February 5, 2023 – Acts 23
Lesson Date: February 5, 2023
Focal Scripture Passage: Acts 23:1-35
AIM: To lead students to discover and describe the fruits (results) of the religion of the First Century Jewish leaders, and to examine themselves to determine whether they are following religion or Jesus.
Before class: Read the notes on Acts 23 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Bring a few pieces of fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, etc.) to class.
INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the pieces of fruit you have brought to class. Ask them what each one is.
After identifying each fruit, ask the students where it grows. The point is that apples grow on apple trees, oranges grow on orange trees, grapes grow on grape vines, etc.
Ask: “Do apples ever grow on orange trees? Do bananas grow on grape vines?” (no to both). Stress the fact that we do not get one kind of fruit from a different kind of tree or plant. Tell the class that fruit is the natural product of certain trees and plants. For example, apple trees naturally produce apples, and they don’t have to decide to produce apples instead of oranges.
Ask: “Do our actions and behaviors bear fruit, too?” (yes, our actions have consequences). Ask: “Do our beliefs bear fruit?” (yes, our actions come from our beliefs).
Tell the class that the title of today’s lesson is The Fruits of Religion. Tell them as we study Acts 23, we will look especially for the fruits (results, products) of the religion of the First Century Jewish leaders. We’ll also contrast that with a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):
- Remind the students that in Acts 21, Paul was seized in the Jerusalem Temple by a bloodthirsty Jewish mob that wanted to kill him, but he was rescued by Roman soldiers.
- Ask: “What was last week’s lesson from Acts 22 about?” (Tell How Jesus Changed You; Paul courageously told the angry Jewish crowd how Jesus had changed his life).
- Tell the class the Roman commander did not understand why the Jews wanted to kill Paul, so he summoned the chief priests and Sanhedrin to examine Paul (Acts 22:30).
- Ask: “What was the Sanhedrin? Who were these men?” (they were the ruling council of the Jews; the men on the council were the most respected religious leaders of the Jews).
- Stress the fact that these men were very
- Paul Before the Sanhedrin.
- Write the words, “Fruits of Religion” as a heading across the top of the marker board or chalkboard.
- Tell the students as we study Acts 23, we are going to create a list of the fruits evident in the actions of the Jewish religious leaders.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:1-2.
- Ask: “What’s the first thing Paul said to the council?” (he had lived in such a way that his conscience was clear before God).
- Ask: “What happened when Paul said that?” (the high priest ordered someone nearby to hit Paul in the mouth).
- Tell the class the first fruit of religion evidenced by these respected Jewish leaders was Violence. Write that on the board.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:3-5.
- Ask: ‘How did Paul react to being hit in the mouth?” (he rebuked the man who ordered it, calling him a whitewashed wall [clean on the outside but corrupt on the inside], and asking why he sat to judge Paul by the Jewish Law, when he broke that same Law).
- Tell the class the next fruit of religion is Hypocrisy. Write that on the board.
- Ask: “What did Paul do when the others told him the man he was rebuking was the high priest?” (he explained that he didn’t know the man was the high priest and quoted Exodus 22:28, which forbids speaking evil of the rulers of the people).
- Explain that this was not an official meeting of the Sanhedrin and the high priest was not wearing his special clothing.
- Read Acts 23:6-8.
- Ask: “What did Paul realize about the council members?” (some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees).
- Ask: “According to verse 8, what was a big difference between Sadducees and Pharisees?” (the Sadducees were liberals who denied supernatural things like angels and resurrection, both of which the Pharisees believed in).
- Ask: “What did Paul say about himself in verse 6?” (he was a Pharisee and the only reason he was imprisoned was because he believed in the resurrection of the dead).
- Ask: “What happened when Paul said this?” (there was great dissension and division in the council).
- Tell the class the next fruits of religion are Dissension and Division. Write those words on the board.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:9-10.
- Ask: “What did the Pharisees do next?” (they started defending Paul, saying he was not guilty and what he was teaching might even be true).
- Stress the fact that the Pharisees hated Paul one minute, then defended him the next.
- Tell the class the next fruit of religion is Insincerity. Write this on the board.
- Ask: “What happened in verse 10?” (the highly respected and dignified members of the Sanhedrin became so violent that the Roman commander had to rescue Paul before they killed him.
- Tell the class this is another example of Violence (already written on the board).
- Ask: “After seeing what he saw, do you think the Roman commander had any interest in following the religion of the Jews?” (absolutely not).
- Summarize: The members of the Sanhedrin were very religious, but the fruits of their religion were violence, hypocrisy, dissension, divisions, and insincerity.
- A Promise From the Lord.
- Tell the students Paul previously had to be rescued from a bloodthirsty Jewish mob by Roman soldiers, and now Roman soldiers had to rescue him from the violent religious leaders; he was held prisoner in the Roman fortress.
- Ask: “How do you think Paul might have felt after these things?” (discouraged, dismayed).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:11.
- Ask: “Who appeared to Paul?” (the Lord Jesus).
- Ask: “What’s the first thing the Lord said to Paul?” (cheer up; don’t be discouraged).
- Ask: “What promise did the Lord make to Paul?” (just as he had witnessed about Jesus in Jerusalem, he would also bear witness of Him in Rome).
- Ask: “How do you think that made Paul feel?” (encouraged and confident).
- Stress the fact that the Lord’s promise meant Paul would not die in Jerusalem; he would live to see Rome, just as the Spirit had previously revealed to him (Acts 19:21).
- Summarize: The Lord miraculously appeared to Paul, promising that he would live to one day preach about Him in Rome.
- A Plot to Kill Paul.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:12-15.
- Ask: “What did the forty Jewish men do?” (conspired to kill Paul).
- Tell the class the next fruits of religion are Murder and Conspiracy. Write those words on the board.
- Ask: “According to verse 14, who did they want to join their conspiracy?” (the chief priests and elders).
- Ask: “What did the men tell the chief priests and elders to do?” (have the Sanhedrin summon Paul the next day, supposedly to question him, but actually so the men could ambush and kill Paul).
- Tell the class the next fruit of religion is Lying. Write this on the board.
- Read Acts 23:16-22.
- Explain that Paul’s nephew learned of the plot to murder Paul, and he got word to the Roman commander about it.
- Stress the fact that the highest Jewish religious leaders joined a lying conspiracy to murder an innocent man.
- Summarize: The Jewish leaders were very religious, but the fruits of their religion were murder, conspiracy, and lying.
- Protection From the Romans.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 23:23-24.
- Ask: “What did the Roman commander do when he learned about the plot to kill Paul?” (decided to send Paul away under heavy guard to Caesarea, the seat of Roman government in Israel; locate Caesarea on the Map).
- Tell the class the commander wrote a letter to Governor Felix, explaining the situation.
- Read Acts 23:25-30.
- Ask: “What did the Roman commander say the Jews wanted to do to Paul?” (kill him).
- Tell the class this is another example of Murder (already written on the board).
- Read Acts 23:31-35.
- Tell the class that Paul was escorted safely to Caesarea, where he was held in prison until his Jewish accusers could come to press formal charges against him.
- Summarize: The Jewish leaders were very religious, but they were so murderous that the Romans had to keep Paul locked up to save his life.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention once again to the fruit you have brought to class. Remind them that fruit is the natural product of fruit trees and plants. Tell them that apples grow on apple trees, and they are the outward sign that the tree is an apple tree.
Remind the students that the title of today’s lesson is The Fruits of Religion. Tell them that the high priest, Sanhedrin, chief priests, and elders were the highest religious leaders in ancient Israel. They were strict adherents to their religion, and were responsible for teaching the rest of the people how to follow their religion. Ask: “What kind of fruit did their religion produce in their lives?” (the answers are on the board). Read the list of “Fruits of Religion” written on the board, which should include the following:
Tell the students that these fruits are not peculiar to ancient Judaism: any religion that is not based on repentance and faith in Jesus Christ can produce the same type of evil and deadly fruit. Following Jesus, on the other hand, produces the fruit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Ask: “Which list better describes your life, the list I just read from Galatians 5:22-23, or the list written on the board?” Stress the fact that the fruit of religion and the fruit of following Jesus are quite different.
Ask: “Be honest with yourself, are you following a set of religious rules and practices, or are you following Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask them to honestly examine themselves to determine if they are truly Christian, or merely religious. Urge any who do not know Jesus as Savior to turn to Him in repentance and faith right now. Voice a closing prayer.
CONCLUSION: Tell the students if someone brings up the subject of religion this week, to tell that person about Jesus and the ways He has changed their life.
April 2, 2023 – Psalms 8; 78; 91; 118
March 26, 2023
March 26, 2023 – Psalm 119:97-168
March 19, 2023
March 19, 2023 – Psalm 119:41-88
March 12, 2023