Bible Study: The Wrong Kind of Right

It’s gratifying to feel correct— until we discover we aren’t.

Saul of tarsus had it all—talent, education, heritage, ambition. But as he discovered, that didn’t prevent him from getting it all wrong on something he’d thrown his heart into. Meeting Jesus changed everything, as it usually does! Receiving the Savior meant Saul then had “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which is also true of us. But even so, we make mistakes. That’s why we need to listen to Jesus and humbly follow Him.

 

READ

Acts 9:1-25

 

BACKGROUND

In the days of the early church, Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) was a rising star in Jewish leadership, and he violently persecuted Christian Jews.

 

REFLECT

It’s a tragedy of human nature: Even when trying hard to get something right, we at times get it wrong.

  • The passage says Saul was “breathing” threats and murder toward the disciples (Acts 9:1). The Greek word used, empneón, can have the sense of not just speaking out but “living on” such thoughts. Do you find it remarkable that Saul could have such strong feelings against the Christians, who were nonviolent and attacked no one? Why do you think his anger was so intense?

  • Confronted by Jesus in a stunning encounter, Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). Yet he was a diligent student of Scripture, “advancing in Judaism beyond many ... contemporaries” (Gal. 1:14). What does Saul’s question indicate about his knowledge? Has knowing Jesus as your Savior given you the answer Saul lacked? Tell how knowing God on paper might differ from knowing Him in person.

  • After meeting Jesus, whose followers he’d been hunting, Saul couldn’t eat or drink for days (Acts 9:19). Most people believe it’s important to live in a way they think is right. Finding out we’ve been wrong, especially about spiritual matters, can be devastating and even frightening. Has it happened to you? What helped you recover?

Finding out we’ve been wrong, especially about spiritual matters, can be devastating and even frightening.

 

CONTINUING THE STORY

In an amazing reversal, Saul and the Christians helped each other.

  • Ananias was at first reluctant to visit and pray for Saul (Acts 9:13-14). What does that say about the limits of our knowledge, even as believers? Have you ever avoided obeying God based on your perception of a situation? Describe what Ananias’s response can teach us.

  • To approach Saul with confidence, Ananias had only Jesus’ reassurance and the Spirit’s power. What in Acts 9:17 shows that love, trust, and obedience had made him fearless? Why might Jesus have arranged the situation so another believer had to help Saul? Describe the role forgiveness must have played for Ananias.

  • After Ananias prayed for him, Saul was healed and baptized (Acts 9:18), and “immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues” (Acts 9:20). Sometimes being proven wrong leads us—rightly—to silence. But sometimes it paves the way for great boldness. In what ways does humility play out in the actions of Saul and the Christians he’d formerly persecuted (Acts 9:19-25)? Can you describe a time when discovering you’d been incorrect made you quiet? How about forceful?

Knowing that on our own we’d fail, we should be eager to depend on God.

 

REFLECT

Knowing that on our own we’d fail, we should be eager to depend on God—and forgive our persecutors, who could easily have been us.

  • Paul regarded himself as unfit to be called an apostle, because he’d persecuted the church (1 Corinthians 15:9). Yet he was like those “considered worthy to suffer shame” for Jesus (Acts 5:41)—a great honor—and was eventually arrested and probably martyred. We are most worthy, even of persecution, when we consider ourselves least worthy.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider how this study applies to your life.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10). The Greek word for “righteousness” came from a term for judicial approval, and in Matthew’s gospel, it conveys divine approval. Saul persecuted Christians because he believed he had God’s sanction to do so; he even saw this as his duty (Acts 26:9). In reality, the Christians had God’s approval—but not because of anything they’d done.

The Christians had God’s approval—but not because of anything they’d done.

  • Two kinds of righteousness are available to believers: God’s approval when we do well, and the approval we always have because Jesus’ righteousness has been applied to us. Understanding the importance of each (and that we’re in Jesus’ debt for both) is essential. What will you do today that shows you’re a “slave of righteousness” and also relying on “the righteousness which is from God on the basis of faith”? (See Rom. 6:18; Phil. 3:9.)

  • To be persecuted for righteousness sounds like a paradox. It implies having God’s approval often means forfeiting people’s approval. Why do you think that is?

  • This type of suffering isn’t limited to anti-Christian cultures. It can occur wherever people blessed to have God’s favor come in contact with those outside it. What experiences in your own life might help you see the latter with mercy?

  • To be persecuted for righteousness is an honor—one that carries an undeserved blessing. This is the immensity of God’s grace: eternal joy in heaven as the reward for embodying Jesus’ righteousness—a gift given to us in love.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;

4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

5 And he said, Who are You, Lord?" And He said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,

6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do."

7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias." And he said, Here I am, Lord."

11 And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying,

12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight."

13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;

14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."

15 But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized;

19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,

20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God."

21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?"

22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,

24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death;

25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

5 And he said, Who are You, Lord?" And He said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,

14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,

13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;

14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized;

20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God."

19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,

20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God."

21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?"

22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,

24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death;

25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

9 So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

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