This lesson on Saul’s conversion teaches students that God completely transforms a person’s life when they believe in Jesus. God chose Saul to be His instrument to share the Good News with the Gentiles. Students will learn that God has a purpose and plan for each person that places his/her faith in Jesus. This can be used as a guide to help you prepare this lesson for your class. This was prepared for a Sunday School class but can be used for Children’s Church and also can be adapted for younger students.
Bible Story: Paul’s Conversion
Scripture: Acts 9:1-31
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Pictures or objects symbolizing different ways believers can serve God, paper, markers and pencils. Legos, pipe cleaners, blocks (anything that can be used to allow students to create something), (for younger students- The Very Hungry Caterpillar), Bibles.
Learning Goal: Students will learn that when a person places his/her faith in Jesus, God transforms their life. God has a purpose for each believer as they follow and serve Jesus.
Learning Indicator: By discussing circumstances that students have already experienced in their lives they can begin to see how God’s preparation for the service He has planned for them. Students will identify a ‘Saul’ in their life and be encouraged to faithfully pray for that person knowing that God has the power to change a life as He did with Saul. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the Bible lesson by answering review questions..
Learning Activity #1: (Transformed) Bring Legos or other objects that students can create something. Talk about the meaning of being transformed. (To teach younger students use The Very Hungry Caterpillar.)
Learning Activity #2: (Created for a purpose) Writing or drawing option: As students arrive have them think about their life and the unique aspects they have already experienced. Idea starters: Where they go to school (public, home, Christian or private school), their talents, difficulties they may have faced (death, divorce, moving) etc. Have them draw a picture of the particular aspect they feel is unique to their life. The choices they make will be discussion starters for the students to see how God can use these circumstances to prepare them for the work He has planned for their lives. (Saul’s upbringing was God’s preparation for the purposes He had planned for him.)
Learning Activity #3: (Pray for your enemies) As you prepare for prayer time with your class have them identify a person who may be a ‘Saul’ (before his conversion) in their life. (It’s not necessary for the student to give the full name of the person. The purpose for this activity is not to be negative about others or present them in a bad light to the class (someone else might be related or good friends with the person who is unkind to another student) but to encourage the student to pray for their enemies. It can be as simple as ‘a boy at school, ‘girl’ in the neighborhood’ or using a first name only.) Have the students write on the prayer list the person next to their name and as you pray together as a class have students pray for each other that God would change the life of the person causing difficulty in their lives.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”
Memory Verse Activity: Have pictures/objects of different ways believers can serve God (musical instrument, passport, money, teacher, sports, pastor, mother, etc.)
Bible Lesson: Jesus Transforms Saul’s Life
(Give Bibles to students who need one. The following is a sample of how to teach the lesson. It is important to be familiar with the passage enabling you to keep eye contact with each student as you tell the story so you can adapt to whatever is going on. If a student is distracted draw them back in.)
Capture the students attention by telling the introduction in story form. You may want to use props as you tell this intro (a baby doll, scroll, etc.)
Once upon a time in the city of Tarsus lived two Jewish parents. (If you have a map, show where Tarsus is located.) This Jewish Dad and Mom were from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. A baby boy was born to this dad and mom.
From the moment this baby was born his parents taught him about the One True God. They taught him God’s laws and how to live a life that pleases Him. When their son was old enough they sent him to a school in Jerusalem to study under a teacher named Gamaliel. Gamaliel trained this young man in all the laws of God. As this young man learned about God he was very careful to obey God’s commands. He was so careful to obey God that he became a Pharisee. Pharisee’s are a group of people that were extremely careful to obey God’s commands and made sure other people were obeying God’s laws.
In all of his years studying God’s Word, this man knew God’s Word and His promise to send a Messiah who would save people from their sins. He was looking forward to that day when God’s promise would be fulfilled.
When this man was an adult he continued to live in Jerusalem. Day after day he tried living a life to please God and obey His commands. He began hearing news about a group of people saying the Messiah had come. (Use flannels of black heart, cross and open tomb) These people were boldly teaching in the temple courts and everywhere they went that God had sent His Son Jesus to save people from their sins. This news really bothered this man who loved God and His laws because he didn’t believe the stories these people were telling. Unfortunately many people living in Jerusalem believed this story and became followers of this Jesus.
This man loved God so much that he was especially angered when he heard one of these followers of Jesus named Stephen teaching about God’s promises. Stephen had the nerve to say in front of all the religious leaders that they were the ones responsible for murdering God’s promised Messiah. Stephen was accusing the religious leaders who knew God’s Word well that they killed the Promised Savior. That was a ridiculous accusation! This man was extremely pleased when Stephen was stoned to death.
As a devoted follower of God and keeper of His laws this man knew that these followers of Jesus needed to be stopped so their lies would spread no further. He went to the places where these followers of Jesus gathered and arrested men and women and had them thrown in jail. He became extremely frustrated that even though he was doing everything he could to destroy this group of believers their message was spreading even further than Jerusalem.
This man thought he was fighting for God and standing firm for His ways. He did not know that he was actually fighting against God.
Does anyone want to guess who this man is? To learn more about this man you were hearing about, let’s turn in our Bibles to Acts 9.
A few weeks ago we heard about how Saul was doing everything he could to destroy the church (believers in Jesus) and stop the Good News from being spread. No matter how hard he fought against believers God’s Word spread and lives were being changed when they believed that Jesus was the Savior of the World.
Although he doesn’t realize it Saul is an enemy of God. Saul thought he was righteous before God because he knew God’s Word and obeyed all His laws. He thought he was working for God by trying to stop believers from sharing that Jesus is the Savior but he was really working for God’s enemy trying to stop the spread of the Good News.
Many times in our lives we meet people who are like Saul. They hurt us and make life very difficult for us. Sometimes we think our enemies will never change. As we learn about Saul in this lesson we will see that no person is too difficult for God to change. Through faith in Jesus Christ a life can be transformed. That’s why if we are believers we should pray for our enemies.
Choose volunteers to read Acts 9:1-2. If you were an actor in a play starring Saul the persecutor, how would you act out Saul’s attitude toward believers? (Allow a volunteer to dramatize the demeanor of Saul breathing out murderous threats.) Saul was going to do everything in his power to stop this message from going anywhere else. He had been given permission to go to Damascus to arrest and imprison anyone there who taught about Jesus.
Saul believes he is on a mission to please God. He is sincere in his desire to please God but he is sincerely wrong about what he believes. If he were to die on his way to Damascus he would be separated from God for all eternity. Just like Saul, many people believe that they are pleasing God because they are kind people and do good things. They read their Bibles and go to church every week. Although those are good things they do not make a person pleasing to God. There is only one way that a person can please God. Unless a person repents of his/her sin and believes by faith that Jesus the Son of God died on the cross, was buried and rose again the third day to save them from their sins, they are an enemy of God. Once a person places their faith in Jesus they become a child of God and have the Holy Spirit living in their hearts enabling them to live a life pleasing to God.
Saul and some men began the journey to Damascus. As they are traveling and are getting close to Damascus Saul meets the Risen Savior. Let’s read Acts 9:3-4. Acts 22:6-7 and Acts 26:13-14 give more details about this experience. What do these passages add to what Paul has shared in Acts 9? (It happened about noon, the light was brighter than the sun)
The light was shining so brightly that everyone traveling with Saul covered their eyes and fell to the ground.
Only Saul can hear the voice speaking in Aramaic (the language Jews speak). Acts 26:14 “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me (or why are you hurting me)?” This was a terrifying experience for Saul and he said, “Who are you Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth. I am the One you are persecuting.” When Saul was hurting believers he was really hurting Jesus Himself. The Lord Jesus was speaking to Saul so he would understand that He is the Son of God, the Promised Messiah.
Saul must have felt terrible. He thought this Jesus was dead. He had been put to death on a Roman cross and was buried. He thought that God was pleased with his work of trying to get rid of the people who believe in Jesus. When Saul heard this voice from heaven, he knew that he had been wrong and that he had been fighting against God’s Son.
Saul met the Risen Savior on his way to Damascus and believed that Jesus was the Savior God promised to send. He started his journey as a persecutor of followers of Jesus and now God had transformed his life! He was no longer an enemy of God’s but now he was God’s child.
Jesus told Saul to go into Damascus and he would receive instructions of what to do next. When God saves a life He is faithful to give instructions about how to follow Jesus.
The bright light disappeared and Saul and his men were all alone again. As Saul got up from the ground, he opened his eyes and all he could see was darkness. The brightness of the light that surrounded him had blinded his eyes. Some men took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.
Meanwhile in Damascus there’s a believer named Ananias. God spoke to him. Let’s read Acts 9:10-12. The people we read about in the Bible have emotions and reactions just like you and I do today. If you were sitting in Ananias’ home and God told you to go to visit Saul how would you feel? Let’s see how Ananias felt. Read Acts 9:13-14. Ananias was honest with God about his fear of being harmed by Saul. He also is a good example of trusting and obeying God despite his fear. God gave him specific instructions in Act 9:15-16.
God had transformed Saul’s life when he believed in Jesus on the way to Damascus. God saved Saul and had chosen him to do a special work in His Kingdom. What was that work? (To carry His name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel)
God has work for each one of His children. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s workman ship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” If you are a believer God is preparing you for His work for His kingdom.
God had given Ananias a job to do and he was obedient to do it. He went to Saul and placed his hands on Saul. Let’s read what he said to Saul in Acts 9:17. Immediately the blindness left Saul’s eyes. He could see again. Saul got up and was baptized. He ate some food and regained his strength.
God has power to transform a person’s life. Saul once tried to stop people from believing in Jesus, now he believed in Jesus and was God’s child. Saul was a different person with a new job to do. Now he was to go and share the Good News with others.
Saul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. To see Saul preaching so boldly about Jesus amazed the people who heard him. People wondered if this was the same man who once was imprisoning followers of Jesus. Let’s read Acts 9:22. This is an amazing transformation that God has done in Saul’s life when he put his faith in Jesus!
In the past Saul was a persecutor. Now he was a bold preacher teaching people that Jesus is the Promised Savior. As a result of this transformation in his life he angered Jews who believed as he once had. They got together and decided to kill Saul. Saul’s friends learned about this plan and as night came they hid him in a basket and lowered him through an opening in the city wall so he could escape.
Saul returned to Jerusalem and wanted to visit with the other believers living there. They were scared to death! Here’s a man who once tried to destroy the church and threw believers in jail. Now he wants to join with them as believers? They thought it was a trick and he was pretending to be a believer to find others to arrest.
Barnabas encouraged them that Saul was a true believer. They accepted Barnabas’ words about Saul and were not afraid of him. They must have been so encouraged to see an example of God’s power to transform the life of their enemy.
Saul continued to preach boldly in Jerusalem and once again his life was in danger from the Jews who wanted him dead. His friends took him away from Jerusalem and sent him back to Tarsus to stay for awhile.
After Saul left for Tarsus the believers living in Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. The Holy Spirit encouraged and strengthened the believers. The church continued to grow because more and more people believed in Jesus.
As we continue our study of the Book of Acts we will learn more and more about Saul. We will see how God uses this once persecutor of believers to boldly share the Good News even though he faces many difficulties.
Close in prayer.
Play a game of Fact or Fiction. When an answer is fiction ask students for correct answer.
- Saul was traveling to Damascus to visit his sick grandmother. (Fiction, he was traveling to Damascus to imprison believers.)
- Saul saw a light brighter than the sun and heard a voice speaking in the Greek language. (Fiction, he heard the voice in Aramaic.)
- Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him? (Fact)
- Saul was blind for three days. (Fact)
- God told Sapphirra to go to Damascus and restore Saul’s sight. (Fiction, Ananias-not the one who died of course!)
- Ananias was obedient and went to Saul and his sight was restored. (Fact)
- Saul preached the Good News boldly and everyone loved him. (Fiction, some wanted to kill him)
- God can transform a person’s life when they believe in Jesus. (Fact)
- God only has work for some followers to do. (Fiction, Believers are His workmanship created for good works.)
Additional Resources & Lesson Plans (on other websites)