QUARTER’S THEME: PAUL – THE DYNAMIC MISSIONARY EVANGELIST
UNIT 1: His Early Judaism Life (Lessons 1-2)
LESSON 1 6/12/2015
THE BACKGROUND OF APOSTLE PAUL
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 258, 259
Devotional Reading: Prov. 22:1-8
Topic For Adults: Give Your Child A Good Foundation
Topic For Youths: Your Foundation Is Important
Topic For Intermediates: Listen To The Voice Of The Elders
Scripture Lesson: Acts 4:13, 22:3, 5:34, 18:3, Phil. 3:7-8; Phil. 3:5, Acts 21:39, Phil. 3:20; Gal. 1:4, Phil. 3:4-6, Acts 23:6, Acts 6:9
Memory verse: “… and was zealous toward God as you all are today (Acts 22:3c) NKJV
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READING
Paul, The Religious Zealot
Acts 22: 3-4; 23:6, Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5-6
Paul, a strict Pharisee, became very zealous for the things of God, although it was a wrong zeal. When it came to the issue of religion, he surpassed all his equals as he defended the traditions of the fathers – Jewish tradition. It was this zeal that led him into persecuting the early church, trying to destroy the church of God which is indestructible! It was in one of the journeys to Damascus to persecute the Christians there that the Lord met with him. Also, there are many people today who have wrong zeal for the Lord without knowledge even in the Church of God. There are other religious people out of zeal that are, today, killing and maiming others, believing they are serving God. We must have understanding that zeal without knowledge is useless.
Point of Emphasis: For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge – Rom. 10:2.
Prayer Point: Lord, help us to have the right zeal backed with the knowledge of the truth
There are lots of misunderstandings about Apostle Paul. Paul was not a non-religious, atheistic, a God-hating man. He was not some wild, wide-eyed nut with a shaved head running around filled with hatred towards mankind. Paul was surprisingly a different man. Paul was a deeply religious, well-educated man of excellent upbringing. In this lesson, we will study the background of the apostle Paul, so that we might obtain a greater appreciation of his unique ministry.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
PART 1: PAUL’S RAISING (ACTS 4:13; 22:3; 5:34; 18:3; PHIL. 3:7-8)
The twelve apostles were unlearned, uneducated men, unlike Paul who was very well-educated. Because Paul was raised in Tarsus, he had the opportunities of early education that were among the best in the Roman Empire. This explains why Paul, in his writings, frequently indicated a familiarity with classical literature.
When Paul was older, he was sent to Jerusalem where he was taught by Gamaliel. This, in the Jews’ eyes, would be education supreme. Gamaliel was held in great respect. So Paul received an extensive education:
- His secular education was obtained in Tarsus, one of the world’s best learning centres in his day.
- His religious education was obtained in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the best religious educator
obtainable in those days (as far as the Jews were concerned.)
- He was also taught the practical trade of tent-making.
There are lessons to be learnt from his raising by both adults and youths. We should give our children the best religious and secular education available. We should also encourage our children to learn a trade in addition to their formal school education.
On the other hand, we also discover that education failed miserably to give Paul the right answers to the most important questions in life. Instead of pointing him to Christ, it drove him away from Christ. Instead of honouring Christ, it taught him to hate Christ. Notice Paul’s assessment of all this in Philippians 3:7-8. Education is not the answer to the problems in life, but rather Jesus Christ is the answer!
PART 2: PAUL’S RACE (PHIL. 3:5; ACTS 21:39; PHIL. 3:20)
Paul was a full-blooded Jew, “an Hebrew of the Hebrews”.
- This means that Paul’s parents and ancestry on both sides were Jewish.
- Paul could even easily trace his ancestry to the tribe of Benjamin.
- Being of royal Jewish parents, he was circumcised the eighth day in accordance to God’s instructions to Abraham. At his circumcision, he probably received a double name, that of Saul for his family, and that of Paul for the world of trade and municipal life. Paul was of noble stock, yet he was an evil man with ungodly behaviour. Though a pure-blooded Jew, the place Paul called home was not a city in Israel as would be expected. Rather, it was Tarsus, a city located in the Roman province of Cilicia. Paul said that Tarsus was “no mean city.” This simply means that Tarsus wasn’t your average, common, ordinary city.
- Tarsus was a very important and significant seaport town that was a focus of trade.
- Tarsus was a centre for intellectual and religious activities.
- Tarsus was a city in good favour with the rulers in Rome and was a “free-city.” This means it had the privilege of self-government. This resulted in Roman citizenship for those in Tarsus.
It is interesting to note that for all of Tarsus’ greatness, its lasting fame and recognition comes from the fact that the apostle Paul was associated with this city. There are lessons we can learn from his race, noble birth and great place of birth
- It is not our human heritage that begets good behaviour. It is our heavenly heritage obtained through the new birth that produces genuine godly behaviour in a person.
- Royal blood, statesmen’s blood, Jewish blood, or any other highly respected blood of man does not make one godly. Only the blood of Christ can do that.
- The Jews in Christ’s day thought they were special because they were from Abraham’s bloodline, but Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”
Although Paul was a citizen of a progressive, important city, yet he held no citizenship in heaven. Through Christ, later in life he could proclaim that his conversion (citizenship) was in heaven. He was a citizen of two worlds. How about you?
PART 3: PAUL’S RELIGION (GAL. 1:4; PHIL. 3:4-6; ACTS 23:6; ACTS 6:9)
Paul’s early life was not characterised by disinterest and hardness against religion. He was no atheist, nor even just a casual religious person. He was completely consumed in the religion of Judaism. Paul, just like his father was a Pharisee, he was therefore a morally pure man, zealous in his religion. Although, born in a foreign land, he was given good spiritual training unlike many of us today that the trainings we give to our children are determined by the culture and practices of the land where we live.
Being from Tarsus, Paul would be a member of the Cilicians’ synagogue in Jerusalem. This would have brought him into contact with Stephen, when Paul guarded the garments of those who stoned Stephen. Nobody could have ever imagined that the man guarding the garments of the stoners would become a greater advocate of the gospel of Christ than the man that was stoned. This is the power of the gospel! Rom. 1:6. Paul is an example of the fact that Christless religion is not the answer to man’s needs. There is much religion in the world today, but very little of it exalts Christ. A person can be very religious, yet be as lost as the most non-religious person in the world if his religion leaves out Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer of mankind.
The question is not, “Are you religious?” Paul’s religion didn’t impress Jesus Christ. The question is, “What have you done with Christ? Is He your personal Saviour?”
Apostle Paul was given a good upbringing by his parents both in the secular and the religious sides. He was obedient to the trainings given and he became very educated and zealous in his religion. We have discovered in this lesson that noble birth, education, religion and other things cannot save except faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Were was Paul raised?
- In what areas did Paul receive education?
- What does the phrase, Paul “an Hebrew of the Hebrews” mean?
- Can education answer the most important question in life?
- How can a child be given a good foundation?