Sunday, January 5, 2014

Paul's Epistles Part 1 – Introduction

Paul's Epistles
Part 1 – Introduction
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

We finished looking at the seven letters that the Lord sent to the seven end-time churches, and discovered how they apply to us, all of them, as a church.

Using those letters, we examined ourselves, and found where we stand strong, and where we may be weak, and all-in-all, where we need to work towards a closer relationship with the Lord.

We know that the Lord corrects those whom He loves, and we accept this correction, knowing it is for our own good and growth.

There were other letters written to the early churches as well. These letters are called Epistles.

There are 21 epistles in the New Testament, 14 of which belong to the Apostle Paul. 3 were written by John, 2 by Peter, 1 by James and 1 by Jude. These Epistles provide nearly 40% of the New Testament.

We are going to look at the Epistles of Paul in this series of sermons.

The Epistles written by Paul are Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews.

Scholars agree, although they cannot prove beyond a doubt, that Paul is the author of Hebrews.

As we look at these Epistles, instead of examining these scripture by scripture, we will be looking at their content, topic by topic. Otherwise, it would take years to get through all of them.

Today we will be examining Paul, who he was, how he got to where he did, and how the Lord changed him.

Acts 9:1-19
Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priestand asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

I.                   Who was Saul?
a.      Saul was born in the City of Tarsus, a Roman citizen
                                                             i.      Acts 21:39 & Acts 21:40

b.     Saul was educated under the teaching of Gamaliel in Jerusalem
                                                             i.      Acts 21:1-3

c.      Saul first appeared in scripture at the martyrdom of Stephen
                                                             i.      Stephen was the first to be martyred for Christ

d.     Paul described himself before his conversion
                                                             i.      a persecutor
                                                          ii.      a blasphemer
                                                       iii.      an injurer
                                                         iv.      an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 15:9)
                                                            v.      the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

e.      However, he did not realize he was wrong!
                                                             i.      Acts 23:1, Paul states that during all of his wickedness, he lived in good conscience before God.

                                                          ii.      Acts 24:16, Paul states that he exercised himself to that end.
1.      Always working to keep his conscience clear before God and man.

                                                       iii.      Paul, in his ignorance of the Messiah, thought he was serving God by persecuting and murdering followers of Jesus.

II.               The Conversion
a.      You do not know you are sinning, until someone tells you what sin is.
                                                             i.      Paul's conversion could not come until the Lord revealed to him he was sinning against God.

                                                          ii.      Jesus did this on the road to Damascus.
1.      “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

                                                       iii.      Once presented with this fact, Saul had to accept it as truth, or reject it.
1.      We know he accepted it as truth, and repented of his ways, and followed the Command of the Lord.

b.     Saul became an Apostle
                                                             i.      And immediately began to preach with great power (Acts 9:19-22)

c.      The Difference
                                                             i.      We can look at Paul after the conversion, and we can definitely see a difference. He truly became a NEW CREATION and NEW CREATURE, the old did pass away, and Christ renewed Paul's mind and the way he thought.

III.            Saul became Paul
a.       His Sacrifices. In order to gain Christ he forsook home, friends, country, the future that his great education had opened for him--yea, he forsook all things earthly ( Philippians 3:6-11 ).

b.      His Sufferings. His sufferings were unparalleled. He received from the Jews forty stripes save one on five occasions; he was beaten with rods three times, he was stoned once, he was shipwrecked three times, and spent a night and a day in the deep. In addition to this, he suffered the results of many long journeys, and perils of water, perils of robbers, perils by his own countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the cities, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brethren, in weariness, in hunger and third, in fastings, and in cold and nakedness, and the care of all the churches ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 ).

c.       His Infirmities. Paul's contemporaries declared that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible ( 2 Corinthians 10:10 ). He had a thorn in the flesh given him, on account of the abundance of the revelations given ( 2 Corinthians 12:1-11 ). He suffered much from the infirmities of the flesh and in his constant conflict with sin ( Romans 7:10-25 2 Corinthians 11:30 ;2 Corinthians 12:9-11 ).

d.     Life as a servant
                                                             i.      Paul sacrificed much to serve the Lord.
                                                          ii.      He suffered much in his life after accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
                                                       iii.      He struggled with his health, and was in constant conflict with sin his entire life.
                                                         iv.      However, he served the Lord, loving Him with all of his heart, mind and soul!

Paul shows us that no matter where we are in our life, even if we think we are right, once we examine ourselves to God's Word, we can see the truth, and change.

Paul devoted his life to serving God the way he thought he should, by hunting down followers of Christ. He later discovers how wrong he was.

God did NOT reject him though because of his sin...rather, once Paul recognized his sin, he repented of it, and was forgiven, and given a new life in salvation.

We may be far from perfect, maybe made many sacrifices in life, suffer persecution, struggle with health or sin; however, we can still serve the Lord.

We simply need to study His Word, recognize and acknowledge our sin, repent, and serve the Lord, and He will not only renew our minds, but give us a treasure which cannot be purchased, or earned...forgiveness and salvation.

Want to learn more about Salvation and Getting Saved?    CLICK HERE!

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