But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
Notes to the Leader: One of the functions of group Bible study is to provide the opportunity to practice sharing one’s faith. This type of sharing does not typically come easy. It is deeply personal and the entire act of salvation is often confusing.
Salvation is God’s grace, Jesus’ work, and our response. We learn a lot by studying the most famous of conversions, the Apostle Paul’s “road to Damascus” experience. Yet the real learning comes not so much from what happened on that day but what happened afterwards. This study looks at Paul’s life and how his experience was molded into the productive work of our Lord.
Why does God give some people a great faith experience and others just a simple faith walk?
- It is easy to get caught up in an exciting story like Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus. However, experiences like Saul’s are the exception, not the rule. God gives us experiences based upon His knowledge of our needs. We should never feel that somehow, our story is not worth telling. All encounters with Christ, whether dramatic or simple, are worth sharing.
This is an opportunity for you or someone in your group to share.
- How did you come to know the Lord?
- How did the Lord first get your attention?
- Do you remember your decision to trust in Christ?
- What were the first changes you experienced?
- Do you remember the person who assured you or prayed with you?
When do you think that Saul’s conversion really started?
- Probably before his Damascus road experience. Can you imagine the impact of Stephen’s death, praying for his killers, Stephen looking up and seeing Jesus and that experience reflected into Stephen’s face? No doubt that God was working on Saul much earlier than Damascus.
Section One: The Persecutor
Read Acts 9:1-2 to your group.
As a preface to this lesson, this is what we know about Saul:
- Saul was a young man (between 24 and 40). Acts 7:58
- He was a Jew and began his studies young (5 yrs) as all boys did. Acts 21:39; 22:3
- He was born in Tarsus, and important city in Cilicia; everyone born there was automatically a Roman citizen with special privileges. Acts 16:37-38; 21:39; 22:3, 25-29
- He spoke Greek, meaning he had a classical Greek education. Acts 21:37
- He spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. Acts 21:40; 22:2
- He was raised in Jerusalem. Acts 22:3
- He was a disciple of the respected Pharisee, Gamaliel, and had been given a superior rabbinical education that probably started when he was 13. Acts 22:3
- He was an expert in Jewish law. Acts 22:3
What was Saul’s motivation for persecuting Christians?
- His zeal for God.
How would you describe the way Saul acted toward the early Christians?
- Willing to ignore Roman law to advance his cause (Stephen was killed without Roman approval).
Would the people of Saul’s time have considered him evil? Would Saul have considered himself evil?
- Probably not. Remember, it was his zeal for God and the Law that drove him this way.
How would you respond to the use of “the Way” in verse 9:2? What does it mean to you?
- Acts uses the phrase “the Way” six times. It has its roots in the Old Testament, which often speaks of the manner of life God expects His people to live as the “way” of the Lord or “path” of righteousness or life (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 4:11-12).
Now read John 14:6 to your group.
How does the New Testament use the term “way?”
- Jesus personalized it by saying He is “the way” and the only way.
Section Two: Only Saul Could See Jesus
Have someone in your group read Acts 9:3-9.
How did Saul respond to the Voice?
- His response in Greek would have been kurios, a word meaning sir. By this it is understood that Saul knew the voice was that of God’s.
What is it that happens when Saul hears the Voice that is so typical of acts of conversion?
- Saul suddenly recognizes his sin and his erroneous logic.
What else was it that moved Saul so dramatically?
- He clearly saw Jesus.
Afterwards, was Saul immediately an effective evangelist?
- Hardly. Saul was physically blind, dependent upon those around him. Initially planning to enter Damascus as someone to clean up the town of Christians, he was highly dependent and redirected. Saul still needed some more work.
Section Three: A Reluctant Evangelist
Have someone in your group read Acts 9:10-19.
So far, what can you summarize about someone’s conversion of faith?
- We know that God is working in the lives of those we may even see as His enemies.
- An encounter with Christ can change anyone’s heart.
- It is best to be non-judgmental when inviting those into our faith. Ananias, while reluctant, obeyed his God and administered both care and the sacrament of baptism to Saul. Saul’s conversion was not complete until his encounter with fellow Christians.
What were the changes in Saul after his three day encounter with Jesus?
- On the road he became convinced that Jesus is Lord (vv. 5-6)
- Through Ananias he became convinced that Jesus must be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews (v. 15)
- He also became convinced he was God’s chosen instrument to carry Jesus’ name to the Gentiles (v. 15)
What things happened to Saul when he was visited by Ananias?
- He was accepted into the family of God (v. 17). The term “brother” was the assurance of forgiveness.
- He was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 17).
- He was healed – his eyesight restored (v. 18).
- He was baptized (v. 18).
- God commissioned him as an apostle to the Gentiles (v. 15).
What was the significance of Saul’s baptism?
- This was his initial open confession of faith.
Section Four: Seeing Jesus
Have someone in your group read Acts 9:19-31.
What are some of the points of Saul’s conversion that seem to stand out to you?
- A single encounter with Jesus redirected his entire life.
- The entire spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles can be traced to this event.
- Saul dedicated all of his life and resources to evangelism.
- No doubt there may be many more.
Can someone be a Christian without sharing their own story of how Christ came into their lives?
- It is hard to imagine how anyone could comprehend the value of God’s grace, the cleansing of Christ’s work on the cross and the value from being guided by the Holy Spirit and not share their story. If someone struggles with this, even after their road to Damascus, it could be they just haven’t met their Ananias yet.
Close with this thought:
You could be someone’s “Ananias,” the brother or sister who can help someone move into a productive life for Christ. Please never forget that Christ does the saving, but we have been given an important role to play in the fulfillment of God’s will.
Bible Truth Being Taught
When a person really comes to see who Jesus is, they begin to live a new life, and are bound to tell others what they see, even though it may be costly to do so.
To see who Jesus is, to live a new life, and to tell others about Christ no matter what the personal cost.