Intro. We had mentioned in the last lesson that we have a time gap between 19 and 20, perhaps as much as three years. To learn something about that time gap we must go to Galatians 1:11-19
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For ye have heard of my manner of living in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
I. NOTE IN VERSE 14, HE SPEAKS OF PROFITING IN THE JEWS' RELIGION ABOVE MANY OF HIS EQUALS.
A. Paul had been schooled in the Jew's religion.
B. He had also been schooled in the Greek philosophy.
C. Now for three years the Lord is going to school him in the truth of Jesus Christ where the Lord will show to him the wondrous grace of God.
D. It seems like the desert is a great place of training.
1. Moses was schooled in the desert.
2. Abraham was schooled in the desert.
3. Now Paul.
4. The desert is a place of solitude. The skies are clear, there is little light pollution, thus the stars are brilliant at night, a good environment for meditation and learning. Not many distractions.
5. Here the Lord personally tutored Paul for three years.
E. Thus he could declare that the gospel that he preached was not of man nor did he learn it from man, but it came by direct revelation.
F. In verse 17, he mentions that after the desert experience he returned to Damascus, and then on up to Jerusalem.
II. AND IMMEDIATELY HE PREACHED CHRIST IN THE SYNAGOGUES, THAT HE IS THE SON OF GOD.
A. That is upon his return from the desert experience where the Lord had been teaching him.
1. After these three years, he is now ready to proclaim the Jews that Jesus is the Son of God.
2. In those days, the Jews thought that the Messiah would be the Son of God.
3. He was referred to as such in the prophecies.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
a. The prophet Nathan prophesied to David,
And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go [to be] with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.
He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took [it] from [him] that was before thee:
But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.
b. Prophecies in Isaiah,
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
4. When Jesus asked His disciples who people thought He was, they told him the various opinions that were going around. Jesus then asked who do you say that I am? and Peter answered, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
5. At the trial of Jesus before the high priest, he asked Jesus, "Are you the Messiah?" to which Jesus answered, "You said it." He then asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" the second question followed the first because of the belief that the Messiah would be the Son of God.
6. Throughout His ministry Jesus continually claimed to be the Son of God, referring to God as His Father over and over again.
B. It is interesting today that the rabbis have changed their opinions in regards to the Messiah being the Son of God, and declare that He will be an ordinary man.
C. "Those that heard him were amazed."
1. They knew of his reputation as one of the chief persecutors of the church in Jerusalem.
a. Paul testified of himself saying:
And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against [them].
2. They knew that the purpose of his coming to Damascus was to arrest the Christians and take them back to Jerusalem for trial.
3. Can you imagine how shocked they must have been to hear him testify that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.
D. Paul had a wonderful knowledge of the scriptures. He was probably one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. He, however, was blinded by the traditional beliefs, even as were the disciples, and thought only of the Messiah's ruling over the world.
1. The idea of the Messiah being despised and rejected, suffering and put to death was unthinkable.
2. Even as Jesus went over the scriptures from Moses through the prophets showing how that the Messiah should suffer and die to the disciples on the road to Emmaus; so, no doubt, Jesus went over these passages with Paul there in Arabia, and Paul could suddenly see the scriptures in a whole new light.
3. This points up the danger of spiritualizing the scriptures, for you can lose the plain teaching of the scriptures.
a. This is exactly what the Jews had done, they rejoiced in all of the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah's reign.
b. They, however, spiritualized the scriptures that spoke of His suffering and death.
c. They do the very same thing to the present day.
4. Can you imagine the stir that this must have made in Damascus? Especially in the synagogue.
III. "BUT SAUL INCREASED IN STRENGTH, AND CONFOUNDED THE JEWS."
A. Here is a man that knows the scriptures far better than they ever had hoped to know them.
1. He could read the Old Testament in the Hebrew.
2. For the most part, the Jews could not read Hebrew, but had to depend on the Greek translation.
3. This man who was so knowledgeable in the scriptures is now proving by the scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
B. After many days the Jews took counsel to kill him.
1. How unfortunate this is, and ignorant.
2. Rather than acknowledge the truth, they will seek to silence the one who is speaking the truth by killing him.
3. This is exactly what happened in the case of Stephen.
4. This happens all too often, men harden their hearts to the truth, and hate the truth so much they seek to kill the one who brings the truth.
5. In reality this is exactly what happened to Jesus. They tried to silence the truth by killing him.
6. Several years ago on a trip to Israel, we stayed at a Kibbutz up near the Lebanon border. We were having our farewell dinner and had invited Major Hadad to be our speaker. I had heard how a group of young Christians living in Rosh Pena who had suffered persecution by some orthodox Jews who had forcibly entered their home and axed their furniture and appliances, and had invited them to come up and share with our group also.
C. Paul had been made aware of the plot of the Jews to kill him and that they were lying in wait at the gate of the city to kill him when he tried to leave the city.
D. The believers in Damascus let Paul down over the wall in a basket.
1. Many of the homes were built on the wall of the city and actually became a part of the wall.
2. No doubt it was from one of these homes that belonged to a believer that they opened the window on the wall and Paul was put in a basket and let down the wall.
3. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this experience:
In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
4. What an inglorious way to leave the city. This was just a foretaste of what the future held for Paul.
5. He left Jerusalem breathing out threats of murder against the Christians in Damascus, he left Damascus in a basket now a believer himself.