Firm Foundation #11

    THE CONVERSION OF SAUL

    In this lesson we will study about the conversion of Saul, a man who had originated in Tarsus. The student is asked to read Acts 9 and Acts 22. Saul had been a bitter enemy of Christ. On the occasion of the death of Stephen he had consented to his execution and had watched over the coats of the men who threw the stones that claimed the life of the first Christian martyr. Saul’s hatred of the new religion was intensified. He threatened the Christians severely, promising to have the disciples of the Lord put to death. Saul was held in high esteem by the religious leaders of the day. He had been raised according to the strictest manner of the Mosaic law as a Pharisee. He had studied under Gamaliel, a noted educator of the day, who had a school in the city of Jerusalem. Because of Saul’s family background, his education, his depth of understanding, and his natural zeal, he showed promise of becoming a great Jewish leader. Evidently, he was trusted by the men in power, for when he made application to them for permission to journey to the city of Damascus to persecute the disciples there, he was empowered to make the trip. The high priest gave him letters to the synagogues of Damascus stating that if he found any Christians, whether they were men or women, he might bind them and bring them to Jerusalem.

    As Saul and his company were on the long and difficult journey to Damascus there suddenly came from heaven a great, blinding light that centered on him. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” He replied, “Who art thou, Lord?” And the voice from heaven answered, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” To be in the presence of the divine must indeed be an awesome experience and to the unprepared unspeakably fearful. The stricken, trembling Saul asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” The answer came, “Go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

    The men who were with Saul heard but did not understand the words of the voice from heaven. Saul arose from the earth, opened his eyes, and to his great dismay, discovered that he was blind. He was so helpless that the men who Were with him had to lead him into the city of Damascus. For the next three days he did not eat or drink.

    In the meanwhile, the Lord appeared to Ananias, a gospel preacher who lived in Damascus, and said to him, “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.” Ananias objected to this mission because he had heard of how mercilessly Saul had persecuted the church and of the deaths for which he had been responsible in Jerusalem. News of Saul’s purpose for coming to Damascus had somehow preceded him and this caused Ananias to object further. But the Lord refused to listen to the excuses of his servant, Ananias, and commanded that he should go to Saul who was a chosen vessel to bring the name of Christ to the Gentiles, the kings of the earth, and the children of Israel.

    When Ananias entered the house of Judas, he found a penitent Saul who now believed that Jesus was the Christ and who was so genuinely sorrowful for his past crimes against Christ and the church that he had determined to do all within his power to serve God properly. Ananias said to Saul, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:14-16). Saul was baptized and took food and was strengthened. From this point forward he was known as Paul, one of the apostles of Christ.

    From this case of conversion several very important truths can be learned. We might learn, for instance, that it is possible for a person to conscientiously and sincerely put a great deal of effort into a religious pursuit that he believes to be right, but that his sincerity does not necessarily guarantee that what he does is approved by God. Saul was a sincere man who was able to on one occasion to say, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Saul was honest in persecuting the church, but he was honestly wrong. Saul was conscientious in trying to advance the Jew’s religion, but he was conscientiously mistaken. It is therefore possible for a person to be honest, conscientious, earnest and zealous, but be wrong. Saul was also a religious man, but he was religiously wrong. If one does a wrong thing, he must suffer the consequence of wrongdoing, even though he may have been sincere. If one should put arsenic in his salad, sincerely believing the deadly poison to be salad dressing, he would die as surely as if he had deliberately taken the arsenic into his system. This truth is axiomatic and needs no more than a mere pronouncement.

    Now let us notice the things that Saul was required to do in order to be converted to faith in Christ. Notice first of all that Saul came to believe on Jesus as the Messiah. His belief was the result of the heavenly demonstration on the Damascus road. Of course, belief is a prerequisite of salvation and is accomplished today through the word. We learn from the pen of Paul, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This same truth is stated by John in these words: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30,31).

    The writer of the Corinthian letter said, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Therefore, it is not strange that we should find in the Roman letter this statement: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul was caused to believe by the revelation of the great blinding light. It was necessary that he should see the resurrected and glorified Christ in order that he might be qualified as an apostle. Inasmuch as there are no apostles in the world today, people are caused to believe solely through the Bible.

    The second thing that Paul did in becoming a Christian was to repent. To repent is to change one’s mind; to determine a new course of action, as is shown in Jesus’ parable of the two sons, in which he speaks of a father who told his son to go and work in a vineyard. The son answered, “I will not.” But afterward he repented and went (Matthew 21:29). The obvious sense of this verse is that he changed his mind and went. Repentance is therefore a change of mind. Paul’s mind was changed. He turned from one course of action and pursued a different course. Every person in coming to Christ must repent. Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

    Next, Paul was baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of sins, or as Ananias put it, “to wash away” his sins. That baptism is essential to one’s eternal well being will not be denied by those who know and respect the Bible. Jesus, in giving his great commission, said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The apostles Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, wrote, “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20,21).

    By comparing what Paul did in becoming a Christian and what people on the day of Pentecost did in becoming Christians, one can easily see that the requirements of the gospel are uniformly the same. Paul and the Jews on Pentecost day were required to 1) believe, 2) repent, and 3) be baptized. It is obvious that if we today do exactly what they did, in exactly the way they did, we will be what they were – Christians – only Christians; nothing more.

    Section 1-Fill in the blanks

    Question 1
    Saul originated in __________.

    Question 2
    At one time Saul was an __________ of __________.

    Question 3
    Saul studied under __________

    Question 4
    Saul showed promise of becoming a __________ leader.

    Question 5
    Saul was given authority to go to the city of __________ to persecute Christians.

    Question 6
    Saul heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why __________ thou me?”

    Question 7
    The men who were with him __________ but did not __________ the words of the __________.

    Question 8
    __________ was sent to help Saul.

    Section 2-Choose the Correct Answer

    Question 1
    Ananias said to Saul:
    “You made your bed, now lie in it”“There is nothing I can do for you”“God has chosen you to be his witness.”

    Question 2
    Saul’s name was changed to:
    PeterPaulJames

    Question 3
    It was necessary for Paul to see the resurrected Christ in order that he might qualify as:
    A witnessA matryrAn apostle

    Question 4
    To repent is to
    make restitutionchange one's mindreform one's life

    Question 5
    Paul was baptized to:
    make an impression on Judaswash away his sinsshow that he had already been saved.

    Question 6
    People today are caused to believe by:
    the word of Goda mysterious experiencea great blinding light

    Question 7
    When we today do exactly what people in the first century did in coming to Christ, we will be:
    followers of John the BaptistChristiansStoics

    Question 8
    The commands of God are:
    uniformly the samenever the sameoccasionally the same.

    Question 9
    Saul was:
    sincereinsincereindifferent

    Section 3-Complete the Scriptures

    Question 1
    “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be __________, and wash away the __________, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

    Question 2
    “And Paul, earnestly beholding the __________, said Men and brethren, I have lived in all good __________ before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).

    Question 3
    “And __________ there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received __________ forthwith, and arose and was __________. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was __________ certain days with the __________ which were at __________” (Acts 9:18,19)

    Question 4
    “And after that many days were fulfilled, the __________ took counsel to __________ him: But their laying wait was known of __________. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him” (Acts 9:23,24).

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