Apostle Paul - Passionate Discipleship

Ralph F. Wilson, 'Apostle Paul - Passionate Discipleship,' original watercolor, 10x13 in. In a private collection.

Paul is arguably the most important teacher in the New Testament, other than Jesus himself. Someone calculated that Paul wrote approximately 28% of the words in the New Testament -- a massive body of work that has guided, inspired, and encouraged the church for two millennium.

But what makes Paul tick? What is the essential genius of the Apostle Paul? I think it lies in his passion to know Jesus.

Our approach will be a chronological study of his life, using the Book of Acts as the backbone, and incorporating biographical elements from Paul's letters. But with each lesson we'll explore some of his passions, and see how they can impact our own lives, values, and commitments. For example, Paul is passionate about

  • Salvation by grace through faith, rather than strict observance of the Law that he excelled at as a Pharisee.
  • Proclaiming Jesus no matter what the threats, beatings, jailings, and stonings.
  • Being crucified with Christ -- totally surrendered -- not hanging on to his own life.
  • Knowing Jesus intimately -- in sufferings, in death, in resurrection -- knowing him in a way that surpasses everything!

Each lesson will contain Paul's story from Acts, but also life-giving teachings from his letters. We can't be comprehensive, since Paul makes an important contribution to nearly every important Christian doctrine. But we'll focus on some of the teachings revealed directly to Paul, doctrines that he pioneers and develops, and connects the dots between the Old Testament prophecies and how these doctrines find their focus in Christ. Here's a list of the major Theological and Practical Themes covered in these lessons. Below you'll see the lessons we'll cover over the next 11 weeks. [Detailed outline]

  1. Saul of Tarsus Meets Jesus (33 AD). Paul's Jewish background, passion, conversion on the road to Damascus, and Ananias's visit. Also Paul's teaching on righteousness by faith (Acts 8:1-9:18; Philippians 3:3-11).
  2. Paul in Arabia, Tarsus, and Antioch (33-46 AD). Paul's preparation in the Arabian desert, revelations, and decade in Tarsus. Then Barnabas's call to share the ministry in Antioch of Syria. We'll examine Paul's apostleship and the subject of spiritual gifts and callings (Acts 9:19; 11:19-30; 11:35-13:3).
  3. Paul in Cyprus, Antioch of Pisidia, and Galatia (47-49 AD). In the First Missionary Journey, Paul and Barnabas travel to Cyprus, then cities of the province of Galatia -- Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Paul experiences signs and wonders as well as intense persecution. Examines differences in preaching to Jews vs. Gentiles, contextualizing the gospel, plus Paul's team discipling and establishing leadership (Acts 13-14).
  4. Law, Grace, and the New Israel (49 AD). Judaizers try to force Gentile believers to be circumcised, precipitating the Council of Jerusalem, where salvation by grace rather than by law is clarified. We explore grace, predestination, and the New Israel of God (Acts 15:1-35; Ephesians 2:8-9).

  5. Paul in Macedonia (49-50 AD). Paul begins the Second Missionary Journey with Silas, strengthening the Galatian churches, then travelling to Macedonia, where they evangelize Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. We examine the power of praise, and the importance of preaching the message of the cross -- Christ crucified (Acts 15:36-18:22; Philippians 4:4-9)
  6. Paul in Greece (50-52 AD). Paul preaches in Athens, then travels to Corinth for a long and successful ministry. We focus on how God deals with those who have never heard; Paul's tent-making, bi-vocational ministry; and the power of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15; Acts 17:16-18:22).
  7. Paul in Ephesus (52-55 AD). The Third Missionary Journey centers on Ephesus. Paul baptizes disciples of John the Baptist, teaches for two years, and sees extraordinary miracles. Yet he experiences intense persecution and pressure, and perhaps imprisonment. We learn how Paul deals with such struggles (Acts 18:23-19:41; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:8-12).
  8. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
    This is our 47th online Bible study since 1996. If you've participated in one before, you know how God can use them in your life. If not, then you have a treat in store for you. This is an cross-denominational study designed to help you grow as a disciple of Christ. -- Dr. Ralph F. Wilson. About the leader.
    Paul Fights the Good Fight of Faith -- Spiritual Warfare. We depart from the Acts narrative to explore the nature of Paul's fight, the dimensions of the dominion of darkness, Paul's gospel as a spiritual weapon to dispel darkness and deception, and other weapons in the armory: prayer and praise, signs and wonders, exorcisms, and the whole armor of God (Philippians 4:4-9; Ephesians 6:10-18)
  9. Paul Presses on to Jerusalem (56-57 AD). Paul feels called to return to Jerusalem where he is imprisoned. We explore worship on Sunday, prophets in the early church, and Christian witness. We conclude with detailed study of Paul's address to the Ephesian elders on the beach at Miletus where Paul shows us what utter commitment to Christ looks like (Acts 20:1-23:35).
  10. Paul's Imprisonment, Release, and Death (57-65 AD). We review of Paul's imprisonment in Caesarea, voyage to Rome, apparent release in 62 AD and further ministry in Spain and the Aegean, before final imprisonment and death about 64-65 AD. We explore a Christian view of death (Acts 24-28; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Philippians 1:19-25).
  11. Paul's Passion: Knowing the Exalted Christ. We conclude with Paul's revelations that give him a unique understanding of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), Christ's supremacy (Colossians 1:15-20), union with Christ ("in Christ"), and fuel his life's passion to know Christ even more intimately (Philippians 3:7-14).

I invite you to join me as together we explore the passionate discipleship of Christianity's most passionate disciple -- Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul. Scroll down to sign up below.

Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats.
"A wonderful course, written clearly and thoroughly, with many useful maps to aid the reader...." -- David Mcpherson, UK

"Neat, comprehensive narrative...." -- Magda Ligthelm, South Africa

"Very comprehensive and detailed." -- Joseph Hendriawan, Indonesia

"Dr. Wilson writes as though he's speaking to his audience." -- Mrs. Mary Nardone-Smith, New Jersey

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"The study was amazing. The whole class really enjoyed it, and  I learned so much as the teacher.  The lessons were very detailed, but not so detailed that it was difficult to understand.... It was this study that gave me such a love to study the Old Testament." -- Linda Rowand, West Virginia

"Biblically strong, in-depth, thought-provoking, and balanced, while also respecting various denominational viewpoints." -- Michelle Garrison, Missouri

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"Reflect a cutting edge standard of Bible commentary scholarship, but are easily readable and understandable for non-technical Bible students." -- Pastor Herb Dickerson, Louisiana

"Well organized and easy to follow. The research already done saves so much time.  I also like the idea of using Acts as a starting point and then going to Paul's letters to amplify the teachings." -- Tom Weitzel, Minnesota

"It dawned on me that, if a guy like Paul who started out so far down the wrong path could be turned around and used by God to change the world, then I can certainly be useful to myself, my neighbors, my community and my church!" -- Thomas Green, Arizona

Here's how we'll study together.

  • Each Saturday I'll e-mail you the lesson for the week. Then you'll read the Bible passage and use my notes to help you understand it better.
  • If you sign up for the daily questions version, on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday you'll receive a question from that week's lesson to think about and answer. This is designed as a "total immersion" approach to Bible study, since I believe God wants to use these lessons to work real and permanent change in your life. (You can opt out of the daily questions if you like, however, and just receive the weekly lessons.) You'll be thinking about these passages constantly over these weeks -- long enough for God to work his Word into your life and lifestyle.
  • You can respond to the discussion questions using the Joyful Heart Bible Study Forum -- and read others' answers to reinforce your own understanding.
  • With each lesson you'll receive a link to a 25- to 40-minute audio teaching with me reading the lesson. Some who learn better from hearing than from reading really appreciate this.
  • Then on Saturday, I'll send you the next week's lesson.
  • You can download and reprint free Participant Handouts if you're leading a class or small group.

If you sign up now, you'll receive your first lesson this on the Friday after you subscribe. There is absolutely no charge for these e-mail lessons.

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Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.