25 lesson plans for children, young people and their teachers.
Lesson 23 Persecution and the problems of growing – Paul Bible reference – Acts 8 verses 1-3; 9 verses 1-31; 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Sometimes the growing church was respected by the people around. Acts 2 verse 46-47; Acts 5 verses 13-14. But other times Christians suffered persecution (see note 23 below) from the Jewish leaders (and later the Roman Emperors), Acts 4 verses 17-18; Acts 5 verses 17-18; Acts 7 verse 59 to 8 verse 2; Acts 12 verses 1-3. Early church leaders like Peter wrote letters to teach Christians how to respond to persecution. They must not fight back. People who live in Jesus’ Kingdom turn the world’s usual ways upside down.
Stop and discuss (1) Have a student read: “Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognise your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of His coming”, 1 Peter 2 verse 12. Have another five students read: 1 Peter 4 verses 12-16. (See your Bible). One verse each. Ask the class these questions about how to respond to persecution: 1. Should most Christians expect to be persecuted? 2. Should a Christian be ashamed when he/she is persecuted? 3. What things can a Christian do when persecuted? It is very hard to live this way! But the Holy Spirit gives power to help witness for Jesus.
He helps Christians live the “Jesus way”, which is so different to any other way. See who can find the missing words from this text, 1 Peter 4 verse 19: “Those who s because it is G w for them, should by their g a trust themselves completely to their Creator, Who always k h p .” God helps His special people in difficult times. God is also able to work in the hearts of other people, even those who are against what He is doing. In Acts chapter 9, Acts 11 verses 25-30; and Acts chapters 13-28, a man with two names is in the middle of the story. Saul is his name in Hebrew. Paul is his name in Greek. Paul wrote at least 13 of the books in our New Testament. But when he is introduced in the Bible story he is not a Christian at all!
Divide the class into four groups and have them sit, one group in front of you, another behind you, and one more on either side of you. Explain we are going to see four events in Paul’s life. Each event will be acted by one group. When all four have been looked at, one by one, each group will act its event again to make ‘a complete acted programme’ of Paul’s life.
Note: 23 To ‘persecute’ is to treat someone very badly because of their race, religion, political beliefs, etc. MacMillan School Dictionary, Oxford 2004.
Event 1: Paul sees Stephen killed for his Christian faith (Have the group to your left act this out as you speak. Make sure the group remember what to act, as later the class will do all four events together). From Acts 7 verse 57 to 8 verse 2.
Members of the Jewish Council took hold of the Christian prisoner, Stephen. They were going to kill him. They dragged him out of the court room, and out of the city.
At a place where there was a steep drop away from the road, they pushed and threw Stephen over the edge.
Paul was standing nearby watching. As the men took off their coats they gave them to Paul to keep clean.
Stephen lay hurt and bleeding. He struggled to his knees. He prayed, trusting himself to Jesus as he died. Paul was amazed at Stephen’s faith.
The angry men dropped stones and larger rocks on top of him. The rocks hit him. The men kept on, until Stephen was dead.
Paul did not throw rocks but he was pleased to see Stephen punished like this.
He thought God was pleased too.
Event 2: Paul gets official permission to arrest Christians (Have the group behind you act this out as you speak. Make sure the group remember for later what to act, when the class will do all four events together). From Acts 8 verse 3 and 9 verses 1-2.
Paul, with some friends, went house to house to find the homes of Christians in Jerusalem.
When he found them he dragged out the men, women and the children.
Without mercy Paul took these people and put them into prison.
He went to the Jewish High Priest to report what he was doing.
Paul asked the High Priest to write letters introducing him to the Jews in Damascus – a city to the north-east. Paul took the letters with him.
Paul wanted to spread the cruel persecution of Christians as far and wide as he could.
He thought he was serving God by doing this, Acts 22 verse 3.
Event 3: Paul meets the risen Jesus (Have the group to your right act this out as you speak. Make sure the group remember what to act, as later the class will do all four events together). From Acts 9 verses 2-9.
Paul called a small group together for the journey to Damascus. It was about 240 kilometres and the journey would take about one week.
They packed the supplies they needed. Paul kept the important letters safe in his pocket.
After several days they could see the buildings of Damascus.
Suddenly a very bright light, it seemed brighter than the sun, flashed around Paul. He fell to the ground.
A voice from heaven said: “Paul, why persecute Me? I am Jesus”. Paul was shaking with fear. He did not expect anything like this to happen.
Jesus continued talking to him. “Go into Damascus and listen to what I want you to do next”. Paul got up but could not see. He was blind. His friends led him by the hand to the city.
Event 4: Paul joins God’s special people (Have the group in front of you act this out as you speak. Make sure the group remember what to act. When you finish this, the class will put all four events together). From Acts 9 verses 8-20.
For three days Paul was blind. He refused all food and water at the place he was staying on Straight Street.
He prayed and he prayed.
In another house in the city God spoke by a vision to one of His special people called Ananias. God told him what had happened to Paul. God also told Ananias where to go and visit Paul. Ananias did not really want to go. He had heard about Paul’s violence from Jerusalem.
At last Ananias obeyed God. He went to Paul. He prayed for Paul, firmly putting his hands on Paul’s head.
God gave Paul his eyesight and He filled Paul with the Holy Spirit.
Paul was soon baptised to show he had joined God’s special people.
Now help the class re-tell the story of Paul’s conversion. (Note: You may prefer to finish the lesson below first and then have this re-telling at the end of today’s class). You could read the script yourself as each group acts their event, from 1-4. Or, a group member could read the script while the rest of the group act.
Or, six group members could read the script – one point each, while the rest of the group act. Try to get everyone involved. Try to get the 4 groups to act the story from start to finish without stopping. It revises the story as it is done! Paul began to preach as soon as he could. His message is in Acts 9 verse 20. “He began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God”. Now Paul had met Jesus for himself he was changed in what he believed. It was also going to make a very big difference to everything he did. Paul was persecuted by people who used to be his friends, Acts 9 verses 23-25. He spent time back at his home town of Tarsus. He studied the Scriptures to learn how Jesus Christ was the promised Saviour sent from God. He later became a great teacher of Christianity. Some of the letters he wrote to people and to churches are in our New Testament.
We will look at just four things that Paul wrote.
Have each group look up one in their Bibles and read it to the class.
2 Corinthians 5 verse 17: “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come”.
Paul knew this in his own life. God’s special people know this too.
Romans 14 verse 17: “For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives”.
God’s special people are spiritually alive – with the resurrection life of Jesus.
That spiritual life makes a difference to every part of the life we have on earth.
1 Corinthians 12 verse 27: “All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it”.
Every believer is important to Jesus. And every believer is important to the whole group of God’s special people – in this text called ‘Christ’s body’.
Every Christian has a place in the body of the risen Jesus.
Galatians 3 verse 29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are the descendants of Abraham and will receive what God has promised”.
Paul knew this was what God planned right from the very beginning. No human was good enough to shed blood and save anyone.
God became human in Jesus. Jesus died and God raised Him to life again. Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, are all God’s special people – made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ. They had the promises of God. They looked forward to Jesus, God's promised coming Messiah.
Christians are God’s special people. We place our faith in Jesus Christ in just the same way. We look back on what Jesus did. We believe Who He was on earth then: God the Son. And we believe He is the same in heaven now.
Have the four readers read the texts (only) once more to finish class.
Answers to ‘Stop and discuss’
1. 1. Yes – 4 verse 12
2. No – 4 verse 16
3. “be glad that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings”, 4 verse 13 and “thank God that
you bear Christ’s name”, verse 16, and “be happy to enjoy the Spirit of God
resting on your life”, verse 14
Missing words: suffer … God’s will … good actions … keeps His promise.