International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 11, 2015
Purpose: To affirm the radical, transforming power of God to change lives
Bible Lesson: Acts 9:19b-31
Key Verse: Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared. (Acts 9:20)
Acts 9:19b-31 (CEB)
(19) He stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days. (20)Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared. (21) Everyone who heard him was baffled. They questioned each other, “Isn’t he the one who was wreaking havoc among those in Jerusalem who called on this name? Hadn’t he come here to take those same people as prisoners to the chief priests?” (22) But Saul grew stronger and stronger. He confused the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. (23) After this had gone on for some time, the Jews hatched a plot to kill Saul. (24) However, he found out about their scheme. They were keeping watch at the city gates around the clock so they could assassinate him. (25) But his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the city wall. (26) When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t believe he was really a disciple. (27) Then Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and told them the story about how Saul saw the Lord on the way and that the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them about the confidence with which Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. (28) After this, Saul moved freely among the disciples in Jerusalem and was speaking with confidence in the name of the Lord. (29) He got into debates with the Greek-speaking Jews as well, but they tried to kill him. (30) When the family of believers learned about this, they escorted him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (31) Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. God strengthened the church, and its life was marked by reverence for the Lord. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the church continued to grow in numbers.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
If you do not read the first part of chapter 9, the lesson will not make complete sense. The story of Saul is one of the most important stories told in the New Testament writings. The miraculous change that takes place in Saul’s/Paul’s life is a story that has been repeated millions of times.
Many of us have had a radical change in our agenda and attitude when we are confronted with the reality of Jesus the Messiah, God’s Son. As you read the story you can also see how the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with a body of believers to assist in the growth and understanding of what has happened.
In many lives it is the help of existing believers that makes the difference. As I look back on many from my family and friends that have experienced a changed life, the council of established believers has played a substantial part in the new birth that has taken place.
Amazingly God seems to use a team when nurturing a new Christian. While it includes Jesus, and The Holy Spirit, it also includes the church or a body of believers. In the case of Saul, it was Ananias and Barnabas along with the body of believers in Damascus that was used by the Holy Spirit to minister to Saul.
I think the lesson for us and the story we need to tell is that no matter how bad we may have been or what we were guilty of, an encounter with God’s son Jesus can completely change us into something or someone God can use to advance His Kingdom.
While our text reads like this all took place in a short span of time, in reality it took several years, (approximately 14) before Saul / Paul became a real force for Christ in the first century. From the time of Stephen’s martyrdom in 32 A.D. till Paul and Barnabas first missionary Journey in 45/46 A.D.
When Paul recounted his encounter with Christ, he said that he visited Arabia and Damascus and then after three years “went up to Jerusalem” (Galatians 1:17-19). Luke did not mention Saul’s stay in Arabia or the three years that lapsed before he went to Jerusalem. Luke thought that those details were unimportant, was unaware of that part of Paul’s experience, or narratively drew the two events closer together.
There are times in our Christian walk when we think “things are not happening quickly enough” While God’s timing is always perfect, many times we lack patience. Waiting for the Holy Spirit, and the council of elders best prepares us for service.
My hymn for today is “I am Happy in the Service of the King.”