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!