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Lesson 5 - The Conversion of Paul

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Overall Question:  What was so startling about the Apostle Paul's conversion?

Memory Text: Acts 9:15 Easy-to-Read Version But the Lord Jesus said to Ananias, “Go! I have chosen Saul for an important work. I want him to tell other nations, their rulers, and the people of Israel about me.


Sunday – Persecutor of the Church

Acts 26:9-11 Common English Bible 9 “I really thought that I ought to oppose the name of Jesus the Nazarene in every way possible. 10 And that’s exactly what I did in Jerusalem. I locked up many of God’s holy people in prison under the authority of the chief priests. When they were condemned to death, I voted against them. 11 In one synagogue after another—indeed, in all the synagogues—I would often torture them, compelling them to slander God. My rage bordered on the hysterical as I pursued them, even to foreign cities.

Acts 26:11 COMMENTARY BY ALBERT BARNES Nothing could more forcibly express his rage and violence against the Christians. He raged like a madman; he was so indignant that he laid aside all appearance of reason; and with the fury and violence of a maniac, he endeavoured to exterminate them from the earth. None but a madman will persecute men on account of their religious opinions; and all persecutions have been conducted like this, with the violence, and fury, and ungovernable temper of maniacs.

Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 101 – “At the scene of Stephen’s trial and death, Saul had seemed to be imbued with a frenzied zeal. Afterward he was angered by his own secret conviction that Stephen had been honored by God at the very time when he was dishonored [BEGIN P.102] by men. Saul continued to persecute the church of God, hunting them down, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them up to the priests and rulers for imprisonment and death. His zeal in carrying forward this persecution brought terror to the Christians at Jerusalem. The Roman authorities made no special effort to stay the cruel work and secretly aided the Jews in order to conciliate them and to secure their favor.”


Monday – On the Damascus Road

Acts 9:3-9 Good News Translation 3 As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. 6 “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but could not see a thing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he did not eat or drink anything.

Acts 9:3 COMMENTARY BY ALBERT BARNES This was an occasion when, if ever, such an appearance was proper. The design was to convert an infuriated persecutor, and to make him an apostle. To do this, it was necessary that he should see the Lord Jesus, 1Co 9:1,2. The design was, further, to make him an eminent instrument in carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. A signal miracle; a demonstration that he was invested with his appropriate glory, Joh 17:5; a calling up a new witness to the fact of his resurrection, and his solemn investment with glory in the heavens, seemed to be required in thus calling a violent persecutor to be an apostle and friend.

Acts 9:5 Easy-to-Read Version Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice answered, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.

Acts 26:14 God’s Word Translation All of us fell to the ground, and I heard a voice asking me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me? It’s hard for a mortal like you to resist God.’


Tuesday – Ananias’s Visit

Acts 9:10-19 New Century Version 10 There was a follower of Jesus in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision, “Ananias!” Ananias answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to Straight Street. Find the house of Judas,[a] and ask for a man named Saul from the city of Tarsus. He is there now, praying. 12 Saul has seen a vision in which a man named Ananias comes to him and lays his hands on him. Then he is able to see again.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and the terrible things he did to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 Now he has come here to Damascus, and the leading priests have given him the power to arrest everyone who worships you.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! I have chosen Saul for an important work. He must tell about me to those who are not Jews, to kings, and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 So Ananias went to the house of Judas. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus sent me. He is the one you saw on the road on your way here. He sent me so that you can see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something that looked like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again! Then Saul got up and was baptized. 19 After he ate some food, his strength returned. Saul stayed with the followers of Jesus in Damascus for a few days.

Galatians 1:1 New English Translation From Paul, an apostle (not from men, nor by human agency, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead)

Galatians 1:11-12 Modern English Version 11 But I reveal to you, brothers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, neither was I taught it, except by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:12 COMMENTARY FAMILY BIBLE NOTES lest the false teachers in Galatia should disparage Paul's apostleship, as being only of a secondary character, he takes pains to show that he has received the doctrines which he preaches immediately from Christ.

Galatians 1:12 SDA BIBLE COMMENTARY Paul was instructed in the gospel “of [by] Jesus Christ,” not “of [by] men.” This would include the vision on the way to Damascus, and subsequent revelations, of which there seem to have been many. In 2 Cor. 12:7 he speaks of the “abundance of the revelations” he had received. In Gal. 1:17 he implies that much of this instruction occurred during the three years he spent in Arabia. The solitude of the desert would provide an ideal place for revelation and contemplation. The completeness of his instruction is evident from the fact that upon a subsequent visit to Jerusalem the leaders could add nothing to it (ch. 2:6). They recognized the validity of his calling to the ministry and gave him the right hand of fellowship as an apostle (vs. 7–9).


Wednesday – The Beginning of Paul’s Ministry

Galatians 1:17 New Living Translation Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.

Acts 9:20-25 New International Reader’s Version 20 Right away he began to preach in the synagogues. He taught that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Isn’t he the man who caused great trouble in Jerusalem? Didn’t he make trouble for those who worship Jesus? Hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul grew more and more powerful. The Jews living in Damascus couldn’t believe what was happening. Saul proved to them that Jesus is the Messiah. 23 After many days, the Jews had a meeting. They planned to kill Saul. 24 But he learned about their plan. Day and night they watched the city gates closely in order to kill him. 25 But his followers helped him escape by night. They lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Acts 9:23 SDA BIBLE COMMENTARY Paul states that he went to Arabia soon after his conversion, prior to his return to Damascus, and before he went back to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:15–18). After the crisis on the Damascus road, rest and seclusion were desirable, and quiet communion with God was needed to prepare him for the years of strenuous labor that lay ahead.


Thursday – Return to Jerusalem

Acts 9:26-30 Contemporary English Version 26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the followers. But they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe he was a true follower. 27 Then Barnabas helped him by taking him to the apostles. He explained how Saul had seen the Lord and how the Lord had spoken to him. Barnabas also said that when Saul was in Damascus, he had spoken bravely in the name of Jesus.

28 Saul moved about freely with the followers in Jerusalem and told everyone about the Lord. 29 He was always arguing with the Jews who spoke Greek, and so they tried to kill him. 30 But the followers found out about this and took Saul to Caesarea. From there they sent him to the city of Tarsus.

Acts 9:26 NOTES BY WILLIAM BURKITT But why did these men rather seek to kill Paul than Peter, James, or Barnabas?  Answer, Because he was formerly one of their own company, of their own college; a persecutor like themselves, and a persecutor with themselves.  This enraged them; they looked not upon him as an apostle, but as an apostate; one that had revolted from them,. a renegado, and as such they meditate his destruction night and day; insomuch, that it is probable, that never were so many sufferings heaped upon the head of any minster of the gospel throughout the world, as upon St. Paul, (see them reckoned up, 2Co 11:23 &c.) partly through the hatred of the Jews, and partly through the fury of the blind Gentiles; yet the Lord delivered him out of all.  Till his work was done, and his race run, and he had finished the course of his ministry, neither the malice of men, nor the rage of devils, could take him off.

Acts 9:27 SDA BIBLE COMMENTARY Why did Barnabas receive Saul, when the other disciples feared him? The answer may be found in his character, which appears to have been of a kindly, generous nature. Many commentators suggest that Barnabas championed Saul because of previous acquaintance. If this is true, we can see Barnabas, on the strength of his trust in Saul’s sterling character, believing the miracle of his conversion, and gladly recommending him to the apostles. The kindly act also testifies to the influential position held by Barnabas in the church.

Acts 9:30 SDA BIBLE COMMENTARY Cæsarea. Not Caesarea Philippi (at the foot of Mt. Hermon), but the seaport that lay about 64 mi. northwest of Jerusalem. This was a place from which Tarsus could easily be reached either by sea or by the road that ran northward along the coast of Syria.


Friday - Further Thoughts

Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, pp. 112-113 – “His [Paul’s] mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and judgment he had full confidence. The arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right. Not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion. But in the end his education and prejudices, his respect for his former teachers, and his pride of popularity braced him to rebel against the voice of conscience and the grace of God.”

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