Read an Excerpt
In the Footsteps of Paul
EXPERIENCE the Journey that Changed the World
By KEN DUNCAN
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One Paul: The Making of a Man
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. -ACT 26:16
I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia.... -Acts 22:3
Tarsus. Not a tiny village, but not quite a sprawling metropolis. In Paul's day, as now, Tarsus was sturdy and hard-working with an affection for learning-much like its most famous son.
This is where it all began. Here the apostle Paul was born, and from here he set out on his life's mission: preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through Paul's dogged and tireless efforts, this small, ancient city became the epicenter of something that changed the world forever.
For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. - 1 Thessalonians 2:9
Paul was educated, a learned Pharisee who studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, one of the most respected rabbis of the day. Some in his social circles would have looked down on Paul's manual trade of tentmaking. But he insisted on being able to travel and teach without depending on anyone. His trade would allow him to earn his keep and preach the gospel without limits.
He [Paul] is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. - Acts 9:15
There is now no time to lose: the work of harvest brooks no delay. "But the laborers are few." It is hardly surprising that so few are granted to see things with the pitying eyes of Jesus, for only those who share the love of his heart have been given eyes to see. And only they can enter the harvest field.
Jesus is looking for help, for he cannot do the work alone. Who will come forward to help him and work with him? Only God knows, and he must give them to his Son. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
And they stones Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death. - Acts 7:59-9:1
As a Pharisee, Paul, then known as Saul, zealously persecuted the early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr. He "made havoc of the church," going from house to house in pursuit of these men and women he believed to be heretics, and dragging them into prison (Acts 8:3).
But the church couldn't be contained-the good news spread from person to person, past the walls of Jerusalem and beyond. As for Saul, as passionately as he hated this young Christianity, he would not be able to resist its grace for long. On his journey to Damascus to hunt down people of the Way, he would encounter the very One he was persecuting. And he would find himself on a different course altogether.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Them he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, I am Jesus, who you are persecuting." - Acts 9:3-5
Paul discovered a personal relationship with God himself- no more secondhand rumor but firsthand faith. He immediately knew that God was not what he'd been told at all-that was all a lie. God was not against but for. God was not furious but compassionate. God was not out to get sinners so that he could make them good and sorry; he was out to get sinners so that he could make them good and joyful. This truth about God came to Paul in the person of God's son, Jesus Christ. - Eugene H. Peterson
Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. - Acts 9:8-9
Paul's blindness meant that he had to depend on his traveling companions, and later on a certain disciple named Ananias. In darkness and dependency, God showed him his frailty. Through blindness he came to see everything-himself, the world, God-more clearly than ever before.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias.... The Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying." - Acts 9:10-11
Alone in the room with his sins on his conscience and blood on his hands, he asked to be cleansed. The legalist Saul was buried, and the liberator Paul was born. He was never the same afterwards. And neither was the world.
The message is gripping: show a man his failures without Jesus, and the result will be found in the roadside gutter. Give a man religion without reminding him of his filth, and the result will be arrogance in a three-piece suit. But get the two in the same heart-get sin to meet Savior and Savior to meet sin-and the result just might be another Pharisee turned preacher who sets the world on fire. - Max Lucado
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came. has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." -Acts 9:17
Without a doubt, Ananias is one of the forgotten heroes of the Christian Church. To Ananias came a message from God that he must go and help Paul; and he is directed to the street called "Straight." When that message came to Ananias, it must have sounded insane to him. He might well have approached Paul with suspicion, as one doing an unpleasant task; he might well have begun with recriminations; but no, his first words were: "Brother Saul." - William Barclay
Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received and sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. - Acts 9:18-19
Knocked f lat on the ground on the way to Damascus, [Paul] never recovered from the impact of grace: the word appears no later than the second sentence in every one of his letters. - Philip Yancey
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, the He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. - Acts 9:20-22
Years after he first preached Christ, Paul would write, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). He knew whereof he spoke. He himself was living testimony to God's transforming power, and how a transformed life can show God's glory to a watching world more than words ever could.
Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket. - Acts 9:23-24
There were two outstanding experienced associated with Damascus which Paul never forgot. One was unspeakably glorious: it was the revelation of Jesus Christ which he received.... The other was quite ridiculous: it was being let down in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape his enemies. But both taught him humility-the latter because, in his mind's eye, he must have cut such an absurd figure; the former because it brought home to him his total unworthiness to be granted such a revelation and to be called to serve the one who was revealed to him. - F. F. Bruce
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to joint he disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to the how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. - Acts 9:26-27
Sometimes the most significant thing we can do for the Kingdom of God is to encourage others. Only God knows how far-reaching our investment in their lives may be. When Barnabas took time to encourage Saul, I doubt that he ever imagined that his kindness would affect believers for twenty centuries to come, but it did and it does. Never make the mistake of belittling the eternal value of the ministry which you invest in another. - Richard Exley
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. - Galatians 1:15-17
Acts doesn't tell us about Paul's trip to Arabia, how long he spent or what he did there. But we do know that a few years passed between the Damascus road and the beginning of his first missionary journey. We can surmise that during that time, as the church grew, Paul grew along with it, developing new strength and resolve as well as knowledge about the message of Jesus-the message he would soon carry across the world.
He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles. - Galatians 2:8
The Bible is filled with examples of how God uses a long process to develop character, especially in leaders. He took eighty years to prepare Moses, including forty in the wilderness. For 14,600 days Moses kept waiting and wondering, "Is it time yet?" But God kept saying, "Not yet." ...
Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering. Be patient with the process. - Rick Warren
And [Paul] spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. - Acts 9:29-31
In Acts, our narrator and historian Luke tells us not only the amazing story of Paul, but also the amazing story of the church. Throughout both threads, what stands out most is the saving power of God, His working in the lives of ordinary people, His plan of salvation that would not-could not-be thwarted. One line in the very first chapter condenses the formation of the early church and tells us the key to the apostles' strength: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (1:8).
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. - Acts 11:25-26
As brilliant a preacher as Paul became, the most important early communication of the gospel message came by ordinary Christians who simply shared the message of Jesus with their neighbors. In this way, Gentiles found their way into the largely Jewish Christian fold, and the churches began to multiply. At Antioch, these disciples were taught and nurtured by Paul and Barnabas, and here the believers first took the name Christians.
Now about this time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword . - Acts 12:1-2
From its very beginnings, Christianity was no easy matter. The Lord whom Christians served had died on a cross, condemned as a criminal. Soon thereafter Stephen was stoned to death following his witness before the council of the Jews. Then James was killed at Herod Agrippa's order. Ever since then, and up to our own days, there have been those who have had to seal their witness with their blood. - Justo L. Gonzalez
He proceeded further to seize Peter also.... Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. - Acts 12:3, 5
Alongside Paul, Peter stands out in Acts as a key player in the advancing kingdom (as one of Jesus' boldest disciples, he stood out quite a bit in the gospels as well). Peter faced the same imprisonments and persecution for the gospel that Paul did, and he also experienced the same divine grace that enabled their work. (In Acts 12:5-19, an angel appears to Peter in prison and miraculously frees him from his shackles.) He wrote to Christians in Asia Minor: "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11). Without question, Peter and Paul were co-laborers in wondrous works of God.
Excerpted from In the Footsteps of Paul by KEN DUNCAN Copyright © 2009 by Ken Duncan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.