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Acts of the Apostles
Lesson 4
The Conversion of Saul

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Reading assignment for this lesson: Acts 8:1 – 9:31

A young man named Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen and expressed his approval of the killing (Acts 7:58, 8:1). Saul was a Jew from the city of Tarsus, a Pharisee who studied under Gamaliel, and a Roman citizen (Acts 21:39, 22:3, 22:28, 23:6, Philippians 3:5). His Roman citizenship, inherited from his father, placed him among the aristocracy. His zeal for the Jewish Law and traditions led him to launch a program of intense persecution against the Way (Acts 9:1-2, 26:9-11, Galatians 1:13, Philippians 3:5-6). (The Jewish sect of Jesus' followers was known as "The Way" at this point in time. The terms "Christian" and "Christianity" were not used until later.)

After Saul's dramatic conversion experience, he spent a number of years in Arabia, Syria and Asia Minor (Galatians 1:17-21, 2:1), but not much is known about that period of his life. Eventually, Saul set out on a series of missionary journeys to evangelize the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the regions of the Roman Empire that are now Turkey and Greece. It was at this time that Saul took the name of Paul (Acts 13:9). Through the stories of these journeys in Acts and Paul's own writings, we know him as the most energetic and successful Christian evangelist and the most influential interpreter of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

1. a) How did the persecution of Christians actually help to spread the Gospel message? (See Acts 8:1-8, 14-17, 26, 40.)
b) When have troubles and difficulties actually resulted in blessings in your own life? (See Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, James 1:2, 1 Peter 1:6.)

2. What did Simon do wrong? (See Acts 8:9-24.)

3. What are the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in someone's life? (See Acts 8:14-17, Galatians 5:19-24.)

4. Saul thought Christianity was a dangerous heresy, and he was trying to eliminate it by jailing Christians. What truth did he learn on the road to Damascus? (See Acts 9:1-9, 9:17, Matthew 25:45, John 15:1-6, Ephesians 5:29-30.)

5. a) Why was the disciple Ananias reluctant to contact Saul in Damascus?
b) In what ways are you hesitant to follow God's commands?

6. Saul's conversion was sudden and dramatic. (See Acts 9:1-9.) For most of us, however, coming into faith is a lifelong process. How would you describe your own spiritual journey?

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