LESSON 5 3/1/2016
THE EARLY CHRISTIAN LIFE OF PAUL
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 310, 326
Devotional Reading: Acts 9:10-22
Topic For Adults: Don’t Cast Them Out
Topic For Youths: Mentoring: A Programme, Not A Subject
Intermediates: Patient In Learning
Scripture Lesson: Acts 9: 17-19; Acts 9:19-30, Heb. 10:24-25; Gal. 1:13-24, 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:13
Memory Verse: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) NKJV
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READING
Correcting Our Previous Errors
2 Tim. 4:9-11
Towards the end of Paul’s life, we discovered that the same man, John Mark, that he rejected in yesterday’s reading was sought after by him. He said John Mark was profitable to him in his ministry. Apparently, over the years, he discovered he was wrong to have written off John Mark due to just one failure. To his credit, Paul was not ashamed to correct his previous error by justifying his action in the face of new realities. We need to learn a lesson from him to look back to our past and correct all previous mistakes and make restitution where necessary. We should also have the attitude of Barnabas to bear with people who are less mature with us and train them up to be giants of faith.
Point of Emphasis: Never write-off any man.
Prayer Point: Lord, help me to correct all my previous errors in the face of current realities.
This week’s lesson focuses on the early Christian life of Apostle Paul, We want to examine how Paul grew as a new convert in Christ after his encounter on the road to Damascus, his mentors and a mistake he made in the early part of his ministry which he later corrected. We shall be challenged by his strengths for emulation and also open our eyes to his flaw lest we repeat his error.
NOTES ON THE LESSON
PART 1: STARTING WITH THE BASICS (ACTS 9: 17-19)
The details about the conversion of Apostle Paul are already covered in a previous lesson. After his dramatic conversion, God instructed Ananias, a believer in Damascus to visit Paul where he was staying. Ananias, although afraid and complained to God, eventually went to see Paul. On getting there, he called him ‘Brother Paul’ which means he had accepted him as a fellow believer. Ananias laid his hands on Paul and he received his sight.
Two things happened to Paul in this passage that helped him in his early Christian life and which will also assist every believer today. Right at that point, he was baptised in the Holy Spirit and also in water. These are basic things for every believer – genuine conversion, water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit. Only those who are genuinely born again should be baptised in water and the Holy Spirit, because he is holy and the Holy Spirit will only inhabit those who are holy.
We need to examine the foundation of our Christian lives. Did we really have an encounter with the Lord? Have we been baptised both by water and the Spirit? If we jump these basic steps, we can never enjoy our Christian lives, we shall only be patching them up and the result may be disastrous. Let us go back to the basics.
PART 2: ASSOCIATING WITH OTHER BELIEVERS (ACTS 9:19-30; HEB. 10:24-25)
One other thing we discovered in the early Christian life of Apostle Paul which we should emulate was that, immediately after his conversion, he joined believers in that community where he was going in and out with them. This association definitely assisted him in the rapid growth he experienced in his spiritual life because there were people to guide him in the new life. He was determined too, not to be a bench warmer in the congregation but he started witnessing to others convincing them that Jesus Christ was the expected Messiah.
The fellowship also was beneficial to him because it protected him from all the plans of those who intended to kill him. In the church. Paul found a friend, supporter, a mentor and encourager in Barnabas who was there for him from his early Christian life, in his missionary journeys and indeed throughout his life time.
We cannot grow in our Christian lives if we maintain an ‘independent’ spirit of being lone rangers. We need others to help us, to share their experiences with us, to train us, to guide and to correct us. We need mentors and friends who will always be there to encourage us since it is a long journey.
Are you faithful and known in a local congregation? When last have you opened your mouth to witness about Christ? Who is your mentor and who are your best friends? We can learn from the life of Apostle Paul.
PART 3: PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT (GAL. 1:13-24; 2 TIM. 2:15; 4:13)
Several Bible scholars believe that a span of about 3 years which Paul spent in Arabia and in Damascus was in seclusion for that time, sorting out his past mistakes, spending time praying, worshiping in God’s presence, and rethinking his theology in the light of Jesus being the Messiah. No doubt Paul did all of these things but we have no reason to believe that he spent all that time in solitude. Arabia was an area that extended all the way to the walls of Damascus. It is likely that Paul did not go and hide during that time, but he continued to tell many of the Arab people that Jesus was the Messiah who had been promised from God and that they needed to repent, call on the Lord and commit their lives to Him.
It is apparent that Paul spent a considerable period to study as can be seen throughout his epistles – both Scriptures and secular books. A reader is a leader. Many have stopped reading and they want to grow. It doesn’t work that way. We must have intentional plan to study and to grow in our Christian lives.
PART 4: DISPLAYING MATURITY IN DEALING WITH OTHERS (ACTS 15:36-41; 2 TIM. 4:11)
John Mark, who was a relation of Barnabas, deserted the team in one of the missionary journeys. As they planned to embark on another journey, Barnabas wanted them to take John Mark along while Paul resisted this. People have given several reasons for the decision of the two main actors. The fact is, Paul and Barnabas allowed anger to influence them and this led to the separation of the team.
Believers are still human beings who can disagree on issues and have different opinions. It is always better to agree to disagree and let God work His will in all things. Differences in opinion should not lead to separation and even if they do, they must never be accompanied by bitterness and hostility as we can see the two of them continued their work for God with his blessings and grace.
As we can see towards the end of Paul’s life, John Mark proved himself to Paul, indicated by his presence with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment (Col. 4:10) and by Paul’s request for Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome. Paul had learnt a lesson as he matures that no one is useless and that everyone is a potentially great person. Every raw material can be developed to a finished product just like Barnabas did to John Mark. Paul also corrected his previous errors without being ashamed about it. We can learn great lessons from this. Please note that when you are closing the door of any relationship, you need to close it gently, in case you have to go through it again. In the face of current realities, let us correct our past mistakes, apologise where necessary and make restitutions.
Paul started his Christian life on a good note, joining himself with other believers, witnessing, yielding to a mentor and being involved in personal spiritual disciplines. Even when he made a mistake as a young believer or leader, he corrected it later in life. All of us, at whatever level we are in our spiritual journeys, have lessons to learn from the early Christian life of Apostle Paul.
- Why did Ananias refer to Paul as brother, when he saw him?
- What were the things that happened to Paul that helped him in his early Christian life?
- Who did Paul associate himself with after his conversion?
- Why did the team separate?
- What ways can we display maturity in dealing with other people?