God's People and Me! Lesson Five

A Vacation Bible School Curriculum by Barry McWilliams
An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America

Daily Theme: God's people encourage each other


The Courageous Encouragers - a story from: Acts 9:1-31; 11:19-30

Object Lesson: How important it is for Christians to love and help one another grow as Christians.

Teaching method: Puppet

The Courageous Encouragers

This lesson is the story of Paul's conversion and his development into a pastor of the church in Antioch. But our focus is upon the believers that encouraged him and helped him grow.

Ananias (Not to be confused with the man who was struck down dead in chapter 5) was a believer in Damascus who was given the frightening task of bringing Saul, a chief persecutor of the church, out of his "darkness" into the light of the Gospel. While Acts does not tell us specifically how much of those first three years as a Christ Paul spent in Damascus and how much in Arabia, it is likely that Ananias had considerable influence on the newly converted "pharisee" and "persecutor of the church". (Cf. Acts 22:12-16)

Barnabas is the man who took the converted Saul, still feared and shunned by the church, under his wings of encouragement, Paul was accepted by the church in Jerusalem and brought to Antioch and the beginnings of his ministry. They went out together on Paul's first missionary journey. And When Paul's gifts and skills began to predominate, Barnabas did not chafe at taking the "back seat". Even though they later had a severe disagreement over Mark (Barnabas'nephew, an immature believer who had deserted them), Paul continued to speak highly of this "father" of his Christian life. (Col 4:10)

Read Acts 8:3; 9:1-2; 22:3-5; 1 Tim 1:13.

What kind of man was Saul? (cf. Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:4-6) What was Saul's part in Stephen's death? (Acts 7:58) What steps had he taken against the Christians? What were his plans in Damascus?

Read Acts 9:3-9.

What happened to Saul on the road to Damascus? What was his condition as a result?

Read Acts 9:10-19; 22:12-16

What do we know about Ananias? What indications do we have that he feared visiting Paul? Why? What did he do when he met with Paul? Was Paul's conversion complete on the road to Damascus or only later after meeting with Ananias?

What were the immediate results of Saul's conversion? (Acts 9:19-25) How long did it take for the believers to accept him? Who was responsible for this?

Apparently Paul spent a considerable part of the next three years in Damascus, when he wasn't hiding from the Jews who wanted to kill him because of his conversion. He makes quite a point in Galatians that he spent little time with the Apostles. We can assume that it was Ananias and the other believers in Damascus that helped this man sort out his beliefs and his life, after having met the Savior himself.

Read Acts 9:21-30; Gal 1:18-24.

Why did the believers fear Saul? (Vs. 21, 26) How did Saul put to rest their suspicions? (vs. 20-22, 27-28) How did he come to be accepted by the Apostles? (vs. 27) What kinds of courage/encouragement did Barnabas show? Why was it necessary for Paul to leave Damascus? (vs. 23-25) Jerusalem? (vs 29-30)

Paul apparently went to Tarsus where for a period of as much as 10 years. Of this time, we know little, other than that he says he had been evangelizing in Cilicia. (cf Acts 15:41) It is possible that during this period of his life he experienced some of the hardships spoken of in 2 Cor 11:22-27.

Read Acts 11:19-30

Antioch-on-the-Orontes was a provincial capital and the 3rd largest city in the Roman World, next in size to Rome and Alexandria in Eygpt. It was a commercial center, and for than reason more cosmopolitan than most Greek cities, sitting on the frontier between the Graeco-Roman world and the Orient.

Describe the church in Antioch? How did it differ from the previous churches that had been started? What first happened at Antioch?

What do we know about Barnabas' coming to Antioch and his work there? Why did he seek out Saul (Paul)? Where did he find him?

Barnabas recognized the size and nature of this work were beyond his abilities and that a man was needed who could give powerful testimony and positive leadership. Paul had apparently been working at evangewlism and possibly starting churches in Tarsus.

What elements in Saul's (Paul's) background made him an ideal pastor for the church being formed in Antioch?

Paul was from Tarsus in Cilicia, with a Greek cultural background and Roman citizenship. He was a well taught scholar of the Scriptures (studied under Gamaliel) and is repeatedly spoken of a one who could powerfully present the Gospel from them. And his own testimony was equally powerful.

Read 12:25-13:3

How did Barnabas and Paul come to be set apart as missionaries?

© 1990, Hypertext Version © 1996 Barry McWilliams
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