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The Call of God to New Testament Characters


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Title: The Call of God to New Testament Characters

The Call of God to New Testament Characters
Lesson 10
Lesson TextActs 91-4
Acts 91-4 1 And Saul, yet breathing out
threatenings and slaughter against the disciples
of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Lesson TextActs 91-4
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the
synagogues, that if he found any of this way,
whether they were men or women, he might bring
them bound unto Jerusalem. 3 And as he journeyed,
he came near Damascus and suddenly there shined
round about him a light from heaven
Lesson TextActs 91-4
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice
saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou
Lesson TextActs 95-7
Acts 95-7 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And
the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest
it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Lesson TextActs 95-7
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said
unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it
shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the
men which journeyed with him stood speechless,
hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Lesson TextActs 98-10
Acts 98-10 8 And Saul arose from the earth and
when his eyes were opened, he saw no man but
they led him by the hand, and brought him into
Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight,
and neither did eat nor drink.
Lesson TextActs 98-10
10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus,
named Ananias and to him said the Lord in a
vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here,
Lesson TextActs 911-13
Acts 911-13 11 And the Lord said unto him,
Arise, and go into the street which is called
Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for
one called Saul, of Tarsus for, behold, he
Lesson TextActs 911-13
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias
coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he
might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias
answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man,
how much evil he hath done to thy saints at
Lesson TextActs 914-15
Acts 914-15 14 And here he hath authority from
the chief priests to bind all that call on thy
name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way
for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my
name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the
children of Israel.
Focus VerseMatthew 2819-20
Matthew 2819-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I
have commanded you and, lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Focus Thought
Spiritual maturity, the result of Christian
growth and development, leads into a strong
missions development, the ultimate purpose of the
church in fulfilling the commission of the Lord.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Culture Connection Missionary to a Changing
Paul was the foremost cross-cultural missionary
of the early church. By his own testimony, he was
a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was an extreme
right-wing religious fanatic. He was steeped in
the finer points of Judaism. Consequently, he
opposed anything that deviated from his rigid
understanding of the Mosaic law and traditions of
the Jews.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
His conversion experience shattered his
preconceived ideas. His subsequent call to be an
apostle to the Gentiles gave him new direction.
With the same zeal that he had persecuted
Christians, he sought to win men and women to the
gospel. The revelation that he fought against the
Lord of Glory in abusing the Christians gave him
an openness to new ideas and fresh understanding.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Paul did not try to convert men to be like him.
He did not try to impose his Jewish traditions
and preferences on the Gentile Christians.
Instead, he set forth principles that transcended
ethnic and geographic boundaries. He became well
versed in the culture in which he lived. He
quoted Gentile poets and cited commonplace
Gentile activities in his preaching and letters.
He said he became all things to all men that he
might win some to Christ.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
North Americas culture is changing. Shifting
societal mores and absorption of immigrant
populations is resulting in new challenges. As
Paul of old, we must present the unchanging
gospel in terms that are relevant and easily
understood. We need Pauls who know who they are
and can communicate truth and righteousness to a
modern world.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Contemplating the Topic
The miracle of salvation does not end after
fulfilling Acts 238. That is just the beginning!
After our spiritual birth we begin to grow in the
Lord and develop a spiritual hunger to share this
abundant life with others. That hunger is not
quenched until we respond to the Lords command
to evangelize our world and also support those
who carry the gospel to the far corners of the
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
In other words, spiritual conversion includes a
calling to spread the gospel to the whole world.
Obeying this call brings about the fulfillment of
our Lords commission to His followers, and it
speaks today in the hearts of true believers.
The Lord has commissioned His church to reach
the lost with the gospel. Believers are to take
the whole gospel to the whole world, and it is
the responsibility of the whole church.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
The commitment of believers to fulfill the Lords
commission has taken an army of missionaries into
more than 175 nations of the world, approximately
90 percent of the worlds recognized nations.
There still are others to reach with the gospel,
and time is short. We must be about our Fathers
business and preach the gospel in all the world
for a witness unto all nations (Matthew 2414).
A. A Jew of Tarsus
Searching the Scriptures Sauls Call at Conversion
  1. A Jew of Tarsus

Our lesson begins in Acts 8 with the
introduction of Saul, the Hebrew name of a man
better known by his Roman name, Paul. We do not
learn any details of his biography, however,
until his testimony of defense in Acts 22.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
The occurrence mentioned in Acts 22 actually
began in chapter 21 when some of the Jews spied
Paul in Jerusalem with Trophimus. Trophimus,
whose name means foster child, was an Ephesian
Gentile whom Paul mentioned in II Timothy 420.
Some of the Jews jumped to the conclusion that
Paul had desecrated the Temple by taking this
young Gentile there. The Jews stirred up the city
and a bloodthirsty mob gathered to the scene,
intending to kill Paul.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Thus Pauls association with Trophimus brought
about the apostles initial imprisonment, and it
ultimately led to his death in Rome. When they
heard the uproar, the Romans came running and
arrested Paul, pulling him out of reach of the
Jews fury. However, after the rescue the chief
captain could not sort out exactly who had
perpetrated such a disturbance and demanded an
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Paul asked permission to defend himself and began
by stating his Jewish heritage, that he was born
in Tarsus, and that he was educated in Jerusalem
by the revered Rabbi Gamaliel. The city of
Tarsus was located at the mouth of the Cydnus
River, which empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
Today is it called Tarasso and is located in the
Mersin Province of Turkey about nine miles from
the city of Mersin.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Because the citizens of Tarsus during the time of
Julius Caesar were friendly to the Romans, the
emperor granted Roman citizenship to them. This
is the Roman citizenship to which Paul attested.
B. A Zealous Student of the Law
  1. A Zealous Student of the Law

The fact that Paul at the time of his arrest was
undergoing a rite of purification in the Temple
confirms he was steeped in Jewish tradition. Paul
described himself and his family as blameless
concerning the law. 1. A Student of Gamaliel
(Acts 223). We read about Gamaliel in Acts 5. He
was a venerable doctor of the Law.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
According to tradition, his grandfather, Hillel,
was associated with the development of the Jewish
Talmud and Mishna, Judaisms most revered books
besides the Holy Writ. These books interpret and
guide Jews in interpreting and applying the
complex Jewish law. We can recognize some of
the hermeneutical principles of Hillel in Pauls
writings in I Corinthians 99-12.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
In this passage the apostle applied the spirit of
the Old Testament rule concerning the lowly ox to
the highest order of ministry in New Testament
life. Gamaliel apparently carried on the
tradition of his grandfather. The schools of
Hillel and Shammai are considered to be the
conservative and liberal factions of the
interpretation of Jewish law.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Gamaliel would have fallen under the conservative
classification. His handling of the disciples of
Jesus in Acts 5 attests to his wisdom in
executing Jewish law. 2. A Defender of the Law
(Acts 91-5). Sauls zeal for Jewish law goaded
him to threaten, assault, imprison, and even
execute the disciples of Jesus. Since the Romans
did not arrest him for this violence, the
persecution must have been instigated by the
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
When Saul had finished jailing or destroying all
the Jerusalem disciples he could find, he asked
permission to travel 190 miles to Damascus to
root out believers there. The high priests
approval of the request to murder people in the
name of the Jewish faith indicates Sauls
position of favor with the Jewish leadership at
this time in his life. During his ministry he
would reap a harvest of violence from the havoc
he had sown, and ultimately he would die for his
faith in the Lord.
C. The Conversion
  1. The Conversion

Clearly, Luke considered the conversion of Saul
a miraculous event of import to all believers,
since he recounted the occurrence three times in
the Book of Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 26).
Transparency 1
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Saul asked two questions on the Damascus road.
1. Who are you, Lord? (See Acts 95.) In
Acts 9, the Lord responded to Sauls question I
am Jesus. Ananias later told Saul, . . . the
Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the
way . . . (Acts 917).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
The second recorded recounting of Sauls
conversion appears in Acts 22, where Scripture
states that the voice responded, I am Jesus of
Nazareth (Acts 228). This gives more insight
into Sauls understanding of the divine personage
with whom he spoke on the road to Damascus.
However, the last telling of Sauls conversion is
the most significant. Paul stated he heard the
voice say in the Hebrew tongue, I am Jesus whom
thou persecutest (Acts 2615).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
These accounts confirm to us that this fleshly
manifestation of God was the Lord, even Jesus,
for speaking in the Hebrew tongue, He said, I am
Jesus. What a wonderful declaration of the
identity of God! 2. What would you have me to
do? (See Acts 96.) Upon learning the identity
of this Jesus whom he had persecuted, Saul
realized he was on the threshold of a radical
change, but he did not know how to begin. So
Jesus told him how to take the first steps
toward change.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
People who talk with God in prayer develop a
desire to do something for His kingdom. On the
other hand, those whose prayer life has gone
dormant are not driven to see the Lords work
done. Prayer is vital to a believers
relationship with Jesus Christ. There were two
aspects of Pauls calling. 1. The Apostle to
Israel. Paul described himself as being one born
out of due time (I Corinthians 158).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Some believe this designation constituted Pauls
lament that he should have been born sooner so he
could have found and followed Jesus. However, a
more probable interpretation would be that the
phrase describes Pauls new birth, not his
natural birth. He wished his spiritual birth had
occurred sooner. The Greek term for born used
in I Corinthians 158 means the miscarriage or
abortion of an infant. Pauls new birth was a
sudden birth that he had neither planned nor
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Sauls repentance on the Damascus road became
the turning point of his life. Ananias baptized
him, and Saul certainly spoke in tongues as the
Spirit gave the utterance, for he commanded in I
Corinthians 1439 to forbid not to speak with
tongues. Further, he said, I thank my God, I
speak with tongues more than ye all (I
Corinthians 1418).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
That Acts 22 is the account of his new birth
is suggested by his confession of his slaughter
of the early church and of his consent to the
stoning of Stephen. This was why the believers in
Jerusalem did not at first trust his claim of a
newfound allegiance, and he could not effectively
minister there until later. However, almost
immediately after his conversion he confounded
the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that
this is very Christ (Acts 922).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
This so enraged the Jews that the governor of
Damascus swept the city for Paul, hoping to
apprehend him (II Corinthians 1132). The
believers had to lower Paul in a basket over the
city wall so he could escape. However, in spite
of Pauls former persecution of the church, later
he was very effective in ministering to Israel
because of his early training in the Law.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Perhaps that is why in Acts 9 the Lord assured
Ananias that Paul was a chosen vessel to bear His
name in this order to Gentiles, kings, and the
people of Israel. (See Acts 915.) 2. The
Apostle to the Gentiles. God surely must have
sent Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
Peter was the first to open the door to the
Gentiles by preaching the Word of God to
Cornelius and his household, but Paul quickly
became the central figure in preaching the gospel
to the Gentiles and establishing many churches.
Transparency 2
A. His Call to the Gentiles at His Conversion
Sauls Call to the Gentiles
  1. His Call to the Gentiles at His Conversion

1. Call to Greatness (Acts 916). The Lord spoke
to Ananias in a vision about Saul of Tarsus. He
commanded Ananias to find the home of a man named
Judas who lived on Straight Street and pray for
the restoration of Sauls sight.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Carrie Eastridge, the mother of Nona Freeman,
was urged by the Holy Ghost to stop her car, get
out, and preach the Acts 238 message. She
stopped and looked around for her audience, but
there was no one in sight. She preached anyway,
as the Lord had commanded. She did not know that
her message woke up a drunken man hiding in the
drainage pipe underneath the road. He heard her
message and heard her drive away.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
He made his way to the nearest city and sought
out a Pentecostal church. He received his own
Pentecostal experience that forever did away with
his old drunken life! Throughout the course of
his ministry, Saul was called before rulers and
magistrates for bearing the name of Jesus. He
would ultimately end his ministry in Rome, but
not before telling the gospel to the prominent
leaders of his time.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
2. Call to Suffering (Acts 916). Saul had no
idea of the dire things he would experience for
the name of Jesus Christ. He later recorded a
summary of some of his most memorable experiences
in suffering. (See II Corinthians 1122-33.) Yet
he endured because of his pressing need to strive
for the prize of the high calling. He kept his
eyes on Jesus who also endured the Cross for the
joy He could see beyond the suffering.
B. His Commissioning at Antioch
  1. His Commissioning at Antioch

In Antioch followers of Jesus were first called
Christians. The church at Antioch was filled with
people from different walks of life and ethnic
backgrounds, so it is not strange that it would
become known as a center for missionary work.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Acts 13 opens with a list of the notable
prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch
Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and
Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen . . . and Saul
(Acts 131). First listed is Barnabas, a Levite,
whose aunt was the mother of John Mark. Barnabas
had made a lifelong practice of giving. For
instance, we read in Acts 436-37 that the Spirit
prompted Barnabas to sell the land he owned in
Cypress and give the proceeds to the church at
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
As this group of men ministered to the Lord,
and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me
Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have
called them. And when they had fasted and prayed,
and laid their hands on them, they sent them
away (Acts 132-3). Saul and Barnabas traveled
fifteen miles to Seleucia and then sailed to
Cyprus, the birthplace of Barnabas, before
continuing to Salamis. In describing their
ministry in Paphos, the Scriptures began to refer
to Saul as Paul.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
These travels were the beginning of what we now
call Pauls first missionary journey. As
instructed by the Spirit, the church sent Paul
and Barnabas out to do the work of the Lord.
Today the calling of God still is confirmed by
church leadership. Individuals do not work in
Christian ministry alone, but in cooperation and
solidarity with fellow believers. A persons gift
truly will make room for him.
C. His Confirmation to Timothy
  1. His Confirmation to Timothy

Throughout his ministry Paul remembered the
laying on of the hands of that great group of
believers in the church at Antioch. Probably with
this in mind, he told Timothy to remember the
same act of commissioning in his own life.
Commissioning is part of a process by which
individuals receive confirmation of the holy
calling of the Lord.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Paul realized that he suffered greatly because
of the wicked things he had done before his
conversion. However, a scriptural passage with
great hope for all believers is found in II
Timothy 112 For I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able to keep that
which I have committed unto him against that
day. God forgives us and will keep our former
offenses securely hidden beneath His precious
III. Pauls Defense of the Gentile Mission
Pauls Defense of the Gentile Mission
Paul realized the Lord had called him to work
among the Gentiles. This constituted a complete
change from his first passion for God. Before his
conversion, he despised the Gentiles, like every
other devout Jew. However, when God redeems us we
experience the work of Christs love within, and
we in turn become a channel of His love for
A. The Counsel of Jerusalem
  1. The Counsel of Jerusalem

1. The Pressure of Jews to Circumcise the
Gentiles. Once the racial barrier was breached,
Gentiles began to flood into the church. Some of
the Jews reacted to this influx by teaching that
these new converts should be circumcised after
the manner of Moses in order to be saved (Acts
151). For them, one of the requisites for
salvation was to enter into covenant under Jewish
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
To insist that new believers must be circumcised
suggested that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not
sufficient to bring salvation. In the Book of
Galatians, Paul clearly refuted this thinking.
2. Pauls Defense of the Gentile Believers. We
must guard against adding a greater burden than
. . . necessary things (Acts 1528). Paul taught
that circumcision was not a requirement in order
for Gentiles to be saved.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Paul did agree to the circumcision of Timothy
after he received the Holy Ghost, but only to
assuage the Jewish Christians. Timothys mother
was a Jew, but his father was a Gentile. Paul
thought Timothys circumcision would smooth the
way for him to more effectively minister to Jews
as well as Gentiles. Although Paul was a Hebrew
of the Hebrews and well versed in the Law, he
could relate to Gentile cultures.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
He stated in Romans that he became all things to
all men that he might win some. His ability to
relate is evident in his message to the Greek
philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens. (See Acts
17.) He pointed to a statue dedicated to an
unknown God to preach the message of Jesus to
the superstitious Greeks. Even in this strange
setting he made converts to the Christian message.
B. The Journey to Jerusalem
  1. The Journey to Jerusalem

1. The Extra Burden of the Churches on Him
Daily. An avalanche of questions descended on
Paul. The newly converted Gentiles did not know
what to believe, how to worship, how to behave in
their daily lives, and how to treat brothers and
sisters in Christ. Paul provided answers by
writing to the churches in which he had
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
This inspired, first-century pastoral instruction
gave the ages to come written guidelines
concerning how to live after the miracle of
salvation. Our teachings on holiness derive
primarily from Pauls responses to questions
proffered by the Gentile churches. 2. The
Willingness to Die for the Cause (Acts 2111).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
When the Holy Ghost prompted Agabus to prophesy
concerning Pauls future, he predicted the Jews
at Jerusalem would bind Pauls hands and deliver
him into the hands of the Gentilesthe very
kinsmen for whom he carried a great burden and
the foreign strangers to whom he was called. (See
Romans 9.) This broke Pauls heart. Nevertheless,
he responded, I am ready not to be bound only,
but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the
Lord Jesus (Acts 2113).
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Toward the end of his life and ministry Paul
wrote from prison, Christ shall be magnified in
my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For
to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain
(Philippians 120-21).
Transparency 3
IV. The Commission to Missions
The Commission to Missions
When a person is born again, the Spirit of God
within begins to lead him to become more like
Jesus Christ. Things he once hated he begins to
love and hold in great esteem. Things that once
littered his sinful life he readily discards as
being sinful or unnecessary. The Holy Spirit
changes him!
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Among the many positive changes in the life of a
new believer is his desire to tell of the
wonderful things God has done for him. It is no
wonder Jesus told His followers that after they
received the Holy Ghost they would be witnesses
for Him. They hurried into Jerusalem, where,
after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day
of Pentecost, they began to testify of Jesus
Christ. So it is with believers of every
generation. All desire to spread the good news of
the gospel of Christ.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
This new desire to tell everybody of the
salvation and work of Jesus Christ is the genesis
of a believers call to missions. Not all will
receive the call to travel to distant peoples in
distant and strange lands, but all receive the
call to tell others of the gospel. After a new
believer spreads the gospel in his hometown and
to his family, friends, and neighbors, the Spirit
lifts his sights to view the whole world as a
harvest field. He will desire to reach the whole
world with the gospel through giving his
finances and possibly by going himself.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Internalizing the Message
What a person was Saul of Tarsus! As a young man
he obeyed the Law down to the smallest detail. He
eventually left Tarsus and attended Gamaliels
school in Jerusalem, where he excelled. However,
his zeal for God was misguided, and he
spearheaded a bloody persecution of the
believers. He branched out from Jerusalem to
other towns, and on the road to Damascus God
aborted his journey with a dazzling light from
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Saul, his Jewish name, had kingly aspects.
However, he later adopted a Roman name, Paul,
which means small. When he stepped into the
Roman arena, he realized the need for a Roman
name. A small man with a big ego, he could have
tagged himself Julius or Antony, But he
realized how small he was in Gods sight. God
could work with this humble attitude and used
Paul mightily. In Antioch he teamed up with
Barnabas and their ministry went worldwide.
I. Sauls Call at Conversion
Every person can be a part of the life-changing
experience of Pentecost. After that, he will see
the world in a different light he sees a world
full of individuals who need the same work of
redemption that saved him from a life of sin.
When a person receives the whole gospel, it gives
him a whole new worldview and a worldwide vision.
He may give to missions or he may go around the
world, but one thing is certain he will reach
out to others in this world that they, too,
might be saved.
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