Lesson 88

Acts 9

“Lesson 88: Acts 9,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

Jesus appeared to Saul as he traveled to Damascus, after which Saul was blind. After Ananias healed him, Saul was baptized and began preaching in Damascus. Three years later, Saul went to Jerusalem, but when his life was threatened, the Apostles sent him to Tarsus. Peter performed miracles in Lydda and Joppa.

Suggestions for Teaching

Acts 9:1–9

Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus

Write on the board the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (This statement is found in “The Best Is Yet to Be,” Ensign or Liahona, Jan. 2010, 25–26.)

“There is something in many of us that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either our mistakes or the mistakes of others. …

“Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland).

Invite a student to read aloud the statement on the board. Then ask the class:

  • What are some situations in which it would be important to allow others to change and improve and to believe they can do so?

  • What are some situations in which it would be important to believe that we can change and improve?

Invite students to look for truths as they study Acts 9 that we can learn from the experience of someone who changed and improved.

Explain that most of the text of Acts 9 focuses on the experiences of a man named Saul. Invite a student to read aloud the following description of Saul:

Saul was born in the Greek city Tarsus (see Acts 21:39) and had Roman citizenship (see Acts 16:37). He was a Jew from the lineage of Benjamin (see Romans 11:1) and was educated in Jerusalem by Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3), a well-known Pharisee and respected teacher of Jewish law (see Acts 5:34). Saul became a Pharisee (see Acts 23:6), and he spoke a “Hebrew tongue” (probably Aramaic) and Greek (see Acts 21:37, 40). He was later known by his Latin name, Paul (see Acts 13:9). (See Bible Dictionary, “Paul.”)

Remind students that Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen (see Acts 7:58–59). Invite a student to read Acts 8:1–3 aloud and another student to read Acts 9:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Saul treated Jesus Christ’s followers.

  • How did Saul treat Jesus Christ’s followers?

  • According to Acts 9:1–2, why was Saul going to Damascus?

Invite a student to read Acts 9:3–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened as Saul traveled to Damascus.

  • Who appeared to Saul?

Point out the phrase “kick against the pricks” in verse 5. Explain that a prick refers to a goad, or a sharp stick used to make animals move (if possible, show students a pointed stick). In this case, to “kick against the pricks” means to fight against God.

Invite students to consider marking Saul’s question recorded in verse 6.

  • What does Saul’s question teach us about him? (He desired to submit to the Lord’s will.)

Summarize Acts 9:7–9 by explaining that those traveling with Saul saw the light but did not hear Jesus’s voice as He spoke to Saul (see Joseph Smith Translation, Acts 9:7 [in Acts 9:7, footnote a]; Acts 22:9). Following the vision, Saul was physically blind. He was led to Damascus, and he did not eat or drink for three days.

  • Imagine being Saul. If you had aggressively persecuted Jesus Christ’s disciples, what might you be thinking and feeling during this time?

Acts 9:10–22

Saul is healed by Ananias of Damascus, is baptized, and preaches about Jesus Christ

Invite a student to read Acts 9:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord directed Ananias, a Church member in Damascus, to do.

  • What did the Lord direct Ananias to do?

Point out that Saul’s original intent in going to Damascus was to arrest people like Ananias.

  • If you were Ananias and knew Saul’s reputation, what might you have thought after receiving this direction from the Lord?

Invite a student to read Acts 9:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord taught Ananias about Saul.

  • How did the Lord’s view of Saul differ from Ananias’s view of Saul?

  • According to verse 15, what had the Lord chosen Saul to be and to do? (You may want to point out that the phrase “chosen vessel” may refer to the fact that Saul was foreordained to his ministry.)

  • According to verse 16, although Saul would be a chosen vessel unto the Lord, what would he experience?

  • What truths can we learn from these verses about how the Lord sees us? (Students may identify a variety of truths, but be sure to emphasize that the Lord sees us as we can become and the Lord sees our potential for assisting Him in His work. Write these truths on the board.)

Invite students to ponder how their individual backgrounds, character traits, and abilities can be used to assist the Lord in His work. Ask them to record their thoughts in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

Invite a student to read Acts 9:17–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Ananias did after the Lord helped him understand Saul’s potential and his future mission.

  • What did Ananias do for Saul?

  • According to verse 20, what did Saul do “straightway,” or immediately, after being baptized and receiving strength?

Point out that Saul’s repentance, baptism, and preaching demonstrated his faith in Jesus Christ and his submissiveness to the Lord’s will.

Invite a student to read Acts 9:21–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people reacted to Saul’s preaching.

  • How did the people react to Saul’s preaching?

  • Why were the people amazed as they listened to Saul?

Remind students that the question Saul asked Jesus recorded in Acts 9:6 demonstrated his humility and his desire to submit to the Lord’s will.

  • Like Saul, what must we do to change and to fulfill the potential the Lord sees in us? (Using students’ words, write the following principle on the board: If we submit to the Lord’s will, then we can change and can fulfill the potential He sees in us.)

Invite two volunteers to come to the front of the room. Give one student soft molding clay, and give the other student hardened molding clay. (If you do not have access to molding clay, invite students to imagine doing this activity, then ask them the questions that follow the activity.) Give the volunteers 30 seconds or so to create something of their choosing using their clay. If the student with the hardened clay says it is too difficult, encourage him or her to keep trying.

After sufficient time, invite the volunteers to display what they created. Ask the student who was given the hardened clay:

  • Why was it difficult to sculpt something with your clay?

Thank the volunteers and invite them to return to their seats. Ask the class:

  • How can the hardened clay be likened to someone who is not submissive to the Lord’s will?

  • How can the moldable clay be likened to someone who is submissive to the Lord’s will?

  • How has submitting to the Lord helped you or others to change and to fulfill the potential the Lord sees in you or in them?

Read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

President Ezra Taft Benson

“A [person] can ask no more important question in his [or her] life than that which Paul asked: ‘… Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’” (“Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 57).

Invite students to ponder the question “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Invite them to record any promptings they receive. After sufficient time, read aloud the following statement by President Benson:

“A [person] can take no greater action than to pursue a course that will bring to him [or her] the answer to that question and then to carry out that answer” (“Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” 57).

Encourage students to continue to seek an answer to this question and to act on any promptings they receive.

Acts 9:23–31

Saul’s life is threatened in Jerusalem, and the Apostles send him to Tarsus

Point out that after Saul’s conversion, he dwelt in Arabia and later returned to Damascus (see Galatians 1:17). Summarize Acts 9:23–26 by explaining that Jews in Damascus conspired to kill Saul, but Church members helped him escape the city. Three years after his conversion (see Galatians 1:18), Saul went to Jerusalem, where Church members were afraid to receive him because they did not believe he had become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  • Why do you think some Church members were reluctant to accept that Saul had become a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Summarize Acts 9:27–31 by explaining that Barnabas, a Church member (see Acts 4:36–37), brought Saul to the Apostles and told them of Saul’s vision and of his bold preaching in Damascus. Church members then welcomed Saul into their fellowship. When Greek Jews in Jerusalem sought to kill Saul, Church leaders sent him to Tarsus. The Church experienced peace and growth in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.

Acts 9:32–43

Peter performs miracles in Lydda and Joppa

Divide students into pairs. Ask one student in each pair to read Acts 9:32–35 and the other student to read Acts 9:36–42. Invite them to look for the miracles Peter performed and how people responded. Explain that almsdeeds (verse 36) is the practice of giving offerings to the poor.

After sufficient time, invite students to discuss in their pairs the miracles Peter performed and how the people responded. Then ask the class:

  • According to verses 35 and 42, how did the people in Lydda and the people in Joppa respond to Peter’s ministering?

  • What can we learn from their responses about the possible effects of ministering to others? (Using students’ words, write the following principle on the board: By ministering to others, we can help people turn to the Lord and believe in Him.)

Explain that giving priesthood blessings is one way to minister to others. To help students recognize additional ways we can minister to others, ask:

  • According to verses 36 and 39, how did Tabitha minister to others?

  • How could someone who is “full of good works” (verse 36) and who serves others help people turn to the Lord and believe in Him?

  • When have someone else’s good works helped you or others turn to the Lord and believe in Him?

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Acts 9:1–2. Saul’s authority to bring Church members bound to Jerusalem

Saul received authority from the high priest in Jerusalem to go beyond Judea and bring Jews to trial before the Sanhedrin, which the high priest could grant because “the Romans allowed the Sanhedrin to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction (except in capital cases) over the whole Jewish community, even outside Palestine” (J. R. Dummelow, ed., A Commentary on the Holy Bible [1909], 831). Because the law of Moses served as the civil as well as religious law for the Jews, Jewish Christians could be arrested as criminals. The “letters” Saul carried were documents containing instructions related to Saul’s purpose and verification of his authority to perform his objective.

Acts 9:1–22. Saul’s conversion

President Harold B. Lee explained that “Saul of Tarsus was one who had been valiant and conscientiously engaged in trying to stamp out Christianity which he believed to be a sect defiling the word of God” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1946, 144). However, the experience with the resurrected Savior brought about a mighty change in Saul. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described what Saul may have experienced during his three days of blindness:

“During [Saul’s] three sightless days commenced the character transformation which in due course would change the history of Christianity. What anguish of soul he must have felt, what fires of conscience, what godly sorrow for sin, as he humbled himself preparatory to submitting to the direction of Ananias” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:90).

President Howard W. Hunter said the following about Saul’s conversion:

“To make [Saul’s] conversion complete he was baptized. Paul’s life was changed. It is remarkable that the man who held the garments of Stephen’s executioners thereafter became the chief exponent of the principles for which Stephen died. …

“… Paul’s life had been bisected by Damascus Road. Before, he was an aggressive persecutor of Christianity, but after Damascus Road he was one of its most fervent propagators” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 108–9).

Acts 9:2. Saul’s efforts to arrest followers of Jesus Christ

President David O. McKay taught about Saul’s intentions in seeking to arrest followers of Jesus Christ:

“So determined was he to put an end to what he thought was a heresy that he secured the right as an officer of the Sanhedrin to arrest the followers of Jesus wherever he found them. He went from house to house, dragging men from their wives and children. He even arrested the women and thrust them into prison! Surely the cries and piteous pleadings of the little children must have rent even his bitter heart almost more than the martyrdom of the faithful Stephen. Surely, as he forced men and women away from their homes, the blanched faces of crouching children, and their heartbroken sobs must have imprinted upon his bigoted soul impressions that would humble him if not haunt him all the days of his life! Only one thing could give him comfort in later life as he looked back upon those awful experiences. It was this, as expressed in his own words: ‘I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth’ [Acts 26:9]. Saul was sincere in what he was doing. He did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and thought it would be pleasing to his Father in heaven to make every believer in Christ deny His name” (Ancient Apostles, 2nd ed. [1921], 147–48).

Acts 9:15–16. The Lord sees us as we can become

President Thomas S. Monson has taught Church members to see individuals the way the Lord sees them (see “See Others as They May Become,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 70).