to - the jews - were to inherit all these things. But they lost - well, sure, they wanted the promises, but even the fulfillment of the promises, as I mentioned last week, they had a totally skewed opinion of - it was going to be a big celebration. It was going to be a big party and all the hierarchical members from the seminary and those in government from the palace, they'd get the big seats at the front with Jesus and just the riff-raff, you know, the common jews, they'd have a part in it, but, you know, this totally messed up idea of the Kingdom. Yet - where was i? - They knew that finally they would triumph nonetheless. So they had this mixed-up idea of what it was to become righteous in God's sight.

And they lost sight of the meaning of the moral law and the ceremonial law. But come a.d. 31, Things began to drastically change. A former carpenter from nazareth, by the name of Jesus, began to preach and teach and attract large audiences. And he quoted copiously from the Scriptures.

He knew the Word of God just inside out. But, for the most part, presented a totally different interpretation than that which the rabbis and the learned theologians had been presenting to the people for a long time now. When this Jesus visited Jerusalem, he showed great reverence for the temple. Great reverence for the house of God, yet he never exalted it as a symbol of national pride. Never once did he teach that the temple in itself possessed any saving virtue.

And as for upholding the extra curricular requirements of the moral law, the ceremonial law, which the rabbis had added there over the years, well, this carpenter must have been totally unschooled and ignorant - really shouldn't be a circuit preacher because he never gave any dissertation or anything on the law and its full meaning that the rabbis had put together to help God explain what it means to be one of his children. Well, they probably figured that this carpenter would do better leaving the big city life and going back to his small town carpenter's business and just leave all this teaching and preaching to the professionals - to the rabbis, to the pharisees. But he didn't leave. Well, Jesus didn't actually spend a lot of time in Jerusalem, but he spent a lot of time where the jews were scattered, throughout that territory. But he didn't go back to nazareth.

He carried right on preaching, right on teaching and so, another area of conflict and discontent began to, kind of, open up within judah. Yes, surely the Romans were bad enough - they'd really messed up the Jewish sovereignty, you know, their own ability to rule themselves. But a far greater threat than the Romans now, was this carpenter called Jesus, because he was totally beginning to destabilize their whole system of theology and, ultimately, if he managed to pull this off and destroy the Jewish religion, then they had no identity left whatsoever. You get the picture here? I know this is kind of a long introduction to our lesson study, but I thought we'd lay this first and then we could understand it better where Saul or Paul was coming from when he comes into the picture here. So, it was decided that this Jewish carpenter, this Jesus, he just had to be taken out.

The only way that could be done. He'd been baptized in a.d. And those three and a half years he'd just turned so many things upside down. The problem had to be resolved. And three and a half years later, in a.

d. 31, They had him crucified with the consent of pontius pilate. You know, the Jewish leadership, they had ways of being able to manipulate and pilate, for all he was strongly convicted that Jesus was innocent. And even though God sent his wife to tell him at the time of Jesus' supposed trial, 'have nothing to do with this. God has given me a dream.

Have nothing to do with the condemnation of this man.' In spite of that, pilate went along and played the political - political game. Well, surely that was the end of Jesus and this new religion and everything that it stood for. Well, no it wasn't. Pentecost 50 - 50 days later. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the floodgates of heaven opened and the holy spirit descended upon those disciples, those fishermen and those other carpenters, and those other kind of lowlifes in society.

And what happened? They go out on the streets and, using the Word of God with power, they preached Jesus Christ and him crucified, daring to actually say that this Jesus, this carpenter from nazareth was actually the Messiah, based upon the Word of God. You'll read Peter's sermon there in acts chapter 2. It was a dissertation. It was a short, condensed history of Israel and bang! The punch line was this - was the Christ and you crucified him. Well, let me read to you from acts chapter 2.

Let's go to acts chapter 2 because he really laid it on them here. But you know, sometimes God has to raise up vessels that will kind of lay it on his people. Not that a vessel can do it, but they need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, then things happen. And these disciples, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts chapter 2, verse 36.

Let me find it here. Acts chapter 2, verse 36. And this is kind of where he's getting to the summary and the conclusion and the application of his sermon. Verse 36, acts 2. He's looking at all these jews there and they're just dumbfounded.

They're there for pentecost, they're coming from every nation where jews were. From gentile lands. - "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." - Well, let's read 37. "And when they heard this they were pricked in their heart. What does that mean - pricked in their heart? Oh, the Holy Spirit came and he just cut right into their consciences wholesale.

Where was i? Tell me - verse 37 - "and when they heard this they were pricked in their heart and they said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'men, and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said unto them, 'repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the holy ghost.'" And then verse 40 "and with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, 'save yourself from this untoward generation.'" 'You better save yourself brethren, because this generation of jews of which we are really a part, we're the ones who murdered the Messiah. We've stepped out. We don't want anything to do with that guilt. We're followers of Jesus now and if you know what's good for you, you'd better disassociate yourself from those who want to remain guilty because there's a price to pay.' And so, what happened? "Then they gladly received his word, were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about 3,000 souls." Can you say amen? ,000 Souls - one sermon. That's the kind of thing evangelists just dream about.

Some of them go to some places and come back with the reports - 'we had 30,000 baptisms.' I'm not here to dispute that, but - I admire these people for going to the ends of the earth to do this - but how many are really thoroughly taught? How many are really thoroughly grounded? You see, you might say, 'one sermon?' But these people, they were jews. They had a lot of background. They had a lot of verses and passages, but when it was all put together, it was just - click, the light went on - 'here we are. We want to be a Christian.' 'Come here then.' ,000 Baptized in one day. So, the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Christ, with obedience to the law, as the fruits thereof, not as the means of righteousness, but as the fruits and the result of the righteousness of Christ, as Savior of the life and Lord reigning supreme in the heart, this message, this experience, began to just spread like fire in the stubble.

And it excites me, when I read in the Spirit of prophecy writings, that the third angel's message, which we should have heard of, which is the Gospel. And we're told by one Ellen g. White, that righteousness by faith is the third angel's message in verite, including recognizing Christ's righteousness as the creator, as the author of his law, as the one who will be there in the judgment. All these things in the third angel's message - they all center in Jesus Christ. It's all right there, just a beautiful, beautiful tapestry of Christ.

And, so we're told - yeah, that's what I was going to say - so we're told that when this pentecost, I mean it was tremendous, but when at the second pentecost, when the latter rain is poured out, I mean, the windows of heaven are just going to be actually blown off their hinges as the Spirit comes down and God's people are just filled with the Spirit of the living God. And they go forth with their faces aglow, hastening from place to place, just like flashes of light - taking the Gospel news to those who've never had a chance to hear these things. And, oh, we're told it's going to go like fire in the stubble. I want to become - I want to be stubble for Jesus - I want to burn bright because, not to be destroyed by the fire, but for my selfishness and my earthliness and my carnality to be consumed by that fire. I want to be purified through Christ.

And I want to be a vessel that when he comes back he looks at me and he rejoices over me because he can see his face shining in me because through the hard times that we all go through, and in preparation as we seek him to receive the latter rain, he polishes us up and we have more of a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. And he fills us more. And we overflow with the sweet fragrance of his love and his righteousness and his power. And we can walk in a room and we can take with us angels, just tons and tons of angels. And you may not see them and be aware of them, but you know, when Jesus walked in a room there was an atmosphere about him.

He looked like a simple soul - and he was - he was a carpenter. He was The Son of God, but he was so humble and so sweet and he was so full of selflessness and so full of the wonderful saving love of God that he would walk in a room and just this peace and this healing virtue would just flow from him. Death and sickness could not exist in his presence. And we're told with the followers of Christ, when the latter rain is poured out, that God's faithful - again, miracles will be wrought. Now, the devil will be trying at the same time, that's a subject I'm not getting into today, but do you believe the dead might be raised once in a while? I believe so.

I believe so - why not? It happened in the past. Not that any of us want to be a big shot, 'why, I can raise the dead. Watch my next trick.' No, no. Nothing like that. No.

You see, we're going to be different then. You see, God will be able to trust us with power, even to raise the dead, because we will be dead inside. When people are dead inside and the old man is crucified, then God can trust you with power. Because you won't do it for your own glory, you'll do it for his glory and we can all know that experience. But along with that experience goes this passionate love for the lost.

For souls in ignorance and disbelief and slaves to habits. We will go out with no thought of self but we will see in every soul, however fallen, a son or a daughter of God. And we will love them with a passion and want to be willing to lay down our lives for every one, as Jesus did. There is coming a demonstration of true Christ-like Godliness such as this world has never seen before. And there was truly an example of this back at pentecost - to get back here - but even as glorious as it was it's but a shadow of what is to come and we would be absolutely so foolish to miss out on that.

A thought - okay, we're back here at pentecost and it tells us here the message went like fire in the stubble. And it says in verse 47 "they continue praising God and having favor with all the people." Acts 2, verse 47. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as would be saved." They were just pouring in. Okay, I want to go to acts chapter 6 and verse 7. I'm not supposed to do all the talking, it's supposed to be Sabbath school, so let's abide by some of the rules here.

Acts chapter 6:7. Would somebody care to read that for us? We have a roving microphone. Vicky, Michael here. Acts chapter 6 verse 7, please Michael. Acts chapter 6 verse 7.

"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." Well, what do you think to that? How many of the priests? How many? A great company. Praise God for that. See, we would have looked a short time earlier and thought, 'these priests, they're all murderers. They all had a part in Jesus' death.' Well they did. But you see what the Gospel can do? See how merciful God is? Even the priests, they got a chance.

And especially because - let's remember here - the seventieth week of the seventy weeks given to the jews wasn't expired yet. You got about three and a half years to go still, and in this time God is seeking to give them their last - last and full opportunity. So, even a lot of priests - I wish the Bible said more about the priests that turned to Christianity. There must be accounts in heaven of these many priests and where they went and what they did, which one day we'll be able to read, but it will be just thrilling. They must have gone through a lot of persecution, these servants of God, when they - when they changed sides.

But it's very obvious that God, because there was still this time for the jews, before their probation was destined to close, in a.d. 34 - If they continued in this total wholesale rejection of Christ, which they did. But still, during this time, God obviously held in check the storm of severe persecution and opposition from the Jewish hierarchy. There were a few little attempts, but God just kept it down, you can tell. And then Jerusalem became totally saturated with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, while many individuals became Christians, it still came to the point that the nation, through its government and many of its citizens, rejected the Gospel and they, of course, finally forfeit their unique status before God's sealing their rejection. And that happened of course, specifically, officially if you like, in a.d. 34, When stephen was stoned. And the fact that the priesthood and the civil rulers condoned it. They didn't take a stand in the legislature and say, 'this is wrong.

' So officially, that's where the nation stood. You know, in Revelation 13 it says this country here, which has two horns like a lamb but will speak as a dragon, it will officially speak as a dragon enforcing the image to the beast of the Mark of the beast when, through this nation's legislature, they pass acts which officially, as a nation, with a seal and the president's signature - whoever it would be at that time, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes - will then officially outlaw the truth. And then, then, and really then we'll see the judgments come down upon this nation. But, of course, in Jerusalem there are still faithful ones that God took care of. Even here there will be faithful ones.

There's going to be some martyrs, maybe some of us here - who knows? But God is going to send a lot of the faithful through that time of persecution. It's coming. And I'm not going to tell you get ready today. You need to be ready now, today. Now.

Absolutely now we should be ready. And if you know - if you don't have assurance by faith in Jesus, right now, if he were to come at this moment and you can say in your heart, 'you know Lord, I'm ready. I'm not being self-assertive or boastive, but I just know that I have peace with you. I know you're in my heart - if you come right now I know I'm ready.' Can you say that? I'm not asking for a show of hands, but you need that confidence. You need to know who your Savior is.

You need to know that he's got his arms around you. You need to have that assurance. Now, well, you know, we've read this statement from Ellen white, we shall not say we are saved.' Yeah, and there's a context to that. You can't say, 'you know, I'm saved and I'm saved 'til Jesus comes forever regardless of how I live.' No she's - that's what she's talking about. But you should know if you are right with God or not with God.

God is not in the business of leaving people in uncertainty. God is light and in him there is no darkness. There is no gray. He will let you know. And if you're not there, you need to get there.

And by the grace of God you know how. Where was i? Okay, yes. So they condoned the stoning of stephen in a.d. 34. Now this was initiated - this terrible, dastardly deed - was initiated by an extreme diehard group of pharisees called the libertines.

Acts chapter 6, verse 9. "Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called" - sorry "then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the libertines." And it lists here certain ones of them, "cyrenians, and alexandrians, and them of cilicia and of asia, disputing with stephen." These men here, these diehard radicals, they were jews. But it mentions those who came from - who actually lived in gentile regions. But they were still jews and they came here - they came to Jerusalem - probably part of the agenda to try and counteract the argument being put forth by the apostles and the followers. And it tells us here they made a - they went and they spoke to stephen in verse 10 - they disputed with stephen in verse 10.

"And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spake. So these men were probably zealous students of the word - zealous students of the torah, of the works of the rabbis. They had it all. They had their flashcards. If they asked you this question, here's the answer.

'Okay, read this side of the card with the question. What's the answer? What's it say? Yeah, I got it right.' So they were there. They were ready and they were armed. And here's stephen. What was he? He was a deacon.

A noble office in the church of God is a deacon. And no fanfare, he just stood there as they came with the answers - came with the questions. They just gave back the answers - in spite of all their homework, in spite of all their flashcards, instead of all their computer programs and all these things - printing up texts on their laptops if you like - he spoke simply and he confounded them. They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. You see, they were not contending with a man, they were contending with the Holy Spirit.

And the Holy Spirit's got quite a brain. And the Holy Spirit is the author - along with God, Christ, of the truth. And this is why, when we in the future would find ourselves pushed into a corner, and the greatest minds out there in the evangelical world, whatever you want to describe it, they come to us with all these questions from the theologians and books of systematic theology. They come at all these angles - we'll probably say, 'Lord, please help me. I know by heart an Amazing Facts study on the Sabbath, but that's kind of it.

' And if you know that, you'll be okay, because God - you've allowed God to put in your mind the groundwork. You've got the basic position, the great basic - the biblical position - and if there needs to be any additional angles on that, the Holy Spirit is going to pop them in your mind and they're going to come out of your mouth, and you're going to say to yourself, 'where did that come from?' And you're going to see these people that - they won't have an answer. Like stephen. They couldn't answer him. But, we must learn the truth.

We must learn - get yourself a set of Amazing Facts lessons - 27 of them. There's even pictures. I like pictures. If you just keep going through those - going through those, you'll have your - your ammo belt will be full. And I don't want to speak of the Word of God in a cheap word picture, but you will be ready.

And then read Great Controversy and Desire of Ages and along with that, just pore over that, just drizzle over that and fill it with anything you can read from the Scripture and Ellen white on Christ our righteousness. Because that, that is where it's really at. Okay, so they just couldn't - they couldn't find an answer, so here's the thing, what usually happens? If you can't destroy a man's argument, what do you do? You destroy the man, right? 'We've got to get this man out of here. He's an embarrassment to us. He doesn't have a degree, but listen to him.

Get him out.' And so, that's exactly what they did, these libertines. They stirred up the prejudice of the people. They brought witnesses - so-called witnesses - into court - and they were false witnesses, which bore lying testimony against him. And they did what they did to who else? Jesus. Exactly the same approach.

They couldn't destroy Jesus' argument, so they thought, 'we better destroy the man.' And so, that was the strategy here. But as you read through acts 7, verses 1 through 53, you find here stephen's defense. And again, it's pretty much a lot like Paul's sermon - I mean Peter's sermon - on the day of pentecost. He starts giving a condensed history of judaism, to remind them, 'you know, this is where we came from. It says this here in the Scriptures and look.

This is where we came from.' And there he was and so, they're listening. And again, they were not able to gainsay this. Then, finally, as it gets to the end - where are we 7? Verse 7 - I want to go to verse 52. Well, let's go to verse 51. Oh, he's so rude here, is stephen.

He says all these things and then he turns on them - they turn on him and he says, "ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears. You do always resist the holy ghost. As your fathers did, so do ye." Now, he probably said it nicer than that. He probably said it very direct. But it would have been with a longing in his soul for the salvation of these people.

So, I'm sorry I'm not doing it in the same way, I'm sure, but I hope you get the point. And then, in - where was i? Tell me where I was. - Okay, thank you. And then he continues in verse 52. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before, of the coming of the just one.

" That being who? Jesus. "Of whom ye have now been the betrayers and the murderers. Who have received the laws by the disposition of angels and have not kept it." Oh. Threw a match in a powder keg. Verse 54 - "when they heard these things they were cut to the heart.

" Why were they cut to the heart? Yes - that's what it was - the Holy Spirit was - boom - cutting them right through to the heart. But what do people do when they don't want the Holy Spirit jabbing them in the heart? They let their head try and take over. They let their baser passions try and take over to quell this 'I feel really uncomfortable inside, but I'm not going to show it. I'm going to get this guy for making me feel so bad.' How insane can human beings really, really be? But you know, I can be just as stupid. I mean, I really can.

I can be just as dumb. I can be just as resistant. I can be just as much an idiot. That's why I can't trust myself. And neither can any of you.

Our only safety is being dead, but yet alive in the arms of Jesus. Totally surrendered to him. That's our only safety. So, they're cut to the heart - and so these chaps should be. "And when they heard these things they were cut to the heart and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

" 'We'll get you for this.' And so, well, we kind of know the rest. They dragged him outside. Verse 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. And they stoned stephen, calling upon God" - "and they stoned stephen, calling upon God, and saying 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

' And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'" You see, he had a - he had a passion for their souls. "Lay not this sin to their charge." When he had said this he fell asleep." Just the same as 'father forgive them, for they know not what they do.' But really, these did know what they were doing. It says little of Saul, actually, in this passage, other than he watched and took care of his friends' clothes while they went and stoned stephen. Now, Saul, it seems, didn't throw any rocks, but it's very clear was a willing party to his murder. It says in acts 8, verse 1, the first part of the verse, "and Saul was consenting unto his" - that is stephen's - "death.

" So, more about his involvement in persecuting other Christians in a moment, but first of all, I want us to consider Saul's - he became know as Paul - his resume. Because he had quite a resume did Saul. He was a student of who? Gamaliel, who was one of the great Jewish intellectuals and theologians. He sat at gamaliel's feet and, you know, he had to have good grades to be able to get in his school, if you like - if you will. Paul's own testimony of his Jewish pedigree and his zeal for the religion of the pharisees.

Let's go to Philippians 3. Philippians, chapter 3 and verses 4 through 6. No - you know, I'm all messed up again. Where's it gone? Oh. Sorry.

Philippians 3 - I told you Philippians - did I tell you Philippians 3? All right. All right, Philippians 3, going to verse 3 - the latter part of verse 3. He says, "and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh." Now, let's bear in mind, let us get the context here. This is - this is Saul when he became Paul. He's looking back now in retrospect.

This - what we read now is not how he - where he stood at the time of stephen's martyrdom - but this is still his resume. Verse 4 - "though I might also have confidence in the flesh, if any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more." Now what does he mean by the flesh? Let's read a bit more, we'll get the idea. "Circumcised the eighth day." Well, that's certainly of the flesh, but it wasn't just circumcision. Circumcision was one of the works of the flesh - that the jews did. And we can do that very well indeed.

Not a surgical procedure like mentioned here, for men, but we can come and put forward our works, our deeds, our traditions, our things that we feel we need to do. In our own strength as something that can give us merit, to earn the favor of God. Something that can manufacture righteousness. This is what he's talking about here - and, by the way, Abraham - was Abraham circumcised to obtain righteousness? No. Read that in Romans.

Abraham was circumcised as a symbol that he was already righteous through faith in the promise of the Messiah to come. But there we're getting at the cart before the horse. "Circumcised of the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." So he's telling us here that as far as outward law keeping went, he was - he was absolutely spot on. To look at Paul outwardly, you couldn't find anything that you could say, 'aha Paul! You slipped up there.' No. He was absolutely perfect as it comes to being a Christian and a believer on the outside.

So that's kind of his pedigree here. But, he maintained no righteous standing before God because of that. On Friday - in Friday's section, I'm going to leave you to read that yourself. It's in Friday's section at the very end of the lesson where from Acts of the Apostles page - you can see here the qualifications - there's some more information on the qualifications that Paul had to become truly a worker for Christ. And all these qualifications, these gifts that he had, these were infused into his zeal and his knowledge for the Jewish faith.

So, you'll have to read that, again, yourself. From this we can gather so many, many illustrations of how God works with us, of how God calls us, how God forgives us. How he takes us, and of all things, when we deserve it the least, he sends us forth to do his work. You know, when you realize that you're so unworthy and you're so fallen, when God takes the worst of us and he gives us a mission to do, the very fact that Jesus has given us this sacred trust and he's putting confidence in us through his strength, what does it do? It makes us want to rise to that challenge and give a chance to show that we're worthy of our calling. You understand? That's what Paul did to the point that he laid down his life.

And if it wasn't for him as his faithful instrument, there's a lot we wouldn't have written by him in the Scriptures today. Journey back through time to the center of the universe. Discover how a perfect angel transformed into satan, the arch villain. The birth of evil. A rebellion in heaven.

A mutiny that moved to earth. Behold the creation of a beautiful new planet and the first humans. Witness the temptation in eden. Discover God's amazing plan to save his children. This is a story that involves every life on earth.

Every life. The cosmic conflict. If God is good, if God is all-powerful, if God is love then what went wrong? If you've missed any of our Amazing Facts programs, visit our website at amazingfacts.org. There you'll find an archive of all our television and radio programs, including amazing facts presents. One location, so many possibilities.

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