Guidance and decision making in the life of Paul

1. Acts 9 v1-9

Situ: persecuting Christians

  • Light from heaven – voice of Jesus
  • “Lord, what will you have me to do?”
  • “Arise, go into the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
  • He took that step – obeyed that first instruction.
  • At that point he had no idea what that might involve, and had to wait three days – blind and neither eating or drinking – doing nothing until he should be told.

What readjustments were taking place in his thinking?

2. Acts 9v10-19

Situ: Waiting three days.

  • V11 he is praying
  • Saw in a vision -a named man, coming in, placing his hand on him to see again.
  • The man came – with info about Jesus meeting Saul.
  • But more than said to Saul – to see again – and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

3. Acts 9v20

Situ: baptised, fast broken, with the local disciples.

  • From v6 – you will be told what you must do – v15 Ananias was told – did he tell Saul? Chosen vessel to bear my name – nations and kings and the children of Israel.
  • There were things Ananias could not tell him – v16 “I myself will show him what he must suffer for my sake”
  • Straight away began preaching Jesus is the Son of God – getting on with the job!

4. Acts 9v23-30; 11v25

Situ: People wanting to kill him, and others suspicious of him.

  • The disciples took him – and let him down in a basket v25
  • Barnabas took him (got hold of him) and brought him to the apostles v27
  • The brothers brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus v30
  • Then Barnabas departed to Tarsus to look for Saul 11v25

Dependent on others – their initiative – their personal commitment to him.

5. Acts 11v26-30

Situ: having had a year teaching with the church at Antioch.

  • Holy Spirit message through Agabus about coming famine v28
  • The disciples all decide to send money to help the brothers who lived in Judea v29
  • They sent it to the elders (first mention of such and includes apostles) – by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. V30

6. Acts 13v1-4

Situ: part of the “team” getting on with ministry at Antioch.

  • The Holy Spirit said to the group (we don’t know the details of how they received the message)
  • “Separate for me Barnabas and Saul into the work to which I have called them.
  • When they had fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they released them.
  • No mention of how the Holy Spirit guided them to the particular journey.

7. Acts 13v13-15

Situ: attending the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia.

  • The synagogue rulers invited them to speak : men brothers, if in you some word of encouragement (paraklesis) for the people, speak on.
  • Another invitation – v42 – to preach again next Sabbath.
  • V47 Paul and Barnabas describe their “call” : “I have set you to be a light of the nations, that you should be for salvation to (as far as) the ends of the earth.” – a quote from Isaiah 49v6 : – this is “the work to which I have called them”

8. Acts 13v51

Situ: religious women and leading men In Antioch of Pisidia turn against them.

  • Paul and Barnabas were thrown out of the city
  • Shook dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium.

9. Acts 14v5

Situ: plan in Iconium to abuse them and stone them.

  • Being aware of it, they fled to Lystra and Derbe and the region round about, and evangelised there.

10. Acts 14v19

Situ: Jews from Antioch and Iconium come to Lystra, stir up the people who stone Paul.

  • Disciples gather round, Paul gets up and came back into the city.
  • The next day, they go on to Derbe and evangelised and made disciples of many.
  • THEN – back to Lystra, back to Iconium, back to Antioch – strengthening the church-life in those places – and appointed elders.
  • Then on through Pisidia, Pamphilia, Perga, Attalia, then back to where they had been sent from – Antioch.

11. Acts 15v1,2

Situ: men from Judea arguing that you need to be circumcised to be saved.

  • The church appointed Paul and Barnabas and others to go to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem with the question.
  • V22 The apostles, elders and church send chosen men with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch with their decision.
  • V35 Paul and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching – with many others

12. Acts 15v36-41

Situ: In Antioch teaching and preaching for a while.

  • Paul’s idea – go again to all the places they have been to see how the churches are doing.
  • Barnabas is up for that, wants to take John Mark with them.
  • Paul disagrees – thinking not right (not worthy) since John Mark left them – so he was not with them 1) in the places where they had faced opposition 2) in the places where the churches were that they were going to be visiting.
  • Strong disagreement – Paul and Barnabas separate.
  • Barnabas takes John Mark and goes to Cyprus ( where they had gone on the previous trip – so John Mark was going to the places he had been before)
  • Paul called / named Silas to go with him and “given up” to the grace of God by the brothers – went “the other way round” on land through Syria and Cilicia – to Derbe and Lystra.
  • Note: by going different ways, they cover the places they had been– Paul never got back to Cyprus. Cyprus was known territory for Barnabas as he came from there.(Acts 4v36)
  • We are not told so we don’t know why John Mark left them at Perga (Acts 13v13) and went back to Jerusalem, and we don’t know when John Mark went from Jerusalem to Antioch – but perhaps with Paul and Barnabas when they returned from their “consultation” in Jerusalem.
  • There is no judgement offered of one or other being “right or wrong” in their decision- making.

13. Acts 16v1-8

Situ: strengthening the churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium region

  • Paul decides to include Timothy – good reputation in that area
  • They decide to go on to new areas for evangelism.
  • Next area: Asia, but forbidden by Holy Spirit to speak there (note Acts 2v9 – people from there at Pentecost)
  • Asia to the left (south) so attempt to go right (north) to Bithynia but not allowed to by the Holy Spirit
  • So straight on through Mysia to Troas.

14. Acts 16v9-12

Situ: Paul and co: Silas, Timothy and Luke have arrived in Troas, not knowing God’s plan.

  • Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man calling him alongside (parakaleo) and saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us”.
  • The team discuss it and agree that it means that God is calling them to go to Macedonia and evangelise there. (the best help we can give people is to evangelise them) – new territory for them – “Europe”
  • They immediately make ready and go.
  • They go straight to Philippi, the main city, and spend time there.

15. Acts 16v13-15

Situ: in Philippi having been called there by vision of a man praying.

  • On Sabbath, they go looking for a prayer meeting
  • They find an open-hearted woman who responds along with her household.
  • They find a place to stay at her home
  • She is from Thyatira – in a region (Asia)where they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in.

16. Acts 16v16-24

Situ: Paul causing evangelistic trouble and after “many days” delivering demon-possessed girl.

  • Brought to magistrates, beaten and thrown into prison, their feet in the stocks.
  • Note – Paul and Silas arrested – not Luke or Timothy.

17. Acts 16v25-40

Situ: Paul and Silas praying and singing in prison

  • Supernatural intervention – earthquake – shaking the foundations, opening the doors, freeing all the bonds, but harming no one.
  • Led out by keeper of the prison who becomes a Christian with his household.
  • So “church” established – Lydia and household and prison keeper and household
  • Note: the earthquake was not “needed” for the release of Paul and Silas – in the morning they were going to be let go anyway – demonstration of the honour of God on His servants who were being dishonoured.
  • They are asked to leave, but do so on their own terms v37 let them come themselves and lead us out. V40 they went to Lydia’s house, and when they had seen the brothers and sisters, they encouraged them – and then left.

18. Acts 17v1-15

Situ: They passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and came to Thessalonica.

  • Paul, as his custom was, went to the synagogue.
  • Two or three weeks in the town and some Jews, a lot of devout Greeks, and quite a few leading women believe – good church planting!
  • Uproar – v10 the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night (for their safety)
  • At Berea – similar – many Jews, Greek men and women believe
  • Thessalonian stirrers so again – immediately the brothers send Paul away and brought Paul to Athens.
  • Paul sends for Silas and Timothy to come to him asap. It looks like he did not like being on his own!

19. Acts 17v16-34

Situ: Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy (who didn’t arrive until he was in Corinth – 18v5)

  • He was stirred in his spirit at all the idolatry so he dialogued with Jews, devout people and in the market place.
  • Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard him – took him to the Aeopagus.
  • So he was able to address the whole council – using “altar to an unknown god”
  • Some believed including Dionysius – a member of the council, Damaris and others.

20. Acts 18v1-8

Situ: Paul had moved from Athens to Corinth.

  • He stayed with and worked with Aquila and Priscilla – because they had the same trade as he had – tent-making (but led to ministry partnership)
  • After concentrating on the Jews and being opposed, he left them and went “next door” to the nations.
  • Strange that in Paul dissociating from the synagogue, the leader of the synagogue is converted.

21. Acts 18v9-11

Situ: many in Corinth believing and being baptised.

  • The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision at night, “Don’t be afraid, but speak and don’t be silent. For I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have much people in this city.”
  • Why did he need this word when so many were responding? Perhaps he was expecting what had happened elsewhere – that things would be stirred up, and he would have to move on quickly elsewhere. It was an indication to him to stay rather than move on at this point, with the encouragement that it would be ok.
  • He stayed there for a year and a half teaching the word of God among them.

22. Acts 18v12-23

Situ: After 18 months take Paul before the judgement seat of Gallio who dismissed the charges.

  • Paul stayed a good while v18
  • Paul sailed to Ephesus, taking Priscilla and Aquila
  • Jews at the synagogue wanted him to stay but he was determined to get to Jerusalem for the feast, but he said he would return DV
  • Sailed to Caesarea, on to the church in Jerusalem, then to Antioch
  • After some time there he went through Galatia and Phrygia strengthening the churches

Looks like all his planned decisions

22. Acts 19v1-20

Situ: Paul arrives at Ephesus

  • Helps some disciples to receive the Holy Spirit
  • 3 months in the synagogue then opposition, so to discussion hall of Tyrnannus.
  • 2 years so all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.
  • Occult dealt with and “the Word of the Lord grew and prevailed.

23. Acts 19v21-22

Situ: Mission accomplished – “after these things were fulfilled…”

  • Paul forward planning – he laid it in his spirit – to go through Macedonia, Achaia and then Jerusalem with the intention of “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

24. Acts 19v29-31

Situ: uproar – silversmiths and Diana’s temple.

  • Gaius and Aristarchus seized and taken to the theatre.
  • Paul wants to go into the gathering but the disciples did not allow him to.
  • Leading men who were friends of Paul sent a message to him urging him not to go.
  • The town clerk dealt with the situation.

25. Acts 20 v1-16

Situ: After uproar in Ephesus, Paul leaves

  • He goes to and through Macedonia encouraging as he went.
  • He came to Achaia and stayed three months.
  • Getting ready to go to Syria when he discovered there were Jews plotting against him so he decided to go back through Macedonia.
  • Sailed from Philippi to Troas stayed a week
  • Team took ship to Assos on Paul’s instruction while he went there by land. (We have no indication why!)
  • Then sailed to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Miletus
  • Paul had decided to sail on past Ephesus so as not to lose any time in the province of Asia. He was in a hurry to arrive in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost if possible.

26. Acts 20v22-24

Situ: meeting of Paul with Ephesus elders at Miletus

  • “And now I go, bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things which shall befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me that in every city that bonds and afflictions remain for me.

But none of these things move me, neither do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

  • Having talked and prayed with them he went on board the boat as they “sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke that they would see his face no more.”

27. Acts 21v1-5

Situ: voyage from Miletus to Cos to Rhodes to Patara, past Cyprus to Tyre.

  • v4 and finding disciples we stayed there seven days.
  • Who said to Paul through the Spirit not to go up into Jerusalem.
  • And when we had accomplished those days we departed.

This one strange to understand considering what happens later – Paul going to Jerusalem.

Was it that they said it on his first day – meaning he should stay there for a while – so “when we had accomplished those days” – not to go to Jerusalem yet.

Or was it that they saw correctly in the Spirit the dangers, but mistakenly took it that it was a warning not to go?

The lesson of the care to be taken concerning what we see by the Holy Spirit.

28. Acts 21 v6-15

Situ: from Tyre to Ptolomais (stayed one day) to Caesarea (Philip’s house).

  • stayed there many days – so not hurrying to Jerusalem
  • Agabus comes and prophesies about what will happen to Paul
  • They try to stop Paul going
  • Paul says he is ready for anything
  • “When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “Let the Lord’s will be done.”

Agabus’s prophesy was a preparation warning – not a prevention warning

Friends’ natural concern is not the decider!

29. Acts 21v17-36

Situ: Paul arrives at Jerusalem meets the church leaders.

  • They suggest a course of action for Paul to show he was still a good Jew.
  • The plan completely backfired – (it was a stupid idea) v27
  • Crowd dragged Paul out of the temple intending to kill him.
  • Chief captain took him.

30. Acts 21 v 37-

Situ: Paul taken by the soldiers into the castle away from the violent crowd.

  • Paul uses Greek and “citizen of no mean city” to get permission to speak
  • He uses Hebrew to speak to the Jews – so they listen to him
  • He speaks about previously having been praying in the temple and seeing Jesus and hearing him say to get out of Jerusalem and go to the nations.
  • Chief captain intended scourging him and had him tied up, but Paul spoke to the centurion asking, “Is it lawful to scourge a man- a Roman – and uncondemned?”

31. Acts 23 v1-30

Situ: Paul speaking to the council

  • Taken to the castle to save him form the mob
  • The following night the Lord stood by him and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as you have testified of me into Jerusalem, so you must witness also into Rome.
  • Plot to kill Paul overheard by Paul’s nephew, reported to Paul, then to chief captain.
  • 2 centurions, 200 soldiers,70 horsemen, 200 spearmen, horses for Paul to take him to the governor.

32. Acts 23v33-24v27

Situ: Paul accused speaks to Felix the governor

  • Opportunity for conversation and witnessing to Felix
  • “house arrest” freedom of access to friends.
  • V27 two years later change of governor – Paul left bound

33. Acts 25v

Situ: Festus governor, Jews accuse.

  • Paul appeals to Caesar
  • King Agrippa comes and hears Paul – so Paul is taken out of the influence of the Jews into the influence of the Roman authorities.
  • Agrippa: “You almost persuade me to be a Christian!”

34. Acts 27

Situ: Paul handed over to centurion to be taken to Rome

  • At Sidon, Paul given permission to see his friends there
  • Paul warns about proceeding from the Fair havens but is ignored
  • In storm, an angel appears and tells Paul he’ll make it to Rome and all on board will be safe – but they will be cast on an island.
  • When some thought about leaving the ship, Paul warned against it
  • The ship ran aground at Malta and all were safe.
  • The centurion’s place in the story interesting:
  • V3 – kindly allowed Paul to see friends
  • V11 believed the master of the ship rather than Paul
  • V31,32 goes along with Paul’s warning
  • V43 keeps the soldiers from killing the prisoners – wanting to keep Paul safe.

35. Acts 28

Situ: From Malta to Italy to Rome

  • The centurion again: prisoners handed over to captain of the guard, but Paul allowed to live by himself – with a soldier.
  • Paul made good use of that freedom v30,31 – two years in his own house – welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence – no man forbidding him.

36. Romans 1v13 many times I have planned to visit you but something has always kept me from doing so.

Romans 15v22. And so I have been prevented many times from coming to you. But now that I have finished my work in these regions, and since I have been wanting for so many years to come to you, I hope to do so now. I would like to see you on my way to Spain, and be helped by you t go there, after I have enjoyed visiting you for a while. Just now.. going to Jerusalem.. churches in Macedonia and Achaia giving an offering to poor in Jerusalem.

V28 When I have finished this task.. I shall leave for Spain and visit you on my way there.

  • Thought – if Paul had been able to visit Rome when he had wanted to, he would never have written this letter.
  • The importance of things dome when prevented from doing something else!

37. I Corinthians16v5

I shall come to you after I have gone through Macedonia – for I have to go through Macedonia. I shall probably spend some time with you, perhaps the whole winter and then you can help me to continue my journey, wherever it is I shall go next. I want ot see you more than just briefly in passing; I hope to spend quite a long time with you, if the Lord allows. I will stay here at Ephesus until the day of Pentecost

  • V12 Now about brother Apollos, I have often encouraged him to visit you with the other brothers but he is not completely convinced (or it is not at all God’s will) that he should go at this time. When he gets the chance however he will go.

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