Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
November 22, 2015
“Making God Known”
Acts 17:1-4, 10-12, 22-25, 28
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. You are always encouraged to do your own personal studies as well. Blessings!)
What the enemy meant for evil, God will turn it for the good. We’ve all heard that quoted before and we may have even made our own personal declaration of the same. I know I have just this past week J. It comes from the book of Genesis where Joseph declares the same over the actions of his brothers (see Genesis 50:20).
When studying this week’s lesson dealing with another portion of Paul’s second missionary journey this phrase/verse came to my remembrance. And rightly so due to the fact that every time Paul went somewhere to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ there seemed to be opposition. Although some may see this opposition as a hindrance I personally see it as opportunity. By running him out of one city and pushing him to go somewhere else, they were actually, in my opinion, furthering the spread of the gospel.
How is that? Because everywhere Paul went he used it as an opportunity to declare Jesus Christ amongst the lost. Even if the proposed region was not on his original lists of places to visit, God used him to introduce people from all backgrounds (Jews and Greeks alike) to the true Savior of the world.
This week’s lesson takes a deeper look at the goings on of some of these places the Apostle Paul visited and the events therein.
Acts 17:1-4 “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”
Last week’s lesson left off with Paul at Philippi. There he met Lydia and the other women and preached the gospel unto them. They believed and were baptized and Lydia constrained them to stay with her for a time (see Acts 16:13-15).
While in Philippi Paul and Silas sought to go to prayer one day and was bothered by a demon-possessed girl who continually followed them and provoked them. Being grieved over the matter Paul eventually cast the demon out of the girl raking in the anger of those who made a profit off of her. Going through a riot and beatings, they were thrown into jail (Acts 18-24).
Their jailhouse experience didn’t deter their praise. Paul and Silas, in that famous story, prayed and sang until the earth quaked and the doors to the prison were opened. Thinking to lose his life the Philippian jailor was bent on killing himself if it had not been for the intervention of Paul. To make a long story short, this led to him believing as well. Eventually, he was baptized also (Acts 16:25-34).
In the events that followed, those responsible for Paul and Silas’ arrest and beatings sought to let them go, yet Paul would have none of that. They punished them publicly and refused to leave quietly as if they were guilty. The magistrates then pleaded with them to leave the city. Revisiting the house of Lydia to encourage those there, Paul and Silas set off onto the next part of their venture with “Thessalonica” in sight (Acts 16:35-40).
Arriving at “Thessalonica”, Paul sought out the “synagogue of the Jews.” Paul always made it a point when he traveled to go to the “synagogue” first. This was “his manner;” his way of doing things giving them [his brethren]the premier opportunity to hear the gospel before the rest in any city (compare Acts 9:20; 13:5 and 14:1). Those in the synagogue are coming from the same background of belief he did (either through birth or conversion/Jews and God-fearing Gentiles). They are there learning the same laws, customs, stories and such.
Paul went in to them “three Sabbath days” and “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” There he discussed with them their faith and matched it up to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The best defense for apologetics (proving Christianity – or, in this case proving Christ) is through the Word. This is the method the Apostle Paul used. Let us remember, Paul used to be a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), therefore he is well rehearsed in the scriptures and knows specifically how to address this audience. He didn’t speak on his own authority but on the authority of what God’s Word said. (Please note: When Jesus fought the enemy through His temptation He relied on the Word as well.)
We can imagine he showed them through their history; through the Law and the Prophets, how Jesus Christ came to fulfill the role of the long awaited Messiah and the importance His death and resurrection in salvation. Jesus Himself said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus came to carry out everything that was prophesied of Him and now it was Paul and others like him to share this with the world.
Did he show them how Jesus was the Messiah that came from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)? Did he show them how He would be heir to the throne of David (Isa. 9:7)? Did he compare His birth in Bethlehem with the prophecies of Micah (see Micah 5:2)? Did he declare His suffering and rejection as the fulfilling of Psalms 22:16; Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:12; Zechariah 12:10 (just to name a few)?
We don’t know the specifics. But we do know that this was quite the undertaking for Paul for it took “three Sabbaths” of going back and forth, explaining, showing, and proclaiming Jesus through the Word. This is something he is also seen as doing in Acts 9:22; 18:5, 28.
His mission was to establish a solid foundation of belief in these traveled and often untouched areas [with the gospel] that Jesus was who He said He was; to show the world this is the Christ that they might believe on Him and be saved. There is no other reason for evangelizing; there is no other reason for these types of missions without the sole end in mind to reach a lost and dying world for Christ. Everything should always point back to Jesus!
“And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” Paul’s diligence and method of pointing everything back to Jesus worked. He made a great impact in this city for Christ for it is noted that “some of them believed.” Souls in that city were being stirred toward the truth. Through the demonstration of Christ through the Word these God-fearing “devout Greeks and chief women” were persuaded that this is the Christ.
But, not everyone who heard believed and this incited enmity amongst them. This work in the gospel did not and does not come without opposition. Those that resist the truth will work to find ways to get others on board with their lack of belief. Acts 17:5-9 shows us that the Jews who didn’t believe “were moved with envy” [jealousy] and hired “lewd fellows” [wicked men] to “set all the city on an uproar,” [start trouble through their false witness] (vs. 5).
Acts 17:10-12 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”
Sensing the dangerousness of the situation in Thessalonica the “brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.” “Berea” was a city in the northern part of Greece approximately 50 miles from Thessalonica to its west. Although, not that incredibly far in miles, those in Berea’s disposition in receiving the gospel was above those in Thessalonica.
Again, Paul and Silas “went into the synagogue of the Jews.” We imagine the same process he used to present Christ in Thessalonica was the same process he used here in Berea: through the Word, for we are told in these verses above “they received the word with all readiness of mind.”
They had a willingness to hear what Paul and Silas were teaching. But, they didn’t stop there. Not only were they opened to hearing but they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” This shows their personal diligence in making sure what was being said is the truth. One of the best ways to determine if what someone is preaching or teaching is true; match it up with the Word of God. If it doesn’t match – it has to be scratched. The movement of God in anything is never detached from His Word. It must always add up.
Even Paul himself said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:8). God’s Word is right and profitable for them as well as us all by itself. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of scriptures might have hope,” (Romans 15:4; emphasis mine).
The result: since what was preached was matched diligently with the established and always correct Word of God, “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” The emphasis on the phrase “not a few” stands out here with me as well in our previous verse number 4. Last week we discussed “Impacting the World with the Word” and here we see that impact playing out in a mighty way. God was using the Apostle Paul and Silas effectively in this arena of sharing the gospel with men and women, Jews and Greeks. I have to believe their effectiveness was not only due to their obedience to go where the Spirit leads, but because of their reliance on the foundational Word of God instead of human intellect and philosophies.
Many people’s lives were being changed as a result. This is the outcome we are rooting for. I recently attended a conference where at the end of the preaching multitudes of young people came to altar seeking a relationship with Christ. The preacher exclaimed this is what it’s all about – this is what we should shout and dance over the most. Souls being changed for the Kingdom!
Then, of course, in the following verses 13-14 (not in today’s text) the enemy was stirring up trouble once again at the idea of people receiving God’s Word and believing. Those who chose not to believe; those who rebelled and resisted God’s Word and the declaration of Jesus Christ as the fulfilled Messiah sent trouble makers to Berea where Paul and Silas was preaching and “stirred up the people,” (vs. 13).
When doing anything in ministry we must always be on guard and aware of the provocation of the enemy against it all. We must know the determination of our adversaries. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep the people of God and the church of God in a non-productive state. But, when souls are being reclaimed for His [God’s] Kingdom, the enemy goes on a warpath against all the advancement thereof.
2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us, “We are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices.” Here, in today’s lesson the device he uses (as he most often does) is people who don’t believe. The instigators he sent thought to derail the work and plan of God.
Little did they know they were not offering a setback to the plan of God, but Paul was being setup, in my opinion, to reach more people in Greece, including leading philosophers of that day.
Acts 17:14 tells us, “Immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.” Because of the controversy that arose out of their provocation, Paul found himself on the move again. This time he was headed to Athens.
As Paul waited at Athens for Silas and Timotheus to come to him he had time to really view the city personally. What he saw disturbed him. Acts 17:16 tells us, “He saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” The entire city was idolatrous. This had to be not only distressful to Paul, but probably very confusing as well.
Here, we have a city of highly educated and civilized people, yet they were so lost (don’t let standing, status or education fool you – anyone can be lost). The enemy had a foothold in this place. They were deceived into thinking these idols held the answers to life they needed, therefore they gave themselves over to the degradation of worshipping the false. This city needed to hear about Jesus.
So, Paul took it upon himself to see to the matter while he was there. Acts 17:17 tells us, “Therefore, disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” Every day while he was there he sought to bring the light of Christ to this dark and dismal land given over to the devil.
In this, he gained the attention of “certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks” who labeled him a “babbler,” (vs. 18). Nevertheless, Paul stayed his course on his message. He “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.”
Wanting to hear more (for this is how they spent their time: in telling or hearing something new – vs. 21), they took Paul to Areopagus (vs.19) which is known as “Mars’ hill” in today’s lesson (vs. 22, below) for Paul to present his “strange things” (vss. 19-20) in their hearing.
Acts 17:22-25, 28 “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
Arriving at “Mars’ hill” Paul begins to state his case in defense of God. On his tour through the city one altar in particular gained his attention. It was the one ascribed “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” In case of offending or leaving a “god” out the people erected this altar to service that “need.” They were worshipping something or someone they knew nothing about.
Paul, before these educated philosophers, sought to reeducate them on this matter. He used that reference to introduce to them the one and true living God (the One whom they really didn’t know); One who “dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands.” And to do so, he starts at the beginning with presenting Him as the Creator; the “God that made the world and all things therein,” (see Genesis 1:1).
Does not the Word remind us that it is, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear,” (Hebrews 11:3). In presenting his case, Paul was presenting this very God who made the world and everything in it out of nothing but the word spoken from His mouth.
Paul declared to them that He is the “Lord of heaven and earth,” (see Dueteronomy 10:14 and Psalms 115:16), and that He is the one that “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” All of which Isaiah proclaimed and wrapped up in one verse, saying, “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein,” (42:5).
And here, Paul is relaying all the truths about this one and only true living God to the crowd of philosophers before him; unraveling to them mysteries of the God they know nothing about. They build altars to false deities and demons, but the real God is above them all. Anything that man would attempt to do with his natural hands or anyway he would attempt to worship Him of his own human ingenuity would prove to be inept, fruitless, failing, and insufficient.
God is so much more!
They may not have realized it, but Paul happily declared, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” Paul reasoned, discussed and argued his case for them on their level; even to the point of introducing tidbits which he shared from one of their “own poets.” God is sovereign above all and we function “in him;” not the other way around. We are here because He created us to be here. We are alive because He gave us life. We are His “offspring;” we come by way of Him, not He of us.
God is independently God. He doesn’t rely on us, we rely on Him. That’s why the psalmist declared, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” (Psalms 100:3). Everything that we have and everything that we are is because of Him. Job said, “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about . . .” (Job 10:8).
God Himself declared in Isaiah, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me . . .” (Isaiah 45:5). The Athenians, having given themselves over so much to the false, needed to hear this truth.
Therefore, in verse 29 (not in today’s text), Paul sets the record straight and says, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” Man cannot box God in through his own devices. God is God all by Himself.
In the following verses not in our text Paul flatly tells the Athenians that the time of ignorance is over. They have been told the truth and now is the time for everyone everywhere to repent (vs. 30). Judgment day is coming (vs. 31). But when Paul began to speak of resurrection of the dead some began to mock (vs. 32).
One thing we take away from this lesson is that despite receptivity or opposition to the gospel, we all still have the responsibility of MAKING GOD KNOWN. Start by using the place where you are today as an opportunity to declare Jesus Christ to a lost world.
Click here for PDF: Making God Known Sunday School Lesson, or click print button below. Enjoy!
Below you will find activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: Making God Known Draw the Scene
How Many Words: Making God Known How Many Words
Below you will find more Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Many of these below from previous lesson can still be used for this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Crafts for Lesson:
Younger Children: to demonstrate “Reaching or Impacting the World” students can put together this simple activity using the earth template below and by tracing and cutting out their own handprints.
World: (click for template)
Older Children will enjoy making these “Witnessing Bracelets” to remind them of how to live before the world and as a tool for sharing:
“Witness Bracelet Craft” (click for directions)
“Teaching Paul’s Missionary Journeys to Kids” (Here you with find plenty of links to helpful resources that help to visualize Paul’s missionary journeys for kids including printing out passports for virtual tours. But, that’s not all. There is also a helpful link to Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (base of this week’s lesson) youtube video I believe adults would enjoy.)
“Selling God’s Word” (A witnessing activity for kids. Enjoy!)