"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
(Acts 22:12a…13b…15…21…23:11, NIV)
“A certain Ananias…said to me, ‘Brother Saul…
you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard…
He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles…
Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness at Rome.’”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with wanting God to reveal His will for my life to me immediately and completely. I want a complete revelation and I want it now! However, I have learned through the years that God seldom does that. Rather than give us immediate and complete revelation of His will, He normally gives what I call “Progressive Revelation”—that is, He gradually reveals His will, one step at a time, on a need to know basis.
We get a glimpse way back in the Old Testament about this method of God revealing His will to His people. King David wrote, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV). The “lamp” King David described was a small lamp that was tied to the sandals of those who travelled at night in first-century Palestine. These small foot-lamps just put out enough light to illuminate the path just far enough ahead of the traveler for him to see how to make the next step. The “lamp” provided “progressive revelation” of the pathway on a one-step-at-a-time, need-to-know basis! A traveler didn’t need to know where to make his next step until he had completed the current step.
II. Progressive Revelation
In the section of the Book of Acts that we will examine in this lesson, we will see God’s “Progressive Revelation” at work in the life of the Apostle Paul. Immediately after Paul was saved, God began this process of progressively revealing His will to Paul. The process began when God sent a devout Jew by the name of Ananias to begin revealing His will to Paul. Luke wrote, “A certain Ananias…said to me, ‘Brother Saul …you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:12a…13b…15, NIV).
Notice the seeming vagueness of God’s revelation to Paul at this point—“You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15, NIV). This bit of revelation certainly wasn’t complete. Paul could have asked, “‘All men?’ Do you actually mean even non-Jewish men?” He could have asked, “How am I supposed to witness?” Or he could have asked, “What will be the content of my witness?” God certainly wasn’t very detailed about His will at this point, but what Ananias said was all that Paul needed to know at that moment. When he needed further revelation God would provide it!
After his conversion and baptism at Damascus Paul returned to Jerusalem where God appeared to him in a vision and continued to reveal His will. Luke described this sequence of events when he wrote, “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me’…Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles’” (Acts 22:17-18…21, NIV). During this stage of God’s progressive revelation of His will to Paul He gave the apostle additional details regarding His plan for him:
When the crowd Jewish religionist heard Paul testify that God was sending him to minister to “Gentiles,” they went into an emotional frenzy, interrupted Paul’s story, and got so out of control that the commanding officer of the Roman soldiers intervened to secure his safety. Luke wrote, “They listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!’ Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks” (Acts 22:22-24a, NKJV).
The next day, the commander of the Roman troops ordered that the Jewish court be convened and Paul be interrogated. He wanted to know what the Jewish charges against Paul were. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them” (Acts 22:30, NKJV).
The Jews again got out of control and the commander again had to intervene to secure Paul’s safety. Luke wrote, “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks” (Acts 23:20, NKJV).
That night God continued the progressive revelation of His will to Paul. Luke described the remarkable scene when he wrote, “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome’” (Acts 23:11, NKJV). Notice the added detail. God at this point revealed the location of that “far from here” place where Paul was to witness to “Gentiles” for Him—it was Rome! The remainder of the Book of Acts is the story of how God provided transportation, protection, lodging, and food for Paul’s journey to Rome.
God reveals His will to His people on a one-step-at-a-time, need-to-know basis. This principle was illustrated by King David when he wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NKJV). The “lamp” David wrote about was a small oil-burning foot lamp that was tied to the top of the sandals of Jews who were travelling at night. The small lamp only shined enough light on the path ahead of the traveler to enable him to see where to make his next step. It was truly a one-step-at-a-time journey. That’s how God’s Word reveals God’s will to God’s people—one step at a time.
In reality, the night-time traveler didn’t need to know where to make his next step until he had made his current step. So no light was given for the next step until the current step was completed…the location of the next step was revealed on a need-to-know basis. That’s how God’s Word reveals God’s will to God’s people—on a need-to-know basis.
When God’s people are obedient to the portion of His will that He was revealed at any given point, God will then reveal more of His will to them and entrust to them greater opportunities to serve Him. Jesus said it like this: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21, NKJV).
A Significant Day at Tarsus
(Acts 22:28b, NKJV)
“I was born a citizen.”
The year was 4 A.D. August was Caesar of the Roman Empire. The city was Tarsus, the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, situated on the Cydnus River, in what is today southern Turkey, about ten miles north of the Mediterranean Sea. It was known throughout the Empire as a city of wealth and education. Its universities rivaled those of Athens, Greece and Alexandria, Egypt.
Just prior to Paul’s birth Caesar August declared Tarsus a “free city,” which meant that its current citizens and anyone subsequently born in the city had the distinction of being Roman citizens. That is undoubtedly what Paul was talking about when he said to the captain of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, “I was born a citizen” (Romans 22:28b, NKJV).
It was into this environment of wealth, education, and the unexpected privileges of citizenship that Paul was born to a devout Jewish couple from the tribe of Benjamin on a day sometime during late 4 A.D. That was a significant day at Tarsus, because that particular baby boy, uniquely designed by the hand of a Holy God, would become “Saul of Tarsus” whom his God would use to single-handedly change the course of world history by effectively preaching the “Good News” to the known world of his day!
I’m certain that if the city of Tarsus still existed today, there would be signs at the city limits on every major highway entering the city that would read: “Tarsus—birthplace of Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.”
Near the end of his life, reflecting on the vast accomplishments God had made through him, Paul wrote, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day” (II Timothy 4:6b-8a, NKJV).
At the height of his ministerial success Paul described himself as “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5, NIV).
The fact that Paul was “Circumcised on the eighth day” (Philippians 3:5a, NIV) clearly indicates that his parents were devout followers of the Jewish religion. In fact, he also testified that he was “A Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5e, NIV), which was one of the strictest sects among the Jews in regard to adherence to the Law of Moses. His parents would have taught him to be proud of his religious heritage. So, as an adult, Paul referred to himself as “A Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6b, NKJV).
As devout Jews Paul’s parents would have taught him to be very proud of his Israeli ancestry. Thus, he would describe himself as, “Of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Philippians 3:5b-c, NIV).
As religiously traditional and conservative Pharisees, Paul’s parents would have insisted that he take pride in learning and speaking properly the purest form of the Hebrew language possible. As a result he referred to himself as “A Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5d, NIV).
II. Self-acceptance—A Powerful Motivator
Evidently Paul totally accepted who God had created him to be. That’s why he could so boldly describe himself as “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5, NIV).
He understood that God had designed all of the unchangeable features of his life to equip him to uniquely advance His kingdom, and he viewed all of that as an expression of God’s grace. He explained it like this, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:10a, NKJV). The same is true of every human being. By God’s “grace” we are what we are. The way God designed you is an expression of His grace!
Paul described the motivating power of understanding God’s intentional design of yourself in the very next verse, when he wrote, “I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10b, NKJV). Getting a glimpse of God’s gracious design of himself motivated Paul to work harder than all the other apostles combined!
III. Ten Unchangeable Features
Included in God’s design for every human being are ten unchangeable features which must be understood and accepted in order for us to advance His kingdom to our fullest potential. They are:
Each of these is part of what King David had in mind when he wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14, NIV).
God’s intentional design for Paul included being born to Israeli parents who lived in Tarsus at a time when that city had been designated by Caesar August as a “free city.” Therefore, Paul was a Jew with Roman citizenship which perfectly positioned him to preach the “Good News” not only to the Jews of Israel, but to the broader first-century Gentile population of the Roman world as well. God later confirmed that His plan for Paul was exactly that. Luke wrote, “The Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem [among Jews], so you must also bear witness at Rome [among Gentiles]’” (Acts 23:11, NKJV).
After being raised in the predominately Roman city of Tarsus by devoted Jewish parents, Paul was then educated at the leading rabbinical school of Jerusalem, the school of Gamaliel. On one occasion he explained, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today” (Acts 22:3, NKJV).
These experiences enabled Paul with great ease to engage in cross-cultural ministry impacting the broadest possible audience. For that reason he could very honestly write, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22, NKJV).
Paul believed that each person is a masterpiece—an expression of God’s creative genius—uniquely designed to perform a specialized ministry for Him. He wrote, “We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). The Greek word translated “workmanship” literally refers to a piece of fine craftsmanship—a masterpiece! So every human being is a masterpiece, created by God to perform the “good works” of ministry determined by God “in advance.”
The nagging question is, “What is the specialized ministry God had in mind for you when he designed into your life that unique set of ‘Ten Unchangeable Features’ that makes you who you are?” In order to achieve our maximum potential for the advancement of God’s kingdom, we must identify and engage in the particular ministry for which God has uniquely designed us. After all, “We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV).
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.