Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
The Apostle Paul: Part 6
A New Team on a New Mission
Author’s Notes: Paul and Barnabas had been chosen by the Holy Spirit for the first Christian missionary journey. But God had new plans for the second journey. And that plan would include the breakup of the old team, so two new teams would be formed. Barnabas would join back up with his nephew, John Mark, while Paul set out with a new partner named Silas. In today’s lesson, we’ll meet up with Paul and Silas in the city of Philippi, where God will demonstrate His great power through and for them.
We’ve talked, before, about how God can use bad situations to bring about good results. And that’s exactly what happened to our missionary team, Paul and Barnabas. We left them in their home city of Antioch, where they had returned to report on their first missionary journey. But after a little time passed, they thought it would be a good idea to set out on another trip, to revisit the cities they had been to on their first trip.
The problem came when Barnabas decided he’d like to take his nephew, John Mark, along. Does anyone remember him? John Mark was the one who started out with Paul and Barnabas on their first journey, but left them to return home early. So it’s not surprising that Paul didn’t think it would be a great idea to take him along, again.
Their disagreement was so strong that they felt there was only one solution – to go their separate ways. Acts 15:39-40 tells us what they decided to do: “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.” We don’t normally think of godly men arguing. But God had a plan for both of these men, and it didn’t include their staying together. Barnabas would take John Mark, and head out as missionaries to the Jews.
Paul, on the other hand, chose a new partner by the name of Silas. And God’s plan was to send them as missionaries to the Gentiles. In today’s lesson, we’re going to join this new team in the city of Philippi, where they’ll have many opportunities to witness the awesome power of the God they were introducing to the Philippians.
But before we find out what God had in store for Paul and Silas in Philippi, let’s learn today’s memory verse, which is taken right from today’s passage.
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 they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31
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: A New Team on a New Mission ( Acts 16:9-40)
Sometimes God asks His children to just follow Him, without telling them where they are going. But that wasn’t true of Paul and Silas’ missionary journey together. Once they toured the cities and churches that Paul and Barnabas had established on the first missionary journey, they got ready to head a new direction. But God had other plans for them, and made it very clear exactly where He wanted them to go.
9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
When you’re looking for God’s will in your life, you can’t get much clearer than the message Paul received from Macedonia. God didn’t always work that clearly for His messengers. But He had a special mission in mind for Paul and Silas, and wanted to be sure they knew just where He wanted them to go. And Paul and Silas, being His obedient servants, immediately obeyed the call.
10And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
11Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
12And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
God drew Paul and Barnabas to the city of Philippi. It was an important city in the heart of the Roman Empire. It was right on the main route traveled by soldiers and traders, alike. So it was a strategic location for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared and spread.
But Paul could not follow his usual pattern of going into the local synagogue to preach, because at that time, there was no synagogue in Philippi. But there was a group of people who did worship God. So Paul and Silas found where they worshipped, and joined them, there.
13And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
Did you notice that the Lord had already been working on Lydia’s heart, preparing her for the message from Paul and Silas? She might not have known who Jesus was before that day. But she had already been seeking God. And He had already been working on her heart. So when she heard the truth about Jesus, she was ready to believe. And not only Lydia, but her entire household was saved that day.
15And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
God doesn’t save us just to have us hide away in a little corner, or under a bushel (like Matthew chapter 5 talks about). He saves us to serve Him. And that’s just what Lydia did. She offered what she had to provide for Paul and Silas as they stayed in her city. Do you remember how we talked, in our last lesson, about using the gifts God has given us to help others and bring glory to Him? Lydia is a perfect example of doing just that! She had extra room in her home, and offered it to these servants of God, which allowed them to continue ministering in Philippi.
16And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
17The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
Who did Paul and Silas meet as they were headed to a prayer meeting? They met a young woman who was possessed by an evil spirit that helped her tell fortunes. And it seems she was a popular fortune teller, as our passage says she made a lot of money for the men for whom she worked.
And did you notice what she was saying about Paul and Silas as she followed them? She told everyone that they were “servants of the most high God,” and that they could show the people the “way of salvation.” Was she right? Yes, she was. But Paul was not happy to have her following them around, making this declaration. Our next verse tells us that Paul was grieved by what she was doing.
Why do you think Paul would be upset about this girl proclaiming the truth about them? Since she was well known as a fortune teller, maybe Paul realized that it would be confusing for the people to hear her speak of God, when they realized that she had another spirit living inside of her. But whatever the reason, Paul knew that it was an evil spirit speaking through her, and that the one true God, whom he worshipped, was able to deliver her from that spirit.
18And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
Through Paul, God delivered this girl from the spirit that had been controlling her. But they might not have expected the reaction they received. We’re not told how the girl responded. But we are told how her masters did. Would anyone like to guess how they felt about the girl’s newfound freedom from the evil spirit? Do you think they were happy for her? Let’s see what her masters did.
19And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
20And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
21And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
22And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
At this time, there were local rulers who had been set up by the Romans in the city of Philippi. And if the Jews stirred up trouble, especially against the Roman government, those rulers were held responsible. So this accusation from the girl’s masters was not treated lightly.
23And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
24Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
We can see how serious the charges against Paul and Silas were, as the jailer chose to lock them away in the most secure part of his prison, even fastening their feet in stocks to be sure there would be no chance of escape.
There have been some archeological excavations done in Philippi. And it is even believed that they may have found the very prison where Paul and Silas were held. It would not have looked anything like our modern prisons. It would have been cold and damp, with little or no light reaching the inner chamber, other that what little torch light shone through the prison halls. They likely would not have been fed. And had most of their clothes stripped from them when they were beaten. There would have been no bathrooms, or for that matter, any chance for them to relieve themselves except for where they were sitting with their feet in the stocks. What a miserable place it surely must have been!
How do you think you might have reacted to this turn of events in their journey? They had followed God’s call, from the vision Paul received. And they had done God’s will in freeing the young woman from the bondage of an evil spirit. And what had it gotten them? They had been falsely accused, beaten ,and thrown into the darkest, coldest, dirtiest, smelliest prison they’d probably ever encountered.
Do you think you might have been tempted to wonder if you’d misunderstood God? Do you think you’d be discouraged, wondering why the powerful God you served wasn’t taking care of you? It would be easy for most people to question God, and become discouraged, or scared, or even angry at what God was allowing them to go through. But that’s not the way Paul and Silas reacted, at all. Let’s see what they did, as they spent the night in that miserable place.
25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
What did that verse say Paul and Silas were doing? They were not complaining, or crying out in despair. They were singing praises to God…praises! What does that mean? It means they were singing about the goodness of God. And not just quietly, to themselves. Not timidly, fearing more punishment. Paul and Silas were singing their praises to God so loudly that the other prisoners were able to hear them.
What a testimony that must have been, for the other prisoners to see the condition that Paul and Silas were in. And at the same time, hear those words of praise coming from their mouths. Only a great love for an incredible God could bring something like that out of a person in those circumstances.
And their songs of praise did not go unheard by the One they were singing to, either. In fact, God was so moved by their faithful spirits that He, Himself, began to move in such a powerful way that the very earth beneath them began to shake.
26And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
What a mighty God Paul and Silas served! What did God do, with just a shaking of the earth? He shook off their stocks and chains, and opened all the doors of the prison.
Now, if you were Paul and Silas, what do you think you would have done if you were set free by God? Do you think you’d have kept right on singing as you hopped up out of your prison cell, and right out the front door of the prison, along with all the other prisoners who had also been released? If that’s what you expected from Paul and Silas, you are in for a surprise. And so was the man in charge of the prison. Remember, Paul and Silas were his responsibility. If they were to escape, it would surely be a death sentence for him.
27And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
What did the keeper of the prison assume, when he saw that all the prison doors were open? He assumed all of his prisoners had escaped. After all, that would have been the normal reaction of most prisoners.
And what was the keeper of the prison ready to do when he saw the prison doors all standing open? Realizing that he would surely be put to death for losing all of his prisoners, the prison keeper was ready to just take his own life. But before he could go through with it, Paul let him know that they were all still there. What an incredible, unbelievable relief that must have been for this man. What did he immediately ask Paul and Silas? He asked them what he needed to do to be saved. Do you suppose that maybe this man had been listening to Paul and Silas singing as he fell asleep? He knew that these men had something he desperately wanted and needed…the key to salvation.
Now Paul and Silas knew why God had allowed them to suffer through the beating and imprisonment. This Philippian jailer recognized his need of salvation because of their testimony before him. And you can be sure they were ready with an answer to his very important question. In fact, their answer is our memory verse for this week:
31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
The answer the jailer was looking for was simple. He only needed to put his trust in the Lord Jesus – the One Paul and Silas had spent the day preaching about… the same One they had spent that very night singing their praises to. And not only did Paul and Silas have the opportunity to witness to the jailer, but they were also able to share the Gospel message with everyone in his home. Let’s rejoice with Paul and Silas, as we see the response of the jailer, and his household.
32And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
33And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
34And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
What a change God brought about in the life of this man and his family. Not only did they get saved, but the change in the jailer’s heart was immediately evident. What did the jailer, with his new heart, do for Paul and Silas? He took them to his own house, cleaned their wounds from the beatings, and fed them his own food.
That’s the way our lives should be when we get saved. For those of you who were with us for our lessons on Joseph, do you remember the verse we learned about becoming new creatures? Old things should pass away, and all things should become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Others should be able to look at us and see the changes in our lives. They should be able to see Christ, living in us. And that’s the way it was with the Philippian jailer. He was now able to treat Paul and Silas as brothers in Christ.
And after spending some time, that night, with the jailer and his family, Paul and Silas must have chosen to return to the prison, so that the jailer would not get in trouble for their escape. Because we see that the following morning, a message concerning Paul and Silas was sent to the prison.
35And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.
36And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
Realizing that they had no legal grounds to hold them, the magistrates had decided to release Paul and Silas from prison, hoping they would leave quietly…without causing any more commotion. But Paul did not let them off the hook that easily. You see, the Roman government could pretty much do whatever they wanted to the people they had conquered. And that included the Jews.
But the Romans also had a very advanced legal system for their own citizens, with guaranteed rights and privileges. And what the Philippian magistrates didn’t know was that both Paul and Silas had Roman citizenship. So their imprisonment had been illegal. And Paul was not going to leave Philippi until he made that point perfectly clear.
37But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
38And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
39And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
Once they realized their mistake, the Roman magistrates quickly did as Paul said, and came, themselves, to release Paul and Silas from prison. Does anyone know what the word “meekness” means? Meekness is having the right or ability to fight back, but choosing not to do so. The missionaries could have demanded more from those who had wrongfully imprisoned them. But Paul and Silas had no intention of causing any trouble for the magistrates. In fact, in leaving as they did, they were probably a great testimony to the Lord, before the Roman rulers. They demonstrated what true meekness is all about.
40And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
Paul and Silas knew that it was time for them to move on to minister in a new city. But they didn’t leave Philippi without saying goodbye to the new Christians who were there. These Christians had probably been quite upset at seeing their missionaries arrested. So Paul and Silas wanted to encourage them before they left, so they would not be worried about their friends, or worried about what might happen to them as they began growing in their new faith in God.
Although they had witnessed a difficult thing, they had also witnessed the powerful provision of God. Paul would later write a letter to this new church. We have it in our Bibles as the book of Philippians. And maybe he had this experience in mind when he included this verse: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
God had certainly taken care of the needs of His missionaries in the prison at Philippi. And He would continue to care for them as they continued on in their missionary journey. Paul and Silas were also confident that God would be watching over their new Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, in Philippi, just as He watches over us, today.
Although there are Christians in the world, today, who are in prison for their faith in God, most of us will never be asked to go through such a trial of our faith. But there will be other ways we may be tested. And God has promised that whatever our needs are, He will always be there to provide for His children.
So the question for you is, are you one of His children? Do you have the confidence that God is providing for all of your needs? If you have been saved, then you can be sure that your Heavenly Father is always there with you, meeting your needs.
If you don’t have that assurance, because you’ve never placed your trust in the Lord Jesus, then you can do just what the Philippian jailer and his family did. The simple instructions are right in today’s memory verse, and are the very words Paul shared with the jailer when he asked what he needed to do to be saved. Let’s say the verse together, one more time, to be sure that each one here, today, knows what they need to do to have the assurance that they are part of God’s family.
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31
It’s that easy. Just believe on Jesus Christ, the One who died for your sins and rose again, to prove He was the only one whose sacrifice could pay the debt for you. Then you will be one of His children…one of those who can claim the many promises in His Word.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the promises we can find in Your Word, including the promise that we can be saved by calling on the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You, too, for the apostle Paul, and his willingness to go through so many trials and tribulations to share Your message with the world. And if anyone here, today, has not been saved, open their hearts to want to know You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Paul cast an evil spirit out of a young fortune teller. (true)
2. Paul and Silas were rewarded for helping the young girl. (false – they were arrested)
3. Paul and Silas were put in stocks, in the innermost part of the Philippian prison. (true)
4. Paul and Silas escaped when an earthquake shook off their shackles and opened the doors. (false – they remained in the prison)
5. When the jail keeper found that Paul and Silas had not escaped, he asked them how he could be saved. (true)
Sunday School Song:
Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi,
They would not defeated be;
But at midnight prayed and sang to God on high
Till an earthquake set them free.
In the same wonderful way,
In the same wonderful way,
God can still answer prayer, and show His mighty power
In the same wonderful way!
- Author Unknown
Lisa DeVinney, January 2021