Acts 9

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Summary of Acts 9:19b-30

Saul spent several days with disciples in Damascus. He began to preach about Jesus and all those who heard him were confused since Saul was known as a hater and persecutor of Christians.  So the Jews conspired to kill Saul but he slipped away in the dead of night.

When he did return to Jerusalem (after 3 years), he endeavored to join up with the disciples but they were afraid of him still.  It took Barnabas (an ordinary man) to take Saul and vouch for him, saying how he has preached so fearlessly in Jesus’s name, before he was accepted.  Saul spoke in Jerusalem for Jesus and with the Grecian Jews who again tried to kill him for his beliefs.  So he was sent off to Tarsus for his safety.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

12a) After Saul’s conversion, he started preaching the word, angering the Jews (the non-believers) living in Damascus. They just didn’t believe a man so full of hatred could do an about-face. So after many days, they conspired to kill him.

b) The disciples were afraid of Saul, not believing that he was really a disciple. Barnabas took Saul to the disciples and vouched for him. Only then was Saul allowed to stay. Still the people wanted to kill him.

13) Part personal Question. My answer: They in essence his Paul. They too him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus. We can protect fellow believers in the same way, sheltering them from people and other things when they need it the most. The Galatians passage BSF had us readin 2011 explains this further (Galatians 1:11-24).  Saul stayed with Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1:18).  He saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19).  He fell into a trance while praying and the Lord warned him to leave Jerusalem immediately because his testimony would not be accepted (Acts 22:17-18).

14) To increase their faith and strengthen them.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Last go-around, we read this passage along with Galatians 1:11-24. The extra readings we did back then just gives us a fuller picture of what actually happened. Too bad most of these have been omitted thus far in an effort to save people time when studying God’s word.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Lessons From Saul’s Conversion

  • At its core, salvation is something God does in us. What we do is only a response to His work in us.
  • God finds some who, by all appearance, are not looking for Him at all. Seeing how God reached Saul encourages us to believe that God can reach the people in our life that we think are very far from Him. We often give up on some people and think they will never come to Jesus; but the example of Saul shows God can reach anyone.
  • God looks for people to cooperate in the conversion of others, even when they are not really necessary, except as a demonstration of the importance of the family of God.
  • It isn’t enough that we be broken before God, though that is necessary. God wants to only use brokenness as a prelude to filling.

At the Jewish synagogue, the custom was that any able Jewish man could speak from the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.

To be called the “son of” something meant in Jesus’ time that you were totally identified with that thing or person, and their identity was your identity. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God, and when others called Him that, it was understood as a clear claim to His deity.

In fact, on two occasions when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was accused of blasphemy, of calling Himself God (John 5:17-18Matthew 26:63-65). Everybody knew what Jesus meant in calling Himself Son of God, and everyone knew what Saul meant when he preached that Jesus is the Son of God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When you are newly converted, you still understand the way people who don’t yet know Jesus think.

timeline acts 9

Saul, an expert in the Old Testament, could easily see how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In Galatians 1:13-18, Paul explained more about what happened during these many days. He described how he went to Arabia for a period of time, and then returned to Damascus. After his return to Damascus, he went to Jerusalem. Paul spent a total of three years in Damascus and Arabia (Galatians 1:18); truly these were many days.

In 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul refered to this incident and mentions it happened under Aretas the king. This means that this escape from Damascus happened between A.D. 37 and 39. So, taking into account the three years mentioned in Galatians 1:18, and that this incident happened at the end of those three years, we can surmise that Paul was converted sometime between A.D. 34 and 36.

“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t quite escape. Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him. He did indeed have to suffer many things for Jesus’ sake.” (Boice)

Paul made a point of the limited nature of his time with the apostles in Jerusalem to show clearly that he did not receive his gospel from the other apostles. Though he was no doubt blessed and benefited from that time, he received his message by direct revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Somewhere between 8 and 12 years passed in the life of Saul before he again entered into prominent ministry, being sent out as a missionary from the church at Antioch.

map ancient tarsus paul's journey

Tarsus

Tarsus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, with an excellent harbor and a strategic placement at trade routes. It was especially known as an university city, being one of the three great educational cities of the Mediterranean world. “Strabo speaks of the Tarsian university as even surpassing, in some respects, those of Athens and Alexandria (Geography 14.5.13). It was especially important as a center of Stoic philosophy” (Williams)

The Book of Acts tells us nothing about the planting of churches in Galilee. We don’t know who started these churches, how they did it, or all the great works of God which took place in these young churches. This reminds us that Acts is only a partial history of God’s work during this period.

At the end of Acts 9:31, we reach an important historical crossroads in Acts and the events of the Roman Empire. In A.D. 37, Caiaphas was replaced as high priest, first by Jonathan, then by Theophilus. In the same year, Caligula succeeded Tiberius as Roman Emperor. Caligula was bitterly hostile against the Jews and was assassinated four years later.

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Acts 8

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Summary of Acts 8:1-8:

On the day Stephen was executed, a persecution against the church began so all the believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen was buried, and Saul began a relentless drive to destroy the church.  Philip went to Samaria and began to preach the word there.  Great joy was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

3) The opportunity to spread the Gospel. Philip, a Jew, would normally never have been near Samarians who were looked down upon for racial and religious reasons. Here, all are included in the Good News.

4) Because all Jews looked down upon the Samaritans for racial and religious reasons. Samaria used to be Jewish lands until the Assyrians resettled foreigners there when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. The Samarians did not worship God, or if they did, they intermixed their religions with the Jewish religion. Hence, they were seen as not equals in the eyes of the Jewish people.

5a) Personal Question. My answer: All things are possible with God, and the Gospel will reach all corners of the world and will breach every barrier of the heart.

b) Personal Question. My answer: Same. People are the same no matter where you go in the world. God will reach those whom He has chosen to believe, and we can help by telling others about Him.  Not let our prejudices stand in our way of telling those who otherwise would have no opportunity to hear about Jesus about him (such as homeless, poor, and minority sects).  Basically, speak in your community where God plants you.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

BSF last go around had this lesson as Lesson 4, Day 2. We were also required to read John 4:6-42 with Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. You definitely need to read the 2 Kings passage and Jesus and the Samaritan to get the most out of this lesson.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Persecution Begins

In Philippians 3:6, Paul said of his life before Jesus that he was so zealous in his religious faith that he persecuted the church. Saul’s supervision of the execution of Stephen was just one example of this persecution.

Consenting or approval describes Saul’s attitude, but the English translation probably isn’t strong enough. The idea behind the ancient Greek word suneudokeo is “to approve, to be pleased with.” Some people are reluctant persecutors, but Saul wasn’t one of these; he took pleasure in attacking Christians.

Saul of Tarsus – whom most of us know by his Roman name, Paul – later came to deeply regret this persecution of the church. He later wrote, For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Acts 26:11 described what perhaps Paul regretted most: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Paul may have suffered many sleepless nights thinking about those whom he compelled…to blaspheme.

Stephen’s death was only the beginning. The floodgates of persecution were now open against the Christians. Saul was only one of many persecutors of Christians.

Fun Fact: This was the first persecution of the Christians as a whole. Before, the apostles had been arrested and beaten and persecuted; here, every believer was threatened with violence and perhaps death.

The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.

Diaspora

According to Boice, there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for “scattered.” One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus clearly told His followers to look beyond Jerusalem and bring the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. But Jesus’ followers had not done this.

Hence, some scholars believe this is why persecution happened. God can and will use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do.

Since Jewish law prohibited open mourning for someone that had been executed, Luke’s record suggests that these devout men publicly repented of Stephen’s murder.

Destroy or wreck havoc is an ancient Greek word that could refer to an army destroying a city or a wild animal tearing at its meat. Saul viciously attacked Christians, including women.

The end result was for the glory of God, because the persecution simply served to spread the message. These “accidental missionaries” talked about Jesus wherever they went.

Most people don’t come to Jesus through a professional preacher or an evangelist; they come to Jesus through people just like us.

Philip

Like Stephen, he was one of the men chosen to serve the church family in practical ways when the dispute regarding Hellenist widows arose (Acts 6:5). He was one of those forced to flee persecution (Acts 8:1), ending up in Samaria.

File:Kingdoms of Israel and Judah map 830.svgSamaria

600 years before this, the Assyrians conquered this area of northern Israel and deported all the wealthy and middle-class Jews from the area. Then they moved in a pagan population from afar. These pagans intermarried with the lowest classes of remaining Jews in northern Israel, and from these people came the Samaritans.

The Jews of that day hated the Samaritans. They considered them compromising half-breeds who corrupted the worship of the true God.

James and John (and the other disciples as well) once thought that the Samaritans were only good for being burned by God’s judgment (Luke 9:51-56).

Jesus’ experience with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and His story about the kindness of a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) illustrate the natural tension between the Jews and Samaritans of that time.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF THE SAMARITANS

Jesus himself had visited Samaria in his teachings as we see from the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In John 4:39-42 we also see how many Samaritans were converted from Jesus’ teachings. He also told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  the Samaritans still worshipped the One, True God along with other gods so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them of the power and fortitude of the One, True God.  Also, the Jews remaining after the deportation intermarried the foreigners so they probably kept a portion of their heritage and worship culture intact.

So when Philip showed up and started performing miracles, the stage was set for him to reap the rewards from Jesus’ work.

This can be applied throughout the Bible and throughout time into today.  We reap what others have sown.  The Old Testament prepared the people of the New Testament to be saved.  Every small step has been planned by God for His purposes and we (and everyone after us) reap the benefits of this as we continue to plant seeds for the next generation.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow…  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to his labor.”

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of despising one another (please see link in concluding notes). The Jews thought them the lowest of the low and unworthy to know the Good News.  James and John had once asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), which speaks to how little the Samaritans were thought of by the Jews.  I think the Samaritans would have been the last people on Earth the Jews would have converted.  So, God in His infinite wisdom made them because as we all know they were special in His eyes too.

Ancient Samaria and Central Israel

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.

Fun Fact:  My study Bible points out the fact that the conversion of the Samaritans is the first time non-Jews followed Jesus.  Awesome fact!