The Life of Apostle Paul
Bible Passage: Acts 9:1-31; 11:19-26
The human need this passage meets is: the desire to be changed into the person Jesus wants you to be.
Learning Goals: By the end of this session, each learner should be able to. . .
(Know) Identify how Jesus changed Saul of Tarsus from a persecutor into an apostle.
(Feel) Have confidence in Jesus' power to change you into an entirely different person.
(Do) Develop a receptive heart so that Jesus can teach you.
I want each of you to share at your tables your answer to this question:
In the last ten years, how have you, as a person, most significantly changed? Let's agree to eliminate answers that include hair loss or weight gain!
(After a couple of minutes, continue with this story.)
As followers of Jesus, do you expect to change? I sincerely hope so. Jesus is in the "change business." He died on the cross to change us, and He continues, by His spirit to change us.
The essence of the word "conversion" means to change into something different. There is no greater example of the Lord's power to convert a person into someone different than in the story of the life of Apostle Paul, the previous arch-enemy of the early church.
Today I want us to see two obvious and significant ways that Jesus changed Saul into another person. Jesus is the same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever. One thing we learn from the life of Apostle Paul is that he can change anybody.
Bible Input and Life Application
Let's read Acts 9:1-21
The first thing we learn from the life of Apostle Paul is that if Jesus is going to change us into different people, He must first deal with --
As in the life of Apostle Paul, Jesus changes your direction.
Before Saul became a Christian, the Bible leaves no doubt as to the direction and agenda of his life.
Acts 9:2 - He was going to Damascus to arrest any follower of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners.
Acts 9:13 - In the words of Ananias - I have heard many reports about all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
Acts 9:14 - Also, from Ananias - He has come here to arrest all who call on our name.
Acts 22:4 - In Paul's words - I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women.
Acts 26:11 - Also, from Paul - In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
Destroying the church was the direction of Saul's life - he was obsessed with it, and ironically he thought he was doing a service to God in opposing Christianity.
So, to stop Saul, and change his direction, Jesus confronted him personally on the road to Damascus. We read that in verse 3.
Help me paint a clear picture of Saul of Tarsus - What was he like?
desired to live right
desired to defend God.
Let's read his words in Philippians 3:5 - I was circumcised on the eight day of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But even though Saul was a religious person, he was an unbelieving person, because he thought Jesus was an imposter.
I Timothy 1:13 - Even though I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
Saul's conversion was based on a personal encounter with Jesus Himself.
Acts 9:5 "Who are you Lord?" Saul asked, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." He replied.
At that moment, Saul realized that Jesus was not the dead leader of a radical new movement, but the living Son of God.
Who do you personally know who would never (in your opinion) become a follower of Jesus? Saul would have been in this category.
However, in the course of three days, Saul was changed from a persecutor to a pray-er to a preacher.
Acts 9:20 - At once he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God. 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?"
Jesus changed the direction of the life of Apostle Paul.
Jesus had an agenda for Saul's future that was much deeper than just reading his Bible and joining the church.
Acts 9:15 - This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles.
Our disposition needs to be -- Lord, if you have a new direction for my life, I'm open, available, and willing.
There's another aspect of our lives Jesus changes
Let's read Acts 9:22-31 and 11:19-26.
The second thing Jesus did in the life of Apostle Paul - and will do in our lives is:
Teach us dependence
Once Jesus has you going in the right direction, He teaches you to depend on Him and not yourself.
How is this seen in the life of Apostle Paul?
Most Bible scholars believe that between Acts 9:21 and 9:22 there is a break of perhaps 3 years that we learn about in Galatians 1.
Galatians 1:16 - When God called me and revealed his Son to me I did not consult any man, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem.
In Arabia Jesus taught Saul to depend upon God's grace, not his good works.
I Timothy 1:4 - the grace of the Lord was poured out on me abundantly. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.
Until Saul met Jesus he was self-righeous, not needing God's grace. In Arabia, he realized that everyone is a sinner, saved by grace.
In Damascus Jesus taught Saul to depend upon God's power, not his own strength or dedication.
II Corinthians 11:30 - If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. In Damascus, the governor had the city guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket through a window and slipped through his hands.
In Jerusalem Jesus taught Saul to depend upon God's wisdom, not his own qualifications.
Acts 22:18 - "Quick!" he said to me. "Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me." "Lord," I replied, "these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. . . Then the Lord said to me, "Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles."
Saul thought he was the perfect person to witness for Jesus in Jerusalem - he knew the Jewish point of view. Yet, God knew best.
In Antioch Jesus taught Saul to depend on God's timing
When the time was right, Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul.
Acts 11:25 - Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
It was a different Saul who came to Antioch with Barnabas. What made the difference?
Saul had learned to depend on God's timing. Saul didn't initiate this ministry, God did. God brought him there through Barnabas.
Later, Paul revealed the secret he had learned--
II Corinthians 3:5 - Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God
II Corinthians 4:7 - We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Over perhaps 10-12 years Jesus taught Saul to depend upon God.
As in the life of Apostle Paul, Jesus wants to change you - to change your direction and to teach you dependence.
Discussion Questions on the Life of Apostle Paul:
1. In the life of Apostle Paul what did God teach him?
2. We learn from the life of Apostle Paul that Paul at first relied on his own strength. What does learning to depend on God mean?
3. Learning to depend on God's grace, God's power, God's wisdom, and God's timing takes time. Which of the four has Jesus been teaching you lately?
4. What is the most amazing thing to you about the life of Apostle Paul?
Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com
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