confrontation

Converted - Acts 9:1-25

1.      How would you define the word “convert”? (Cause to change in form, character or function.”)

2.      What is the difference between “reform” and “transform”? (Reform—Make changes in something or someone in order to improve it. Transform—make a through or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.)

When we come to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our lives are transformed, our old nature dies and our new nature is a transformed nature to be like Jesus. Everything is changed! We aren’t simply reforming our old nature; we have a new nature brought about by the indwelling Holy Spirit!

3.      Who would you be most surprised to see accept Jesus as Lord?

In today’s Scripture passage we see Saul’s personal conversion from perhaps the most zealous opponent of Christianity to the most passionate follower of Jesus in the early church. The Christian community was shocked and a little leery of him, and for good reason.

4.      What other dramatic conversions can you recall from Scripture? (Matthew, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus.)

The Confrontation! Read Acts 9:1-6

 

Note that Saul recognized the power of what was happening, but he was unsure about with whom he was speaking.

Damascus lays claim to being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. Christians evidently had fled there when the persecution began in Jerusalem, just as they had to Samaria.

 

1.      How did Jesus literally stop Saul in his tracks? (Saul saw a brilliant light in the middle of the day, a light brighter than the sun. Acts 26:13 Paul testifies before Agrippa.)

2.      How did Saul respond? (With reverence and respect.)

3.      Twice Jesus indicated Saul was persecuting Him. Do you think this shocked Saul?

4.      What does Jesus telling Saul that He was the One he was persecuting indicate about Jesus’ relationship with His followers? (This shows the close personal connection Jesus has with His bride, the church. He takes any persecution as a personal attack against Himself. How do you feel when your children or grandchildren are hurting?)

5.      How would you characterize the confrontation between Jesus and Saul?

6.      Why do you think Jesus chose such a dramatic way to confront Saul? (Notice we don’t find any two encounters with Jesus being the same. He speaks to each of us individually and personally. Jesus knows exactly what we need individually.)

Reflect on your personal encounter with Jesus. Some people may feel that they have to be in a place like Saul, far away from God, before they truly “understand” grace. This can lessen the influence of those who have experienced a godly home built upon biblical principles. Any salvation experience is a testimony of the power of God; all lost people, regardless of circumstance, are in need of salvation. (Maddox Perkins, for example. It takes the same amount of grace for him as it did for Saul.)

 

The Companions! Read Acts 9:7-9

 

1.      Why do you think Jesus appeared to Saul when he was traveling with companions, rather than when he was alone? (Saul’s companions, aware of a sound but not of what was said, led him to Damascus since he was unable to see. It appears the audible voice was intended for Saul alone. Saul’s companions were eyewitnesses to an encounter of some type. The fact that they shared the experience helped to authenticate it historically.)

2.      How was Saul changed by his encounter with God? (There was a certain amount of humility now that didn’t exist before. He had to rely on others to get him to Damascus. In an instant, Saul had changed from a powerful man on his way to arrest others, to a helpless individual who had to be led by his companions.)

 

3.      How do you think his companions might have responded to the change?

Before meeting Jesus, Saul was spiritually blind but physically sighted. Now he was physically blind but spiritually sighted!

 

Read Acts 9:10-14

 

The Commission! Read Acts 9:15-20

 

1.      Do you think you might have been hesitant like Ananias?

2.      Jesus called Saul His “chosen instrument”, what does it mean to be chosen by God as His instrument? (God chose Saul to carry the gospel to gentiles, kings, and Israelites. His commissioning message included suffering. God uses all kinds of people in His kingdom work and does so in different ways. Notice how He used Saul’s traveling companions, Ananias and Saul, himself.)

3.      Is there anyone you know whom you would call a “chosen instrument” for God? (All Christians are God’s “chosen instruments”. Each of us has a specific Spiritual Gift and a mission to complete. Your calling is no less significant than that of Saul’s. His may be more visible to the world but as he was obedient so we are to be obedient to God’s call in our lives.)

4.      Saul’s conversion experience is recounted twice more in the book of Acts. If Saul were to share his testimony with our class, what points do you think he would include?

Not all testimonies are as dramatic as Saul’s, but a dramatic change occurs any time Jesus moves in a life!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Could Saul still have chosen to stubbornly reject Jesus? (Yes! But God knew Saul’s heart and, I believe Saul was doing what he thought was God’s will as he persecuted Christians. When he realized Jesus was God’s Son and had died for the sins of the world Saul had no problem being totally committed to follow Jesus from then on.)

2.      Saul and his traveling companions experienced an unforgettable road trip on the way to Damascus. How can you make sure you’re being God’s messenger as you travel the road of life? (If you’ve accepted Christ as your personal Savior, the next step is to share Jesus with others. All believers can share Jesus with others based on their personal experiences with Him. All testimonies are based on personal experience and all are valid. Think about how your life was before Christ, how you came to Christ, and how you’re continuing to serve Him.)

 

We simply need to proclaim the truth of Acts 4:12—“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people and we must be saved by it.”

 

3.      How is your conversion different from Saul’s conversion?

4.      In what ways was your conversion similar to Saul’s?

 

We are all saved by grace through faith!

 

Pray for someone with whom you can share your own personal testimony this week!

 

 

Courageous - Acts 3:1-4:13

1.      How would you define bravery? (Some synonyms are—courage, daring, dauntlessness, fearlessness, fortitude, gallantry, grit, guts, hardiness, heroism, indomitability, intrepidity, mettle, spirit, spunk, valor.)

2.      Not including people in the Bible, who is the bravest person you know? (For me it is Dr. Robert Jeffress. He is one of the bravest, most outspoken religious leaders of our day. Dr. Fannin also falls into this category.)

3.      What motivates a person to demonstrate bravery? (Love, sense of duty, conviction, concern, selfishness, character—it is just who they are.)

For a Christian it is being willing to take a stand for what is right regardless of what others say, think or do.

4.      When was the last time someone challenged your beliefs or your lifestyle?

5.      How did you respond?

Living for Christ is contrary to the world in many ways. We can expect to be challenged by others who do not accept Jesus as Lord and His teachings.

Taking a stand for Christ requires courage. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to provide the courage we need and the words to say when we are challenged.

We know that Jesus demonstrated unparalleled bravery as He faced His accusers and willingly surrendered His life on the cross. Scripture and history records numerous accounts of brave men and women in both the Old and New Testaments. Today we will examine one example of bravery that involved the early church leaders, Peter and John.

(Consider having some of your members do a Dramatic Reading of Acts 3:1-4:22 from a modern translation to give a full background for the focal passage.)

 

The Challenge! Read Acts 4:1-7

 

1.      What is your typical response to confrontation?

2.      Notice the word “provoked” in verse 2; why were the skeptics provoked, and what exactly does that mean?

3.      What modern-day comparisons could be made to what Peter and John faced?

4.      What role do you think intimidation played in this inquiry?

5.      What might happen in our world today if believers’ words and actions were considered a threat?

There are believers in all parts of the world who are facing persecution at some level for their faith.

Peter and John were taken before the Jewish ruling body—the Sanhedrin. This body consisted of 71 men headed by the High Priest—the same body that condemned Jesus to death. They were officially responsible for interpreting the Scriptures—which is what Peter and John were doing!

            The time between the healing of the lame man and Peter and John’s arrest must have been several hours—long enough for thousands to respond to the gospel message.

Notice the question in verse 7. It is posed in an attempt to trap Peter and John, not to invite honest dialogue. As we will see, Peter and John welcomed the question—“well let me tell you by what power this lame man was healed.”

6.      When have you faced intimidation for following Jesus?

7.      What examples in the news have you heard recently that are an obvious attempt to put Christians “in the hot seat” for their beliefs?

Paul says in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” Regardless of the audience or their attitude, when the Gospel is proclaimed the power of God is unleashed and there is opportunity for someone to come to know Jesus as Savior.

8.      What power is most influential in your life?

 

The Answer! Read Acts 4:8-12

 

1.      Consider Peter’s words, his surroundings and the religious leader’s attitude toward him and John. What are some words you might use to describe Peter’s actions here? (Astounding, courageous, bold, undeterred, articulate, convincing, uncompromising, or fearless.)

Peter’s boldness and eloquence in speaking the truth left little room for argument or accusation. He simply told the truth!

            Remember, Peter was simply a fisherman and unaccustomed to public speaking. Peter didn’t speak in his own power.

2.      What words or phrases in these verses indicate that Peter and John were not intimidated by the Sanhedrin?

3.      What was the substance of Peter’s message?  (Peter connected with his audience by identifying with the Old Testament, referring to Psalm 118:22 in verse 11. When speaking to others about Christ, we should begin with where people are.)

4.      Which phrases in Peter’s defense do you think carried the most weight?

5.      Do you believe that same phrase is as persuasive today as it was in the first century?

 

The Recognition! Read Acts 4:13

 

1.      What did the religious leaders conclude after hearing Peter and John’s response? (The religious leaders recognized that even though His disciples had no rabbinical training, Peter and John’s response was indicative of having spent time with Jesus, the Master Teacher. In three and a half years the Disciples had received their college education and graduated with honors!)

2.      If the religious leaders realized all of this, why did they still not believe? (Their little kingdom of power they had built would crumble. They saw in Peter and John the same threat that they had seen in Jesus. They had killed Jesus, but they had not killed the power of His message. It lives on through believers who proclaim the truth.)

3.      Peter and John’s response evidenced that they had been with Jesus. If we were challenged for our faith, what would our response reveal about those with whom we’ve been? (Being with others influences us in a positive or negative way. We should choose our companions wisely and be a positive influence to others. When people say they can tell someone has been spending time with you is it a positive thing or a negative thing?)

The Sanhedrin ultimately let Peter and John go in order to avoid an uprising and because they had no concrete charges to bring against them.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Of the words we came up with to describe Peter’s actions before the Sanhedrin, how many of those same words could describe our witness and willingness to share Christ with others?

Peter and John were not responsible for the healing of the crippled man, and they did not take credit for it or become prideful in their actions. Christians can certainly count on the Holy Spirit to equip them to speak with boldness and power, but all honor and glory for anything that is accomplished goes to Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s examine our lives in light of this week’s study.

2.      Do we willingly share Jesus Christ when given an opportunity?

3.      Are we depending on the Holy Spirit to equip us with the courage we need to witness?

4.      How can we develop a greater boldness in sharing the Gospel?

 

As we close in prayer let’s ask the Holy Spirit for supernatural courage to proclaim the name of Jesus, for total dependence on Him to accomplish His work, and for opportunities to share Jesus Christ with others.