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Sabbath Bible Lessons

The Life of Paul

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Lesson 13 Sabbath, September 28, 2013

The Close of a Godly Life

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

“[Paul’s] own life was a living illustration of the truths he taught; and herein lay his power with the people.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 325, 326.

Suggested Reading:   The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 485-503, 509-513

Sunday September 22

1. ARREST AT TROAS

a. Against all odds, Paul was miraculously set at liberty by declaration of Nero, who was perhaps the most vile, atrocious despot in the line of the Caesars. How did the apostle consider his newly regained freedom? Galatians 5:13.

b. Although spared from the persecution against Christians in Rome, what happened during Paul’s travel back to Troas? 2 Timothy 4:14, 15.

“The Jews conceived the idea of seeking to fasten upon Paul the crime of instigating the burning of Rome. Not one of them for a moment believed him guilty; but they knew that such a charge, made with the faintest show of plausibility, would seal his doom. An opportunity soon offered to execute their plans. At the house of a disciple in the city of Troas, Paul was again seized, and from this place he was hurried away to his final imprisonment.

“The arrest was effected by the efforts of Alexander the coppersmith, who had so unsuccessfully opposed the apostle’s work at Ephesus, and who now seized the opportunity to be revenged on one whom he could not defeat.”—Sketches from the Life of Paul, pp. 304, 305.

c. In view of his circumstances, what poignant appeals did the apostle make in his epistle to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith? 2 Timothy 1:7–14; 4:9.


Monday September 23

2. CHRISTLIKE FAITH

a. Why was Paul’s second arraignment in Rome especially trying, and what was his attitude toward those who might have helped? 2 Timothy 4:16.

“Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and the nation, [Paul] was the object of universal execration.

“The few friends who had shared the burdens of the apostle, now began to leave him, some by desertion, and others on missions to the various churches.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 490.

b. In all of this, what assurance did Paul have? 2 Timothy 4:17, 18. What human comfort did he also receive?

“Never had the apostle needed the ministrations of his brethren as now, enfeebled as he was by age, toil, and infirmities, and confined in the damp, dark vaults of a Roman prison. . . .

“Paul, though apparently indifferent to hardship and suffering, yearned for sympathy and companionship. The visit of Onesiphorus, testifying to his fidelity at a time of loneliness and desertion, brought gladness and cheer to one who had spent his life in service for others.”—Ibid., pp.490, 491.

c. After all that the apostle had gone through, why did he long to see Timothy, and why had his heart now softened toward Mark, who by now had become more mature in the faith? 2 Timothy 1:3–6; 4:9–11.

“Since the earlier years of his profession of faith, Mark's Christian experience had deepened. As he had studied more closely the life and death of Christ he had obtained clearer views of the Saviour's mission, its toils and conflicts. Reading in the scars in Christ's hands and feet the marks of His service for humanity, and the length to which self-abnegation leads to save the lost and perishing, Mark had become willing to follow the Master in the path of self-sacrifice. Now, sharing the lot of Paul the prisoner, he understood better than ever before that it is infinite gain to win Christ, infinite loss to win the world and lose the soul for whose redemption the blood of Christ was shed. In the face of severe trial and adversity, Mark continued steadfast, a wise and beloved helper of the apostle.”—Ibid., p.455.


Tuesday September 24

3. PASSING ON THE TORCH

a. As Paul preached the gospel to hardened Nero, touching the hearts of many, what did he desire for his son in the faith? 2 Timothy 2:1–4; 4:1, 2. Of what did the apostle feel compelled to warn and exhort this young minister? 2 Timothy 3:1–5, 13, 14; 4:3–5.

b. What could Paul say of God’s loving watchcare in the many experiences he obtained while preaching the gospel? 2 Timothy 3:10, 11. What must we all realize in pondering Paul’s life? 2 Timothy 3:12; 2 Corinthians 11:23–28.

“The truth always involves a cross. Those who will not believe, oppose and deride those who do believe. The fact that its presentation creates a storm of opposition is no evidence against the truth. The prophets and apostles imperiled their lives because they would conscientiously obey God. And our Saviour declares that ‘all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). This is the Christian's legacy.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 279.

“Reformatory action is always attended with loss, sacrifice, and peril. It always rebukes love of ease, selfish interests, and lustful ambition. Hence, whoever initiates or prosecutes such action must encounter opposition, calumny, and hatred from those who are unwilling to submit to the conditions of reform. It is no easy matter to overcome sinful habits and practices. The work can be accomplished only with the help of divine grace; but many neglect to seek such help and endeavor to bring down the standard to meet their deficiencies, instead of bringing themselves up to meet the standard of God.”—Ibid., pp.305, 306.

c. How did Paul feel about closing his life bound in chains? 2 Timothy 2:7–10. Despite all persecution, what must be the source of our every decision and practice, and with what assurance? 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; John 8:32–36.

“When for the truth's sake the believer is incarcerated in prison walls, Christ manifests Himself to him and ravishes his heart with His love. When he suffers death for the sake of Christ, Christ says to him, ‘They may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul.’ ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).”—Selected Messages, bk. 3, pp. 420, 421.


Wednesday September 25

4. PAUL’S TESTIMONY PRIOR TO HIS DEATH

a. At the close of Paul’s life, what did he realize, and what was he fully able to testify? 2 Timothy 4:6–8. How did he die?

“The emperor's malice against Paul was heightened by the fact that members of the imperial household, and also other persons of distinction, had been converted to Christianity during his first imprisonment. For this reason [Nero] made the second imprisonment much more severe than the first, granting him little opportunity to preach the gospel; and he determined to cut short his life as soon as a plausible pretext could be found for so doing. Nero's mind was so impressed with the force of the apostle’s words at his last trial that he deferred the decision of the case, neither acquitting nor condemning him. But the sentence was only deferred. It was not long before the decision was pronounced which consigned Paul to a martyr's grave. Being a Roman citizen, he could not be subjected to torture and was therefore sentenced to be beheaded.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 328.

“Paul was led in a private manner to the place of execution. His persecutors, alarmed at the extent of his influence, feared that converts might be won to Christianity, even by the scenes of his death. Hence few spectators were allowed to be present. But the hardened soldiers appointed to attend him listened to his words and with amazement saw him cheerful and even joyous in prospect of such a death. His spirit of forgiveness toward his murderers, and his unwavering confidence in Christ to the very last, proved a savor of life unto life to some who witnessed his martyrdom. More than one erelong accepted the Saviour whom Paul preached and fearlessly sealed their faith with their blood.”—Ibid., pp.329, 330.

b. What assurance does the apostle eagerly want us to embrace as we deeply ponder the glorious message of the gospel? Romans 8:31–34.

“Paul carried with him through his life on earth the very atmosphere of Heaven. All who associated with him felt the influence of his connection with Christ and companionship with angels. Here lies the power of the truth. The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity. Argument, even when unanswerable, may provoke only opposition; but a godly example has a power which it is impossible wholly to resist.”—Ibid., p.331.


Thursday September 26

5. APPLYING THESE LESSONS FOR OUR BENEFIT

a. Why can we be energized into love and action by prayerfully contemplating the life of this meek man of faith—a life that, if we so desire, can in many ways be echoed in our own? Romans 8:35–39.

“What has sustained Christians in every age, amidst reproaches, temptations, and sufferings? A pure, trusting faith, constantly exercised to understand what is truth which sanctifies the receiver, a committing of the keeping of the soul to God, under any and every circumstance, as unto One whom they knew would not betray their trust.”—The Upward Look, p. 244.

“Through his long term of service, Paul had never faltered in his allegiance to his Saviour. Wherever he was—whether before scowling Pharisees, or Roman authorities; before the furious mob at Lystra, or the convicted sinners in the Macedonian dungeon; whether reasoning with the panic-stricken sailors on the shipwrecked vessel, or standing alone before Nero to plead for his life—he had never been ashamed of the cause he was advocating. The one great purpose of his Christian life had been to serve Him whose name had once filled him with contempt; and from this purpose no opposition or persecution had been able to turn him aside. . . .

“The love of the Saviour was the undying motive that upheld him in his conflicts with self and in his struggles against evil as in the service of Christ he pressed forward against the unfriendliness of the world and the opposition of his enemies.

“What the church needs in these days of peril is an army of workers who, like Paul, have educated themselves for usefulness, who have a deep experience in the things of God, and who are filled with earnestness and zeal.”—Conflict and Courage, p. 356.


Friday September 27

PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. What are we to learn from the outrageously unjust accusation against Paul?

2. Explain the growth in attitude of both Paul and Mark.

3. Why is reformation always a challenge—yet a rewarding one?

4. Describe Paul’s attitude in his martyrdom.

5. Summarize the insights we can gain from studying the life of Paul.

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