August 20 lesson: Called to Preach
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Called to Preach
Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 3: Calls in the New Testament
Sunday School lesson for the week of August 20, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Lesson Scripture: Acts 9:10-20
Background Scripture: Acts 9:1-31
Key Verse: Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul (Acts 9:17)
Purpose: To recommit to God’s call to share the gospel
Hearing the Word
The “Adult Bible Studies” writer begins this week’s lesson by emphasizing this quarter’s exploring of God’s call. This week is the third call of the four calls in this final unit. The lesson is about a familiar Biblical story, the Apostle Paul’s (Saul) encounter with the risen Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and the significant role of the call of the disciple, Ananias.
Read Acts 9:1-31
The writer notes that most persons do not view Saul’s “Damascus road experience” as a “call” story, but as a “conversion” story, but says that the story is inextricably linked as both. The writer also mentions the widespread familiarity of the “Saul to Paul’s conversion” story by Christians, but says that there is no mention of the event in Paul’s writings. However, the story is recorded in two other places (Acts 22:3-16; 26:4-23). Saul is a Roman persecutor of Christians converted to a disciple of Jesus Christ, now called Paul. As we have explored the calls in these lessons, we see in the account of Paul and Ananias’ calls that they continue to be different and an example of God’s call of unique people.
Acts 9:10 begins with the introduction of Ananias. The writer adds that there isn’t much information about him. Acts 22:12-16 is used to give a brief depiction of Ananias, “a pious man who enjoyed the respect of all the Jews living (in Damascus).” However, there is no other mention of Ananias in the scripture. His role may have been small as it relates to the recording of his call in this conversion story, but the importance of his role is significant in its account of the Christian faith. The Christian call may not be grandeur by humanity’s standard, but God uses people according to His purpose. It takes all kinds of individuals in many roles for lives to be impacted and ministry effective. The writer says that Ananias’ call is an example of his love of the Lord, his willingness of obedience, and it is similar to those in Genesis 22:1; Exodus 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:4; Isaiah 6:8.
In verses 11-14, the writer points to Luke’s emphasis on the presence of the Holy Spirit and its manifestation through dreams and visions. This story is similar to Philip’s from last week’s lesson of the Holy Spirit’s instructions on the travel route of conversion. Ananias receives specific directions, as well, to go to “Judas’ house on Straight Street,” where he was to “ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul.”
We see in verses 13-14 that even though Ananias is obedient to the directions, a conversation transpired with the Lord. It appears that every call, regardless of the role, comes with questioning or hesitancy about the difficulty, danger, etc. of the mission. The writer says that this exchange with Ananias and the Lord was included by Luke “to remind us that Saul was being transformed from a person bent on doing horrible things into an amazing instrument of God. The author did not want us to miss the power of God to radically change lives.”
In verses 15-16, the writer gives various Bible translations of these verses that call Saul God’s chosen “agent:” The Common English Bible version uses the word “agent.” The New Revised Standard Version translates the same word as “instrument.” The King James Version renders the word “vessel.” The original Greek word skeuos was commonly used in all three ways. The writer emphasizes the importance of the role they perform and states: “An agent works on behalf of a client; an instrument is used to accomplish a task. A vessel holds the contents. Generally speaking, the vessel is not important except as it succeeds in containing its contents or accomplishing the task. Yet the important contents would be lost without the use of the word, vessel.” Jesus is the perfect example of a vessel that suffered for humanity’s sake.
In verses 17-20, the writer uses the tradition in The United Methodist Church that states the importance of each person committing to make Jesus Christ as the Lord of his/her life, serving as a community of God’s agent and carrying out the mission. Ananias continues to follow the Lord’s instructions when he “placed his hands on Saul” (Verse 12). The writer says that these verses of conversion and call are two sides of the same coin. God converts us into new individuals, as we see with Paul, and calls us to carry out the mission even in times of uncertainty, as with Ananias. Through it all, He will never leave or abandon us.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Adult Bible Studies, Summer 2017, God’s Urgent Call” is used for the content of this lesson.