Lesson 5--Paul, the Silent Years

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1. What does Luke say Paul did immediately after his conversion?

Acts 9:20-22--

2. What additional information does Paul provide about this time in his life?

By "Arabia" Paul does not mean the current Saudi Arabia. The term as used in Paul’s day was quite vague and uncertain. It sometimes included Damascus and at times even the region now known as Lebanon. It more than likely meant the Nabataean kingdom of Arabia, which lay just east and south of Damascus. Its capital city was Petra, a site of recent exploration in the Middle-East.

Galatians 1:15-17--

3. What was the result of Paul’s continued preaching in Damascus?

Acts 9:23-24--

4. Who else was involved in this plot against Paul?

2 Corinthians 11:32--

Aretas was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, who abandoned his wife in 29 AD and seduced the wife of his brother Philip, for which he was sternly rebuked by John the Baptizer. He ruled his desert kingdom from 9 BC to 40 AD and may have controlled Damascus at this time.

Why would Aretas be interested in murdering Paul? There are two possible reasons. The first relates to what Paul was doing in Arabia during his possible three years stay. Some say that Paul went to Arabia simply to study and prepare for the work the Lord gave him to do. The Lord, however, had told Paul while enroute to Damascus to go to the Gentiles. To spend three years in quiet contemplation would hardly seem to be following our Lord’s directives. If, however, Paul had preached to the Arabs and perhaps stirred up trouble among the Jews living in the land, Aretas might have considered Paul enough of a problem to join the Jewish plot. The second possibility is that since Aretas was in charge of preserving the peace in Damascus, he would have simply helped remove Paul in order to preserve the peace among the large Jewish population.

5. How did Paul escape?

2 Corinthians 11:33; Acts 9:25--

6. Where did Paul then go?

Acts 9:26--

7. How much time had elapsed since Paul’s conversion?

Galatians 1:18--

8. How was Paul received by the believers in Jerusalem?

Acts 9:26--

9. Who came to Paul’s aid?

Acts 9:27--

Although we have heard of Barnabas before (cf. Acts 4:36-37 ), we have no record showing any connection between himself and Paul. Some have suggested that Barnabas, who came from Cyprus which is only a short distance from Tarsus by sea, knew Paul from years before. If that were so, one might expect Barnabas to be overly cautious. Others have suggested that Barnabas had contacts with the Christians in Damascus and so knew the story. Perhaps, in view of the fact that Barnabas seems to have been a man of means and a man sent on various missions, he had been sent to warn the Christians in Damascus of Paul’s arrival before his conversion and witnessed Paul’s tremendous change.

10. How long did Paul stay in Jerusalem?

Galatians 1:18--

11. What did Paul do while he was there?

Galatians 1:18--

Why did Paul go to see Peter? In Galatians 1:11-12 Paul states that he received his gospel from no man, but rather directly from Jesus. Because of this some claim that Paul did not discuss or consider doctrinal matters with Peter. Such an opinion seems needlessly restrictive. No doubt during the fifteen day stay and visit with Peter, Paul discussed Jesus’ life and ministry. Peter was, after all, an eye-witness of everything. Paul seems to have used some of those facts in his epistles (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Acts 9:28-29--

12. With which of the apostles did Paul meet?

Galatians 1:18-19--

13. What resulted from Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem?

Acts 9:29--

Acts 22:17-21--

14. Where did Paul now go?

Acts 9:30--

Galatians 1:21--

15. What did Paul do there?

Galatians 1:22-24--

Christian history tells us that a thriving church developed in Tarsus. No doubt this was true due to the efforts of Paul during these silent years. We are told that many of the Tarsians buried their idols after coming to faith. In 110 Dio Chrysostom praised the Tarsian women for their modesty. Theodore of Tarsus became the Archbishop of Canterbury and organized the Church of England. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 Paul catalogs the sufferings he endured for Jesus. Many of these are not documented for us in Acts. Perhaps he endured many of these during these silent years in Tarsus.

16. In connection with whom and what do we next hear of Paul in Acts?

Acts 11:19-26--

Antioch lay sixteen miles up the Orontes River from the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded by Seleucus Nicator in 300 BC and named for his father, Antiochus. Seleucus Epiphanes enlarged the city and ringed it with the most remarkable walls on earth. In 65 BC Pompay brought it under Roman control. Caesar built a basilica known as the Caesareum. Augustus built a circus for 200,000. Herod the Great paved the main street east and west for two and one half miles with blocks of white marble and erected on each side a magnificent colonnade in which one might walk under shelter in all weather. Approximately 500,000 people lived in Antioch at this time, making it the third largest city in the Roman empire. It was the only city which lighted its streets each night with public oil lamps.

17. For what reason did Paul return to Jerusalem?

Acts 11:27-30--

18. When did this trip take place?

Galatians 2:1--

Luke at this point does not seem to follow chronological order in the Acts. Agabus prophesied of the famine in 44 AD. The events described in Acts 12 were occurring at the same time. Herod died in 44 AD. It would appear that Paul’s trip to and return from Jerusalem occurred in 46 AD at which time a very serious famine occurred.

19. Who else accompanied Paul and Barnabas?

Galatians 2:1--

20. What did Paul report to the elders in Jerusalem?

Galatians 2:2--

21. What controversy developed over Titus?

Galatians 2:3-4--

22. What was the outcome of the controversy?

Galatians 2:5-10--

23. Who returned to Antioch with Barnabas and Paul?

Acts 12:25--

24. What event took place in Antioch shortly after this?

Galatians 2:11-21--

Discussion Topics:

1. Of what importance were Christian friends to Paul during these early years of his life as a Christian? Discuss the nature of Christian friendship and why such friendships are important for all Christians of all times.

2. Review Acts 9:26-27. Discuss why it is so important that we put the best construction on everything and learn to trust others.

3. Patience is a godly virtue (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11). Discuss why patience is so vital for Christians. Discuss situations in which Christians will be called upon to exercise patience.

4. Review Galatians 2:11-21. Discuss the importance of Paul’s firm stand against Peter in this situation. How was Paul’s stand then similar to the stand confessing Christians must take today against the religious principles of organizations such as the Masonic Lodge or the Boy Scouts of America?