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 read in 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.

Saul on Road to Damascus

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Summary of Acts 9:1-19a:

Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way, trying to imprison them or kill them.  As Saul neared Damascus, a light from haven flashed around him and he heard a voice (Jesus), asking why does he persecute him?  Jesus tells Saul to go to the city and he will be told what to do.

The others with him did not see anyone.  They lead Saul to Damascus because Saul had been blinded by the light.  In Damascus, the Lord called a disciple named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that Saul may see again.

Ananias tells the Lord that Saul is a bad man (as if God didn’t know) and he might be arrested if he goes.  The Lord explains his purpose for Saul to Ananias, saying Saul is His chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.

So Ananias complies, healing Saul and filling him with the Holy Spirit.  Saul was baptized and regained his strength.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

9) Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way. There are different types of persecution, including social persecution and emotional. You can be ostracized when you don’t conform.

10) Personal Question. My answer: It’s okay to question the Lord, but you still go and do it anyways.

11) Part personal Question. My answer: Saul was completely transformed and probably in shock since he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days, now about to become one the greatest disciples for Christ. Jesus has made all the difference in allowing me to do what I do, how I do it, and blessing me with a great life.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Last go-around, we read this along with Acts 22:1-16; 26:9-19

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

The Conversion of Saul — One of the Most Important Passages in the Entire Bible

We last saw Saul in Acts 8:3, where it says that he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Here he continued and expanded this work to the city of Damascus (about 130 miles or 210 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem; a six-day journey altogether).

Saul hated the disciples of the Lord. He wasn’t seeking Jesus when Jesus sought him. We might say that Saul was decided against Jesus when Jesus decided for Saul.

Saul did his persecuting work under the direct approval of the highest religious authorities. He asked and received letters from the high priest authorizing his mission.

The high priest was Caiaphas. In December 1990 an ossuary (something like a burial urn; essentially a bone box) was discovered in Jerusalem. The ossuary was inscribed with the name of this Caiaphas and positively dated to this period. Inside were discovered some of the remains of a 60-year-old man, whom many researchers believe was this same Caiaphas. If true, these are the first physical remains (such as bones or ashes) of a specific person mentioned in the New Testament.

The Way

Here, Christianity is referred to as the Way. This seems to be the earliest name for the Christian movement, and a fitting one – used five times in Acts.

  • The name the Way means that Christianity is more than a belief or a set of opinions or doctrines. Following Jesus is a way of living as well as believing.
  • It is significant to see that there was a Christian community large enough in Damascus for Saul to be concerned about. Christianity – the Way – was spreading everywhere.
  • map of road to damascus paul

God on the Road to Damascus

God does not normally confront sinners with a heavenly light and an audible voice from heaven. Yet Paul said that this light was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13).

Saul, Saul: When God repeats a name twice, it is to display deep emotion, but not necessarily anger (as in the Martha, Martha of Luke 10:41 and the Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37).

As the heavenly light overwhelmed him, Saul was confronted by the true nature of his crime: He persecuted God, not man.

  • Saul thought that he was serving God in viciously attacking Christians, but he discovered that he was fighting God.
  • This has been sadly true through history. Often those who are convinced they are doing God a favor do much of the worst persecution and torture ever practiced.

In all probability, Saul heard Jesus teach in Jerusalem; and as a likely member of the Sanhedrin, Saul sat in judgment of Jesus in the trial before His crucifixion.

“Unless Saul was hallucinating, the appearance of Jesus proved that Jesus was alive and that Jesus was God.” (Boice)

Two Most Important Questions to Ask God

  1. Who are You, Lord? We must ask this question with a humble heart, and ask it to God. Jesus showed us exactly who God is, and He can answer this question. Paul spent the rest of his life wanting to know more completely the answer to this question (Philippians 3:10).
  2. What do You want me to do? Few dare to really ask God this question, but when we ask it, we must ask it with submission and determined obedience.

In Acts 9, we are only given the briefest account of what happened during this time. Paul says more about this experience in Acts 22:3-11Acts 26:12-181 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. Barnabas said more about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:27 and from what Ananias said about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:17.

Jesus only told Saul what to do right at that moment.

  • God often directs us one step at a time instead of laying out the details of the grand plan all at once.
  • So many of us want to plan out our entire lives. but that is not how God operates.

In the three days of blindness and deprivation, Saul was dying to himself. It would only be after the three days of dying that he would receive resurrection life from Jesus.

unknown road we all must travel atozmomm.com

Ananias and God

Ananias was an ordinary man – not an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist, an elder, or a deacon. Yet God used him because he was an ordinary man.

God spoke to Ananias in a completely different way than He spoke to Saul. Saul had a bold, almost violent confrontation from God, but Ananias heard the voice of God sweetly in a vision, where God called and Ananias obediently responded. God speaks to us differently too, just as we need to hear Him.

God considered Saul His chosen vessel long before there appeared anything worthy in Saul to choose. God knew what He could make of Saul, even when Saul or Ananias didn’t know.

So often we underestimate ourselves when God doesn’t.

bsf acts lesson 1 day 2

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 1, Day 2: Acts 1:1-4, Luke 24:13-49

Summary of Acts 1:1-4:

Luke (the writer of Acts) tells Theophilus that he previously wrote (in the book of Luke) about Jesus’s actions and teachings up to the day he ascended to Heaven after instructing the apostles through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus gave proofs to the apostles that he was alive after he had been crucified, and Jesus continued to appear before them for 40 days, speaking about God’s kingdom.  On one occasion, Jesus instructed the apostles to not leave Jerusalem until they received the gift God has promised.

Summary of Luke 24:13-49:

Two men were walking along the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to them after he was crucified. The men did not recognize Jesus who then told Jesus about his own death. Jesus responded by admonishes them for not believing the prophets when they spoke of Jesus’s death.  Jesus then explains the scriptures (the OT) to them concerning himself (basically, how his life, death, and resurrection crowned centuries of God’s work). Jesus stayed with them, broke bread with them, and he was recognized. However, he disappeared after that. They told the 11 disciples all that had happened.

Jesus then appears before the disciples in Jerusalem. The apostles are frightened and Jesus asks why they don’t believe it’s him.  “Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I…” and Jesus showed his hands and feet where he had been pierced on the cross.  He ate with them and reiterated how every prophecy must be fulfilled from the Old Testament.  Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand how he must suffer, die, and rise again; forgiveness of sins will be preached.  But first, Jesus will send them what God has promised so they must remain in Jerusalem until they have been clothed with power from on high.

Jesus led them to Bethany where he blessed the disciples and arose into Heaven.  The disciples worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem where they remained, praising God at His temple.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 1, Day 2: Acts 1:1-4, Luke 24:13-49

3) Personally. Jesus appears to his disciples and other believers and continues to teach them and put the pieces of his death together for them.

4) Part personal Question. My answer: Jesus still needed to teach his disciples, and he needed to have proof, or witnesses, that he was risen in the form of testimony. He also needed to explain about the Holy Spirit. I’d want to know when the Second Coming was, and I’d ask about everything else I don’ know!

5) Personal Question. My answer: It’s helpful to know that this life and troubles are temporary, that there is a better place awaiting — a place with God, Jesus, and no evil in the world.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 1, Day 2: Acts 1:1-4, Luke 24:13-49

Acts opens fairly simply with Luke casually talking about Jesus hanging out with the disciples after his resurrection. No big deal.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 1, Day 2: Acts 1:1-4, Luke 24:13-49

Yay! First Lesson of the Study of Acts and Letters of the Apostles. So exciting!

Acts 1:1-4:

Luke, the writer of Acts, was a physician (Colossians 4:14), a Gentile, and a devoted follower of Paul (from the text of Acts, and Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24, and 2 Timothy 4:11). That’s about all we know about him.

Theophilus (Greek meaning lover of God) is the person to whom Luke is writing the books of Acts (and the book of Luke previously) to. He could have been a Christian or a Roman official. We don’t know anything else about him, although he may have held office since Luke calls him “most excellent.”

One theory has Acts as a defense book on Paul’s behalf since Luke was with Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17) and went to Rome with him (Acts 27:1).

Fun Fact:  “Ancient books were generally written on papyrus scrolls. It was practical to have a scroll about thirty-five feet in length. When it got any longer it got too bulky to carry around. This physical limitation has determined the length of many books of the Bible.” (Boice) Luke used two scrolls to tell his story, and one we call “The Gospel of Luke” and the other we call “The Book of Acts.”

Acts spans a period of about 30 years, and takes us up to about A.D. 60 or 61, with Paul in Rome waiting to appear before Caesar Nero. This same Nero began his infamous persecutions of Christians in A.D. 64.

Note how Jesus rose and spoke to the disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit.  If the glorified, resurrected Jesus needed and relied on the Holy Spirit, so should we. This will be an on-going theme throughout Acts that we need the Holy Spirit to operate as well.

The Power of the Father (or Holy Spirit) is:

  • Reliable
  • Belongs to all
  • Received by faith
  • Requires patience

Luke 24:13-49:

These 2 anonymous disciples were sad that Jesus had not redeemed Israel. Jesus appeared to set them right. They indeed were redeemed! Jesus teaches them:

  • He had to suffer
  • The cross was necessary
  • The Messiah Moses predicted

God’s word can burn on your heart like it burned on theirs.

Jesus had to ascend to heaven so that confidence would be put in the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit, not in the geographical presence of Jesus.