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Lesson 5: The Conversion of Paul *

Introduction: Do you know people who are so hostile to the gospel that you think they will never change? Perhaps you are wrong. This week we study a person who hated the gospel so much that he made it his mission to imprison or kill Christians. Yet, God turned him completely around. We should never doubt the power of God! Let's dig into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Destroyer

    1. Read Acts 26:1-5. Paul is now on trial here. How does he describe his early life? (He was in the strictest Jewish sect, he lived as a Pharisee.)

    2. Read Acts 26:6-8. Isn't it obvious that a story about raising the dead to life is questionable on its face?

      1. Why does Paul say it should not be "incredible?" (Paul may be saying that if he could be changed from the strictest sect of the Pharisees to being on trial for believing in Jesus, then raising the dead is not that incredible. Perhaps he means that pagans could believe that gods can raise humans to life.)

    3. Read Acts 26:9-11. Were the actions Paul took against the Christians lawful? (He says he did them under authority. His reference to his "vote" sounds like some sort of democratic group decision.)

    4. Read Acts 7:54-58. Recall when we studied the stoning of Stephen, did we think this was done lawfully? (The account sounds like the actions of an uncontrolled mob. "Saul" is later called "Paul.")

    5. Read Acts 9:1-2. Is Saul acting under legal authority here?

      1. Why would religious leaders in Jerusalem have legal jurisdiction in foreign cities like Damascus? (The commentaries that I read say that the Romans gave the High Priest and the Sanhedrin jurisdiction over Jews in foreign cities. Thus, this was legal.)

  1. Conversion

    1. Read Acts 9:3-5. Why would Saul call the voice "Lord?" (There is some debate over whether this should be better translated "Who are you sir?" Saul thought this was some exalted power.)

      1. Tell me what you think went through Saul's mind when he is told this exalted speaker is Jesus?

    2. Read Acts 22:10 for an additional detail left out of chapter 9. What does this additional detail tell us about Saul's state of mind at the moment?

    3. Read Acts 9:6-9. Why didn't Saul eat or drink anything for three days? (This reflects the shock to his system. Not only is he now blind, but he finds that he has been opposing God, not doing God's will.)

      1. I frequently hear calls for believers to get back to the "pillars of faith," "the roots," and the "foundations." What would Paul say about calls like that? (We need to be sure that the "foundations" and "pillars" are properly constructed. The fact that we formerly believed something does not make it right. We need to be sure all our beliefs are firmly grounded on the Bible.)

  2. Ananias

    1. Read Acts 9:10-12. What task is Ananias given? Is it very precise?

      1. Would you want to know what Saul is praying about?

    2. Read Acts 9:13-14. Is Ananias concerned that God has not been reading the news? Is he concerned that his knowledge about the local situation is more complete than God's knowledge?

    3. Read Acts 9:15. What do you like best about God's response? (The great God of heaven does not say, "Of course, I know that!" Instead, He reveals to Ananias His plans for Saul. What a gracious God!)

      1. This text is remarkable for several reasons. Do you think that God has a specific plan for everyone?

      2. If not, why did He have a specific plan for Saul?

      3. If God has a specific plan for everyone, why do so many people seem to be unaware of God's plan for their life?

      4. Why did God so directly intervene into Saul's life, but no so directly intervene in the lives of others? (I think the answer to these questions turns on Saul's early decision to be completely devoted to the work of God. He did not understand God's work, he did not understand that he was actually resisting God's work, but he was completely devoted. If you are completely devoted to advancing the work of God, then God will let you know what He has in mind for you.)

    4. Read Acts 9:16. Why is this part of the message to Ananias? (Ananias is concerned about all of the suffering that Saul has caused. He is concerned that Saul will make him suffer. God assures Ananias by telling him that just the opposite is about to start happening.)

      1. When God revealed to Saul that he would suffer for the gospel, what do you think was Saul's response? (I assume Saul felt terribly guilty at this point, and that made it easier to accept his future because he could see the "justice" in it. Others would have a wrong view of his work, just as he had a wrong view of the gospel in the past.)

    5. Read Acts 9:17. Ananias trusts God! Why do you think that Ananias spoke of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit? If you look back at Acts 9:12, Jesus only gave a vision of restoring Saul's sight? (To have true "sight," you need the Holy Spirit. I think Saul's blindness turned to sight symbolizes Saul's journey to being filled with the Holy Spirit.)

    6. Read Acts 9:18-19. Why is Paul eating again? (He understands his mission. He has resolved the crisis in his life.)

  3. The Mission

    1. Read Acts 9:20. Does Saul waste any time on his new mission?

    2. Read Acts 9:21-22. Why do you think Saul "grew more and more powerful?"

    3. Read Acts 9:23-25. What remedy do the Jews have in mind for Saul? (Once again, we see that they are not satisfied with debate, they want to kill the opposition. This is always an important indicator of who has the better argument. Failed arguments turn to violence.)

    4. Read Acts 9:26, Galatians 1:11-12, and Galatians 1:15-19. Saul's time line in Acts 9 omits a reference to his three years in Arabia before he went to Jerusalem. Based on Saul's statements about a direct revelation from Jesus, to what do you think he is referring? (It seems hard to identify God's direct intervention on the road to Damascus as the "revelation from Jesus Christ," since we have Ananias "consulting" with Saul then, and that time period was brief. Saul may mean that Jesus revealed Himself in Arabia.)

      1. Why would this matter? What is wrong with being taught by one of the apostles? (This distinction is important to me because I would likely have a different view of righteousness by faith if we eliminated Paul's writings from the New Testament. The Holy Spirit has an easier time teaching me about grace when I'm reading Paul!)

    5. Read Acts 9:28-30. Once again, Saul's life is in danger. Do you see the hand of God in this? (Just as God used Saul's persecution to spread the gospel outside Jerusalem, so He used the persecution of Saul to direct his message to the gentiles.)

      1. Has something that you considered to be a bad thing, turned out to be a good thing in your life?

    6. Read Acts 9:31. How does all of this turmoil work out? (A time of peace comes to the Church.)

    7. Friend, if you are praying for the conversion of an enemy of God, do not despair! Saul's conversion shows us that there is hope for the most ardent opponent. Saul's conversion shows us that God takes bad things and makes them good. Why not determine to trust God no matter the circumstances?

  4. Next week: The Ministry of Peter.

* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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