25 lesson plans for children, young people and their leaders.
Lesson 24 Spreading out to all peoples everywhere Bible reference – Acts chapters 10 – 28. Note: at the beginning of class you need to make a simple map using the classroom. You could use the whole class floor area to mark out the coast and the cities. As you mark the cities ask some students to sit in them. As the lesson moves on: Students seated will represent “not Christians”; and students standing will represent “Christians”. The last map printed at the back in the Good News Bible has most of the information you need. It is titled “Paul’s journey to Rome”. (map here page 96 may help you) The lesson will show how the Gospel spreads from Jerusalem (in the south-east of this map: bottom right corner), all the way to Rome (in the north-west: top left corner). Students will see this growth as more and more stand up across the map.
Mark only the following on your map (from right to left, anti-clockwise). Copy only a basic outline of the coast. Write the names of the cities on paper, or ask a student who can remember and say the place name to sit in each city.
Antioch in Syria
Tarsus – see GNB map titled “Paul’s first missionary journey”
Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe– see GNB map titled “Paul’s second and third journeys”
Bithynia – see also this same map
Philippi, Corinth– see back on the original GNB map
Spread the students between all the places marked on the map.
(1) At the start all students should be seated as “non Christians”. They should be able to see ‘the map on the floor’, and read their Bibles. Start telling the story at this point: Jesus’ first disciples were Jews. And, to begin with, most of the new Christians were Jews in Jerusalem. (2) A few students stand as “Christians” in Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit came upon these disciples at Passover, when Jews living in Jerusalem “ were joined by Jewish emigrants (see note 24 below) and sympathisers (note 25) from every country in the world, Acts 2 verse 5. Peter explained to everyone what was happening. Have a student read Acts 2 verse 41, “Many people believed his message and were baptised, and about 3,000 people were added to the group that day”. Notes: 24 Someone who leaves their country to live permanently in another. 25 Someone who supports something.
(3) Many more students stand becoming “Christians” in Jerusalem. Point out that there are no Christians anywhere else. (Of course, in reality some travellers had gone to other places. But for the purpose of this lesson we are looking at the major movements of God’s special people). Jesus had told His disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem first and then in Judea, through Samaria, and to the whole world, Acts 1 verse 8. It was the terrible persecution in Jerusalem that forced the new Christians to move to other places. Have a student read Acts 8 verse 1, “That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria”. God used persecution to help His special people obey His command! (4) Most “Christians” standing in Jerusalem move – only a step or two – outside the city. A few move to Cyprus. One goes to Tarsus. God spoke to Cornelius, the Roman captain in Caesarea. God also told Peter to go from where he was staying and meet Cornelius at Caesarea. Peter was not sure about it. Cornelius was a Roman – a Gentile, not a Jew – and for Peter it was difficult to visit. But Peter went with some friends. When Peter arrived he told everyone in Cornelius’ house about Jesus. Have a student read Acts 10 verse 44, “While he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message”. Have another student read what Peter said next. Acts 10 verse 47, “These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them being baptised with water?” God showed Peter that the racism, nationalism, and tribalism of the world is broken down by real Christianity. God is above all of that! God turns it upside down. Any person from any background can believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved, showing it by baptism. That is the way to publicly join God’s special people. (5) Have a group of standing “Christians” move from Jerusalem to Caesarea. As they arrive some people, already seated in Caesarea, stand up to join them – becoming new “Christians”.
So the growing church included Jews and Gentiles. Have the student who read Acts 8 verse 1 (see 4 above) read it again. Have another student read Acts 11 verse 19, “Some of the believers who were scattered by the persecution which took place when Stephen was killed, went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews”. (6) Have another group of standing “Christians” leave Jerusalem and journey 500 km to Antioch in Syria, (Modern day Antakya in Turkey). Wherever they went Christians usually began by speaking to Jews – like themselves – about Jesus. But in Antioch some whose homes were in Cyprus started speaking to the Gentiles as well, Acts 11 verse 20.
(7) Have most of the standing “Christians” in Cyprus move to Antioch in Syria. They join the “Christians” from Jerusalem already there. All the Christians kept sharing the Good News about the Lord Jesus. Barnabas arrived from Jerusalem and Paul arrived from Tarsus to teach the new believers. Have a student read Acts 11 verse 21, “The Lord’s power was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord”. The new church gave money to help the believers suffering famine back in Jerusalem. Like Jesus, they cared for the poor. Perhaps that’s why they were first called “Christians” in Antioch.
(8) Have Paul move from Tarsus to Antioch in Syria. Have many “not Christians” in Antioch stand and become “Christians”. As well as looking back to care for Christians in Jerusalem, the early church kept looking forward to areas where people had not heard the Good News of Jesus. God spoke to the church leaders in Antioch. He showed them towns and cities to the north east of them where no-one had spoken about Jesus.
(Encourage students to see on the class map the “seated non-Christian” areas, and “Christian areas” where at least some people are standing). Have a student read Acts 13 verse 2, “While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Paul, to do the work to which I have called them”. Paul and Barnabas, with a small team, left Antioch and journeyed through Cyprus. They went north as far as Antioch in Pisidia. They also went on to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Have a student read Acts 14 verse 3, “The apostles stayed there for a long time, speaking boldly about the Lord, Who proved that their message about His grace was true by giving them the power to perform miracles and wonders”.
(9) Have a small team of standing “Christians” leave Antioch in Syria. They travel via Cyprus to Antioch in Pisidia, then on to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. In every city that they visit, some seated “not Christians” stand as joining the “Christians”. God’s special people could not keep the Good News of Jesus to themselves. They had to give it away to other people. After all this travelling, Paul and his team arrived back at Antioch in Syria. Have another student read Acts 14 verse 27, “When they arrived in Antioch, they gathered all the people of the church together and told them about all that God had done with them and how He had opened the way for the Gentiles to believe”. (10) Have Paul’s team return to Antioch in Syria, leaving some standing “Christians” everywhere they have been. Now the church was a mixture of people with different racial and religious backgrounds. Some problems came up between people. The Council of leaders back in Jerusalem
were asked to rule on some issues – which they did, Acts 15. They were very thoughtful about how everybody would understand their decisions.
Paul and a new team were still looking forwards, to people who had never heard the gospel. His old team went off to Cyprus from Antioch. Paul left and journeyed towards Bithynia. Have a student read Acts 16 verse 7, “When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them”. The team obeyed what they believed God was saying to them. They turned away to the west. (11) Have Paul’s old team go to Cyprus. Have Paul’s new team move to the edge of Bithynia, and then west (left) towards Philippi. After a vision from God clearly calling them, Paul’s team arrived in Philippi and later in Corinth. There were many challenges in these places, and other places around them. There was opposition. There was public debate. There were hardships and disasters. But everywhere the seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ was planted, and churches were started. Some people became believers. Have three students read Acts 16 verses 31-33, “They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your family”. Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptised at once”. (12) Have Paul’s team arrive in Philippi. Have some of the seated “not Christians” from the city, stand to join the “Christians”. The team, with a few added to them, moved on to other cities including Corinth. There was trouble almost everywhere they went. It was not easy obeying God’s command to be witnesses everywhere. One night in Corinth God encouraged Paul by speaking to him directly. Have three students read Acts 18 verses 9-11, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up, for I am with you. No one will be able to harm you, for many in this city are my people”. So Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching the people the word of God”. (13) Have the team move on to Corinth.Have many of the seated “not Christians” stand to join them. Threats against the Christians, and especially against Paul, grew worse and worse. Paul went back to Jerusalem to face organised opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. It ended with him being arrested. He was sent all the way to Rome. He was going to be tried by the most important court in the world. A few Christian friends met up with him when he got to Rome. Although Paul had never been there before, others had taken the Good News of Jesus. Some citizens of Rome had become believers. Paul was kept a prisoner at his own home waiting for his trial ,but he still served God. Have two students read Acts 28 verses 30-31, “For two years Paul lived in a place he rented for himself, and there he welcomed all who came to see him. He preached about the Kingdom of God
and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking with all boldness and freedom”.
(14) Have Paul in Rome, standing with a small group of other “Christians”. Slowly, in ones and twos, others stand to join them.
Encourage the students to look back over their ‘living’ map.
Ask, What do they notice? What can they remember of what you said?
Where are there Christians? (Everywhere Christians have visited).
Who directed the movement of Christians from place to place? (God the Holy Spirit).
What did Christians talk about wherever they went? (Jesus Christ).
How does the map compare with Jesus' command to His people? (He told them to go into all the world, and they have!)
Was their work easy? (No, because of opposition and persecution).
How did people usually show they were new believers? (By being baptised).
Did everyone, in every place, join the Christians? (No).
But those who did were glad to be among God’s special people!