Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
The Apostle Paul: Part 1
A Blind Heart Made to See
Author’s Notes: Sometimes it’s not just eyes that are blind. Hearts can be blind, too. A person’s heart is blind when they cannot or will not see that they need Christ, or that what they are doing is wrong. And whether we do the right thing for the wrong reason, or the wrong thing for the right reason, if the word “wrong” is involved…then it’s wrong! This week we’re beginning a new series on the life of the Apostle Paul. When we first meet Paul, in the book of Acts, he’s doing something very wrong in the belief that he is pleasing God. But when he has a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, Paul’s life will take a drastic turn, as God blinds his eyes, and he is able to finally see the truth.
Coloring Page for Young Visitors
When you were little, did you ever pick a flower for your mom, then find out that you had picked it from someone’s garden, and that it was wrong for you to have picked it? If you did, do you remember how you felt when you found out that it was wrong to have picked that flower? What are some emotions you might have felt?
It’s not a bad thing to pick a flower. And it certainly isn’t wrong to give one to your mother. But if you pick a flower that someone has planted in their garden, and you didn’t ask their permission, then that would be stealing. A child probably would not be punished for doing such a thing, at least the first time they did it, because they might not have realized it was wrong. But once they have been told not to pick flowers from a garden without permission, then they are responsible from that point on to obey… even though the reason for picking them may seem good.
In today’s lesson, we’re going to be introduced to a man named Saul. (His name will later be changed to Paul.) He was a Jewish Pharisee, and tried his best to follow all of the Jewish laws. He thought that everything He did was pleasing God. But one day, he learned that what he was doing was wrong, and was hurting God. It was then up to Saul to decide what he would do. If he was really doing something he learned was wrong because he thought it was right…what would he do once Jesus took the blinders off his heart so he could see the truth? We’re about to find out.
But first, let’s learn today’s memory verse. It reminds us that once we know what the right thing is to do, if we continue to do the wrong thing, no matter what the reason, we are sinning. Once God shows us the truth, He wants us to be obedient, and do the right thing.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for all of the examples we find in our Bibles of men and women whose lives were changed when they came to know You personally. Help each of us to have hearts without blinders, today, so that we can clearly see the truths from Your Word. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: A Blind Heart Made to See ( Acts 9 )
(the blindness of Saul’s heart)
Back in the days when Jesus Christ walked on this earth, the Jews had a group of religious leaders called the Pharisees. These men believed that because they were God’s chosen people, they just needed to do their best to follow God’s laws (plus a few they had added) to have a place in Heaven. Then Jesus came to Jerusalem, claiming He was the Messiah that God had promised would come, and preaching that the only way to Heaven was through believing in Him. This left the Pharisees with a dilemma: they must either believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be, and that what they believed about God might be wrong. Or they should reject Him as their Messiah. And in rejecting Him, they believed they were being obedient Jews, since they were rejecting what they thought was an imposter.
When it became clear that Jesus was gaining followers, and challenging their authority, the Pharisees decided they needed to get rid of Him. They finally convinced the Roman ruler to put Him on a cross and crucify Him. But that hadn’t made His message go away. Jesus’ disciples started spreading the word that Jesus had risen from the dead. And they were going throughout Israel telling people about Jesus.
So the Pharisees and other religious rulers began persecuting these followers of Christ, now called Christians, in an effort to scare them into not witnessing for Christ. Many believed they were being good Jews in doing so. They even went so far as to stone some of the Christians to death. One of the Christian men who died from being stoned was named Stephen. And one of the Pharisees who stood by to watch him die was named Saul. In fact, Acts 7:57 – 8:1 describes the scene this way:
57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon [Stephen] with one accord,
58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
1And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Saul didn’t just happen to be at the stoning as a bystander. He was there giving his approval to those who were stoning Stephen. And he didn’t stop there. We can see more of Saul’s efforts to wipe out Christianity as we look into Acts 9.
1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
What did Saul want from the high priest? He wanted letters giving him permission to arrest any Christians he found in the city of Damascus. Then, whether they were men or women, he would bring them back, bound as prisoners, to Jerusalem.
The high priest granted Saul’s request, and he set out with a group of men to round up whatever Christians they could find. But on the way to Damascus, the travelers were met by an unexpected interruption.
(the blinding of Saul’s eyes)
3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
What unexpected things did Saul see and hear as he traveled to Damascus? He saw a light shining around him that came from heaven. And he heard a voice speaking to him. Up until that point, do you think Saul was aware that he was persecuting anyone? From Saul’s response in the next verse, he seemed to be quite confused by the accusation…probably like the child who’s been scolded for picking the wrong flower. Saul was convinced that he was out there doing great things for God, not persecuting anyone. But Someone else was seeing things quite differently.
5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Why would Saul ask who was talking to him, then call Him “Lord?” Saul must have recognized that this was not a normal human voice. And maybe he was acknowledging that it could be God. But he certainly was not expecting the answer he got.
Who was talking to Saul? It was the Lord, Jesus! And what did he accuse Saul of doing? He said that Saul was persecuting Him. Not Christians. Him! This must have been quite a revelation to Saul. Then, the Lord added something that might sound a little strange. He said, “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Would anyone like to guess what that might mean?
Imagine that you are an ox pulling a heavy cart. And your master is walking alongside the cart. In his hand, your master has a stick with a sharp point at the end. It’s called a goad or a prick. If you decide you need to stop for a little while or go a different direction than your master is leading you, then your master would use his stick to stab your feet, to convince you to do what he wants you to do. It might frustrate you and make you angry so that you kick back at the stick. But in the long run, your kicking won’t help at all, and your master will win out. And you will pull the cart when and where he wants you to.
God had a special plan for Saul. And it included his coming to believe in Jesus as the Christ. But Saul had spent a lot of time and effort fighting that very idea – just like the ox kicking against the stick that makes him do what his master wants. The difference is that the ox knows who his master is. And up until now, Saul did not see that Jesus was the God He claimed to be. So what was Saul’s response to this new revelation?
(the opening of Saul’s heart)
6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
The blinders on Saul’s heart had been taken away. He could now see what he’d been doing all along – that it was Jesus he had been persecuting when he stood by as Jesus’ followers had been beaten and killed. Arresting the Christians wasn’t a good thing…it was the very opposite! And today’s verse tells us that since Saul knows the truth, to continue to follow the course he was on would be sinning. So now what was Saul to do?
When you find yourself in a place where you don’t know what to do next, what do you do? Let’s imagine that your family really needed some extra money to buy food for next week. What might you do? (Encourage your students to share what they might do.)
Saul had just found out that everything he’d been doing was completely wrong. And he didn’t know what to do next. So Saul did the one thing he really needed to. He asked the Lord what to do! And that should be the same for us, too. No matter what the problem might be in our lives, the first one we should always turn to is God. He knows what we need, and know how to help us.
He may not tell us in a voice from Heaven what we should do. He may show us in His Word what would be the right thing. He may change circumstances in our lives to stop us frrm going one direction, and head us in another. Or He may do for us what He did next for Saul. He brought another godly person to help him.
And in the meantime, God gave Saul one more challenge to deal with. In verse 8, we’re told that Saul was stricken with blindness. He had to be led into the city by one of his traveling companions. That must have been very humbling for Saul. He had been a man of great power and authority, coming to Damascus to use that authority against the children of God. But now, he couldn’t even see to find his way into the city, without help.
But help for Saul was on the way.
9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
10And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
11And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
12And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
Did Ananias know who Saul was? Yes. The Christians in Damascus had heard of Saul, and what he had done to Christians in Jerusalem. They also were very aware of the purpose of Saul’s visit to their city. So it’s not surprising that Ananias would be a little reluctant to go and see Saul.
But what did the Lord tell Ananias that Saul was doing while waiting for him to come and help him? God told Ananias that Saul was at the house of Judas, praying. That didn’t seem to be quite enough to convince Ananias to go. So God went on to tell Ananias about His big plans for Saul.
15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
God could have just told Ananias to go to Saul, without any explanation. But God knew that Ananias was afraid. And He wanted to reassure Ananias that He had everything under control.
God sometimes does that with us today, too. There will be times when God will ask us to do something, and expects us to obey without getting any further explanation from Him. But God also knows our hearts, and cares when we’re afraid. So there will be times when He asks us to do something, and will bring a verse to mind that reassures us that all is well, and He is in complete control. Can anyone thing of any verses like that?
These verses hadn’t been written at this point. In fact, they were later written by the very man we are learning about – Saul. So since Ananias didn’t have God’s written Word to encourage him, God spoke directly to Ananias, giving him the courage he needed to face a potentially scary situation – one of the biggest enemies of Christians at that time.
(the reopening of Saul’s eyes)
17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
What two things had God sent Ananias to do? He was to help Saul see again, and help him be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
19And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
It’s good to remember here that Saul didn’t receive the Holy Ghost because he got baptized, but rather that he got baptized as a witness to others that he had been saved, and received the Holy Ghost. What other evidence do we see here of Saul’s salvation? Who did he spend the rest of his time in Damascus with? He stayed with the disciples who were there.
The same should be true of us. When we invite the Lord Jesus into our hearts and lives, we should have a desire to be around other Christians. Do you enjoy being around other Christians? They are your brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 John 4:12-13 says this: “…If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
There was no denying that a great change had taken place in the heart and life of this man, Saul, who had made a reputation for himself by persecuting and killing Christians. This change came about because he saw Jesus for who He truly is, and invited Him to be Lord of his life. God had completely removed the blinders from Saul’s eyes and his heart. And now Saul was ready to be used by God as one of his apostles.
God still had a little more work to do in Saul’s life, before He would be ready to send him out into the world as one of His first missionaries. But in opening his heart to Jesus, Saul had taken that first necessary step in following God’s will for His life.
God has a plan for your life, too. And it’s never too early to be asking Him to show you what that is, much like Saul did when he said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” But first things, first: have you recognized Jesus as Your Savior, and asked Him into your heart and life? That’s where it all needs to start. If you have not, you can do that today. Then you can start down that same road that Saul did…following God’s will for your life.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for coming into Saul’s life, and changing his heart. And thank You for the many things You gave him to share with us in Your Word. If anyone here does not know You as Saul did, please take the blinders off their hearts, today, so they can clearly come to see You, and know You as their Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Saul was deaf after hearing the voice from Heaven. (false – he was blind)
2. Saul had to be led into Damascus because he couldn’t see. (true)
3. A man named Ananias was told to go and help Saul. (true)
4. Saul spent time praying while he waited for Ananias to come. (true)
5. Saul immediately went back to Jerusalem, to tell the high priest what happened. (false – he stayed with the disciples in Damascus)
God can take the blinders
Even from a heart,
Give that soul new purpose;
Give them a new start.
Has the Savior taken
Blinders away from you?
If He hasn’t yet, then
Why not ask Him to!
Lisa DeVinney, November 2016