January 22, 2023 – Acts 21
Lesson Date: January 22, 2023
Focal Scripture Passage: Acts 21:1-40
AIM: To lead students to discover that Paul’s courage was shown in his determination to obey God in spite of danger, and to ask God to give them courage to obey Him no matter what.
Before class: Read the notes on Acts 21 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the word “Courage” on the marker board or chalkboard.
INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the word “Courage” written on the board. Ask them to suggest definitions for the word. Some possible definitions include: the mental or moral strength to carry on in the face of danger, difficulty, or fear; bravery; overcoming one’s fears to accomplish a task.
Ask: “Who do you think of when you hear the word courage? What type of person exemplifies courage?” (they might name members of the military, police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, or those battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases).
Ask: “If someone has courage, does that mean they don’t have fear?” (no, it means they overcome or put aside their fear to accomplish the task before them). Tell the class that courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it is acting in spite of fear.
Explain that courage is often shown through obedience. For example, military members, first responders, and emergency personnel face danger by obeying their superiors and the procedures they have been taught. They devote a lot of time to training, so that when danger arises, their “training kicks in” and they do what they have been taught.
Tell the students the title of today’s lesson is Courage. Tell them as we study Acts 21, we will see that Paul exhibited great courage as he obeyed God’s plan for his life.
HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):
- Ask: “What was last week’s lesson from Acts 20 about?” (Paul’s Laser-Focused Ministry; we should follow Paul’s example by using every opportunity to tell others about Jesus).
- Ask if any volunteer would recite last week’s memory verse (Acts 20:28).
- Read Acts 19:21.
- Tell the students that the Holy Spirit laid out Paul’s travel plans: he was to go to Jerusalem and then on to Rome.
- Use the Map to remind the class that at the end of Acts 20 Paul was at Miletus bidding farewell to the elders from the church at Ephesus, before going to Jerusalem.
- Warned by Believers in Tyre.
- Read Acts 21:1-3.
- Use the Map to explain that Paul and his companions sailed around the southwestern coast of Turkey and then across the Mediterranean Sea to Tyre.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:4-6.
- Ask: “What did the believers in Tyre tell Paul?” (not to go to Jerusalem).
- Ask: “Did Paul heed their warning?” (no, he continued his journey).
- Ask: “What gave Paul the courage to go to Jerusalem in spite of warnings?” (he was obeying God’s commands).
- Read Acts 20:22-24 (from last week’s lesson).
- Explain the following:
- The Holy Spirit was compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem.
- He didn’t know exactly what to expect there, but his experience told him that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him.
- Paul was unswerving in his determination to obey God: he was going to courageously preach the Gospel even if it cost his life.
- Summarize: Paul was warned by believers in Tyre not to go to Jerusalem, but he obeyed God and courageously continued his journey.
- Warned by a Prophet from Judea.
- Read Acts 21:7-9.
- Use the Map to explain that Paul and his companions continued their journey by ship from Tyre to Caesarea.
- Ask: “Who did they stay with in Caesarea?” (Philip the evangelist).
- Remind the students that Philip was one of the seven chosen by the early church to serve widows (Acts 6:1-5), and he led the Ethiopian Eunuch to Jesus (Acts 8:5-40).
- Read Acts 21:10.
- Ask: “Who came from Judea?” (a prophet named Agabus; see also Acts 11:28).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:11-12.
- Ask: “What did Agabus do and say?” (he took Paul’s girdle [belt] and bound his hands and feet with it, and then said the Holy Spirit revealed that the owner of the girdle [Paul] would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles [Romans]).
- Ask: “What did everyone who heard this prophecy do?” (begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:13.
- Ask: “How did Paul answer them?” (he said he was ready not only to be bound at Jerusalem, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus).
- Ask: “What do you think gave him the courage to go on in spite of the danger?” (he was determined to obey God and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ).
- Read Acts 21:14-16.
- Tell the students that Paul and his companions continued their journey to Jerusalem.
- Summarize: Paul was warned by a prophet from Judea that the Jews in Jerusalem would bind him and hand him over to the Romans, but he obeyed God and courageously continued his journey.
- Warned by the Elders in Jerusalem.
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:17-20a.
- Use the Map to show that Paul and his companions arrived in Jerusalem.
- Ask: “According to verse 17, how did the believers in Jerusalem receive Paul?” (gladly).
- Paul told James and the elders about the many Gentiles who were coming to Christ throughout the world.
- Ask: “According to verse 20a, what did James and the elders do when they heard this?” (they glorified the Lord).
- Read Acts 20b-22.
- Ask: “What did James and the elders warn Paul about?” (many Jews who were zealous for the Law had come to faith in Jesus, they had been told that Paul taught against Moses and the Law, and they would all want to hear what Paul had to say about this).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:23-26.
- Explain the following:
- Four Jewish converts within the church had taken a Jewish vow.
- At the conclusion of such vows some costly sacrifices had to be made.
- James and the elders suggested that Paul purify himself along with the men making the vow, and then pay the expenses for completing their vow.
- A Jew who associated with Gentiles was required to purify himself before entering the Temple.
- These things would be done publicly and would serve to show the Jewish Christians that the reports they had received about Paul were false.
- James repeated the previous ruling of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:20, 29; 16:4), so the Gentile Christians who were with Paul would not think they were also expected to uphold the Law.
- Ask: “According to verse 26, did Paul take their advice?” (yes, he began the next day).
- Summarize: Paul was warned by the Jerusalem church elders that the local Jews had heard many slanderous reports about him, but he obeyed God and courageously continued his mission for Jesus.
- Seized by the Jews and Arrested by the Romans.
- Tell the students that it took seven days to complete the vow.
- Read Acts 21:27-30.
- Ask: “What did the Jews from Asia (the area around Ephesus) do when they saw Paul in the Temple?” (they stirred up the other Jews against Paul, saying he taught against the Jews, the Law, and the Temple, and that he defiled the Temple by bringing Gentiles in).
- Ask: “According to verse 30, what happened next?” (the whole city was stirred up, the Jews took Paul out of the Temple to stone him to death, and the priests shut the doors of the Temple so none of Paul’s blood would be spilled inside).
- Ask a volunteer to read Acts 21:31-33.
- Tell the students that the Jews were about to kill Paul, but word of the uproar reached the Roman commander.
- Ask: “What did the Roman commander do?” (took soldiers and went down to stop the Jews from killing Paul, had Paul bound with two chains and asked him who he was).
- Explain that the Roman headquarters in Jerusalem, the Antonia Fortress, sat overlooking the north wall of the Temple complex, with a set of stairs connecting them.
- Read Acts 21:34-40.
- Explain the following:
- The crowd was so loud and raucous that the Roman commander could not figure out what was going on.
- He ordered that Paul be taken into the fortress.
- The crowd was still calling for Paul’s death.
- Ask: “According to verse 39, what did Paul ask the Roman commander?” (to be allowed to speak to the crowd).
- Ask: “Be honest, if you had been grabbed by a bloodthirsty crowd that was dragging you out to kill you, and then arrested by enemy soldiers, how would you react? Would you ask to use the opportunity to tell people about Jesus, or would you feel sorry for yourself?”
- Summarize: Paul was so committed to telling people about Jesus that when he was nearly killed by the Jews and then arrested by the Romans, he courageously asked to preach to the crowd.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention once again to the word “Courage” written on the board. Remind them that courage is not the absence of fear, but it is determination to go on in spite of fear.
Ask: “What are some ways Paul demonstrated courage?” (he continued serving the Lord in spite of warnings from the believers in Tyre and Caesarea and the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and he went to the Temple, knowing that thousands of Jews wanted him dead).
Tell the class that Paul obeyed God and went to Jerusalem, in spite of repeated warnings that he would face “bonds and afflictions” there. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. Tell the students that Paul wrote those words just a few weeks before the events we have read about today. Tell them in spite of all he had already been through, Paul courageously obeyed God; he kept his eyes on the Lord, not on the dangers facing him.
Ask: “Do you sometimes find that obeying God can be frightening?” Tell the students that most of us will never be called upon to confront an angry mob or be arrested for our faith. Ask: “What about living for Jesus – is that every frightening? What about when God tells you to tithe and give an offering above your tithe and your budget is already tight – is that frightening? What about when God tells you to witness to your neighbor – is that frightening? What about when God tells you to trust Him in a situation that just doesn’t make sense – is that frightening?”
Tell the class that we need to ask God to give us courage to obey Him no matter what dangers or consequences may lie ahead. Paul was a man of courage who obeyed God in spite of dangers, warnings, or even bodily attacks. We need to ask God to make us more like Paul: courageous for God and obedient to God. Ask the students to express to the Lord their desire to be courageous for Him, as you voice a closing prayer.
CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Acts 5:29. Encourage them to obediently stand up for Jesus this week.
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