Paul - The Man Before & After
LET US STUDY TOGETHER FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS
🔹Early Life of Paul
🔹Cornelius Becomes a Christian
🔹Peter’s Miraculous Escape
🔹The Antioch Church
Online Bible Quiz
Who was Paul?
St. Paul the Apostle, original name Saul of Tarsus
The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential leaders of the early Christian church. He played a crucial role in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) during the first century, and his missionary journeys took him all throughout the Roman empire.Paul started more than a dozen churches, and he’s traditionally considered the author of 13 books of the Bible—more than any other biblical writer.
When did Paul live?
Scholars believe Paul was born sometime between 5 BC and 5 AD, and that he died around 64 or 67 AD.
Life of Paul in the Bible
Paul, in the New Testament known by his Hebrew name Saul until Acts 13:9, was apparently educated from boyhood in Jerusalem, not Tarsus.
He studied under the ranking rabbi of the era, Gamaliel. His exegesis of the Old Testament bears testimony to his rabbinic training. Paul was at least trilingual. His letters attest to an excellent command of Greek, while life and studies in Palestine presuppose knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic. Facility in Latin cannot be ruled out. His writings show an intimate knowledge of the Greek Old Testament, though there is no reason to suppose that he was ignorant of or unskilled in Hebrew.
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Bible stories from Acts 9 - 12
Saul (Paul) Becomes a Christian
Acts 9:1-31; Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:9-20
Saul (later known by his Roman name, Paul) was an extremely zealous Jew who believed that those who followed Jesus were blaspheming God. He even hunted for followers of Jesus so he could arrest or kill them for what they believed. Saul had to face the fact that he had been wrong all of his life when Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus and blinded him with a bright light. Saul changed from hating Jesus to loving Jesus.
Saul was born in the city of Tarsus but he grew up in Jerusalem. Saul was very intelligent and he had studied under a famous teacher named Gamaliel.
Saul had two names. His Jewish name was a”Saul” and his Roman name was “Paul”.
Even though Saul believed in God he did not follow Jesus. In fact, he was an enemy to people who followed Jesus.
Saul - Birth place
Saul hated these followers of Jesus and wanted to destroy the church. He even dragged men and women out of their houses and put them in prison for believing in Jesus. Another way to say you are hurting or threatening people for what they believe is to say you are “persecuting” them. Saul persecuted these disciples of Jesus. Everywhere they were very afraid of him.
Once, Saul asked the High Priest in Jerusalem for letters so he could take them to the Jewish leaders in the city of Damascus. He thought the leaders would hate these followers of Jesus, too. He thought they could help him arrest all of them there.
Saul- The persecutor
So Saul set out for the city of Damascus. As he and his companions were walking along the road to Damascus something totally unexpected happened. A bright light shone down and everyone stopped.
The light was so bright that it made Saul blind. The others in the group saw the light and could hear something but only Paul could hear a voice that said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Paul was blind but he could hear the voice clearly. “Who are you?” he asked.Then he heard the answer, “I am Jesus, and you have been persecuting me. Now get up and go into the city.”
Saul- at Damascus
Saul was shocked. This was Jesus? But he thought Jesus was dead! Now Saul knew the truth, Jesus is alive!
And that was not all. Jesus had asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting ME?”
Saul had been saying to everyone that Jesus was dead. He had persecuted these followers of Jesus and even thrown them in prison. But now he knew he had been wrong all of this time. They belong to Jesus so when Paul had been persecuting them it was actually like hurting Jesus himself.
Saul was shocked
Would Jesus ever forgive him for what he had done? If he changed would the Jesus-followers ever forgive him? Can people ever forgive a man who had done such bad things? Saul had many things to think about.
But Saul needed help. He could not even see where he was going. Since Saul was blind the others who were with him led him to the city of Damascus.
What would happen to Saul?
Meanwhile, in another part of the city there was a man called Ananias. He believed in Jesus.
Jesus came to Ananias in a vision and said that Ananias should go and meet Saul. He would be waiting in a house on the street called “Straight Street”.
Now it was Ananias’ time to be shocked! Visit Saul? Saul was the man who was persecuting people who believed in Jesus. How could Jesus ask him to go to see Saul? Ananias was very frightened. What would Saul do to him?
But, in the vision, Jesus told Ananias that he had chosen Saul to do a very important job. Jesus had chosen Saul to be the teacher to the Gentiles.
So Ananias obeyed Jesus. He went to Straight Street and found Saul. He touched Saul and said, “Brother Saul, Jesus, the one who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so you can see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
As soon as Ananias said this something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. Then he got up and was baptised.
Ananias obeyed Jesus
Now that Saul knew the truth about Jesus he wanted to tell everyone. He preached to the people in Damascus. Many people began to believe in Jesus when they heard Saul preach.
But not everyone was happy Saul was preaching about Jesus. Some were very angry. They began guarding the city gates so they could catch and kill Saul if he tried to leave the city.
Saul - the preacher
But Saul’s friends had a great idea. Late one night they put Saul in a basket and lowered the basket over the wall. Saul escaped!
The followers of Jesus in Damascus had begun to trust Saul but there were still many followers in other places that remembered how he had once been their enemy. When Saul went back to Jerusalem the followers there did not trust Saul and did not want him to be with them.
But Saul continued to do what Jesus had told him to do. He was a very different person now. When he used to live in Jerusalem he told people NOT to follow Jesus. Now he told them that they SHOULD follow Jesus.
But over and over Saul made people angry. Finally, the other followers took Saul to the port of Caesarea and put him on a ship heading to Tarsus. Tarsus was the city Saul had grown up in.
After this time there was a time of peace for the churches. Many more people began to follow Jesus.When Saul met Jesus he stopped doing bad things and began to follow Jesus. What do you think Jesus wants you to do?
Saul travelled to Caesarea
Cornelius Becomes a Christian
A gentile is someone who is not born into a Jewish family. Cornelius was a Gentile.
Cornelius was a very important man who lived in the city of Caesarea. He was a Centurion in the Roman Army who was in charge of many soldiers.
Cornelius believed in God. Even though He was not a Jew he still liked to do some of the things that good Jews did. He gave generously to those in need and he prayed regularly. Cornelius even liked to tell his family about God and they believed in God too.
One day, when Cornelius was praying, he had a vision. An angel of the Lord came to him and called his name. The angel told Cornelius that his prayers had been answered.
“Now send men to the city of Joppa, and tell them to go to the house of Simon the Tanner who lives by the sea. Bring back the man called Peter.Cornelius immediately told two of his servants and one of his soldiers to go to Joppa to get Peter.
Meanwhile, Peter was busy teaching people in the city of Joppa about Jesus. He did not know anything about Cornelius and his dream.
Up until now the only people Peter had taught about Jesus were Jewish people and people who had chosen to become Jews. He had not told Gentiles about Jesus.
Peter - The Preacher
While Cornelius’ men were making their way to Joppa, Peter, like Cornelius, also had a vision.
Peter was staying in a house by the sea with a man called Simon. Peter went up to the rooftop to pray. After awhile he got hungry and asked a servant to prepare some food for him. Of course this was special food because Peter was Jewish and there were many kinds of food that Jews were not allowed to eat.
While Peter was waiting for the food, he fell into a trance and saw a vision. He saw heaven open and something like a large sheet filled with animals come down.
Then a voice said, “Peter, kill the animals and eat them.” Peter was shocked! Jews were God’s special people and he did not allow them to eat any of these animals.
Peter said, “No! I am a Jew and I have never eaten these kinds of animals because they are not pure.” The voice told him that everything God makes is pure but Peter still refused to eat.
This happened three times before the sheet was taken back up into heaven.
Peter was shocked
While Peter was wondering what the dream meant, the three men that Cornelius had sent arrived at the gate of the house. The Spirit came to Peter and told him to go and meet the men. The Holy Spirit commanded Peter to go with them.
The men told Peter about Cornelius and the vision he had. When Peter heard this he began to understand what God was trying to tell him in the vision of the animals in the sheet.
God had always had special rules for his special people but the dream was telling Peter that God had made EVERYONE and not just the Jews. Peter should not just teach Jewish people about Jesus. He should teach Gentiles like Cornelius, too. Everyone God made needed to hear the good news!
The Holy Spirit commanded Peter
The men spent the night at Simon’s house and the next day Peter travelled with them to Caesarea. Six of the Jewish Christians from Joppa went along too. When they arrived at Cornelius’ house he was very excited to meet Peter. He asked Peter to tell him and everyone in his house about Jesus.
Cornelius had gathered many relatives and friends together so Peter told them all about Jesus. Usually Jewish people did not enter the house of a Gentile but this did not stop Peter. He told them about his dream and that now he understood that God had made everyone the same.
Peter at Cornelius’ house
After Peter told the people about Jesus something wonderful happened. The Holy Spirit came upon everyone who had heard the message. They began to speak in languages they had never spoken in before and they began to praise God.
These were the same miracles that had happened to the Jews. Peter and the other Jewish followers of Jesus were amazed. The Holy Spirit’s power was God’s proof that the Gentiles could accept Jesus just like the Jews had. Everyone was special to God!
So Peter explained to Cornelius and all of the people gathered in his house about how to follow Jesus. Cornelius and his household were baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
Soon the news about the Gentiles began to spread everywhere. When Peter went back to his home city, Jerusalem, the Jews there had many questions for him.
The Jewish believers thought that Gentiles should become Jews first in order to then become followers of Jesus.
Gospel To Gentiles
But Peter explained about the vision he had had from God. He told them how God wanted everyone to hear about Jesus and obey him. God loved Jews AND Gentiles the same. Everyone was special to God. Gentiles did not have to become Jews first in order to be part of God’s people. Cornelius was the first Gentile Christian but there would be many more after this.
Once Peter had explained his experience, the Jewish Christians had no more arguments. They praised God because God loved everyone so much. God wants everyone to hear about Jesus!
Peter Vision explained
Summary of each chapters of Acts 1 - 8
Luke begins his second book to Theophilus by alluding to the first (the gospel of Luke, Lk 1:1-4). He briefly reviews what occurred during the forty days between the resurrection and ascension of Christ (cf. Lk 24:1-53). Special attention is given to the Promise of the Father regarding the apostles being baptized by the Holy Spirit, who would empower them as witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem, Judea,
Samaria and even to the end of the earth (1-8).
The ascension of Jesus is then described (cf. also Lk 24:50-51), along with the promise of His return by two men in white apparel standing by (9-11). Obeying the command of the Lord, the apostles return to Jerusalem, where they wait and continue in prayer along with the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (12-14).
During this time, Peter addresses the (120) disciples regarding Judas who betrayed Jesus. Both the fall and replacement of Judas were foretold by the Spirit through the mouth of David, so Peter proposes guidelines for nominees to take the place of Judas in the apostolic ministry of being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. Two men are selected for consideration, and following prayer for the Lord to show which of the two He has chosen, lots are cast and Matthias is numbered with the eleven apostles (15-26).
Ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out as promised. With the sound of a rushing mighty wind, and with tongues of fire appearing above their heads, those filled with the Holy Spirit begin to speak in other tongues (1-4). Devout Jews visiting from other countries are attracted and amazed as they hear wonderful works of God proclaimed in their own languages (5-13).
Peter, standing with the rest of the apostles, explains that what has happened is a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32), who foretold that God would pour out His Spirit in the last days (14-21). He then preaches Jesus of Nazareth to the crowd, reminding them of His miracles, their involvement in His death, and proclaiming that God raised Him from the dead. As proof for the resurrection, Peter offers three lines of evidence: 1) the prophecy by David, who foretold of the resurrection (Psa 16:8-11); 2) the twelve apostles as witnesses; 3) the Spirit’s outpouring itself , indicative of Christ’s exaltation and reception of the promise of the Spirit from the Father. In conclusion, Peter pronounces that God has made Jesus, whom they crucified, both Lord and Christ (22-36).
Cut to the heart, the people ask the apostles what they should do. Peter commands them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit. With many other words he exhorts them to be saved, and about 3000 souls gladly receive his word and are baptized (37-41).
Thus begins the church in Jerusalem, which continues steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers. Signs and wonders are done by the apostles, while the believers display their love and devotion through acts of benevolence and frequent worship. They enjoy the favor of the people, and the Lord adds to the church daily those being saved (42-47).
The chapter opens with Peter and John going to the temple where they encounter a man lame from birth begging for alms at the gate called Beautiful. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Peter commands him to rise up and walk. Taking the lame man by the right hand and lifting him up, the man is healed instantly and completely. Walking, leaping, and praising God, he accompanies Peter and John into the temple to the wonder and amazement of the crowd (1-11).
On Solomon’s porch, Peter explains that the healing occurred by faith in the name of Jesus. God has glorified His Servant Jesus, the Holy One and the Just, the Prince of life, whom they denied and killed, but whom God raised from the dead as witnessed by Peter and John. While their crimes were done in ignorance, even foretold and fulfilled by God, they are commanded to repent and turn. Those that do are promised to have their sins blotted out and experience other blessings from Jesus who will remain in heaven until the times of restoration of all things. Those who do not heed Jesus will be utterly destroyed as foretold by Moses (cf. Deu 18:15,18-19). As sons of the prophets, and of the covenant God made with Abraham to bless all families through his seed (cf. Gen 22:18), to them first God has sent Jesus to bless them in turning them away from their iniquities (12-26).
The first case of persecution against the church is described in this chapter. Peter and John are put into custody because their preaching on the resurrection of Jesus disturbed a number of the religious leaders (in particular the Sadducees who denied any resurrection, Mt 22:23; Ac 23:8). In spite of this, the number of men who believed came to be about five thousand (1-4).
After a night in jail, Peter and John are brought before the council, including the high priest and members of his family. Challenged to explain themselves, Peter proclaims the healing was done by the name of Jesus Christ, the very one they crucified yet whom God raised from the dead and who has now become “the chief cornerstone” (Psa 118:22), and in whose name alone salvation is now available. Amazed at Peter and John’s boldness, and unable to deny that the lame man had been healed, the council sends them outside and confer among themselves. They decide to prevent the spread of the apostles’ doctrine by threatening Peter and John not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus. The apostles respond that they must speak what they have seen and heard. The council, unable to do anything more at this time because of the people, simply threaten the apostles once again and let them go (5-22).
Returning to their companions, Peter and John report what has been said. Prayer is offered, asking for boldness in view of the persecution foretold in Psalms 2:1-2, and for signs and wonders to continue in the name of Jesus. At the conclusion of the prayer, the place where they prayed was shaken and all were filled the Holy Spirit, emboldening them to speak the Word of God (23-31)
The chapter ends with a description of the continued growth of the church, with the oneness of the brethren and the empowered testimony of the apostles to the resurrection of Jesus. The great liberality continues, meeting the needs of the saints. One example in particular is noted, that of Barnabas, whose work is featured later in the book ( Act 11:22-30; 13:1-15:41), and whose liberality stands in stark contrast to what takes place in the next chapter (32-36).
In contrast to the remarkable liberality in the church as described in the previous chapter, we are now told of the example of Ananias and Sapphira. A husband and wife who sold a possession, they tried to mislead the apostles that they were giving the entire proceeds. Confronted one at a time by Peter and found guilty of lying against the Holy Spirit, they both fall dead, bringing great fear upon all (1-11).
Highly esteemed among the people, the apostles continue doing many signs and wonders among the people and in the temple (Solomon’s Porch). Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers, who then brought the sick out into the streets on beds and couches, that perhaps the shadow of Peter might fall on some of them. A multitude from the surrounding cities brought those who were sick and tormented, and everyone was healed (12-16).
Once again the high priest and those of Sadducees are filled with anger. They have the apostles placed into custody. During the night, an angel of the Lord frees them and commands the apostles to continue to teach in the temple. In the morning when the council convenes, the prison is found secure but empty. When told that the apostles are teaching in the temple, officers are sent to bring the apostles peacefully to the council. When the high priest charges them of disobeying the command not to teach in the name of Jesus (4:18), the apostles reply “We ought to obey God rather than man.” They further proclaim that God raised Jesus (whom the council had murdered) and has exalted Him to be Prince and Savior who offers repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. To this the apostles claim to be witnesses, along with the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him (17-32).
Infuriated, the council plots to kill the apostles. However, one in the council, a Pharisee and highly respected teacher of the law by the name of Gamaliel (cf. 22:3), advises the council to leave the apostles alone. Based upon the history of other “movements” that had failed, Gamaliel reasons that if the apostles were doing the work of men, it would come to naught. But if it was the work of God, the council could do nothing to stop it and would only be fighting against God. The council is willing to heed his advice, though the apostles are beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus before being released. The apostles leave the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame in the name of Jesus, and continue right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ every day in the
temple and in every house (33-42).
As the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied in number, it is not surprising to read of problems increasing as well. This chapter describes problems from within and without the congregation.
Hellenists (Jewish Christians who adopted Grecian culture) complained that the Hebrews (Jewish Christians who sought to preserve Jewish culture) neglected their widows in the daily distribution (cf. 2:44-45; 4:34-35). The apostles, desiring not to be distracted from their own work, summon the disciples and charge them to select seven men whom the apostles might appoint to take care of this responsibility. Seven are selected by the people and appointed by the apostles through prayer and the laying on of hands. With the problem solved, the word of God spread and the number of disciples multiplied greatly, including the obedience of many priests (1-6).
Stephen, one of the seven, began doing many wonders and signs. Opposition arose from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen who disputed with Stephen. Unable to resist the Spirit and the wisdom of which he spoke, they resorted to false witnesses to stir up the people, elders, and scribes. Brought before the council, Stephen was charged with blasphemy against the temple and the law of Moses. The chapter ends with the council looking at Stephen, seeing his face as the face of an angel (7-15)
The previous chapter ended with Stephen before the Sanhedrin council facing accusations that he spoke blasphemy against the temple and the Law (cf. 6:13-14). Chapter seven contains Stephen’s defense to these charges, and the account of his martyrdom.
Stephen responded by reviewing the call of Abraham and God’s promise to him and the nation of Israel. He then described how God used Moses to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and led them for forty years through the wilderness. Yet Israel rebelled against Moses, through whom God gave the Law. Not only in the incident involving the golden calf, but throughout their wilderness wanderings Israel continued to worship false gods (cf. Amo 5:25-27). Turning to the matter of God’s dwelling place, Stephen acknowledged the role of the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon, but contended that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (cf. Isa 66:1-2). He concluded by charging the council of resisting the Holy Spirit just like their ancestors, for as their fathers persecuted and killed the
prophets who foretold the coming of the Just One (Christ), so they became His betrayers and murderers. Indeed, they were the ones who have not kept the Law (1-53).
Cut to the heart, those in the council gnashed at Stephen with their teeth. Full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God with Jesus standing at His right hand. Upon telling the council what he saw, in rage they cast him out of city and began stoning him. The witnesses who brought the false charges laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (later known as Paul, the apostle). As Stephen was stoned, he called upon Jesus to receive his spirit, and to not charge his murderers with his death. In this way Stephen became the first martyr for Christ (54-60).
Following the martyrdom of Stephen, the church in Jerusalem was severely persecuted. Prominent in leading the persecution was young Saul, going so far as to enter homes and dragging men and women off to prison (1-3).
This led to the dispersion of the church throughout Judea and Samaria, though the apostles remained in Jerusalem. Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word, including Philip (one of the seven men selected to help needy widows, cf. 6:5). Preaching Christ and performing miracles, many Samaritans believed and were baptized, including a sorcerer named Simon. When the apostles heard that the Samaritans had received the Word, they sent Peter and John to impart the Spirit through the laying on of hands. When Simon tried to buy the ability to impart spiritual gifts, Peter strongly rebuked him and told him to repent and pray for forgiveness. Peter and John eventually made their way back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans (5-25).
Philip was then told by an angel to go along the road between Jerusalem and Gaza where he saw a man reading in his chariot, who happened to be a eunuch and treasurer of Queen Candace of Ethiopia. Told by the Spirit to overtake the chariot, Philip heard him reading from the prophet Isaiah. Invited to explain the passage in Isaiah (cf. Isa 53:7-8), Philip proceeded to preach Jesus to him. When they came to some water, the eunuch requested to be baptized and Philip did so upon hearing his confession of faith. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit caught Philip away and the eunuch resumed his journey with great joy. Philip was later found at Azotus, and continued to preach in the cities until he came to Caesarea (26-40).