Sabbath School Lesson for September 1-7, 2018
Outline of the Lesson
Paul’s third missionary journey in Acts 18-21 consisted of the following stops and events:
- Ephesus (where a book burning occurred and a riot almost got out of hand)
- Troas (where Eutychus fell out of a window and survived, thanks to Paul’s presence and prayer)
- Miletus (near Ephesus, where Paul delivered his farewell sermon to believers he was leaving behind)
- Tyre and Caesarea (where Paul’s devoted friends tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem)
Paul embarked on his third, and final, journey as a missionary to the Gentiles. His influence was felt by most of the area known as Asia. But, once again, Macedonia (or modern Greece) was also blessed by his ministry.
After leaving Syrian Antioch, he took a more southerly route than his first journey through Asia, or through what would now be Turkey. He stayed in Ephesus, a large, coastal city, for three years, the longest time he spent in any of the Christian churches he planted.
We are told of a co-worker of Paul, named Epaphras (Colossians 1:7 and 4:12, 13), who may have been responsible for several of Asia’s churches in towns, whose names sound familiar to us, such as Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. There were, no doubt, many more of Paul’s converts who helped spread the message of salvation and grow God’s church in phenomenal ways.
Memory Text: “I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 NRSV
Paul certainly had his focus in the right place. Testifying of God’s grace was all he lived for. Despite the dangers, and even prophetic announcements about those dangers, he followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance, even when it didn’t make sense to him.
The Lord had spoken to him directly about heading for Jerusalem, and nothing could deter him from obeying the voice of the One he loved. After all, he knew that voice; he had heard it distinctly on the road to Damascus.
His next journey would be to Rome as a prisoner.
Sunday: Ephesus, Part 1
When Paul arrived in Ephesus, we first hear of Apollos, a Jewish convert born in Alexandria (Egypt). As Apollos became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, he received more instruction about Jesus, enhancing the gospel message he had already heard from John the Baptist. He quite likely may have been a disciple of John, as the Baptist went about preaching repentance to the spiritually-hungry masses in Judea.
Apollos and many like him became great gospel workers for Christ throughout the region. They were vital in nurturing the churches that Paul planted in various places.
Paul was repeatedly encouraged by the spiritual awakening of these new Gentile believers, who often received the same Pentecostal gifts, such as speaking in tongues, as Jesus’ followers right after the Resurrection. Paul was therefore convinced by these results that his missionary labor among the Gentiles was acceptable to God.
The Holy Spirit, who directed Paul, was also directing the planting of the gospel seed for many others. The church was growing, in numbers and in their faith and devotion to Christ.
Read Acts 19:10 20:31. Why was Ephesus (a port city) a great center for spreading the gospel, and thus a place where Paul spent so much time? How would the word of God be easily distributed from there?
Read Acts 18:24, 25 and Titus 3:13. What would it mean to “know only the baptism of John”? What else would one need to know of the gospel besides what John preached?
Read Acts 19:2-5 and Matthew 3:11. When is it appropriate for re-baptism? Why isn’t it necessary though in some cases?
Monday: Ephesus, Part 2
Preachers and evangelists today must pale when they read of Paul’s intense speaking schedule in Ephesus. It included preaching boldly every day for two years in a lecture hall or school, either owned or named for Tyrannus. See Acts 19:9, 10. Yes, this superstitious, idol-worshiping population required every ounce of Paul’s strength and stamina. But along with miracles that God also supplied, the active missionary team saw some thrilling results for their efforts.
“Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” Acts 19:11, 12 NKJV
One miracle included demon possession and some vagabond Jews, seven sons of Sceva the chief priest there, who were claiming the name of Paul when they were called to perform an exorcism. They quickly learned the error of this method when an evil spirit left a demon-possessed man, but immediately entered and overpowered the exorcists, causing them to flee the house, wounded and naked.
When the Ephesian believers heard of this event, they responded by publicly burning all their books dealing with magic or divination that were still in their possession. It seemed only right to dispose of them this way, so their incantations and instructions for speaking with evil spirits would not fall into the hands of others who might be tempted to use them. It also gave a message to all those who witnessed the burning that these books were no longer valued or needed by Christians.
This book burning, however, surely must have angered the pagan population. Demetrius, a silversmith who was making a handsome living making idols, eventually saw a chance to incite people to protest the presence of Paul and his associates in their city. The riot that resulted was thankfully quieted by a city clerk, whose speech finally got their attention and caused them to disperse.
Read Acts 19:11, 12, 19 and Luke 8:44, 45. Why do you think God works in miraculous ways like in these examples, but at other times, does not? How and why does God work with people where they are at, culturally and spiritually? How does that instruct us in our methods of witnessing?
Read Acts 19:21, Romans 15:25, 27, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, and Galatians 2:10. Why is it important to “remember the poor”, including our brothers and sisters in the faith, and for Christians around the world to support each other financially?
Read Acts 19:27. What are the dangers of mixing economic, or even political/patriotic, concerns with religious ones? How was the reaction of the Demetrius’ audience intensified when this was done? How can this become a misuse of Christianity, even today? Although maintaining our own religious sensibilities as we make good citizen choices, how might we do a disservice to God by inappropriately combining them in our interactions with others? What does it do to our witness for Christ?
After spending time in Macedonia, visiting churches all along the way, Paul came to Troas. This was a jumping-off point from Macedonia to Asia. As he was about to embark on his sea journey back to Jerusalem, where the Lord had told him to go, an unusual episode took place.
People of all ages love hearing about Eutychus, the youth who fell asleep in a window, listening to Paul preach late one night on the day before the trip. After falling three stories and assumed dead, Paul hastily arrived on the street below. Convinced of God’s protection by witnessing Eutychus’ miraculous survival of the fall, they were comforted even more as Paul departed from them the next day.
Read Acts 20:7, 2:42, 46, and 1 Corinthians 11:24-26. What was the purpose of this meeting? How do you see the “breaking of bread” referred to in this story? Was it a communion service or simply a fellowship meal? Or both? Why does it matter to first-day keepers today?
Read Acts 20:8, 9. Which day-reckoning would Luke most likely use in his record of the Christian church–the Jewish system (which determined the day as starting at sunset and ending at sunset), or the Roman system (from midnight to midnight)? Assuming it was the Jewish system, when did this meeting actually take place then? Why does it matter to first-day keepers today?
Read Acts 20:10-12. Why do you think Luke included this story of Eutychus in the book of Acts? Why was it so comforting to the church back then, and to us even today?
Paul was evidently in a hurry to return to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), as the Lord had instructed him. He hoped to arrive at least by the Day of Pentecost. He had gifts collected from the churches along the way, and was anxious to return to Jerusalem to use these funds to help the suffering believers there.
He therefore decided to by-pass Ephesus, sailing south past the churches he loved. Miletus was a town near Ephesus though, just to the south of it, so a stop there allowed Paul to deliver a farewell address to his brethren in the region. His friends held much fear for his life, because of his determination to go to Jerusalem. Even many of the Jews in their local synagogues were still antagonistic toward Paul, and his supporters knew those angry sentiments would be expressed even more fiercely in the holy city.
Paul’s moving speech to those in Asia he was leaving behind, must have been received with many tears and heartache. His warnings of false teachers were remembered, as the church in every age has dealt with factions of misguided individuals, who think they have the whole gospel, but in fact, are missing the mark altogether.
Read Acts 20:16. Why do you think Paul may have wanted to arrive in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost?
Read Acts 20:20. Why are public evangelism and door-to-door ministry both needed in the work of the Lord?
Read Acts 20:25 and Romans 15:22-27. Why did Paul fear he wouldn’t see his friends in Asia any more? Where was he desiring to preach, and why was it important to help the poor in Jerusalem?
Thursday: Tyre and Caesarea
After his long trip across the Mediterranean Sea to the Phoenician coast, Paul finds himself stopping in two cities on the way to Jerusalem: Tyre and Caesarea.
The first stop was Tyre, where concerned believers urged him not to go to Jerusalem. The danger was just too great there, especially for a high-profile gospel worker like Paul.
In Caesarea, there was a prophet from Jerusalem by the name of Agabus, who was among those who warned Paul and his fellow travelers of the risk they were taking by going to Jerusalem. Instead of treating it as a prophecy, however, they may have considered it just an added warning of the dangers ahead. In the end, it didn’t stop Paul from going.
Besides, spreading the gospel and uniting the churches were more important to Paul than life itself.
Read Acts 21:3-6. Why were the disciples at Tyre so insistent that Paul not go to Jerusalem, even when they knew that God had directed Paul there? What function does prayer have, besides informing God of our wishes?
Read Acts 21:8, 9 and 6:5. What do we learn from the fact that Philip’s four daughters were prophets? What kind of man was Philip?
Acts 21:10, 11 and Jeremiah 13:10. Why were illustrations like these sometimes used by prophets in the Bible?
Many lessons in what makes a healthy church grow and prosper seem to be shouting to us at this point in Paul’s missionary life.
- He’s already touched Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla, and now Apollos, and Deacon Philip. These notables are just a few among the many named and unnamed disciples who not only spread the gospel, but helped maintain healthy church congregations who would further God’s work to the far reaches of the then-known world.
- We see excellent leadership qualities among many of these believers. And we also see the church members as a whole working together in episodes like the book-burning event, and in warning Paul not to travel to Jerusalem.
- In addition, there was a division of work, both necessary to the mission. We have seen that public evangelism, good preaching, doesn’t accomplish much without the door-to-door ministry, or the face-to-face witnessing, opportunities carried out by countless others on fire for the Lord.
- One final example (collecting funds for Jerusalem believers) was given to show us the way a church should be giving to the poor. Not just sacrificing for our neighbors, but those fellow believers who are going through hardships. And it doesn’t matter where in the world those fellow believers are. If there is any way we can lighten the burdens of God’s children, we must do so.
Next Week’s Lesson: Arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21-23)
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/