The Conversion of Saul
Acts 9:3-9 Acts 9:13-19 Acts 9:22
On Friday the church celebrates the conversion of Saul who became Paul, one of the great Christians of the Bible. Today we will learn about Saul’s conversion and why it was such an important day for the church, at a time when Christianity was spreading and converting lots of people.
Saul’s conversion appears in Acts 9:3-9, though this lesson considers the impact that it had on the church in Damascus, you may want to read out the whole reading in Acts 1-22.
So that the children might appreciate Saul’s dilemma and how difficult it might be to lose your sight, you can act out parts of Saul’s story.
Blindfold a member of your class, (a leader or a child) and pin a name badge saying ‘Saul’ on them. Have them take a couple of steps forward, they will have to rely on their knowledge of the room to not bump into things. They might manage a few steps but they probably wouldn’t be able to navigate the whole room without being able to see.
We rely on sight as one of our senses more than we might realise. Saul came to understand this well in the first few days after his blinding. The bumps and potholes in the road turn into major obstacles and once you have fallen down a few times each step becomes harder. Don’t forget, this road to Damascus was the main road. It would have been busy and noisy with traffic and onlookers. Imagine being blindfolded and having to walk into town. How dangerous would that be?!
It’s not an easy task. Neither was it for Saul. He was well known and probably recognised by many who saw his group travelling. I imagine several people may have made their feelings felt with a rotten vegetable or an egg and by jostling and taunting him.
It is no wonder that he had to be led by the hand into Damascus.
Have some of the class take ‘Saul’s’ hands and lead them around the class back to their seat, but leave the blindfold on. Pin an ‘Ananias’ badge onto another member. Ananias was terrified of Saul, but God had told him that Saul would need his help. Despite his fears, Ananias helped Saul and with God’s help gave him back his sight – have the child remove the blindfold so ‘Saul’ can see again.
1. The Love of God
Saul was such a staunch Jew that he thought the Christians were preaching against God. Saul was waiting for a Messiah, much like the kind we talked about last week, he didn’t like hearing what the Christians were saying. He didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ and that the Christians were lying. He thought he was doing God’s work, he thought that the more Christians he killed the more he was following God’s laws. Saul didn’t realise that he was actually distancing himself from God.
Sometimes we do things that distance ourselves from God, but as the story of Saul tells us, no matter what we do nothing can separate us from God’s love. He will always welcome us back, in fact he will always try and reach out to us no matter how far we fall into sin. In Romans 8:37-39 Paul himself writes how nothing, no matter what, can separate us from the love of Christ.
2. Love your enemies
Saul was the greatest enemy the church had. He was well known by the Christians as someone who would kill them because they believed in Jesus. Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies and the church didn’t have a bigger enemy than Saul! But the Christians were called to pray for him, and in the end Saul was converted.
However much we may not want to, we should always remember to pray for those who are mean to us however much they might hurt us. Maybe if we do, God will hear us and show that person the error of their ways.
Ananias was terrified when God told him that he had to help Saul. He probably would have rather hid from Saul rather than approach him, he even tells God that Saul is the one persecuting them and not someone he should be going near. But God tells him he has to and Ananias does do, despite his fear. When we pray for those who are unkind to us, we must be willing to help them if they ask us too or if God tells us.
3. God can change lives
God has a purpose for all of us. The power of God’s love can radically transform our lives, but even after he has gotten our attention he gives us what we need so that we may follow him faithfully. When God appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus he did not just leave it that, by sending him forward and instructing Ananias he made sure that Saul had what he needed to start off on his Christian journey.
Sometimes God’s plan for us will take us to difficult places. Saul had to go to the Christians in Damascus and expect them to trust him, even though they had no reason to do so. Likewise the Christians in Damascus had to accept Saul, even though they were terrified of him. The only thing that brought them together was God’s words.
If you are doing this lesson with older children or mature teenagers you may want to talk about the power of God to change lives in more detail. There are many websites where you can find testimonies, the examples here and here are just a few. You can use some of these examples to illustrate just how far God can change peoples lives.
Scales falling away
You will need:
-On an A4 piece of paper have the children draw and colour in a picture of Saul with his eyes wide open.
– On a separate piece of paper draw round ‘scales’ (large black circles will do) the size of Saul’s eyes, be sure to draw a long thin rectangle for a tab attached to them. Cut these out (including the tabs).
– On the picture of Saul, cut two thin lines into the paper either side of Saul’s head, in line with his eyes. Make sure your tabs on the ‘scales’ are long enough to cover the eyes and then move away from them. (Leaders may need to help with this).
– Put the ‘scales’ over the eyes and slip the tabs through the slits.
– Underneath the picture write the verse ‘Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.’ The tabs should be able to move back and forth to remove the scales from Saul’s eyes.