1. A TRANSFORMING LIGHT
a. Explain the agony of Saul and how Christ arrested his spiritual blindness of kicking against the pricks of conscience. Jeremiah 17:5; Acts 9:1–5.
“The mind that resists the truth will see everything in a perverted light. It will be fastened in the sure toils of the enemy, and view things in the light of the enemy.
“Saul of Tarsus was an example of this. He had no moral right to be an unbeliever. But he had chosen to accept the opinions of men rather than the counsel of God. He had the prophecies pointing to the Messiah, but the sayings of the rabbis, the words of men, were preferred.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1057.
“[Saul] had witnessed Stephen’s forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith.
“All these things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 116.
2. A CALL REPEATED TODAY
a. What should we all learn from how the Lord can abruptly turn the course of life events to save a sincere soul? Jeremiah 10:23, 24.
“[Saul] had conscientiously done many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. In his zeal he was a persevering, earnest persecutor of the church of Christ.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 429.
“The servants of Christ should not allow themselves to be hindered by those who would make the gospel only a matter of contention and ridicule.
“But the Saviour never passed by one soul, however sunken in sin, who was willing to receive the precious truths of heaven. To publicans and harlots His words were the beginning of a new life. Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven devils, was the last at the Saviour’s tomb and the first whom He greeted in the morning of His resurrection. It was Saul of Tarsus, one of the most determined enemies of the gospel, who became Paul the devoted minister of Christ. Beneath an appearance of hatred and contempt, even beneath crime and degradation, may be hidden a soul that the grace of Christ will rescue to shine as a jewel in the Redeemer’s crown.”—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 129, 130.
b. With what vital question do we all need to bow before our Master, in deep humility and full surrender at every stage in our life? Acts 9:6.
“God calls after you again. He seeks to reach you, girded about with selfishness as you are, and covered with the cares of this life. He invites you to withdraw your affections from the world and place them upon heavenly things. In order to know the will of God, you must study it, rather than follow your inclinations and the natural bent of your own mind. ‘What wilt Thou have me to do?’ should be the earnest, anxious inquiry of your heart.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 53, 54.
“Ask of Him who suffered reproach, insult, and mockery for your sakes: ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ None are too highly educated to become humble disciples of Christ. Those who feel it a privilege to give the best of their life and learning to Him from whom they received them, will shun no labor, no sacrifice, to render back to God in highest service His entrusted talents.”—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 584.
3. SENT TO GOD’S CHURCH
a. What should we all learn from the way Saul, a proud religious man, was deeply humbled before both God and man? Acts 9:7, 8.
“Paul verily believed that faith in Jesus made of none effect the law of God, the religious service of sacrificial offerings, and the rite of circumcision, which had in all past ages received the full sanction of God. But the miraculous revelation of Christ brings light into the darkened chambers of his mind. The Jesus of Nazareth whom he is arrayed against is indeed the Redeemer of the world. . . .
“Christ sends him to the very disciples whom he had been so bitterly persecuting, to learn of them. The light of heavenly illumination had taken away Paul’s eyesight; but Jesus, the Great Healer of the blind, does not restore it.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 429, 430.
“What a humiliation it was to Paul to know that all the time he was using his powers against the truth, thinking he was doing God’s service, he was persecuting Christ. . . . His conscience, aroused, now worked with self-accusing energy. The zeal of his work, his earnest resistance of the light shining upon him through God’s messengers, now brought condemnation upon his soul, and he was filled with bitter remorse. He no longer saw himself as righteous, but condemned by the law in thought, in spirit, and in deeds. He saw himself a sinner, utterly lost, without the Saviour he had been persecuting.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1058.
b. Describe Saul’s experience in his blindness. Acts 9:9.
“These days of close self-examination and of heart humiliation were spent in lonely seclusion. . . .
“As Saul yielded himself fully to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he saw the mistakes of his life and recognized the far-reaching claims of the law of God. He who had been a proud Pharisee, confident that he was justified by his good works, now bowed before God with the humility and simplicity of a little child, confessing his own unworthiness and pleading the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 118, 119.
4. READY FOR ACTION
a. Observe the clear communion between Christ and Ananias—and explain why every single believer can be encouraged by it. Acts 9:10–16.
“Each is to have an individual experience in being taught by the Great Teacher, and individual communion with God.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 486.
b. Describe the tender, God-fearing way Ananias and the Damascus church ministered to Saul (now called Paul) as a new believer. Acts 9:17–19.
“Jesus gave sanction to the authority of His organized church and placed Saul in connection with His appointed agencies on earth.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 122.
c. Name Paul’s steps after baptism—and the trials he faced. Acts 9:20–25.
“Paul was baptized by Ananias in the river of Damascus. He was then strengthened by food, and immediately began to preach Jesus to the believers in the city, the very ones whom he had set out from Jerusalem with the purpose of destroying. He also taught in the synagogues that Jesus who had been put to death was indeed the Son of God. His arguments from prophecy were so conclusive, and his efforts were so attended by the power of God, that the opposing Jews were confounded and unable to answer him.”—Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 32.
“Paul declared that his change of faith had not been prompted by impulse or fanaticism, but had been brought about by overwhelming evidence. . . .
“Many hardened their hearts, refusing to respond to his message, and soon their astonishment at his conversion was changed into intense hatred like that which they had shown toward Jesus.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 125.
“[The chief priests and rulers] agreed that the only safe course was to put Paul to death. But God knew of their intention, and angels were commissioned to guard him, that he might live to fulfill his mission.”—Early Writings, p. 202.
d. Why did Paul go to the desert? Galatians 1:17; Psalm 119:10 (first part).
5. TRIALS AND PROVIDENCE
a. After three years in Arabia alone in prayer, what unexpected hurt did Paul face—and whom did God use to help? Acts 9:26, 27.
“[Barnabas] fully believed and received Paul, took him by the hand and led him into the presence of the apostles. He related his experience which he had just heard. . . .
“The apostles no longer hesitated; they could not withstand God. Peter and James, who at that time were the only apostles in Jerusalem, gave the right hand of fellowship to the once fierce persecutor of their faith; and he was now as much beloved and respected as he had formerly been feared and avoided.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 321.
b. With Paul’s compelling, unanswerable appeals, what was soon necessary—yet how do we see God’s loving hand in it? Acts 9:28–31; 22:17–21.
“[Paul] saw that he must separate from his brethren, and sorrow filled his heart. He would willingly have yielded up his life, if by that means they might have been brought to a knowledge of the truth. The Jews began to lay plans to take his life, and the disciples urged him to leave Jerusalem; but he lingered, unwilling to leave the place, and anxious to labor a little longer for his Jewish brethren. . . .
“When the brethren learned of the vision of Paul, and the care which God had over him, their anxiety on his behalf was increased; for they realized that he was indeed a chosen vessel of the Lord, to bear the truth to the Gentiles. They hastened his secret escape from Jerusalem, for fear of his assassination.”—Ibid., pp. 321–323.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. In what areas of life might I be kicking against pricks of conscience?
2. Who in my sphere of contacts might I be in danger of underestimating?
3. How may God be seeking to humble me to become a more effective vessel?
4. What does the relationship of Saul with Ananias teach us about the church?
5. Might I, like Paul, be tarrying somewhere when God wants me elsewhere?