December 18, 2022 – Acts 17
Lesson Date: December 18, 2022
Focal Scripture Passage: Acts 17:1-34
AIM: To lead students to contrast man-centered philosophies with genuine Christianity, and to encourage any who have never repented of their sins and trusted Jesus for salvation to do so.
Before class: Read the notes on Acts 17 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the words “Philosophy” and “Christianity” on the marker board or chalkboard.
INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the word “Philosophy” written on the board. Ask: “How would you define the word philosophy? What is a philosophy?” (a philosophy is an underlying system of belief, a way of understanding and interpreting life and nature). Explain that the word philosophy is a combination of two words, which together mean “lover of wisdom.”
Tell the class that a philosophy is a guiding principle or foundational reason for doing something. For example, we have traffic laws and speed limits because we have an underlying belief (philosophy) that traffic laws result in safer roads and fewer accidents.
Direct the students’ attention to the word “Christianity” written on the board. Ask: “How would you define Christianity? Is it just a type of philosophy?” (while some unsaved people try to follow the teachings of Jesus as guidelines for living, genuine Christianity is much more: it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ).
Tell the class the title of today’s lesson is Philosophy or Christianity? Explain that as we study Acts 17, we will learn that Paul preached to the Greek philosophers in Athens, and contrast philosophy with genuine Christianity.
HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):
- Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Open Doors and Open Hearts; God supernaturally opened prison doors and doors for ministry, and He opened hearts to receive the Gospel).
- Ask if any volunteer would recite last week’s memory verse (John 6:44).
- Remind the class that Paul and his companions were on his Second Missionary Journey.
- At the end of last week’s lesson they left Philippi (locate on the Map).
- Paul in Thessalonica.
- Read Acts 17:1.
- Explain the following:
- Use the Map to show that Paul and his companions passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia on their way to Thessalonica.
- This was a journey of about 100 miles.
- Thessalonica was the capitol city of Macedonia and had a population of about 200,000.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 17:2-4.
- Ask: “According to verse 2, what did Paul do when he arrived in Thessalonica?” (preached from the scriptures in the Jewish synagogue for three sabbaths).
- Ask: “According to verse 3, what was his message?” (the Old Testament taught that Christ [the Messiah] would suffer and arise from the dead, and that Jesus is the Christ).
- Ask: “How was Paul’s message received?” (some Jews, God-fearing Gentiles, and prominent women were saved).
- Stress the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are essential elements of the Gospel message (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
- Read Acts 17:5-9.
- Ask: “What did the unbelieving Jews do?” (they hired some rough characters to stir up the city and cause a riot).
- Summarize: In Thessalonica, Paul preached from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Some believed and were saved, but others stirred up the city against Paul and his companions.
- Paul in Berea.
- Read Acts 17:10.
- Using the Map, explain that the believers in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas away under cover of darkness to Berea (a distance of about 40 miles).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 17:11-12.
- Ask: “What does verse 11 say about the Jews in Berea?” (they eagerly received Paul’s message and “searched the scriptures daily” to make sure the things he taught were true).
- Tell the class this is a trait we should emulate: we should search the scriptures daily.
- Ask: “How did the people of Berea respond to the Gospel?” (many of the Jews and some of the prominent Gentiles believed and were saved).
- Read Acts 17:13-14.
- Ask: “What happened next?” (the unsaved Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul was preaching in Berea, so they came and stirred up the people there).
- Ask: “Can you imagine hating someone and their teaching so much that you would walk 40 miles to try to stop them?”
- Ask: “What did the believers in Berea do with Paul?” (they sent him away).
- Summarize: Paul preached the Gospel in Berea, where many Jews and some prominent Gentiles believed. His ministry was cut short, however, because the unsaved Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up the people against him.
- Paul in Athens.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 17:15-16.
- Explain the following:
- The believers from Berea took Paul to Athens, a distance of about 200 miles (locate Athens on the Map).
- Athens was the center of Greek culture and philosophy.
- It was also the religious center of Greece: virtually every deity known to man could be worshipped there.
- Read Acts 17:17-21.
- Ask: “What happened?” (Paul preached in the synagogue and marketplace; the philosophers took him to the Areopagus so they could hear his doctrine).
- Explain the following:
- Some of the philosophers were Epicureans, who desired pleasure and trusted experience more than reason. Their belief was, “If it feels good, do it.”
- Others were Stoics, who were materialistic, fatalistic, and tried to be indifferent to both pleasure and pain.
- The Areopagus, also known as the “Hill of Ares” or “Mars’ Hill,” was a hill overlooking the city where philosophers gathered to discuss and debate their ideas.
- Ask: “What does verse 21 tell us about the people of Athens?” (they spent all their time talking about new ideas).
- Summarize: Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Athens, the center of Greek culture, religion, and philosophy. The philosophers were interested in hearing his ideas.
- Paul’s Sermon.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 17:22-23.
- Ask: “What did Paul say to the philosophers?” (he perceived that they were very religious and very superstitious: they even had an altar dedicated “to the unknown god” just to be sure they did not accidentally offend some god they didn’t even know).
- Tell the students Paul preached Jesus to the learned philosophers in Athens; we will examine his sermon, point by point.
- Read Acts 17:24-31 in the following sections, explaining each point:
- 24 – God is the creator of everything, and does not live in any man-made temple.
- 25 – Jesus needs nothing from men; He is the source and sustainer of all life.
- 26 – Jesus made us all of one blood, and oversees the rise and fall of nations.
- 27 – Jesus is near to those who seek Him (unlike the dead idols of the Athenians).
- 28-29 – Jesus gives us eternal life and makes us His children.
- 30 – God commands everyone to repent of his or her sins.
- 31 – God will one day judge every person on earth, based on their relationship with Jesus; He proved this by raising Jesus from the dead.
- Read Acts 17:32-34.
- Ask: “According to verse 32, how did the Athenian philosophers react to Paul’s message about Jesus?” (some mocked when they heard Paul tell about Jesus’ resurrection, but others wanted to hear more at another time).
- Tell the class verse 34 says some people believed in Jesus and stayed with Paul.
- Summarize: Paul unashamedly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the learned philosophers in Athens. Some rejected his message, some were curious, but a few believed and were saved.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention to the words “Philosophy” and “Christianity” written on the board. Tell the class that we are well into the Christmas season; in fact, next Sunday is Christmas day. Tell them that philosophy and Christianity view Christmas differently:
- The philosophy of the world is to promote the season to sell merchandise and make money.
- For Christians, however, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life to save our souls and take us to heaven when we die.
Explain that this is a very simple illustration of the difference between philosophy and Christianity.
Direct the students’ attention once again to the word “Philosophy” written on the board.
Ask: “Can Epicureanism or Stoicism save your soul and take you to heaven when you die?” (no).
Ask: “What about other philosophies such as hedonism, rationalism, existentialism, or pragmatism? Can they save your soul and take you to heaven when you die?” (no).
Tell the students that philosophies such as these are ways of looking at the world and living one’s life, but they have no saving or transforming power; in fact, each philosophy is no better than the will of the person choosing to follow it. Stress the fact that none of man’s philosophies can transform a life, save a soul, or take anyone to heaven.
Direct the students’ attention once again to the word “Christianity” written on the board.
Ask: “Can genuine Christianity save your soul and take you to heaven when you die?” (yes).
Ask a volunteer to read Acts 17:30. Ask: “Have you ever truly repented of your sins: confessed them, told God you were sorry for them, and turned away from them?” Tell the students if they have never done that, they should do it in a moment when we pray.
Read 1 John 3:23a. Ask: “What does God command us to do?” (believe on the name of Jesus Christ). Ask: “Have you ever truly believed in Jesus, trusting Him to save your soul?”
Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask: “If you have never truly repented of your sins and believed in Jesus, what is stopping you? Would you do it now?” After a moment of silence, voice a prayer of repentance and faith.
CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Acts 17:30. Offer to speak one-on-one with anyone who has questions about receiving Jesus as Savior.
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