Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
The Apostle Paul: Part 5
Giving Glory Where Itís Due
Author’s Notes: Last week we left our missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, heading into the city of Iconium, as they shook the dust of Pisidian Antioch off of their feet. These two men would soon find that initial acceptance followed by the stirring up of the people would be a regular pattern as they traveled from city to city. And in today’s lesson, we’re going to find both the acceptance and rejection get out of hand in the city of Iconium.
What are you good at? Every single person is good at something. Some people are good at many things. But there’s not a person on earth who does not have some gift or ability. Some people are very athletic, and good at sports. Others can sing or write well. Some are good at making friends easily, while others are good at explaining things to others. Some have great minds that learn new things easily. Let’s take a moment and see if we can name at least one talent or ability for each person in our class. (Go around the class and have each person name an ability they have, or have them name one for someone else. Or if you, as their teacher, feel like you know them well enough, you could tell each one of them what abilities you’ve seen in them.)
Where do our gifts or abilities come from? James 1:17 tell us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Yes, every talent or ability we have comes right from the One who made us…God, Himself.
Why has God given us these abilities? He gives them to us to use. There is a parable in the New Testament about three men who were given talents. Two of the men used theirs to gain more. But one buried his in the ground. Of course, the master praised the two who used their talents to gain more. And he also rebuked the one who did not use his talent at all.
But we sometimes need to be careful about how we use our talents. God gives them to us so we can help others around us, and bring glory back to Him. Sometimes we use our gifts with proud hearts, so that others will look at us and be impressed with what we can do. That does not bring glory to God. It only glorifies us. And that is wrong, because God is the one gives us the abilities in the first place. So all the praise and glory should go back to Him.
It’s also possible to use our talents to hurt others, instead of helping them. If our attitudes are wrong, and prideful, then others around us may feel unimportant, and more reluctant to use their talents, for fear that they won’t be as good. And that would certainly not bring glory to our Creator.
In today’s lesson, God gives Paul and Barnabas some very special gifts to use for His glory, to draw others to Him. But the people who see them using these gifts misunderstood, and wanted to give all the glory to men, and not God. So we’re going to learn from the example of Paul and Barnabas that everything we do should be to bring glory to God, and God, alone. We’ll also find this truth in today’s memory verse.
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.)
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17
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: Giving Glory Where It’s Due ( Acts 14)
1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.
Where did Paul and Barnabas go first, once they arrived in Iconium? Just as their habit had been on the island of Cyprus, and then again in the city of Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas went directly to the synagogue in Iconium.
Does anyone notice a pattern developing in the way the people of each city have reacted to the ministry of Paul and Barnabas? What was the initial reaction to the message they shared? Many people, both Jews and Greeks, believed in Jesus. But then a group came in and stirred things up, against Paul and Barnabas. Who tried to turn the people against Paul and Barnabas? The unbelieving Jews.
Why do you think these Jews wanted to cause so much trouble for the missionaries? Maybe it was because they were jealous of what Paul and Barnabas were offering: salvation through Jesus Christ, without having to live the ritualistic life that the Jewish leaders had taught them was needed to gain God’s favor. In preaching salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice, Paul and Barnabas were challenging everything the Jews believed about getting to Heaven. And in doing so, they challenged the Jews sense of security in their own good works. The message of the Gospel said that they didn’t even have to be Jews to get to Heaven. Such a notion was unheard of in Jewish culture. The Jews were God’s chosen people. And many felt that their heritage, alone, was enough to secure their place with God. They didn’t want to hear that they, like everyone else, needed to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.
But Paul and Barnabas were not discouraged by what now must have been a reaction they expected. Despite the rising threats of persecution, they continued their mission in Iconium for as long as they could.
3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,
What finally caused Paul and Barnabas to leave the city of Iconium? A mob of both Jews and Gentiles was preparing to stone them. This led them to believe that God wanted them to move on, to share the Gospel in another area.
6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:
7 And there they preached the gospel.
Do you think you might have become discouraged, by now, with all the threats and hatred? Do you think you might have taken the same route John had, and headed back home? After all, it might make you wonder if you’re really doing what God wants, when things kept ending badly. Doesn’t it seem like God would make things go smoothly, if you’re really in His will?
That’s part of why Paul’s example is so important for us, today. His life is a reminder that just because things don’t seem to be going well doesn’t mean we’re not following God’s will. God sometimes allows bad things to happen to help us learn to trust Him more, and build our Christian character.
But God doesn’t use only bad things to help us grow as Christians. Sometimes things that seem good can also be a test of our relationship with Him. Our job is to remain faithful to Him, and be able to praise and glorify Him whether things seem to be good or bad. Remember our verse says to do everything, and give thanks for everything to the glory of God. Let’s find out what seemingly good thing God used to test the faithfulness of His servants.
8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:
9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
What special gift had God given Paul, to help this lame man, and bring Himself glory? He gave Paul the ability to heal a man who had been born lame. Not only was this man given the strength to use his legs, but he also didn’t have to learn how to use them. As babies, we have to learn how to walk. But this man, who had never stood up on his legs before, was able to get right up, walk, and even leap around on his healed legs. What an incredible miracle!
The only problem was, the reaction of the people in Lystra was not what Paul and Barnabas expected or wanted.
11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.
12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.
13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
What did the people of Lystra believe about Paul and Barnabas? They believed they were the gods Jupiter and Mercury, who had come down to earth. And what were they ready to do for these supposed gods? They were going to make sacrifices to them. But Paul and Barnabas knew what our verse says, that all the thanks and glory for everything we do and say needs to go to the Lord. So they tried to calm the people down, and use the opportunity to share the truth about God with them.
14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,
15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Paul and Barnabas assured the people of Lystra that they were not gods, but were people, just like them. They wanted the people to know who the One, true God really is. So they pointed to the things the people could see around them, in nature, as proof that God had given them signs pointing to Himself.
It’s also important to remember, here, that it’s not bad to be proud of ourselves for doing our best. But the problem comes when we begin to take credit for our talents, ourselves. Have you ever seen a professional ball game? There are many athletes who, when they score a goal or make a great play, will do one of two things. Some of them will point toward Heaven, acknowledging that it is God who gave them the ability to do what they did.
But there are others who will throw their hands in the air, point to themselves, or beat their chests as if to say, “Look at me! Do you see how great I am? I did that all by myself.” These players are taking all the glory for themselves, and are not, in any way, acknowledging that God is the one who gave them their talents.
It would probably help us to keep our pride under control, if we would remember that the God who gave us our abilities could take them away, just as easily.
Paul and Barnabas had no trouble remembering Who deserved the glory for healing the lame man. But they had a hard time convincing the people of Lystra that God was the one they should be praising. The next verse says that they were just barely able to stop them from making the misguided sacrifices that they intended.
18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.
And before Paul and Barnabas were even able to preach the Gospel to the people of Lystra, to lead them to the one, true God who had healed the lame man, a now familiar group appeared on the scene. Would anyone like to guess who showed up in Lystra? It was those same, unbelieving Jews who were stirring up trouble everywhere Paul and Barnabas went.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
The same people who were ready to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods were quickly turned, by the unbelieving Jews, against the missionaries. What did they do to Paul? They stoned him until they believed he was dead, then threw his body out of the city.
Can you even imagine how painful it would be, for people to throw giant rocks at you, trying to kill you? Do you remember anyone else who was stoned? Yes, Stephen was. And who had been there to see Stephen being stoned…even consenting to the death? Yes, Paul had been there to witness Stephen’s death. Do you think he might have thought about that occasion as he faced the same death, himself?
And what a disheartening experience it must have been for Barnabas, to watch his friend and fellow missionary be stoned to death by the mob. He, too, probably believed that Paul had given his very life for his Lord, Jesus Christ.
But Barnabas and the others with him had a bit of a surprise in store. Not only was God going to raise Paul back up, He was going to restore his strength so that he could go right back to preaching as he had before. Like He had with the man who was lame, God healed Paul completely, so that he was able to go right on with God’s mission for them.
20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
And then, it was time for Paul and Barnabas to head back home. Their first missionary journey was almost complete. All that was left for them to do was to go back through each city to check on the new believers, and make sure they had churches established to carrying on the ministry Paul and Barnabas had started.
Do you think they were looking forward to returning to each of the cities they’d been to? How had they left each of these cities? They had been driven out of each and every one by the unbelieving Jews, and the mobs they stirred up. But Paul and Barnabas loved their new brothers and sisters in Christ, and wanted to be sure that they had churches in place to help them grow as Christians.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
22C onfirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Notice, here, that Paul and Barnabas were even able to use the hardships they had faced to teach the new Christians about how God can work through trials and tribulations. These new believers were able to see, first hand, how God was able to use His missionaries to bring others to Himself, even when they faced the toughest opposition including threats to their own lives. That must have been proof to those believers of how much Paul and Barnabas really loved them in the Lord - that they would risk their own lives to return to their cities to check on their progress.
(returning home with an exciting report)
And then, it was finally time for Paul and Barnabas to return back home, to Antioch, to report to the Christians there, who had sent them out on the mission trip, about all that God had done through them as they traveled around Asia Minor. What an exciting meeting that must have been!
23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
24 And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
25 And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
26 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
28 And there they abode long time with the disciples.
Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey had come to an end. They had enjoyed many great moments, as new believers were added to the family of God in every city. But they had also encountered what was probably the toughest days of their lives. And through it all, they had come to one realization: that God had used them, and the abilities He had given them, to open the door of faith to many who had never heard.
Do you remember last week’s memory verse? How would these people have even believed in God if they hadn’t heard about Him. And how would they hear if no one told them? And how would anyone tell them, unless they were sent. The church of Antioch had listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit telling them to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. And as a result, new believers had started new churches in each city they went to.
What would have happened if Paul and Barnabas decided they weren’t talented enough to go out as missionaries? What if they didn’t feel brave enough, or didn’t want to take a chance on finding how their talents could be used by God? Paul and Barnabas chose to follow the leading of the Lord, and God blessed them for it by allowing them to see a great multitude of both Jews and Gentiles led to the Lord.
Of course, God could have raised up other men to take the places of Paul and Barnabas, if they had buried their talents, and refused to go. But Paul and Barnabas were the men He’d chosen, and they were the ones God had given all the talents and abilities they would need for the mission He’s called them to.
You can be sure that whatever God calls you to do, that He will do the same for you. God has a definite plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of this promise from the Lord, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God will give you all you need to bring you to that “expected end.” But He will not force you to follow His plan. That choice is up to you. You can be sure, however, that if you do follow God’s will for you, that He will bless you for it.
And when He does, that will be the time to remember to give all the glory back to God; to thank Him and praise Him for all He has done for you and given to you. After all, He is the one who called you, and gave you every ability you would need to fulfill His plan for your life.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of the apostle Paul, and the way that he always gave the glory back to You, for all You did in and through him. Help us, Lord, to remember to be humble, as we recall that all we have and are is because of You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. The people of Lystra wanted to make sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. (true)
2. Paul and Barnabas accepted the worship of the people of Lystra. (false – they told them they were only men)
3. The same people who wanted to worship Paul later tried to stone him to death. (true)
4. After Paul was stoned, he and Barnabas headed directly for home. (false – they went back to visit the Christians in the cities they had been to)
5. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to report on their missionary journey. (true)
Every Good and Perfect Gift
Everything we are and have
Are gifts from God, alone.
So all the praise and glory, then,
Should go back to His throne.
Lisa DeVinney, January 2021