Introduction: Three weeks ago we witnessed Jesus sharing the gospel
with a Samaritan woman at the well. Two weeks ago, we learned about
Peter’s vision that led him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a
Roman Centurion. Last week, we read the great things Philip did to
bring the gospel to Ethiopia and Samaria. Paul, the man we study this
week and the next, is the early church leader most identified with
bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. Let’s jump into our study of the
Bible and learn more about his amazing story!

  1. The Conversion

    1. Read Acts 9:1-2. When the text says, “still breathing out
      murderous threats,” to what does the “still” refer? (This
      is the stoning of Stephen that we touched upon when we
      studied Philip. Saul approved of Stephen’s death and was
      at the center of the resulting persecution of the early
      church. Acts 7:57-Acts 8:3.)

      1. What does it mean that Saul is going to the
        synagogues in Damascus? (He caused the early
        believers to flee Jerusalem, now he is following them
        to Syria!)

      2. Why should Saul have any police authority over anyone
        who lives in Syria? (This gives us an interesting
        insight about how the early believers were viewed.
        The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem must have claimed
        authority over synagogues outside Israel, even though
        Rome was the dominant power. This suggests the Jews
        considered the new Christians to be a type of

    2. Read Acts 9:3-5. What are you thinking if you are Saul?

    3. Read Acts 9:6-7. What do the witnesses confirm? (This is
      written in an odd way. It seems that the men with Saul saw
      the light and heard the voice of Jesus. However, they did
      not see any person.)

    4. Read Acts 9:8-9. What do you think made Saul blind? (The
      light. Intense lights will blind you for at least a

      1. Why didn’t Saul eat or drink? (Put yourself in his
        place: Jesus is alive and apparently God, and you
        have been attacking His followers. Not a good

    5. Read Acts 9:10-14. Does Ananias think God has not been
      following the news lately? God somehow missed the
      articles in the Jerusalem Post about this guy Saul? (This
      sounds like a great gospel opportunity until Ananias hears
      the name of the man he is visiting. Thankfully, God
      tolerates dumb responses from us.)

    6. Read Acts 9:15-16. Will this instruction make Ananias feel
      better? (God shows that He knows about Saul. My guess is
      that the reference to Saul suffering is intended to make
      Ananias feel better about Saul’s record of persecution.)

    7. Read Acts 9:17-19. Is this what Saul expected?

      1. Has Saul repented? Is there any reason to believe he
        has changed? (Read Acts 9:11-12. Saul has been
        praying and God sent him a message about Ananias and
        him being healed.)

      2. Have you been involved in some serious sin, and then
        repented and felt the relief of forgiveness? Has that
        happened to Saul?(This seems to be that moment for
        Saul. He is baptized, eats and regains his strength
        after this ordeal.)

    8. Read Acts 9:20-22. Why didn’t Saul take a couple of
      years, study the Bible, get some lessons from leading
      disciples, and then go out and preach? (Read Acts 23:6 and
      Acts 22:2-3. As a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, Saul
      was a top student of the Bible. He took his existing
      knowledge, and reoriented it to fit the revelation that
      Jesus was the promised Messiah. We also know from
      Galatians 1:15-18 that later Saul left Damascus and spent
      three years studying.)

    9. Read Acts 9:23-25 What is the official reaction to Saul’s
      conversion? (The Jews wanted to kill him.)

  2. Headquarters

    1. Read Acts 9:26. Did Saul travel straight to Jerusalem from
      Damascus? (No. Paul does not give us an exact time line,
      but he spent three years in Arabia before he returned to
      Jerusalem. Galatians 1:18. After three years of study
      (“God … was pleased to reveal His Son to me so that I
      might preach Him among the Gentiles,” Galatians 1:15-16),
      he returned to the Jerusalem headquarters.)

      1. Would you have been afraid of Saul? (Saul starts a
        persecution that involves killing Christians, then
        falls off the map for three years, then comes back
        with a new name. Acts 13:9. Yes, I would be

    2. Read Acts 9:27-30. Is Paul’s time at headquarters
      worthwhile? (Yes. Barnabas is brave and accepts Paul.
      Then, the Christians at headquarters help Paul slip away
      from those who want to kill him.)

  3. The Work

    1. Read Galatians 2:1. Recall that Paul slipped out of
      Jerusalem to escape those who wanted to kill him. This 14
      year period appears to mark the time Paul was on his
      mission to the Gentiles in Asia Minor.)

    2. Read Galatians 2:2. Why would Paul be running in vain?
      (The leaders might not accept his work with the Gentiles
      as being legitimate.)

      1. Paul says “those who seem to be leaders.” Doesn’t he
        know who are the leaders of the church?

    3. Read Galatians 2:3-5. What is Paul’s view on whether new
      converts need to be circumcised in accord with the
      instructions God gave to Abraham ( Genesis 17:9-11)?

      1. Why would the brothers be “false” if they are simply
        arguing for what God told Abraham?

    4. Read Galatians 2:6-7. How deferential to leadership does
      Paul sound? (Some criticism of church leadership causes me
      to cringe. But, Paul hardly seems deferential here.)

    5. Read Galatians 2:8. Who does Paul say is the important
      point of reference for determining if you are doing the
      right thing? (God being at work in your ministry.)

      1. Consider that test. Are there religious organizations
        that you think are not promoting the Kingdom of God,
        but which seem to prosper?

        1. If so, how do you explain that? (Read Mark
          9:38-40. Clearly, God was with Paul. Jesus
          teaches that the “tent” is big when it comes to
          promoting the gospel.)

    6. Read Galatians 2:9-10. Are “James, Peter and John” pillars
      of the early church? (Yes!)

      1. Is this more of Paul not being deferential to the
        acknowledged leaders of the church?

      2. Or, should we consider that Paul has been out of town
        for 14 years? (The best way to look at this is that
        long ago, when Paul was in town, he met with Peter
        and James for only a short time. Galatians 1:18-19.
        Paul is not a Jerusalem insider. He says his work for
        the Gentiles is supported by those who he thought
        were the leaders of the early church.)

    7. Read Galatians 2:11-13. Has your opinion changed now?
      Isn’t Paul now criticizing both Peter and James, the
      “reputed pillars” of the early church? (The weight of the
      evidence shows that Paul is not being deferential.)

      1. What is the lesson for our missionary work? (Leaders
        are not always perfect. They do not always thoroughly
        understand God’s will. Peter has a message directly
        from God – that is his point in Galatians 1:15-17. In
        this situation he is not going to defer to humans.)

    8. Read Galatians 2:14-16. How important is Paul’s point? (It
      is the essence of the gospel! It is the essence of
      righteousness by faith. We see now why Paul would not bend
      on this point.)

      1. Re-read Galatians 2:13. Barnabas is Paul’s trusted
        partner. How difficult is this issue? (It shows that
        people of good faith are on both sides of the
        circumcision issue. But, Paul argues that there is
        only one right side, and it is the side that is
        consistent with Christ’s sacrifice, but inconsistent
        with God’s instruction to Abraham.)

      2. Do we have issues like that in the church today?

    9. Read Galatians 2:20-21. Friend, have you set aside grace?
      If so, why not decide right now to join Paul in his
      determination to live a life of righteousness by faith!

  4. Next week: Paul: Mission and Message.