14 Lessons Paul Teaches us in Acts
The book of Acts records the work of the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel message throughout the world. The news of Christ’s resurrection and ascension spread like wildfire and several key churches were planted. The apostles and other followers of Christ boldly proclaimed the Gospel and their words were empowered by the Holy Spirit. God’s Kingdom expanded tremendously during the period of Acts, both geographically and ethnically.
Paul (Saul), the former Pharisee whom Christ called as the Apostle to Gentiles, is one of the main characters in the Acts narrative. He entered the scene as an approving party of Stephen’s killing in Acts 7:58. Later in Acts 9, Jesus appeared to him in a vision that temporarily blinded him. Christ Himself called Paul to salvation and chose him to go and proclaim His message to the Gentile world.
The rest is history, as they say, as Paul and Barnabas were sent out in Acts 13 on Paul’s first of three missionary journeys. God is the One who is always accomplishing His mission of calling people unto salvation and gathering them into local churches. But, Paul is a major character in the planting and growth of the early churches all throughout the Greek and Roman world.
So, what can we learn from Paul’s faithful example in Acts? There are key characteristics of Paul’s walk with Jesus, and his approach to planting churches, that we would do well to emulate.
Here are 14 lessons from Paul that Brody Holloway shared in a recent sermon at Red Oak Church:
1. Paul’s spirit was unconquerable.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the execution of the mission and the calling and responsibility given by God even in the presence of fear. Paul had been stoned at Lystra and left, presumed dead, but he went right back into Lystra when God revived him (Acts 14). To withstand Elymas the sorcerer face to face required much courage (Acts 13:8-12). At Philippi, Paul was beaten (Acts 16:16-24), and at Athens, he stood toe to toe with the intellectuals of the day (Acts 17:16-34), and in Corinth faced depression, Ministry burnout, loneliness and realization of the weightiness and fallenness of that city (Acts 18:1-17). In Ephesus he survived a huge riot (Acts 19) and when he came to Jerusalem and Caesarea later in his ministry to face Roman governors and Jewish kings not once did he ever shrink back (Acts 21-28). What we learn from Paul is not to be without fear, but rather to have confidence in the calling of God on our lives that overrides fear. He showed us to press on in the most difficult situations.
2. Paul’s vision for ministry was clear and strategic.
Paul had a high view of the sovereignty of God. But, he also worked hard and understood that we have a great responsibility to carry out the plans and purposes of the Lord. Sometimes there seems to be the misconception that if we hold to a higher view of the sovereignty of God, then we don’t have to do much work. Paul shows us that God is sovereign but demands everything from us in our pursuit of personal holiness, the execution of the Great Commission and the building of the church. God had given Paul a clear calling to plant churches throughout the Roman world. God repeatedly re-affirmed that calling, and Paul was confident through it.
3. Paul’s faith was deeply rooted in what God had done and revealed through the risen Lord.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2)
We learn from Paul the importance of a constant and daily reflection on the Gospel. In 1 Corinthian‘s 15:1-2 Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of this Gospel. We too should be reminded of this Gospel, daily.
4. Paul did not work alone. He understood the need for a team.
As such, we must work together to carry out the vision and mission God has called us too. For the global and historical church triumphant, we must know what Jesus has laid out in Scripture as our mission of making disciples of all people. And locally, we need to know who we are and what our responsibility is to our communities and our families.
5. Paul believed in and practiced personal mentorship.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Paul invested deeply in the development of young pastors like Timothy, Titus and John Mark. He was never a leader that held his friends at arms’ length. Instead, he challenged younger believers to walk through the trials and joys of daily life and ministry with him.
6. Paul loved the Church.
There is sometimes a negative outlook toward the church. It is easy to find what is wrong with the church and to identify things we do not like about the church, but the church is the bride of Christ. It would be unhealthy for one man to talk about the things he doesn’t like about another man’s wife. If he criticized her openly, complained about her to his friends and talked ugly about her in general, the husband of the woman would be compelled to defend her name and honor. Jesus Christ has told us that He has a bride, and she is the Church. Paul loved the Church and it is evident in the greetings and salutations he would send in his letters to the various cities and churches. He knew the church was not without her issues, and he had a strong conviction and genuine desire to see her grow and become stronger.
7. Paul preached with authority that came from God.
We can learn from Paul what it looks like to speak with authority. He spoke unapologetically, and he spoke with conviction. Paul knew that the Spirit of God dwelled in him, richly. This power drove his preaching. Whether he was preaching or debating on the largest and greatest stages of the day, or in a one on one Gospel conversation, he was unapologetic and unwavering in his commitment to preach Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Here are some things we have learned about preaching and its place in the local church and in missions:
- Primacy — Primary to the function of the church.
- Persistence — There is never a need to come up with a better way.
- Pervasiveness — The need to spread the Gospel throughout the world by preaching.
- Power — Gospel-centered and Christ-exalting.
- Proper — Expository
8. Paul lived by faith.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Paul would write in one of his letters, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). And he would remind us that “the righteous live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Paul worked hard, served well, and preached passionately — but he lived by faith.
9. Paul believed in the power of prayer.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2–4)
Paul believed that prayer was effective. He knew prayer was critical not only for his own personal faithfulness but also for the growth and mission of the Church.
10. Paul knew his own limitations, and his need to depend fully on the Lord.
By God’s grace, Paul was tremendously aware of his own weaknesses. This self-awareness drove him to continually depend on the Holy Spirit through prayer. His strategy for leadership and discipleship was never based on his own merit, but on the Lord’s calling and the Lord’s power (1 Corinthians 2:3, 4:10)
11. Paul believed that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord.
This gave him an urgency to do the work, and a fearlessness of what man might do to him. He didn’t fear death. In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he reminded them, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
12. Paul believed that this world is temporal and that Jesus is coming back.
One day, our King is returning to make all things new, judge every deed, word and thought. He will establish an eternal Kingdom in which He will reign forever and we will worship Him without the presence of sin.
13. Paul showed us how to engage hostility.
The world is continually pushing back against the Gospel, and so it pushed back against the work Christ had set before Paul. He faced tremendous hostility from the Jewish religious leaders and Paul met them with gracious speech that exemplified mature godliness.
14. Paul had a Living Hope.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11–14)
Paul’s hope was not in man’s approval. His hope was not placed in visible results or fruitfulness. At the end of the day, Paul’s hope was placed in Jesus Christ. He is our Living Hope. Because Christ conquered death, hell, and the grave, Paul was confident that everything else would be taken care of. He knew he was not in charge, and he understood that was a good thing. This hope gave Paul boldness in proclaiming the Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:12).
Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. He walked through the valley of death so that we can rise again victoriously with Him. So, let’s look to Christ, our Living Hope, and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
This content was originally prepared for a sermon on Acts 28 by Brody Holloway at Red Oak Church, in Andrews, NC.