Our study today is about a truly life-changing experience in the life of the Apostle Paul. “Life-changing” experiences occur in the life of every individual. Sometimes it is the sudden death of a loved one. Sometimes it is a carefully planned decision. Sometimes it is a decision we make without realizing the far reaching consequences it will have in our life. The decision the Apostle Paul made was after a supernatural encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
Making a decision to accept or reject Jesus as our Lord always has far reaching consequences. They are not always as dramatic as they were in Paul’s life. In my case I accepted Jesus as a young boy so the difference I experienced was a gradual change. All Christians have a testimony to share and we should be ready and willing to share it when the opportunity presents itself.
Last week we left Paul as he was getting back on the ship at Miletus headed ultimately for Jerusalem. At every town they came to, the disciples warned Paul against going to Jerusalem. But Paul was determined to go. Read Acts 21:13.
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he met with James and the elders in the church. They too were concerned about what would happen to Paul.
(Tell about the plan to have Paul purify himself so he could enter the Temple along with four other men. Then some Jews from Asia saw him and stirred up the people against Paul, accusing him of taking a Gentile into the Temple. Paul had to be rescued by the Roman guards but asked to address the mob and was granted permission to do so.) Read Acts 21:40-22:2.
Former Life! Read Acts 22:3-5
1. How would you describe Paul’s background as a Jew?
2. What was Paul’s response initially to the followers of the Way?
3. Why was it important that Paul relate his background to his listeners? (Just as we have pointed out in the past, Paul started where his listeners were and tried to take them to understand his commitment to Christ!)
Paul’s background provided him with an entry point to share his story. Perhaps there were people in the crowd who knew him when he was persecuting Christians and wondered what led to the change in his life.
4. Why would it be important to clearly contrast your life before and after your commitment to Christ as you tell your life story?
Paul boldly shared his experience in the hope that at least some would believe.
Life-Changing Encounter! Read Acts 22:6-8
1. How would you contrast Paul’s experience here with that of others who were confronted with having to accept or reject Christ? (Each person’s encounter with the living Christ is unique to that person. Jesus meets us where we are!)
2. How does Paul’s encounter with Christ inspire hope that the Lord can save anyone—even those who strongly oppose Him? (Despite Paul’s opposition to Christ and His followers, the Lord was willing to save Paul. Paul’s testimony includes how he came to know Christ and serve Him.)
3. I have heard many theologians and preachers make the statement that Paul was perhaps the greatest Christian who has ever lived! Why do you think that may be true? (Paul was as fervent a Christian as he was a persecutor of Christians.)
Paul was led into the city and a man named Ananias, a devout man of God was led by the Holy Spirit to go to Paul and tell him what to do next.
Read Acts 22:14-16
4. What was Paul’s first step of obedience? (To be baptized. Some have taken this one verse and built their entire theology around the wording here. Paul was not saved by baptism but by calling on the name of Jesus to save him!)
5. How can your story encourage fellow believers? (Mine can help some believers understand that we do not have to have a supernatural experience like Paul to really encounter Jesus!)
Sharing the gospel with unbelievers and encouraging new believers to identify with Christ and His people in baptism are the first steps of the Christian journey.
“Baptism in Jesus’ name differed in meaning from the baptism practiced by John the Baptist. John’s baptism focused on repentance in anticipation of the coming Messiah. Baptism in Jesus’ name testifies to the Messiah’s completed work. Jesus’ death and resurrection had made possible the ultimate cleansing from unrighteousness. By faith, the believer’s sins are washed away. Baptism is the first step of obedience in confessing one’s faith in Christ.”—Explore the Bible Commentary Acts 13-28 pg 116.
New Purpose! Read Acts 22:17-21
Read Matthew 28:18-20
1. How was Paul’s new life purpose tied to Jesus’ commission recorded in Matthew 28:18-20?
2. How does salvation in Christ change one’s life purpose? (Paul had a new purpose but his vocation was tent maker.)
My vocation may be a soldier but my life purpose is to glorify God by sharing Him with everyone I encounter!
3. Does the specific purpose given to each believer always relate to the commission Jesus gave in Matthew 28?
4. How might a person’s past (the one sharing and the one being shared with) be perceived as an obstacle when it comes to accepting Christ?
5. What are the strongest motivators for sharing the gospel with others? (When we receive new life in Christ, we begin a journey of being on mission with the Lord. I would suggest that our strongest motivators would be love for Christ and people around us; then obedience to Christ’s commands.)
As we faithfully follow Him, the Lord will guide our steps to share the gospel with people who are receptive to the message.
Paul felt like the Jews in Jerusalem would see the change in his life and that he would be the perfect one to reach the Jews, but God had different plans.
Rejection! Read Acts 22:22
1. Are you surprised at the response of the crowd?
2. What caused the Jews to reject Paul’s testimony? (Their prejudice against the Gentiles was too strong!)
Their own personal bias blinded them from seeing the full extent of God’s grace!
After listening to Paul’s testimony, the crowd turned against him. When we share the gospel with others, it is possible that they may reject us because they are not willing to accept the message.
3. What traits, skills, or experiences does our group have that they can use to reach people for Christ? (It is important to build trusting relationships with lost people so that we “earn” the right to share the gospel with them.)
We need to keep an open mind about the reach of the gospel, including the salvation of people we would not expect to come to Christ.
4. Is there any person or group of persons that you view as unreachable by the gospel? (This calls for some real soul searching. On the surface we would all say “no”, but if we look deep enough we may discover there actually are some we think unreachable.)
The Jews of Jerusalem failed to see themselves in need of a change, but Paul continued to share that God’s salvation was for all people!
Summarize and Challenge!
Paul emphasized his life before he met Christ, his life-changing encounter, and his new purpose.
1. What did Paul’s testimony reveal about the change that took place in his life? (There was a dramatic change!)
2. Are all conversions as dramatic as Paul’s? (Paul’s conversion experience is very rare!)
(Have a volunteer prearranged and ready to share their testimony. Only about 3-5 minutes.)
Every Christian has a testimony! If you haven’t done it already, write your testimony out and be prepared to share it when the opportunity presents itself. If you get ready, God will give you opportunity to share it.