lesson
19

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Growing in Courage
Acts 9:23-31

warm up
1. Which of the following should cause you the greatest fear?
   [  ] Walking in fear of people or the unknown future?
   [  ] Walking in fear that your past misdeeds may catch up with you?
   [  ] Walking in fear of God who seeks to save you?
2. Discuss the difference in being cowardly and being cautious.
wise up
  

    Acts 9:20-22 describes the success of Saul of Tarsus in preaching Christ following his conversion. There was an obvious amount of "boldness" and courage on his part as he preached (see Vs 27). But Saul was far from fearless in these early days of his ministry. Overcoming personal fear and learning to trust completely in Christ took Saul a life time to develop.

I. The fear of the future: Vs. 23-25
   1. As Saul grew more successful in confounding the Jews by proving to them that Jesus was the Christ, he also created many enemies. What plot became known to Saul in this text? How did Saul avoid being harmed while getting out of the city? Can you imagine the humiliation of being put into a basket and let down the side of a wall in the darkness of night? This was not one of Saul's brighter moments in life. In fact, when he wrote of it later he considered it to be a time of "weakness" (or infirmity) in his life. (Read 2 Corinthians 11:30-33.)

    2. Later Saul (Paul) would have other opportunities to face his persecutors head on. Read (a) Acts 14:19 where Paul is stoned and left for dead; (b) Acts 21:11-14 where Paul is begged not to go to Jerusalem but he boldly faces whatever awaits him there; (c) 2 Timothy 4:6-8 where Paul is ready to die at the hand of his enemies.) Discuss the obvious progression of courage and faith in Saul's life. But remember at this point in his ministry and life he is forced to flee in the darkness of the night in a very humiliating way.

    3. Can Christians grow in courage? Can one who is strong in personal faith grow even stronger in faith? Discuss some things that may make such growth possible.

II. The fear of the past: Vs. 26-30
   
1. Verse 26 states that Saul came to Jerusalem. According to Galatians 1:18, how many years passed from the time of his conversion until this event? Even after such a long period of time, what was the common reaction by the brethren in Jerusalem toward Saul?  Why were they reluctant to accept him? Was it hard for Paul to live down his reputation and rebuild a new one?

    2. Who was the first to step forward and befriend and vouch for Saul? Why do you think he did this? Discuss some ways that we could be more like Barnabas? For example: (a) We could help new members feel welcome and become better acquainted with others. (b) We could refuse to hold a person's past against him or her. (c) We could tend to believe the best about people. (d) Other...

   3. According to Vs 27, Did Saul actually see and hear Jesus? Was he bold in his preaching at Damascus? Notice in Vs 29, that Saul disputed against the Grecian Jews (the ones that Stephen disputed with before he was stoned.) What was the response of the Grecian Jews toward Saul? Is there irony in this?

    4. Saul left Jerusalem with the help of the brethren and return to Tarsus his home town (Vs 30.)  But according to his own account of these days why did he leave? (Read Acts 22:16-21.)

III. The fear of the Lord: Vs. 31
   1. With the departure of Saul, the churches (congregations) had rest throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria. During this time of rest they were edified (strengthened) and walked in the fear of the Lord. Of all that man may fear in life, why is it that the fear of the Lord seems to bring the greatest boldness or courage to the other aspects of life? Discuss why.

wrap up

   1.  Looking back at your own life, have there been times when you were not as brave or as strong in your faith as you would have liked to have been? Do you agree that a person can grow in courage and faith? 

Assignment

  Please read Acts 9:32-43 for next week    copyright 2001