Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
The Apostle Paul: Part 4
The Message Spreads
Author’s Notes: Last week, we saw our missionaries, Paul and Barnabas being sent out to share the good news about Jesus Christ. They celebrated a great victory on the island of Cyprus, as the deputy of Paphos believed in Jesus, despite great opposition from Satan. But the pair also suffered a great disappointment as John, who had come along to minister to them, abandoned them to return back home. But Paul and Barnabas didn’t let disappointment stop them. In this week’s lesson, we’ll find Paul and Barnabas continuing their journey, and sharing with us the message that they were carrying throughout the world – that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior. Today’s lesson provides a great opportunity to share the message of salvation with anyone who may be lost.
Coloring Page for Young Visitors
If you have enough students (probably at least 5) play the game “Telephone” with them. The object of the game is to show the players that in telling and retelling a message, it is often changed as each one tries to remember what they think they heard, and pass it on to the next player.
To play the game, have your students stand in a line or a circle, standing far enough apart that they cannot hear one student whisper a message into the ear of another. As the teacher, you are the first to pass the message along to the first student. You can think of a message, yourself, or use one of the suggested messages below.
After you whisper the message to a student, have them do the same with the next student, and so on, one at a time, until every student has been told the message. Then have the last student say the message out loud, to see if the message they heard is the same as the original message you first whispered.
Oftentimes messages get changed as they are passed along. Sometimes words are forgotten along the way. Sometimes words are added. And changing a word or two can greatly change the point of the message being passed along. So if the message is important, great care must be taken to ensure that none of it is changed along the way.
In last week’s lesson, two men, Paul and Barnabas, were sent out to be missionaries to the world. Their mission was to spread the most important message ever - the good news about Jesus Christ, to the Jews and to the Gentiles. We learned that the Holy Spirit was the One who had chosen them. And we learned that God still calls people to be missionaries, today.
And here’s the exciting thing: the message that Paul and Barnabas preached is the very same one that missionaries who are called by God are still preaching today! God has taken great care to be sure that His message will not be changed as it’s passed on from one person to another. Throughout history, The Bible has been carefully preserved so that we can still know the good news about our Lord Jesus Christ.
But many people in this world do not have Bibles of their own. So they won’t hear the news about Jesus unless someone, like Paul, goes and tells them. That’s what today’s memory verse is all about. It’s from a passage in Romans (written by Paul) that reminds us that in order to be saved, people need to call on the name of the Lord. (Romans 10:13) But they won’t know to do that unless they read it in the Bible for themselves, or someone comes to tell them. That’s why a missionary’s job is so important.
And don’t forget that even if God doesn’t call you to be a full-time missionary, you can still share the good news about Jesus with those around you, just like Paul did. Because people you know and love need to hear about Jesus. But how will they hear if no one tells them? Today’s memory verse asks that very question.
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.)
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the apostle Paul – the example he is to us, and for the Words he’s given us to read, from You. Help us, today, to be attentive to the lesson we’ll be learning from his life. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Message Spreads ( Acts 13:14-52)
(the mission continues)
Paul and Barnabas had been sent by God on a mission trip to spread the news of Jesus Christ throughout the world. In our last lesson, we saw them head out with a companion, John. But after they left the island of Cyprus, and landed at the city of Perga, John decided he was going back home to Jerusalem. That came as a great disappointment to Paul and Barnabas; especially since John (also know as John Mark) was Barnabas’ nephew.
But the missionary team did not let that disappointment keep them from traveling on to new cities. As we pick up the passage from where we left off last week, we’re going to find Paul and Barnabas right back on the road, to continue spreading the gospel of Christ to those who did not know the truth.
14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
Where did Paul and Barnabas go on the Sabbath day, in this new city? They went to the synagogue, just as they had in the other cities they’d ministered in. They were following God’s pattern of going to the Jews first. Let’s find out how the Jews in this city reacted to the presence of these missionaries.
15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
16Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
What did the rulers of the synagogue invite Paul and Barnabas to do? They invited them to speak to the group that had gathered there. And what did Paul do, in response? He immediately accepted their invitation, and stood to speak to the crowd, asking for their attention.
And in the next few verses, we are given an account of just what Paul shared with the people, as he went from city to city. This was the message God had given them to share, so that many could be saved – a message that’s just as important to us, today!
(the message of salvation)
17The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
18And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
19And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
Paul began his message with a history lesson that the Jews would have been very familiar with. And those of you who have been in this class for a little while should be familiar with it, too. Does anyone know who Paul was talking about when he mentioned the Jews being exalted in Egypt? Paul was reminding them of the story of Joseph. And what about the forty years in the wilderness? Who would Paul have been speaking of, there? Moses. Paul wanted the Jews to recall all that God had done for them as a nation, including the promises He had made to them. Let’s continue with Paul’s history lesson.
20And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
21And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
22And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
Again, the Jews in this synagogue would have grown up hearing the stories of these great Jewish leaders and heroes. And once Paul had their attention, he was ready to show his audience just how Jesus Christ fit into the plan and promises that God had been working out since He’d called them out, as a nation. Let’s continue on, as Paul recounts the promise made to the great Jewish king, David.
23Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
Hundreds of years before, God had promised King David that Israel would need a Savior; and that He intended to send that Savior through David’s own family. It was Paul’s great privilege to announce to the world that Jesus Christ was that promised Savior!
Paul then moved his discussion from a history lesson to an account of the more recent events of the life of Jesus.
24When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
Paul wanted to make this message personal for all who heard it. He wanted them to clearly understand that God had promised them a Savior, that Jesus had been the fulfillment of that promise, and that His salvation was meant for every one of them.
And in case anyone still doubted that Jesus was the promised Messiah, Paul went on to prove to them that it was so, going back to the Old Testament prophecies, and showing them how they were fulfilled in Jesus.
27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
Paul was referring, here, to the many prophecies which spoke of a Savior who would have to suffer. But the Jewish leaders had chosen to ignore those prophecies, and concentrated, instead, on the idea of a conquering Savior. They didn’t want a Messiah who required their repentance. They just wanted someone to free them from Roman rule. And that is why so many of the Jews didn’t recognize Jesus as their Messiah when He came.
And since they didn’t accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Jewish people instead listened to their religious leaders, and called for His crucifixion.
28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
30But God raised him from the dead:
31And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
Paul wanted his audience to understand that this was not just his own fanciful story. He wanted them to know that there were many witnesses who had seen Jesus on earth, after His death, proving that He had, indeed, risen from the grave…displaying His power as the Son of God.
From there, Paul went on to remind them of more prophecies concerning Jesus.
32And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
35Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
37But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Paul wanted the group assembled in the synagogue to understand that this man, Jesus, was even greater than their famous King David. Because David, as great as he was, died. And his body decayed in the earth. But Jesus’ body did not decay because He had risen from the dead. Paul even reminded them that it was David, himself, who had written the prophecy concerning Jesus’ rising from the dead.
38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
40Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
41Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Paul ended his message with good news and bad news. What was the good news, in verses 38 and 39? What was available to those who would choose to believe Paul’s message? The good news was that Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem, had paid the price to offer forgiveness of sins to all who would believe in Him. He reminded them that trying to gain forgiveness by keeping the law of Moses was not good enough. They just couldn’t keep the whole law. Jesus’ death and resurrection meant that they didn’t have to worry about that law any more. They only needed to trust that Jesus’ sacrifice paid it all.
But Paul’s message ended with some bad news, too. He had a very strong warning for those who were listening. What did Paul say, in verse 41, would happen to the “despisers” (or those who found Paul’s message to be a waste of their time)? He said that they would perish. In other words, the eternal destiny of those who were listening to Paul depended on how they would respond to his message. What would happen to those who believed? Their sins would be forgiven. And what would happen to those who did not? They would perish for eternity, because their sins would not be forgiven.
And that is the message of the Bible for us today. We have been given a choice, just as those in the synagogue listening to Paul. We can believe what God’s Word says: that we can have eternal life by believing that Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins, and rose again because He is God. Or we can reject that message, and spend eternity perishing in Hell because we refused the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
(the mixed response)
This was a powerful message from Paul! And just like there will be here today, there were those who believed, and those who rejected the message of salvation.
42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Who does this verse say was anxious to also hear Paul’s message? The Gentiles immediately asked Paul and Barnabas if they would come and share their message with them on the following Sabbath. They, too, wanted to hear the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
And there were also many Jews who were happy to hear the message they had received.
43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
What do you suppose Paul meant when he told them to “continue in the grace of God?” Paul was encouraging them to remember that the message of salvation through Jesus meant that they were forgiven of their sins because of what Jesus had done for them, not because of anything they had or could do to earn forgiveness. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve – eternal life through His Son.
This was all such exciting news for the Jews and Gentiles alike in Antioch of Pisidia, that the next verse tells us nearly the whole city came out to hear them the next Sabbath day.
44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
That must have been a great encouragement to Paul and Barnabas, to see so many people responding to the Word of God, and the message of salvation through forgiveness in Jesus Christ. But not everyone felt the same way. As there had been in other cities, there were those who opposed Paul and Barnabas, and tried to stop them from spreading the Gospel of Jesus.
45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
What made this group of people speak out against Paul and Barnabas? They were filled with envy. We have talked about envy and jealousy before. It leads to hatred. And if you remember our lesson on Joseph and his brothers, what can hatred lead a person to do? 1 John 3:15 says that “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer…” This was nothing new for Paul. There had been others who wanted to kill him, to make him stop preaching about Jesus. But Paul and Barnabas were not scared. In fact, they became even bolder.
46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Why did Paul and Barnabas say they were sharing God’s message with the Gentiles? Because they had gone to the Jews first, but some of them had rejected it. God had known that this would happen, so He had told Paul ahead of time that he would be “a light to the Gentiles.”
47For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
48And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
49And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
How did the Gentiles receive this news? They were excited to learn that they were to be included in the offer of salvation. They were aware that the Jews were God’s chosen people. And it seems they had not expected to be given the opportunity to become part of God’s family. But God had promised Abraham, centuries before, that in him all the world would be blessed. And that included the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus as their Savior.
How do you think the Jews felt about God extending His offer of salvation to the Gentiles? Some may have been happy for them. But others were not, to say the least.
50But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
Who did the jealous Jews stir up in the city? They stirred up the most influential people they could find – the devout and honorable women, and chief men. In other words, they went to the most important people in the city, and convinced them that Paul and Barnabas were there to cause trouble, and should be thrown out. And that’s just what they did.
So how do you think Paul and Barnabas reacted to the people of the city turning on them? Do you think they got discouraged and decided maybe they’d better just head back home, like John did? No. Here’s what they did.
51But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
52And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
Shaking the dust of the city off of their feet was something Jesus, Himself, had told His disciples to do when a city rejected their message. Here’s what Jesus had said, “But into whatever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you; notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.” (Luke 10:10-12) Does anyone know what happened to the city of Sodom? God rained fire and brimstone down on it to destroy it. So shaking the dust off was meant as a sign that God would judge that city for the way they treated His messengers. Paul and Barnabas were prepared to let God deal with those who had mistreated them. And they were ready to move on the next city that God led them to.
Do you remember how we talked about the way others might react to our sharing God’s word with them? Just like it was with Paul and Barnabas, sometimes people will be excited to hear the news that Jesus loves them and has made a way for them to go to Heaven. But other times, it won’t be so well received. As servants of Jesus, we must learn to follow the example of Paul and Barnabas, and just shake off the dust when we’re rejected. After all, it’s not us that they are rejecting. It’s God. He can see their hearts. And He’s the one who will determine their eternal destinies.
As we have opportunities to share the message of salvation with others, let’s be like Paul and Barnabas, who, regardless of the way they were received, were able to keep following the Lord with hearts full of joy.
So as we close the lesson today, I have two thoughts to consider as you head back out into your homes and communities. The first is this: if you have never heard the message of salvation before, now that you have, and know that Jesus Christ came into this world as our Savior, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again to show His power over death and sin… what will you do? Will you ask to have your sins forgiven by believing in Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice for you? Or will you walk away today, rejecting this message, knowing that Paul said you will perish?
And then, for those of you who have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, will you be bold enough to share His message of salvation with others, knowing that there are some who will reject you? It’s not easy. But God wants you to share His message. And if you are willing, He will give you the courage to speak out for Him, just as Paul and Barnabas did. Remember our memory verse: how will others believe if they don’t know? And how will they know if they don’t hear? And how will they hear if no one tells them? Will you be the one to tell someone this week about salvation through Jesus Christ?
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of the apostle Paul. Please give each of us the courage to speak up to others about our love for You, and about what Jesus has done for us. Help us to be always ready to share, and not discouraged by those that might reject us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Paul said that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. (true)
2. Paul told the Jews that they could be saved by obeying Moses’ law. (false – by believing in Jesus)
3. The Gentiles asked Paul and Barnabas to preach the message to them, too. (true)
4. Jealous Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas. (true)
5. Paul and Barnabas prayed for God to destroy the city with fire. (false – they shook off the dust of the city)
How Will They Hear?
How will your friends call upon
A God they don’t believe?
And how could they believe in
A word they’ve not received?
How can they receive a word
That no one’s come to preach?
It could be your own witness
That to your friends will reach.
Lisa DeVinney, January, 2017