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Conversion of Saul

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SAUL’S CONVERSION 

Scripture: Acts 7:54–60, 8:1-3, 9:1–20; 2 Corinthians 5:17

Memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

Lead—In

Saul’s Early Years

Saul was born in Tarsus, a city on the Mediterranean Sea, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem. He was very interested in God. Saul was a Jew. He studied Jewish law and customs under Gamaliel, (Guh-MAY-LEE-UHL), one of the greatest teachers of that time.

Saul’s education led him to become a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of Jewish leaders who were extremely strict about keeping the Law, yet they tended to have little compassion for people.

Many of the Pharisees hated Jesus because He had exposed them for what they were—religious phonies. They had seen to it that Jesus was killed. Then they went after His followers.

Our first meeting with Saul is at a brutal execution; the stoning of a Christian named Stephen, who had done nothing more than speak the truth. But the truth had angered the Jews. They were attempting to stamp out all talk about Jesus. False witnesses spoke against Stephen at his trial, but Stephen defended his faith in Jesus. When he mentioned the murder of Jesus, the Jews went into a rage. They took Stephen out of the city and killed him by throwing rocks at him until he was dead. Those who believed in Jesus were both saddened and frightened by Stephen’s murder.

Saul was at Stephen’s stoning. He stood back and watched what was happening. He agreed with the Jews that Stephen should be killed. He stood by the coats of the men who stoned Stephen.

Saul Persecutes Christians

Saul became the leader of the cruel persecution against the Christians. Saul himself went from house to house, hunting down Christians and dragging them off to prison. Often they were beaten or even killed.

The persecution became so terrible in Jerusalem that all the believers except the apostles left the city. Saul at last felt his job was done in Jerusalem, but he still was not satisfied. As long as there were Christians anywhere, he would not rest. (Read Acts 9:1.2.)

Ask: “What do you think caused Saul to be like this?” (Allow discussion.)

Saul was religious in his own sight, but he refused to accept the real truth—that Jesus is the Son of God.

Saul wanted to go to Damascus to see if he could find any believers to arrest. He went to the Jewish high priest and asked for letters of introduction to the synagogues. These letters told the priests in Damascus that Saul had permission to arrest Christians there and take them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

The high priest gave Saul the letters. Saul started his journey with men who would help him in his hunt. Even though it was only 180 kilometres, it probably took them several days to make the trip.

An Unusual Experience

The trip to Damascus proved to be unlike any Saul had ever taken. Imagine the unusual events that occurred. The trip was almost over; Saul and his company had almost reached Damascus. It was about the middle of the day. Suddenly, an incredibly bright light blazed all around Saul. He fell to the ground.

A voice from heaven said, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” The other men with Saul heard a sound, but they did not know what the voice was saying. Saul must have been terrified. He asked, “Who are You, Lord?” Saul knew this was a message from heaven.

The voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.” Saul had had an encounter with Jesus. Saul got up from the ground. However, when the bright light was gone and he opened his eyes, he could not see; he was blind. The men who were with him led him into Damascus. Sometimes God uses a situation to get our attention. When we are confused, sad, or hurt, we are more willing to hear what God has to say. 

Ask: “Has that ever happened to you?” (Allow responses.)

Saul Is Changed

What a strange trip this had turned out to be! Saul had planned to hunt down the Christians in Damascus and take them back to Jerusalem. They would have been thrown in jail, put on trial, beaten, or maybe even killed. Instead, here Saul sat—blind and alone. For three days he did not eat or drink. He had time to think about all he had done to the believers. He realized how wrong he had been.

When we spend time with God in prayer or reading His Word, we change inside. Saul became a changed man. Instead of hating the Christians, he realized they were actually the ones serving God in the right way. Jesus really is God’s Son! Although Saul had thought he was doing God’s will by persecuting the Christians, he was the one who was wrong. God helps us think right.

While Saul was in Damascus, God spoke in a vision to a Christian named Ananias. God told Ananias how to get to where Saul was staying and what to do when he arrived. Ananias was to lay his hands on Saul and pray for him so he could see again.

Ask: “How do you think Ananias felt about this? Put yourself in his place.” (Allow discussion.)

He knew about all the cruel things Saul had done to Christians.  He knew why Saul had wanted to come to Damascus. Now God wanted him to go pray for Saul. That seemed pretty risky. God said again to Ananias, “Go! I have chosen Saul to spread My Word.” Saul was chosen by God to serve Him. So Ananias trusted God to protect him and he went to Saul. When we obey God, other people benefit as well.

Saul knew Ananias was coming. God had shown him in a vision that he would get his sight back when Ananias laid hands on him. When Ananias touched Saul and prayed for him, it was as if scales fell off his eyes. Saul could see again!

After Saul regained his sight he was baptized. Then, he finally had something to eat. During the following days, Saul spent time with the disciples, preaching in the synagogue, telling about Jesus and salvation. He was now a Christian, a follower of Christ!

(Explain that Saul became known as Paul. The first mention of the name Paul comes later in the Book of Acts. The name Saul was his Jewish name; Paul was his Christian name.)

The memory verse from 2 Corinthians 5:17 explains how Paul could change so drastically—from someone who hated Jesus’ teachings to a man who began preaching about Jesus. Let us read it together. (Repeat the verse together several times.)

Accepting God’s Word

Some people have a drastic change in their lives when they accept Christ. No matter how much they have sinned, God gives them a desire to obey and love God. Each person who accepts Jesus as Lord experiences that change of heart, though the change might not be as outwardly dramatic as it was for Paul.

Even though Saul was an enemy of Christians, Jesus still loved him and offered him salvation. God loves everyone and wants all to accept Him as Saviour and Lord. Everyone in this study group is included in God's offer of salvation through simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever confessed your sins to Jesus and invited him to come into your heart? If not, we would like to pray with you today. You can return to your home today with your life transformed just as the apostle Paul was changed by his encounter with Jesus.

Fertile Soil

A Jola Fonyi man arrived at the research team's hotel with his personally- owned taxi (purchased with funds provided by his extended family). Our guide was with him, ready to get our journey underway. Leaving Banjul, Gambia’s capital, we drove about two hours on an excellent tarred road running parallel with the Gambia River.

Gambia is a former British colony, and it is said the country's boundaries were set according to the range of cannons on the British ships that traversed the Gambia River. Consequently, the little country, with a population near 2 million, consists of fertile land along both banks of the river.  The national language is English.

REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for the Jola Fonyi Believers

1. Those persecuted by their family for accepting Jesus as Saviour,
2. Muslim leaders to open their hearts to the message of salvation,
3. Believers to stand firm in their faith and boldly witness for Jesus.

Prayer Promise

"Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you is a great and awesome God" (Deuteronomy 7:21).

 

Remember: SAUL’S CONVERSION

Memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

1. Saul was religious, but misguided in his service to God.
2. An encounter with the living Christ changed him, and his life's pursuit.
3. Hating Jesus to loving Jesus. Amazing!

Pray for Jola Fonyi Believers.

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Study 2 | Eternity— Apostle Paul | africaatts.org/go-teach

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