Here are my lesson notes from my Junior Church Lesson for April 21.
Why do I post these …. so I don’t lose them.
8 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
The stoning of Stephen stunned the thousands of believers in Jerusalem, and now word spread throughout the city that the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders, was planning to stamp out belief in Jesus before it could get any stronger. A great wave of new persecution began sweeping the city, and nearly all the believers, except the apostles, left Jerusalem and moved out into Judea and Samaria. Whole families left as quickly as they could. Some went north toward Syria, others south toward Egypt and other faraway places.
Why did God allow this terrible persecution and suffering to come upon the believers? Couldn't He have stopped it?
Of course, He could. But sometimes God permits hard and difficult experiences to come to His people in order to get them to carry out His plan and purposes.
Jesus had said, "You will be mv witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and unto Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Up to this time, the gospel had only gone to the city of Jerusalem; the apostles and other believers had been very slow to carry the gospel beyond Jerusalem. God had been patient with His servants.
Many Jews had been brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, but so far no one had carried the message further.
Therefore God allowed the persecution to force His people to get on with His great commission—to get this good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
God often shakes us out of our comfort, laziness, and selfishness in order to get us to give His message to the mam- people who have never heard how to be saved. God doesn't want all of us to settle down here where people can easily hear the gospel.
The believers who fled Jerusalem and were scattered abroad "went everywhere preaching the Word." Thus people in other countries were beginning to hear the gospel.
So they were really the first missionaries.
Those who sought to crush the work that Jesus had begun in the hearts and lives of men saw it growing and spreading everywhere. The more they tried to kill faith in Christ, the bigger and stronger it became.
Our lesson today is about Saul. We first hear about him at the scene of Stephen's death.
Saul was a proud Jewish leader and he would have been happy to see all the Christians destroyed. He was sure they were wrong. He hated the name of Jesus and he approved of the stoning of Stephen. He grew up in Tarsus and had been taught to strictly follow the traditions of the Pharisees.
Saul had watched the dying Stephen as his face shined as the face of an angel, and he was shocked to hear Stephen pray for God to bless his murderers.
Of all the enemies of Christianity, Saul was the worst. Everywhere he went, he sought to destroy the church.
He would even go into people’s homes and drag out the men and women who believed in Christ.
Saul left Jerusalem and he was on his way to track down some of the believers who had left the city for other parts of the country,
Saul went to the High Priest in Jerusalem and asked for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found anyone in Damascus who belonged to the Way (a name given to the early group of believers), whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners and bring them back to Jerusalem and to their death.
With his mind full of plans for wiping out the believers, Saul started on his long journey to Damascus, leading a small group of men that would assist him in his project.
The journey was long and lonely. Saul had plenty of time to think all the things he had done the past couple of months. All the people he had put into jail for believing in Jesus. He remembered the day he watched Stephen die.
It was about high noon that day as they traveled. Everybody was hot, tired, and thirsty, yet they pressed on.
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
What do you think Saul was thinking?
Why did he call him Lord?
Do you think he knew at once who this was?
After all how could Jesus be here on the road to Damascus?
Could this be the very person whom Stephen and the other believers declared had risen from the dead?
Is He indeed the King of Glory as they claimed?
Then and there, at that moment, the truth broke upon his heart, and Saul came to understand the great truth that Jesus is the Christ.
Saul knew at once that this was no dream. He had seen the risen, glorified Christ, Who had spoken to him and had called him by name.
Suddenly all the hatred within Saul's heart ended. Saul was converted to Jesus Christ right then and there on the road to Damascus; he accepted Christ as his Savior, and Saul tremblingly called Jesus "Lord."
Acts 9:6 - 8
6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
Think about what the other men must have thought. They didn’t see anything. They heard sound and then Saul fell to the ground and then he was blind.
The others would have been frightened. Do you think any of them thought I wonder why God did this to Saul? Do you think they were thankful that they were not blinded?
Acts 9:9 - 16
9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.
14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Put yourself in Ananias’s shoes for a moment. Saul had a reputation of killing Christians. The last person on the earth he wanted to meet, let alone help, was Saul.
How would you respond if God asked you to help someone who wanted to arrest you and kill you?
How did God describe Saul to Ananias? Chosen instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
Who are the Gentiles?
Acts 9:17 - 25
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him,
24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
Ananias’s fear vanishes and he does what God tells him to do.
He finds Saul and heals him. Scales fall from his eyes and he could see again.
What does Saul do next? Gets baptized
This is a symbol of his new birth in Christ and his desire to be obedient to God. His baptism shows the world that he is now a follower of Christ.
After meeting Jesus, Saul was a new man. His old ways and habits were gone. He would spend the rest of his life preaching about Jesus.
After his baptism, he spent some time with the disciples.
Why did he want/need to spend time with them?
Do you think they immediately accepted him into their group? Why or why not?
Why did the Jews want to kill Saul? He was proof that Jesus was alive and could change people’s hearts and lives. Many Jews were listening to Saul and believing him.
Paul writes this verse to the church at Corinth:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
How does this describe what happened on the road to Damascus?
God uses Saul’s experiences to help him spread the gospel. His witness is more effective because his life was so drastically changed. If God can save Saul, he can save anyone.
1 Timothy 1:12-16
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
So when did Saul become Paul?
For a long time I thought that happened at his conversion. However, I don’t believe this to be true.
It was customary for people to have more than one name. He used his Hebrew name “Saul” in Jewish settings and his Roman name Paul in his Roman environment. His father was a Roman citizen and so that was also Paul’s heritage.
Paul is a fully Romanized name with no Jewish tradition attached to it. He may have changed his name to embrace his new mission as an apostle to the Gentiles. This would allow the Gentiles to more readily accept him.
A new name is also linked to a new life. Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Simon became Peter. Sarai became Sarah. The Bible is full of examples of people whose lives have been transformed then changing their names.
The name change did not happen immediately. But after Acts 13:9, he is exclusively called Paul.