1217 L03-Faith To Persevere

Faith to Persevere

December 17 • Bible Study Guide 3

Bible Background • ACTS 14; COLOSSIANS 2:6–7
Printed Text • ACTS 14:8–11, 19–23 | Devotional Reading • 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3–11

Aim for Change

By the end of the lesson, we will: EVALUATE the nature of the miracle performed at Lystra; CONSIDER the fickleness of the crowd mentality; and PRAY for courage and strength in the face of resistance to the Gospel.

In Focus

John traveled to China every year on business, and always made sure to visit with his friend, Chen. Chen worked in the same industry but was also a local pastor for an underground house church. Each year, Chen told stories of people being saved and delivered, but he also told how careful people had to be when they came to church.
They didn’t broadcast their gatherings with flyers or let people know on social media. They had to work in secret or risk severe consequences like imprisonment or even death. The church members had to stagger their arrival, usually over several hours, to keep their meetings secret.
This year, John was excited to meet with Chen. When he arrived at his host company in China, Chen was not a part of their meeting. John inquired about him and learned that Chen had been sentenced to a work camp because the police discovered that he was leading a house church. His wife had been forced to flee to protect herself and their son.
John learned that through it all, Chen continued to preach the Gospel to his cellmates and to the prison guards. He knew that this was part of following Jesus in a country that was hostile to the Gospel. John was deeply saddened that Chen was imprisoned, but he had great admiration for his faith to persevere in the midst of opposition.
God gives us faith to persevere in spite of the opposition that we face. How do you find that faith when you are faced with conflict?

Keep in Mind

“They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22).

Words You Should Know

A. Tribulation (Acts 14:22) thlipsis (Gk.)—Affliction, oppression.
B. Elders (v. 23) presbyteros (Gk.)—Older people; those who presided over the assemblies or churches.

Teacher Preparation
Unifying Principle—Persevering Through Opposition. Sometimes the good things we do are blocked by an unexpected obstruction, but we pick up and go on anyway. What gives us the strength to keep going? Even though he was stoned and persecuted, Paul’s faith in his message compelled him to continue to proclaim the Good News of God.
A. Pray that students will be encouraged to persevere through difficult times.
B. Read the verses in two or more translations to gain a better understanding.
C. Research the phrase “Kingdom of God” in the New Testament.

O—Open the Lesson
A. Open with prayer.
B. Introduce today’s lesson title.
C. Have the class read the Aim for Change, In Focus story, and Keep in Mind together.

P—Present the Scriptures
A. Have volunteers read the Focal Verses.
B. Use The People, Places, and Times; Background; and At-A-Glance to clarify the Scripture passages.

E—Explore the Meaning
A. Direct the group to read In Depth.
B. Answer the Search the Scripture and Discuss the Meaning questions.

N—Next Steps for Application
A. Summarize the lesson by giving individual class members encouragement, and by prompting the class to find opportunity throughout the week to encourage others.
B. Close with prayer.

Worship Guide

For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: Faith to Persevere
Song: “I’m on the Battlefield”
Devotional Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3–11

Daily Bible Readings

MONDAY
Rejoicing While Struggling and Suffering
(Colossians 1:24–2:5)

TUESDAY
Both Jews and Gentiles Called to Repent
(Acts 17:22–33)

WEDNESDAY
Believing and Suffering in Christ
(Philippians 1:27–30)

THURSDAY
Suffering So Others May Be Saved
(2 Timothy 2:1–10)

FRIDAY
Consolation When Afflicted
(2 Corinthians 1:3–11)

SATURDAY
Speaking Boldly, Forced to Flee
(Acts 14:1–7)

SUNDAY
Proclaiming Christ Faithfully Despite Angry Opposition
(Acts 14:8–11, 19–23)

KJV

Acts 14: 8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked:
9 The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lyconia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

NLT

Acts 14:8 While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting
9 and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.
10 So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!”
19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.
20 But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia,
22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

The People, Places, and Times

Iconium. A city in central Asia Minor. It is home to a lush agricultural production, and because of its location, served as a link between ancient trade routes. Iconium is now the site of the modern-day Turkish city of Konya.
Lystra. A small village and Roman colony eighteen miles southwest of Iconium in modern central Turkey. An inscription dedicating a statue to the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes was discovered there. It was quite possibly the hometown of Timothy (Acts 16:1).
Antioch (of Pisidia). This city is not the same Antioch spoken of in Acts 13:1. It was situated in the area of Pisidia on the Anatolian peninsula. Antioch of Pisidia was located on the southern bank of the Anthios river. The city was believed to have been founded by a Seleucid king or by Seleucius himself. As a Roman colony, the city became a miniature version of Rome, complete with ornate sculptures and architecture.

Background

Jesus tells His disciples, “You shall be my witness in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (from Acts 1:8). These words outline the book of Acts and highlight three stages in the church’s early development:
• Acts 1–7: The apostles witness to Jews in Jerusalem.
• Acts 8–12: In response to persecution, and through the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit, Paul and his companions share the message of the kingdom of God (14:22) to the Samaritans in Judea and Samaria.
• Acts 13–28: Paul witnesses to Gentiles as he journeys to the ends of the earth.
The events in today’s passage occur during the third stage of the church’s early development. The previous chapter﷯ recounts Barnabas’ return to evangelize in his hometown region, Cyprus. Paul, with holy boldness, confronts the Jewish sorcerer Barjesus and witnesses the governor Sergius Paulus’ conversion. Next, they traveled to Iconium, where they witnessed in the synagogue to both Jews and Greeks. They were again met with violent opposition before traveling to Lystra (14:6).

At-A-Glance

1. Kingdom Breakthrough at Lystra 
(Acts 14:8–11)
2. Kingdom Opposition is Normal (vv. 19–23)

In Depth

1. Kingdom Breakthrough at Lystra (Acts 14:8–11)
Paul and Barnabas fled Antioch for Lystra in continued obedience to God. As the church grew beyond Jerusalem, God confirmed His presence by repeating the same miracle twice: once in Jerusalem (Acts 3:2–12) and again in Lystra. God used both Peter and Paul to heal men who were lame from birth, and they gave honor to Him rather than accept recognition for themselves.
The crowd initially responds with wonder and awe, assuming these wonder workers to be gods (Acts 14:11). They could only comprehend this concept in terms that they understood. Paul and Barnabas would need to explain how the man was healed through the power of Jesus and not pagan gods. While a miraculous healing is a kingdom breakthrough, we also can see that misunderstanding can become a barrier to people entering the kingdom of God.

2. Kingdom Opposition is Normal (vv. 19–23)
After Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, the story takes a drastic turn. These Jews had forced Paul and Barnabas to leave those cities. They now persuade the crowd to stone Paul to death. The crowd believed they had killed Paul, so they dragged his body outside the town.
In this time of pain and suffering, Paul had two sources of comfort. The first was the presence of the “Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). His second source of comfort was the caring presence of the disciples in Lystra who gathered around him until he was able to get up, leave the city, and go to Derbe.
After Derbe, Paul returns to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, coming full circle to strengthen the believers and exhort them to remain true to the faith. Some of these believers had earlier gathered around him after his stoning. Now they receive encouragement from him and are exhorted to hold fast to the faith despite hardship. Paul lets them know that persecution and hardship are part of the normal Christian life.

Search the Scriptures

1. Is there ever a time when we should avoid persecution (Acts 14:22)?
2. Why is tribulation required to enter the kingdom of God (v. 22)?

Discuss the Meaning

In Paul and Barnabas’ story today they endured persecution by the power of God. How does recognizing God’s presence help us persevere in our faith, especially as we face opposition?

Lesson in Our Society

Beyond the borders of the United States, Christians are dying in record numbers. These modern-day martyrs face beheadings on television, abductions from school, indefinite imprisonment without trial, and countless other atrocities. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, approximately 100,000 Christians were killed each year from 2000 to 2010, including almost 1,000 in 2016 in Nigeria alone. The reality that more believers have died for Christ in the 20th and 21st centuries than in all previous centuries combined lends itself to meditation on a phrase in an old hymn: Should I be carried to the sky on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?
In America, to date, we have not experienced this type of persecution for our faith. However, with every personal interaction, our Christian witness is on the line and our loves, fears, and values are tested. The African American church knows suffering from the rich tradition of the Civil Rights Movement—a campaign that was grounded in the faith. Today, standing boldly is complicated by social pressure to compromise and fit in, but God can strengthen His people to remain fully committed to Jesus.

Make It Happen
• Go to www.persecution.com to learn more about the prayer needs of the persecuted church around the world.
• Commit to praying for believers living in a dangerous or hostile area.
• Make your commitment to Jesus known to family or friends who might be hostile to the message of the Gospel.

Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do:
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Remember Your Thoughts
Special insights I have learned:
______________________________________
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More Light on the Text

Acts 14:8–11, 19–23
14:8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked:
In the first century AD, all of the Anatolian Peninsula (modern central Turkey and the area in which Lystra was located) was controlled by the Roman Empire. Rome made Lystra a colony in 6 BC, and the city was incorporated into Galatia at a later date. During Paul’s time, the city was known as a key location for learning. The population consisted of Roman soldiers, Greeks and Jews (Acts 16:1, 3), and native Lycaonians (14:11). Paul and Barnabas visited the city several times (in AD 48 and 51) and it was where Paul met Timothy (16:1).
In the ancient world, disability was considered a divine punishment from the gods; it was believed that a person was disabled because either they or their parents had done something wrong or sinned. The belief that disability implied punishment for wrongdoing was extremely stigmatizing. The healings that Jesus and the apostles perform radically denounce this widespread notion. Jesus directly explains to His disciples that rather than a sign of sin, disabilities are an opportunity for God to be glorified (John 9:3).

9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, 10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
Usually, healing is authorized “in the name of Jesus” in Acts, and typically does not originate solely with the apostles. For example, Peter’s healing of a crippled man is done “in the name of Jesus Christ” (3:6). However, here Paul’s healing omits this statement. In this verse, the man’s faith in the God Paul preached causes his healing. Paul’s actions are similar to that of Jesus in the Gospels (cf. Mark 2:1–12; John 5:1–9).

11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.
The people who were prepared to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods were not Greeks or Romans, but native Lycaonians, made evident by the phrase “in the speech of Lycaonia.” The local elites and educated people of the land spoke Greek (which was the common language of the Roman Empire) as well as Latin.
The people, upon seeing Paul’s healing ability, believed that he and Barnabas were the gods of their belief system incarnated in human form. Archaeological evidence indicates that Hermes and Zeus were the patron gods of this city. Later, the Scripture (v. 12) states that this is who the people believe them to be.

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
The New Testament refers to two cities named Antioch—one in Syria and one located in Pisidia (in Asia Minor). Both cities are named after the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV, a ruthless king who controlled Syria from 175–164 BC. In Antioch of Syria, a vital Jewish disaporan community flourished and Paul began his ministry, also stopping in Antioch of Pisidia.
Stoning was the form of capital punishment prescribed in the Torah. Typically, the act took place outside the walls of the city (Leviticus 24:23; Numbers 15:35–36; 1 Kings 21:13). The witnesses to the offense cast the first stones, and the rest of the people followed (Deuteronomy 17:7); all this was done to purge evil from the community (22:21). A death penalty—often by the act of stoning—was required for a person found guilty of various offenses, including idolatry, prophesying in the name of a foreign god, divination, blasphemy, and adultery.

20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
Derbe was located in the south of Galatia, a Roman province established in 25 BC, not far from Iconium.
“The Good News” is synonymous with the Gospel. Christians often understand the term to imply the Good News of Jesus Christ, and in this verse, Paul and Barnabas are obviously preaching the Gospel of Jesus. The term “good news” (Gk. euangelion), however, was a term that also had significance with the Roman emperor, Augustus, who regularly applied the term to his decrees. The term was appropriated by the Christian community and applied to the humble, non-elite Jesus. This countered the Roman imperial structure because only the emperor could spread the good news. The appropriation of imperial attributes, like spreading good news, to a subject of the Empire, like Jesus, would have been considered resistant to the Roman Empire. According to Roman state religion, only the emperor was considered a son of god.
In addition, the Jewish community would not have welcomed Paul’s telling of the Good News of Jesus because this belief conflicted with their religious beliefs. It is important to note that the early Christians were still a part of the Jewish synagogue, and thus were considered Jews. Their presence in the synagogues would have caused dissension among the group as they developed their understanding that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Say It Correctly

Lystra. LIE-strah.
Iconium. ahy-KOH-nee-uhm.
Pisidia. pi-SID-ee-uh.

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