God called Saul the Pharisee to become Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles—a 180-degree turnaround.
Magazine ads for tobacco, alcohol, and fast food (at least one ad for each); a bag of M&Ms®; one gnarly-looking potato; a bag of frozen vegetables (can be empty)—put all items in a paper bag; pens; paper
Connecting with the Scripture Topic
- Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from its cocoon or watched some other example of metamorphosis? Briefly share with the group the thoughts and feelings you experienced at this sight.
- Go around the circle and ask each group member to answer this question: In your Christian walk, have you (a) always been a Christian, (b) had a moment that you can recall making a decision to follow Christ, (c) had a “Damascus road” experience, or (d) don’t know yet.
Sharing and Receiving Scripture
- Read 1 Samuel 16:7. As your group leader pulls one item at a time out of the paper bag, discuss the difference between the outward appearance and the deep-down-inside reality. How does outside appearance accurately or inaccurately reflect what’s on the inside? Discuss how that works with people.
- Thought Questions
Saul (from Tarsus in Cilicia) was probably a member of the Synagogue of the Freedmen mentioned in Acts 6:8-15. What affect do you think Stephen had on Saul in this passage?
- Stephen’s wisdom secretly impressed Saul.
- Stephen’s wisdom angered Saul—he couldn’t refute it.
- Stephen’s “face of an angel” intrigued Saul.
- Stephen’s “face of an angel” made Saul angry.
- Saul was probably very conflicted in his feelings toward Stephen.
Why did God have to use such a dramatic experience to reach Saul along the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-9)?
- If Saul wouldn’t listen to the wisdom of Stephen, he needed a real smack-down to get his attention.
- Saul was a very intense person, so God had to match his intensity.
- The memories of that dramatic conversion would fortify Saul (Paul) through later experiences.
- His traveling companions needed to witness it to convince them that something had really happened to Saul.
- Damascus Christians had to see Saul’s conversion and healing (vs. 10-19) to be convinced it was from God.
Read Acts 11:20. How do you suppose the scattered followers of Jesus knew to start speaking to the Greeks?
- The Holy Spirit put them there and opened their mouths, as in Philip’s experience with the Ethiopian.
- They understood from Isaiah 42:6 that they were to be “a light to the Gentiles.”
- They heard about Peter’s experience with Cornelius, so they took that as permission to do the same.
- The Greeks heard about the good news of salvation and asked to learn more.
- God created divine appointments and blessed those who took the opportunity to share their faith.
In Acts 15:1-5, we see that Saul the Pharisaical Jew is now Paul, contending against the Judaizers (legalists). Why did Paul devote so much of his ministry to this fight?
- Because of his background, he was especially sensitive to any hint of legalism.
- The Judaizers sought him out; he didn’t choose to go after them.
- Because of his background, he understood the minds of legalists and was very adept at contending with them.
- The devil used the Judaizers to try and divert Paul’s energy and attention from his true mission of evangelism.
- Paul was a natural-born fighter, and he relished these bouts.
Applying the Message of Scripture
Gather in groups of two or three. Choose one of the following options and work on a solution. Then report back to your group when your facilitator says time is up.
- Option 1: Have each group member write a three-sentence testimony based on these elements: (1) My life before Christ, (2) how I fell in love with Jesus, and (3) my life with Christ now. Be ready to share your three sentences with the larger group.
- Option 2: Is there a “Saul the Pharisee” in your life who needs a dramatic conversion—someone you’d never imagine would surrender to Jesus? Have each group member state the person’s first name, if appropriate, and share a bit of information about the situation. Then pray for God to take each of these “Sauls” down the Damascus Road.
- Option 3: Plan a time (10-15 minutes) for your church friends to share their personal testimonies (maybe one or two during your fellowship dinners or at other regular church events). Specify who you would like to hear from and suggest how you could organize these events in your church. (You’ll be amazed at the wonderful stories you’ve never heard before!)
Valuing Scripture in Your Life
- For the next three minutes, reflect on your own walk with the Lord. Do you submit easily or do you need an occasional Damascus Road experience?
- After three minutes, those who choose to may share their thoughts. Conclude with prayer.