1. EAGER TO SHARE HIS CONVERSION
a. What had Paul experienced upon his return to Damascus? Acts 9:22–25.
“The Jews could not withstand the wisdom of [Paul’s] arguments, and they therefore counseled together to silence his voice by force—the only argument left to a sinking cause. They decided to assassinate him. The apostle was made acquainted with their purpose. The gates of the city were vigilantly guarded, day and night, to cut off his escape. The anxiety of the disciples drew them to God in prayer; there was little sleeping among them, as they were busy in devising ways and means for the escape of the chosen apostle. Finally they conceived a plan by which he was let down from a window and lowered over the wall in a basket by night. In this humiliating manner Paul made his escape from Damascus.”—The Story of Redemption, p. 276.
b. Where had he gone next—and why? Galatians 1:18.
“[Paul] now proceeded to Jerusalem, wishing to become acquainted with the apostles there, and especially with Peter. He was very anxious to meet the Galilean fishermen who had lived, and prayed, and conversed with Christ upon earth.”—Ibid.
2. AN ODD RECEPTION
a. Describe Paul’s long-awaited introduction to the disciples. Acts 9:26–28.
“[Paul] attempted to join himself to his brethren, the disciples; but great was his grief and disappointment when he found that they would not receive him as one of their number. They remembered his former persecutions, and suspected him of acting a part to deceive and destroy them. True, they had heard of his wonderful conversion, but as he had immediately retired into Arabia, and they had heard nothing definite of him further, they had not credited the rumor of his great change.
“Barnabas, who had liberally contributed of his means to sustain the cause of Christ and to relieve the necessities of the poor, had been acquainted with Paul when he opposed the believers. He now came forward and renewed that acquaintance, heard the testimony of Paul in regard to his miraculous conversion, and his experience from that time. He fully believed and received Paul, took him by the hand, and led him into the presence of the apostles. He related his experience which he had just heard—that Jesus had personally appeared to Paul while on his way to Damascus; that He had talked with him; that Paul had recovered his sight in answer to the prayers of Ananias, and had afterward maintained in the synagogue of the city that Jesus was the Son of God.
“The apostles no longer hesitated; they could not withstand God. Peter and James, who at that time were the only apostles in Jerusalem, gave the right hand of fellowship to the once-fierce persecutor of their faith; and he was now as much beloved and respected as he had formerly been feared and avoided.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, pp. 1058, 1059.
b. How had Paul been received by others in Jerusalem? Acts 9:29.
“Paul felt sure that these teachers in Israel, with whom he had once been so well acquainted, were as sincere and honest as he had been. But he had miscalculated the spirit of his Jewish brethren, and in the hope of their speedy conversion he was doomed to bitter disappointment. . . . Sorrow filled his heart. He would willingly have yielded up his life if by that means he might bring some to a knowledge of the truth.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 129.
3. TIME TO MOVE
a. What had the Lord told Paul in vision at Jerusalem? Acts 22:17–21.
“Paul . . . hesitated to leave Jerusalem without convincing the obstinate Jews of the truth of his faith; he thought that, even if his life should be sacrificed for the truth, it would not more than settle the fearful account which he held against himself for the death of Stephen. . . . But the reply was more decided than before: ‘Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.’
“When the brethren learned of the vision of Paul, and the care which God had over him, their anxiety on his behalf was increased; for they realized that he was indeed a chosen vessel of the Lord, to bear the truth to the Gentiles. They hastened his secret escape from Jerusalem, for fear of his assassination by the Jews.”—The Story of Redemption, pp. 279, 280.
b. As a result of this situation, what did Paul relate about how limited his time was among the disciples? Galatians 1:19, 20, 22.
c. How did God provide for Paul—while smoothing the way for the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria to grow also? Galatians 1:21; Acts 9:30, 31.
d. Relate the history of the rise and progress of the church at Antioch, the commercial resort metropolis of Syria. Acts 11:19–26 (first part).
“In the populous city of Antioch, Paul found an excellent field of labor. His learning, wisdom, and zeal exerted a powerful influence over the inhabitants and frequenters of that city of culture; and he proved just the help that Barnabas needed.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 156.
“While it is in the order of God that chosen workers of consecration and talent should be stationed in important centers of population to lead out in public efforts, it is also His purpose that the church members living in these cities shall use their God-given talents in working for souls.”—Ibid., p. 158.
4. THE CHURCH AT ANTIOCH
a. What was distinctive about the church at Antioch? Acts 11:26 (last part).
“It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The name was given them because Christ was the main theme of their preaching, their teaching, and their conversation. Continually they were recounting the incidents that had occurred during the days of His earthly ministry, when His disciples were blessed with His personal presence. Untiringly they dwelt upon His teachings and His miracles of healing. With quivering lips and tearful eyes they spoke of His agony in the garden, His betrayal, trial, and execution, the forbearance and humility with which He had endured the contumely and torture imposed upon Him by His enemies, and the Godlike pity with which He had prayed for those who persecuted Him. His resurrection and ascension, and His work in heaven as the Mediator for fallen man, were topics on which they rejoiced to dwell. Well might the heathen call them Christians, since they preached Christ and addressed their prayers to God through Him.
“It was God who gave to them the name of Christian. This is a royal name, given to all who join themselves to Christ.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 157.
b. How does Scripture reveal the name “Christian” to be a badge of honor? James 2:7; 1 Peter 4:16, 14.
c. Living as we do in a world where the vast majority are unbelievers, how can we be inspired by the early disciples? Acts 4:13.
“Living, as [the believers at Antioch] were, in the midst of a people who seemed to care but little for the things of eternal value, they sought to arrest the attention of the honest in heart, and to bear positive testimony concerning Him whom they loved and served. In their humble ministry they learned to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to make effective the word of life. And so, in the various walks of life, they daily bore testimony of their faith in Christ.”—Ibid., p. 158.
5. GLORIFYING GOD
a. How can we be encouraged and motivated by the report the churches in Judaea received about the labors of Paul? Galatians 1:23, 24.
“The apostle Paul could say of the early church: ‘They glorified God in me.’ Galatians 1:24. Shall we not strive to live so that the same words can be said of us? The Lord will provide ways and means for those who will seek Him with the whole heart. He desires us to acknowledge the divine superintendence shown in preparing fields of labor and preparing the way for these fields to be occupied successfully.
“Let ministers and evangelists have more seasons of earnest prayer with those who are convicted by the truth. Remember that Christ is always with you. The Lord has in readiness the most precious exhibitions of His grace to strengthen and encourage the sincere, humble worker. Then reflect to others the light which God has caused to shine upon you. Those who do this bring to the Lord the most precious offering. The hearts of those who bear the good tidings of salvation are aglow with the spirit of praise.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 413.
“The cause of God in the earth today is in need of living representatives of Bible truth. The ordained ministers alone are not equal to the task of warning the great cities. God is calling not only upon ministers, but also upon physicians, nurses, colporteurs, Bible workers, and other consecrated laymen of varied talent who have a knowledge of the word of God and who know the power of His grace, to consider the needs of the unwarned cities. Time is rapidly passing, and there is much to be done. Every agency must be set in operation, that present opportunities may be wisely improved.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 158, 159.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What should I learn from Paul’s reason for moving from place to place?
2. In my sphere of influence, how can I be more like Barnabas was to Paul?
3. What can I do to help my local church to shine as the one in Antioch did?
4. In reading Paul’s story in Galatians 1:11–24, what should I observe from how he did not murmur or complain about all that he actually suffered?
5. What might I be allowing to prevent me from glorifying God more fully?