Paul on Leadership – Part I

When one begins to speak about characters in scripture who demonstrated amazing leadership, one quickly comes to a short list of individuals God used greatly. While there are many options most would probably give a list like this Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, and Paul. It is with the last on this list, Paul, that we will focus on in these five sessions that we will be together. During this time we will look into the life of Paul with a focus on the book of Acts to learn some simply, yet, profound truths about leadership. We will see that a leader is called by God, has a vision from God that he receives through the Spirit’s leading, is purposeful and passionate, is a teacher (which also requires being a learner), and is at the same time humble.

Paul’s life demonstrates all of these characteristics and we will see them together as we study five different passages of scripture from the book of Acts. As we investigate the word of God together we will look to learn from Paul’s leadership characteristics and we will seek to apply those characteristics to our lives in our effort to become better leaders for God’s glory. God has made us each unique and the characteristics will apply to each of us uniquely and in different ways, but these are five different areas that Paul demonstrates and I believe all leaders share in common. I am glad you are here today and look forward to seeing how God reveals himself to our leadership team together.

Week 1: A Leader is Called: Acts 9:1 – 19

Before we begin to look at specific characteristics leaders display, we must begin with the universal idea that all leaders for God’s kingdom are called by God to be leaders. Here in Acts 9:1 – 19 we find the popular story about Saul’s (later known as Paul) conversion and calling. While most people are aware of this passage speaking to Paul’s conversion, it is all too often overlooked that in fact this is also when God called Paul to ministry as well. In fact, Craig Keener clarifies that much of the language used in God’s communication to Paul through Ananias is similar to that of an Old Testament call or commissioning. Let us now dive into this passage and see what God might communicate to us today.

As we begin this passage the first thing that becomes evident to us is the life Paul was leading at the time of his conversion. He was on his way to persecute the early church and the language used is quite serious as Calvin puts it, “When as he saith, that he breathed out threatenings and slaughter as yet, his meaning is, that after that his hands were once imbued with innocent blood, he proceeded in like cruelty, and was always a furious and bloody enemy to the Church, after that he had once made that entrance whereof mention is made in the death of Stephen.” It is important for us to not skip over this in our study, this was the type of man Paul was before his conversion. A man who had overseen murder of a Christian for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, and a man who’s heart was cruel and furious as a result of his convictions.

Now my friends, if God can choose to use Paul in leadership he can use any of us. Have you done something so bad that God cannot use you, no, God even used Paul for amazing things despite the cruelty that resided in his heart and manifested it self in his life in the death of another. Unfortunately I have made my fair share of bad choices, and I am not proud of some of the choices I made especially when I was a freshman in college. Participating in parties and the things that go on there, being too physical with girls I dated, but just as Paul, God called me despite the person I was. As I tell you that, I am in no way condoning those things or you doing those things, but I am telling you that who you were does not have to hamper who God would have you become. Maybe this is the day that God would blind you so that he could get your attention and call you to his service. If you are here I am assuming he is calling you to step out and step up as a leader. As you take those steps, do not allow those thoughts and lies that God cannot use you because of what you have done to discourage you from leadership.

God does get Paul’s attention, he caused Paul to go blind and spoke in an audible voice to Paul. I would hope that would get my attention too. Now remember Paul is a devout Jew who is seeking to persecute this new “Way” that follows Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and this voice calls to Paul and clarifies that this Jesus is in fact the Lord of all and the Savior of all. Here is an amazing part that sometimes might go unnoticed. Jesus tells Paul to continue to the city, Damascus, and here we see the point in which Paul demonstrates his faith in Jesus for the first time. Paul hates Jesus and his followers, he is a devout Jew, and he could have had the men with him take him back to Jerusalem to the temple and the priests, but instead he demonstrates faith in Jesus. You might think, well Jason, he is blind and just heard God speak to him, like he would not listen. I would argue that we do not listen in similar situations all the time. God is calling out to you, and he is putting things in your path all the time to get your attention and mine, but rarely do we listen. Could it be the God who is in control of all actually allows you to have a flat tire to stop you in your business so that he could speak to you, or allows that traffic that we sit in and get angry about so that we would have to wait and might listen, or the list could go on and on. Be ready because God might be trying to speak to you in the circumstances of life and it might be clearer then we realize much of the time.

As we pick up again in the passage at verse ten we see that God sends another man Ananias to go and speak to Paul and heal him of his blindness. In this we see a simple truth that many times when God calls someone to leadership he also calls another to encourage that leader. Ananias questions God about this calling but we see in Ananias this does not come across to God in a negative way, but more of a natural reaction as to what he is being told and should communicate what a miracle this is that God is performing in the heart of Paul. It is here in verse fifteen that we see God’s call to Paul not just for conversion but also God’s call to leadership. As I. Howard Marshall points out, the key in this is that God has chosen Paul for a particular work, to be his instrument in a particular way. My friends, I believe God would want you to clearly understand. He calls each believer to be his instrument in some way in fact that is exactly what he used Paul to communicate in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 when we claims that we are each called to be a specific member in one body or to carry a specific role. You are here because you truly believe God is calling you to a leadership role within His body, the church. The point in all of this is that if you are ready to step up and out in leadership for God, then you must have received a call from God to leadership. Now you might wish it was as easy as God speaking with an audible voice and sending someone to tell you that and confirming it with a miracle because remember Ananias heals Paul of his blindness after he gives him this message. However, it really is just that easy. Is God calling you? Have you been encouraged to step up and out as leaders by others who have also noticed God’s moving and calling in and on your life?

This passage ends with Paul regaining his sight, getting baptized, and being strengthened. However before we move on to enlightening you in some ways about leadership, or teaching you spiritual truths about God and leadership, both of which will strengthen you. We must ask ourselves these tough questions, Is God calling you to leadership? Is that being confirmed in areas of your life and by people in your life? I challenge you to deeply search, listen, and ask this coming week about those questions, and next week for those of you God is calling to lead, we will continue with Paul and learn more about what a Biblical leader looks like.

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