Group: History • Class IV • Time: 40 minutes
By Jessie H. Smith
The Parents’ Review, 1909, pp. 707-709
II. To give them an outline of his life, in order to connect what they have already learned about him in Acts, and to increase their interest in the study of the remaining portion.
III. To suggest the immense importance of the work to which Paul devoted his life, showing how it has continued and increased from that time to this.
Step I.—Ask the girls what they know of the three leading nationalities of the world, when Christ, closely followed by His greatest Apostle, came to it; supplementing their knowledge with the following:—
(a) Jews.—Character, religious people; all their history one of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. When He did come, they were nolonger a powerful, compact nation, but were dispersed over most of the civilized world. Dispersion due to the captivity; also to the new means of communication opened under Roman rule. It was a good preparation, for it broadened their views. Only their common faith in and expectation of the Messiah kept them a nation.
(b) Greeks.—Character, an active nation physically and mentally. They spread over surrounding countries, and after Alexander, over all the world (civilized). Greek language became necessary to every educated person. Greeks were intellectually in advance of other nations. Had advanced educational theories (Greek Philosophers). When Christ came, and before that, the Greeks had fallen. The gods they worshipped did not satisfy them, with the result of terrible moral degradation, followed by loss of temporal power. They, too, ready for Christ, “called for a healer.”
(c) Romans.—Character: Law, the ruling factor of their lives. Love of power, resulted in conquest of the known world, but they were a hard, cruel people. They served to bind the world into one empire, but “needed a consoler.”
Ask the girls now to explain why the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, were “the three peoples of God’s election.” Greek cultivation and Roman polity, prepared the way for Christianity.
Step II.—Paul’s life.
Mention dispute as to the authenticity of Acts.
Read Acts xxii., 3-21 (Paul’s life of himself), going into fuller detail. Read from introduction to “Paul of Tarsus.”
v. 3. A Jew, of Roman parents, therefore a “Roman citizen.” Tarsus, a renowned place of education. Has been compared to Athens or Alexandria. Read description from “Paul of Tarsus” (Bird), p. 1.
Gamaliel, refer to Acts v., 34. Paul learned well, and was a strict Pharisee (Acts xxvi., 5). He was brought up to the trade of tent making (Goats’ hair in Cilicia, much prized). Personal appearance, II. Cor. x., 10. Speech, I. Cor. ii., 3-4.
v. 4. Paul had an intense hate against Jesus and the Nazarenes until the very moment of his conversion (“yet,” v. 5-16, “breathing out slaughter.”) Probably he was about 32 or 33 years old. Spent three days in Damascus (Readfrom Introduction to Romans, by Brown), and then began to preach. Disciples of Christ very much surprised, and doubtful, but soon convinced (Acts ix., 21 and 22), by his preaching. Soon after his conversion, he retires to Arabia, and spent there from two to three quiet years (Gal. i., 17), which were probably employed in studying the Scriptures with the new Light. Before he returned to Jerusalem, to “make the acquaintance of Peter,” Barnabas had toreassure the Disciples there.
v. 17-18. He was forced to leave Jerusalem, surprised (v. 19) that his testimony was not received. He remained out of public view for some time, but was soon called upon by Barnabas, who seemed to be the only one who recognized his high calling, that of (v. 21) a missionary to the Gentiles.
A.D. 44. With Barnabas he made his first missionary journey. The greatest event of that took place at Paphos (Acts xiii., 6-11). (Read from Introduction to Romans).
On return to Antioch, there was a difficulty about Gentile converts, and the Mosaic Law. Paul observed the law to a certain extent, but he believed in freedom. “Let everyone do as he is disposed in his own mind.” He felt that the Mosaic economy which had served its purpose, would disappear, and was at continual dispute with Mosaic zealots. Decision given by James was final (Acts xv., 20). Henceforth Paul’s life was spent in the proclamation and establishment of this great fundamental truth of the Gospel, that “for Jew and Gentile alike there is but one way of salvation—by free grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”
The second missionary journey was with Silas. Chief events were (a) Philippian Jailor; (b) Continued Persecution by the Jews; (c) Address on Mar’s Hill.
(d) Mention Paul’s wonderful power of adaptation. With the Jews he argued from their point of view, i.e., from the Old Testament. With the Greeks, he spoke more of a natural religion and conscience.
The third missionary journey, with Timothy, is more especially marked by the events at Ephesus (Diana), and the healing of Eutychus at Croas. His farewell to the Ephesians was a sign of the forebodings which he felt, concerning himself.
A.D. 60. Arrived at Jerusalem he was taken prisoner, and the story of his trials, and powerful defence is deeply interesting. Having appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome, not without having a journey full of perils.
After this his history is uncertain. It is supposed that he was freed, and realized his great ambition, i.e., that of preaching the Gospel to the Western world. Once more he was taken a prisoner, and tradition says he was beheaded at Rome, amongst other Christians.
Step III.—Ask the girls to draw from their knowledge of Paul’s life, some points of his character, and to illustrate the following:—
“His natural characteristics seem to have been a masterful and versatile intellect, capable alike of profound thought and close reasoning, a rare combination of masculine courage and womanly tenderness; in character straight forward and honest, and with a strong sense of duty.” Brown’s Introduction to Romans.
Read a sketch of Paul’s character from Smith’s Bible Dictionary.
Step IV.—Mention the important and critical stage of our own missions at present, and read from Foreign Missions, connecting with Paul, as the first great missionary to the Gentiles.
Show on sketch map any places mentioned in the lesson.