Guests: Brant Berglin and Carl Cosaert
Relevant Verses: Acts 9, 26:9-11
Leading Question: Saul of Tarsus, who becomes known as Paul, is converted while on a mission to persecute believers in Jesus. But who was Saul? What do we know about his life before his conversion experience? And was it really a conversion?
1. In Acts 26:9-11, Saul describes himself prior to his experience with Jesus on the Damascus road.
What do we learn about him from this testimony? Based on the many letters that he wrote, what other relevant insights do we gain about this man? (The lesson quarterly provides some helpful information, and many other resources are readily available in print or online.)
According to Saul (who will be referred to as Paul from this point forward), his persecution of believers was spurred on by sincere conviction and religious zeal. Is religious zeal a dangerous thing? If we are convinced we are righteous and theologically correct, do we become dangerous? How can we be both confident in our beliefs and yet open to God’s correction and instruction?
2. Carefully read Acts 9.
Why did God call Paul to go as a missionary to the Gentiles? Why not one of the other disciples who had actually been with Jesus during his earthly ministry? Was there something about Paul’s background that better equipped him for ministry to Gentiles?
Paul persecuted the Lord’s disciples. When Jesus appeared to Paul, he said, “Why do you persecute me?” Apparently, Jesus identifies himself with his disciples. How do you suppose Jesus feels today when we criticize fellow believers?
What are the parts of Paul’s conversion story are especially meaningful to you?
Was the Damascus road experience really a conversion? Was Paul a believer in God beforehand? What was he converted from?
How should Paul’s conversion serve as a model for conversion in general? Are most conversions dramatic and sudden, or are they more subtle and gradual?
After coming to faith in Jesus, Paul immediately began to share his faith in Damascus and continued to do so when he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 9:19-31). How successful were these early efforts? The text suggests that Paul may have been a bit strident. Is it possible for a person to be too zealous for Jesus? Can zeal actually close doors that would otherwise be opened?
Does witnessing for Jesus always involve suffering?