Unit 18: Day 3

Acts 9

“Unit 18, Day 3: Acts 9,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)


Introduction

Jesus appeared to Saul (who would later be called Paul) as he traveled to Damascus, after which Saul was blind. After Ananias healed him, Saul was baptized and began preaching in Damascus. Saul later went to Jerusalem and joined with the disciples there, but when Greek Jews in Jerusalem threatened Saul’s life, the Apostles sent him to Tarsus. Peter performed miracles in Lydda and Joppa.

Acts 9:1–9

Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about our need to forgive:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“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. It is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. …

Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is that charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ” (“The Best Is Yet to Be,” Ensign, Jan. 2010, 25–26).

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. What are some situations in which it would be important for you to allow others to change and improve and to believe that they can do so?

    2. Why is it important for you to believe that you can change and improve?

As you study Acts 9, look for truths we can learn from the experience of someone who changed and improved.

Most of the text of Acts 9 focuses on the experiences of a man named Saul. “Saul was born in Tarsus, a Greek city in Cilicia (see Acts 21:39). He was a Roman citizen by birth (see Acts 16:37) and spoke a ‘Hebrew tongue’ (probably Aramaic) and Greek (Acts 21:37–40). He was a Jew from the lineage of Benjamin (see Romans 11:1) and a devout Pharisee (see Acts 23:6), who zealously pursued and tormented Jesus Christ’s followers (see Acts 9:1–2). He was later known by his Latin name, Paul [see Acts 13:9]” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 294). Saul was educated in Jerusalem by Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3), a well-known Pharisee and respected teacher of Jewish law (see Acts 5:34–40).

We first read about Saul in Acts 7, which describes the stoning of the disciple Stephen. You might recall that those who stoned Stephen laid their outer garments at Saul’s feet (see Acts 7:58–59).

Read Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2, looking for how Saul treated Jesus Christ’s followers. It may help to know that haling (Acts 8:3) means forcibly dragging.

Read Acts 9:3–6, looking for what Saul experienced as he traveled to Damascus to arrest disciples of Jesus Christ living there.

goad

Note the phrase “kick against the pricks” in Acts 9:5. “A ‘prick’ refers to a goad, which is a sharp spear or stick used to poke animals to make them move ahead. Rather than move forward, stubborn animals sometimes kick back to retaliate, literally kicking ‘against the pricks.’ Such a reaction only adds distress as the animal incurs more painful prompting from its master. The Savior is making clear that if Saul continues to fight against Him, he will only bring distress upon himself. In Greek literature, ‘kicking against the pricks’ was a well-known metaphor for opposing deity” (New Testament Student Manual, 295).

Notice Saul’s question in Acts 9:6. What might this question teach you about Saul?

According to the Joseph Smith Translation of Acts 9:7, 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]; see also 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

Read Acts 9:10–12, looking for what the Lord directed Ananias, a righteous Church member in Damascus, to do.

Remember 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?

Read Acts 9:13–16, looking for what the Lord taught Ananias about Saul.

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

Notice in Acts 9:15 the specific work the Lord had chosen Saul to do. From what you know of Saul’s background, what would have prepared him to preach to “the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”? (You may want to refer to the description of Saul that you read earlier in the lesson.)

According to Acts 9:16, what else did the Lord say would happen to Paul, even though he would become a chosen vessel before Gentiles and kings?

Two truths we can learn from Acts 9:13–16 are that the Lord sees us as we can become and the Lord sees our potential for assisting Him in His work.

  1. journal iconAs you think about these truths, imagine the way God sees you. In your scripture study journal, draw a simple picture of yourself and list some of your abilities and character traits that you think the Lord can use to assist Him in His work.

Saul and Ananias

Ananias blessed Saul to receive his sight.

Notice in Acts 9:17 that Ananias blessed Saul to receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. According to Acts 9:18–20, when God restored Saul’s sight, how was the way Saul viewed the Lord different from the way he had viewed Him before?

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

Read Acts 9:21–22, looking for how the people reacted to Saul’s preaching.

The question Saul asked the Lord in Acts 9:6 demonstrated his humility and his desire to submit to the Lord’s will. Like Saul, if we submit to the Lord’s will, then we can change and can fulfill the potential He sees in us.

To help you understand what it means to be submissive to the will of the Lord, imagine having one lump of clay that is soft and one that is already hardened. How would the experience of trying to sculpt something using the soft clay be different from trying to sculpt something using the hardened clay?

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. How can the two different types of clay be likened to a person’s submissiveness to the Lord’s will?

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

Ponder how Saul’s question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6), applies in your own life.

President Ezra Taft Benson

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “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?’ 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,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 57).

Continue to earnestly pray and seek for an answer to this question, and act on any promptings you receive.

Acts 9:23–31

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

In Acts 9:23–26 we read that Jews in Damascus conspired to kill Saul, but Church members helped him escape the city. We also read that Saul went to Jerusalem, where he “assayed [tried] to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).

Why do you think the Church members were reluctant to believe that Saul had become a disciple of Jesus Christ?

In Acts 9:27–31 we read 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. In Acts 9:31 we also learn that the Church experienced peace and growth in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.

Acts 9:32–43

Peter performs miracles in Lydda and Joppa

Think of someone whom you would like to help turn to the Lord and believe in Him. As you study the remainder of Acts 9, look for one way you can help this person and others to turn to the Lord.

Acts 9:32–35 and Acts 9:36–42 describe miracles Peter performed in Lydda and in Joppa. As you read these verses, look for the miracles Peter performed and how the people responded. The following explanations may be helpful: Joseph Smith Translation, Acts 9:32 reads “as Peter passed throughout all these regions” (italics added). Almsdeeds (Acts 9:36) is the practice of giving offerings to the poor. The word nigh in verse 38 means near, and the word shewing in verse 39 means showing.

How did the people in Lydda and the people in Joppa respond to Peter’s ministering? One principle we can learn from Peter’s example is that by ministering to others, we can help people turn to the Lord and believe in Him.

Giving priesthood blessings is one way to minister to others. The example of Tabitha (or Dorcas) in Acts 9:36, 39 illustrates another way we can minister to others. Being “full of good works” (Acts 9:36) and serving others can help others turn to the Lord.

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

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

    2. What are some ways you can minister to others? (Be specific, and record two or three ideas.)

  2. journal iconWrite the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Acts 9 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: