Originally published Wednesday, 19 June 2013.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is more than construction paper, stories, and cookies. VBS is a time to instill in young, pliable hearts the Word of God. A time to equip children with the truth so that they can defend their faith when the tough questions rise within, in their own souls, and without, from the fiery darts of the enemy.
This week I hope to provide table talking points for Lifeway's VBS curriculum that we are using at Calvary Church in Florida. These will be points that you and your family can discuss around the dinner table, during the ride home, and throughout your day to further impress upon your children the truth of God's Word.
First up: Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts 9.
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4)
It is imperative that we distinguish this is Jesus addressing Paul for two reasons (verse 5).
First, this is pertinent in the revelation that when a Christ-follower is suffering, Christ Himself suffers too. What is done to the Body of Christ, the church, is done unto Jesus Himself. The Bible clearly tells us that persecution of Christ-followers is to be expected and that we should rejoice in our suffering. Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, was a persecutor of the early church "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord." (Acts 9:1)
Secondly, it is imperative that we note this is in fact Jesus talking with Paul because he is another eyewitness of the risen Savior. More specifically, an eyewitness by a professing enemy of the gospel following the ascension of Jesus into heaven. (See Acts 26) Paul's conversion is significant in this fact as he was a primary witness of Jesus. Paul did not come to be a Christ-follower from a secondary retelling of the gospel; rather, he encountered the risen Savior himself.
Why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?
Saul was Hebrew, and Paul, Latin. It was common to have a name in each language and to use the Latin name among Gentiles.*
Because Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles that is one reason for the change in Scriptures from referring to Hebrew, Saul of Tarsus, to the Gentile missionary, post-converted, Paul. This post (click here) explains this point very well.
Further, let us look at the meaning of Paul's names and the name of the Christian brother, Ananias.
Prideful Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisee's, perhaps named after the first King of Israel. Saul in Hebrew means "asked for" or "prayed for." Paul is a Latin name meaning "small" and "humble."
I find it interesting that the first king which the people of Israel petitioned God for was Saul, the very name of which means "asked for." Further that the converted Christian, Paul, would be initially referred to as Saul and then post-conversion as Paul. In name and demeanor Paul bore the humility of Christ after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Ananias' name means "the Lord is full of grace." It was in the fullness of God's grace that he transformed prideful, persecuting Saul into the humble Christ-follower and missionary, Paul. Indeed, God allows all of our hardships in light of his great grace.
I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. (1 Peter 5:12, emphasis mine)
Following Paul's conversion he was baptized.
"Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; (Acts 9:17-18)
This week your child may come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior just like Paul around 2,000 years ago. He or she, like Paul, should follow in believers baptism to signify they now follow, and belong, to God through Christ Jesus. If you have questions about baptism then I encourage you to read this post and then encourage your child to make their conversion public through baptism.
May God bless you and your table conversations! If your child is of preschool age, I would highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible (see the link below). Also, if you would like to read more about proof of the resurrection of Jesus, then click on the references below to purchase them from Amazon.
*Adams, A. D. (1996). 4000 questions & answers on the Bible (123). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.