Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

4-6-04

Title: Lessons from Paul



Text: “Declared to be the Son of God with power

...by the resurrection from the dead.” 

(Romans 1:3-4).


Bible Reading: Romans 1:1–4, 4:24–25, and 8:11



Introduction:


The subject of today’s lesson is one of the most well-known people in human history.  


It’s been said that other than the life of Jesus no other life is worthy of study than that of Paul.  


His conversion to Christianity proved that the power of Christianity could overcome the strongest of prejudices.  


He would eventually write more books of the New Testament than anyone else; He would start lots of churches and (leed) many to faith in the Lord. 


The leading topic of Paul’s thinking and preaching was to explain, in an understandable way, why Jesus died.  


Paul wrote 13 letters, or epistles, that clearly show his focus on the plan of salvation.  


It was Jesus who revealed to him the lessons he taught and the sermons he preached.  


It was because Paul had such an obsession with Jesus that the message of Jesus Christ went forth through him to evangelize the world. 


Paul was a powerful preacher and he has many lessons to teach us through what he wrote in his letters to individuals and churches.  


His testimony before King Agrippa is a clear witness from one who knows what Jesus did for him. 


I will read our text to you, and as I do listen for the lessons that are there. 


1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” 

So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: 

2 “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, 

3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. 

Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently. 

4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 

5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 

7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 

8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? 

9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 

10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 

11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 

13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 

14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 

15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 

16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 

17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 

18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,


LESSON NO. 1: THERE IS MORE TO PLEASING GOD THAN BEING RELIGIOUS.


There are a lot of religious people around today, but many of them have never had a personal experience with Jesus.  


They are good people and they do good things, but they are not saved.  


Paul was like that.  


He was a very religious man.  


We (red) in our text that Paul said this about himself, “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.  


They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”


Paul’s conduct, as an enemy of Christ, was the result of his background.  


The Lord Jesus had never met an enemy more bitter and brutal than Saul of Tarsus.  


Paul was his Roman name, and Saul his Hebrew name.  


He had an ingrained hatred of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  


He believed that it was his duty to God to stamp out this new religion.  


Paul said, “…that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”  


The Pharisees, and there were only about 6,000 in all of Palestine, were well respected by the people.  


They had a lot of good points:


They insisted that everyone should be taught the Scriptures; nothing wrong with that.


They tithed and even gave more; nothing wrong with that.


They did their best to keep all the Laws of God, which according to them were 613 in all; nothing wrong with that.


They knew the Old Testament well, and some like Paul were trained to be a rabbi; nothing wrong with that.


On the surface, the Pharisees appeared to be very good men and they did a lot of good things.  


Paul, according to his own testimony was a Pharisee in the strictest sense.  


In another place, he called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees.  


As such, he would not tolerate those who were part of this new faith, called Christianity.  


And he believed that he was doing God’s will when he dragged men and women out of their homes for being Christians, and sent them off to prison.  


In the 3rd chapter of Philippians, Paul repeats his religious qualifications.  


This is what he wrote, “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. 


If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (4-6).  


In these verses, he says seven things about himself:


1. “Circumcised in the eighth day.”  


By this, Paul means to show that he had godly parents.  


They took him, when he was eight days old, to be circumcised.  


This shows that they brought their child up according to Mosaic Law.  


2. “Of the stock of Israel.”  


Probably, many of the Pharisees were half-breeds, but Paul was not.  


He was from the stock of Israel.


3. “Of the tribe of Benjamin.”  


This is like saying that he belonged to the best family.  


4. “An Hebrew of Hebrews.”  


This means he was a leader.  


He was in the highest echelon of the religious circle.  


He was up at the top.


5. “As touching the Law, a Pharisee.”  


The Pharisees represented the very best in Israel, and Paul was the best of all.


6. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church.”  


Paul thought he was doing God’s will when he persecuted the church.  


The other Pharisees were content to run the Christians out of Jerusalem, but not Paul.  


He was determined to ferret them out all over the world.


7. “Touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.”  


This means that he brought the proper sacrifice for his sin to make things right before God.  


Paul was sincere.  


As far as the Law was concerned, Paul was a super saint.  


Paul had what we call head knowledge.  


But the problem is that God wants you to make it a matter of the heart.


Paul’s religious experience, reminds me of the rich young ruler’s encounter with Jesus.  


His story is in the 19th chapter of Matthew.   


That young man had a question for Jesus that revealed his problem. 


He wanted to know what to do to earn eternal life. 


Jesus’ emphasis was always on the attitude of the heart, not on deeds. 


Jesus showed the young man that he had failed, even in the areas in which he thought he had done well. 


His wealth was not his problem; his divided heart was. 


The vital message Jesus gave the man was not “Go, sell what you have,” but it was this “Come, follow Me.”  


This young man had a religion of the mind that never penetrated his heart.  


He walked away from Jesus, sad and defeated.  


Friends, it is the same today, it takes more than religion to please God.


LESSON No. 2: GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS.


We have seen that Paul was a religious man, but in spite of that, he was also a mean man.  


The verses we read show clearly that he harassed and imprisoned Christians without any pains of conscience.  


When Ananias was told to go see Paul, he was shocked.  


He was quick to object to this request, and explained that he had heard of the evil this man had done to the saints in Jerusalem.  


So, Paul was well known for the cruelty he had done to Christians.


Paul’s testimony in 1 Timothy 1:15, reveals that after he was saved on the Damascus Road, he became aware of how cruel and sinful be had been.    


He told Timothy, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”


This verse proves that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” 


He didn’t come to be the greatest teacher the world has ever known, although He was that.  


He didn’t come to set a moral example, but He did do that.  


He came into the world to save sinners.  


When you give your testimony, don’t tell people how wonderful you are or all you have accomplished.  


Tell them you were a sinner and Christ saved you.  


That’s what’s important.  


When Paul says he is the chief of sinners, he’s not kidding; he is just being truthful.  


He was the chief of sinners; he cursed at the Lord Jesus and he meant every foul word.  


But, thanks to God, Paul could say, “I’ve been saved.”  


Friends, the Lord Jesus came to save sinners, and if you say, “I don’t think Christ can save me—I’m the worst,” you are wrong.  


Paul was the chief of sinners, and the chief of sinners has already been saved.  


So you will be able to be saved if you want to.  


The decision rests with you.  


All you need to do is turn to Christ and He will do the rest.


The story of the Bible is that Jesus loves all of us.  


I’ll give you three examples from God’s Word.


 In the 19th chapter of Matthew, there is the story of Zacchaeus.  


Verse 10 is the highlight of the experience of Zacchaeus, because his life points up what Jesus meant when He said, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  


Jesus came to him, sought him, and saved him. 


Although He was surrounded by a great crowd of people, Jesus took time for individuals, and He even saw a man in a tree! 


He is still the seeking Savior, but now He uses your eyes and your lips.


In the 4th chapter of John there is the story of the woman at the well.  


There, we are told that perhaps in order to avoid the respectable townswomen who filled their water jars at sunrise and sunset, she came to the well at noon, the hottest hour of the day. 


This immoral woman, who had had five husbands, now lived with a man who was not her husband.


When Jesus purposely passed through Samaria on His way to Galilee, He met and spoke to the woman at Jacob’s Well, near the city of Sychar, breaking several major social rules.  


He disregarded these social barriers when He talked with the woman. 


He revealed Himself as the greatly anticipated Messiah, offering forgiveness, redemption, and new life. 


She drank from His cup of living water, and then she ran back to town to the very ones who despised her. 


There she proclaimed with unembarrassed excitement the arrival of the promised Messiah.


The thief who was crucified with Christ is another instance of God’s great love (Luke 23).  


Actually, there were two thieves crucified along with Jesus, and in the beginning both of them joined the crown in criticizing Him.  


One of the thieves continued to taunt Jesus until the end, but the other came to believe in Jesus after hanging beside the Lord for six hours.  


Jesus told this thief “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”  


Jesus gave his life for that thief, just as sure as He did it for us.  


Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than to give his life for another.”  


It wasn’t the Romans or the Jews who put Jesus on that cross; it was love.


Today, we can all sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  


There are no unlovable people in Jesus’ eyes.


Lesson No. 3: When God has His way, lives are dramatically changed.


When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he made some important and life-changing discoveries.


First, He came to believe that his religion was out-of-date.  


He discovered that God did not stop His revelations to man with the last prophet; Malachi.  


Jesus was the one who God had sent into the world to save sinful men and sinful women.  


How could he continue to follow a religion that denied Jesus?  


Second, he discovered that his zeal for God was only hurting God.  


He had once believed that he was doing God a great service by his efforts to stamp out this new sect of Christians.  


When Jesus saved Paul, He also changed his perception of God.  


He no longer had to work so very hard to appease God’s anger.  


Now, he knew that God loved him, that his sins were forgiven, and that he was going to spend eternity with the Savior.


Third, he discovered that Jesus was alive. 


He wasn’t dead, as the religious leaders said.  


Now he knew that Jesus was seated at God’s side, and that someday He would return.


Forth, he discovered that Jesus had a job for him to do.  


He could not continue being the great persecutor of the Church; and instead, God called him to be His missionary to the Gentiles.  


He would write most of the New Testament, start many churches, train preachers and win multitudes to the Lord.


Talk about a rude awakening!  


He was changed completely and forever, when He met Jesus.


But it’s always been that way.  


Jesus changes lives.  


I’ll give you two examples from the Bible. 


First, there was the demon possessed man who lived in the tombs with the dead, and terrorized everyone that came near him. 


Jesus radically changed this hard case, when He journeyed to the country of the Gadarenes to help this demon-possessed man.  


Jesus cast the demons out of him, and we are told that after that he sat quietly, and his mind was right.  


He was so grateful that he wanted to go along with Jesus, but Jesus told him that he had an assignment for him to do.  


He wanted him to be His witness to the cities in this area.  


He must have been a great witness, because when Jesus returned to the area, he found many who believed in him.  


I believe that it was the great change in this man that caused people to listen to him.  


When he told them what Jesus had done, they responded because of the great change in him.


And, next let me tell you about a woman named Mary Magdalene.


Mary lived in Magdala which was a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. 


Unfortunately, she suffered from demon possession; but, when Mary met Jesus face to face, it changed her life. 


Jesus cast from Mary the seven evil demonic spirits that had ruled and ruined her life. 


After she was healed, Mary became a devoted follower of Christ. 


She faithfully followed Jesus throughout His ministry. 


Even when nearly everyone fled with fear after Christ’s arrest, Mary lingered lovingly all the way to the cross and witnessed His painful death. 


Someone might ask, “Does Jesus change people today.”  


Well, He changed me, and many others in this room.  


And He will change anyone who will confess their sins and believe in Him.


Conclusion


When Paul was brought before King Agrippa, his life was in danger; but, he was not afraid.  


He said, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”  


Paul was referring to the vision of Jesus, the Macedonian Call, when Jesus told him to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  


Paul used his great zeal and knowledge to spread the gospel.  


Through his preaching many men and women had their lives changed.  


Even King Agrippa said that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian.  


But almost is not good enough.  


Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once said, “Almost persuaded to be a Christian is like the man who was almost pardoned, but he was hanged; like the man who was almost rescued, but he was burned in the house. A man that is almost saved is damned.”


God can still change anyone’s life.  


He doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  


God is the only one who can save you.  


You can’t save yourself, because you’re not good enough.  


But, thank God, no one is too far gone.  


Please join me in prayer, and let’s thank God for saving us and changing us.


Amen.


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