PAUL ARRESTED IN THE TEMPLE
Scripture: Acts 21:17–40; 22:1–16; 2 Timothy 2:12
Memory verse: 2 Timothy 2:12
“If we endure, we will also reign with him”
Ask the students how they feel when they hear stories of Christians in other countries who are put in prison or separated from their families because of their faith. These stories can make us feel sad or afraid. Point out that being beaten and put in jail are not the only way people are persecuted. Persecution also comes when we suffer harm from others because we love and serve God. This may be verbal abuse, exclusion from a group, loss of rights, slander, or physical harm.
Ask the students to name some ways Christians their age face persecution. Tell the students that although being embarrassed, ridiculed, or left out seems small compared to being beaten and put in jail, these things can still hurt us deeply. Maybe people your students admire, such as teachers or schoolmates, keep them at a distance because they are too “weird” or religious. Or maybe some students have been called names because they refused to steal, smoke, party, or cheat.
Remind the students that God is always with us, even when it seems everyone else is against us. When we understand that persecution can help us grow in God, it makes the persecution and ridicule easier to bear.
Tell the students that in today’s lesson, Paul is arrested because his preaching disturbed some people. We can learn a lot from Paul about being joyful and enduring persecution.
Hearing God’s Word
In our study this week, Paul and his companions were at the end of their third missionary journey. They had retraced the routes of Paul’s first two trips, and preached to the Christians in the churches there. At last Paul arrived in Jerusalem.
Opposition in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem Paul came face-to-face with some people who had heard rumours about him. They decided they did not like Paul. They had never actually seen him or heard him speak, but they had heard about him. (Ask a student to read Acts 21:21.)
The people’s opinion of Paul was based on false information. They had heard that Paul was speaking against the Jewish law, encouraging Jews not to obey its teachings. The truth was that Paul did not condemn Jewish law, but rather he taught that salvation is not earned by strict obedience to the Law. Paul knew salvation comes through only one way.
Ask: “What is that way?” (Allow responses.)
Paul’s friends in Jerusalem were concerned for his safety. They did not know what Paul’s enemies might try to do. (Read Acts 21:22–24.) So his friends got together and worked out a plan they hoped would prevent trouble for Paul. Four men had made a special vow and had to go through some purification ceremonies according to the Jewish law. Paul’s friends felt that if Paul joined in the purification ceremonies and paid the expenses, it would show the Jews in Jerusalem that Paul did indeed live according to the Jewish law.
Ask: “If you were being ridiculed for something that was not true about you, would you not want to defend yourself? What would be the best way to do this? How would people respond to your defence of yourself?” (Allow responses after each question.)
Paul Agrees to a Plan
Paul did not want to create a problem for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, so he agreed to the plan. The next day he and the young men began the ceremony. The time of purification was to last 7 days. When the 7 days were almost over, some Jews came into the temple, saw Paul, and recognized him. Immediately they shouted accusations at him, stirred up the crowd, and then seized him. (Ask a student to read Acts 21:27–30.) These men accused Paul of teaching against the Jewish law. They also accused him of bringing Greeks, who were Gentiles, into the temple area. (Take time for a discussion concerning the temple and the Jews’ attitude toward it.)
The temple was the most important place on earth for the Jewish people. It was the centre of their lives. It was the holy place of God’s presence. According to Jewish law, taking a non–Jewish person into the inner temple area defiled or polluted the temple.
The accusation toward Paul was false. These Jews had seen Paul earlier with Trophimus (TROEF–uh–muhs), an Ephesian. They assumed Paul had brought Trophimus into the temple, but he had not.
This false accusation was all some of the Jews needed to confirm their opinion about Paul. It increased their anger and hatred. From all directions they came to seize Paul. They dragged him from the temple and tried to kill him.
The commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem received word of the uproar. He took some soldiers and officers and ran down to the crowd. At his appearance the angry people stopped beating Paul.
The commander assumed Paul was a criminal, arrested him, and bound him with two chains. He questioned the people as to Paul’s offence, but there were so many shouting various things he could not determine the correct answer. He had Paul taken away. The mob was so violent, the soldiers had to carry Paul to safety. The mob followed, yelling for them to get rid of Paul.
Paul Defends Himself
As Paul was being led away, he asked the commander for permission to speak. After the commander agreed, Paul turned to the crowd and addressed them, using the Aramaic language.
Immediately the crowd was quiet. They had not expected him to use their own language. Paul took the opportunity to tell them of his background. He told them of his upbringing and how the famous Jewish teacher, Gamaliel (Guh–MAY–lee–uhl), had given him training of the highest quality. Then Paul told them of his unusual experience and conversion on the road to Damascus.
(Ask a student to read Acts 22:14, 15.) Paul told the people that God had called him to be a witness to all men—Jews and Gentiles—about Jesus. He was telling the people the facts, not just rumours. However, instead of changing their opinion of Paul, they hated him even more. No dedicated Jew could even consider ministry to the Gentiles, they thought. Paul was led away to the prison barracks to be beaten and questioned again.
Paul Stands Firm in the Faith
Ask: “Do you think Paul considered giving up his faith in Jesus? Because of all the persecution he suffered, do you not think he had a reason to be discouraged?” (Allow responses.)
Even though Paul encountered hatred and ridicule many times, he continued to love and serve God. He stayed true to Jesus in spite of the suffering he went through.
Our memory verse says, “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). After he had endured even more persecution, this was what Paul told his young friend Timothy. Paul would not quit. Paul knew he would one day reign with Jesus, and that was reason enough to keep living for Jesus in spite of suffering.
As Christians, we too may suffer for our faith. There are Christians today who are mistreated for their beliefs. In some countries, people are still arrested and beaten for being Christians. Yet they continue to serve Him faithfully. The important thing to remember is this: We are already victorious through Jesus. We may suffer ridicule, but we can trust in Jesus and remain true to Him. No amount of suffering we go through here on earth is so bad that heaven cannot make up for it.
Ask: “Have you ever been ridiculed for being a Christian? Have you had to suffer for your faith in Jesus?” (Encourage students to share their experiences. Also, if possible, relate an experience of your own.)
Never be afraid or ashamed to live for Jesus. Do not let the fear of persecution become a reason to deny Him. Endure for Jesus, remembering what He endured for you. He can keep you through difficult times. If you suffer for Him now, you will reign with Him later.
Accepting God’s Word
Any persecution a Christian may face on earth is far outweighed by the eternal reward he will receive in heaven. A Christian has rewards on earth too, such as the comfort, strength, and peace that come from a close, daily relationship with God. What better friend could we have!
Jesus died on a cross so we could have our sins forgiven and not have to face eternal punishment for them. To all who receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour, God offers eternal life without pain or sadness. Jesus is the only way to eternal life. If you have not accepted Him into your life, would you like to do that today?
As we drove west of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Sunday morning, our destination was a village church in the heart of the Zalamo homeland. During the past 200 years, the 764,000 Zalamo have moved into the hills surrounding Dar es Salaam. Although a few live in cities as modern professionals, most Zalamo continue to live in the countryside and earn a living by farming.
REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for the Zalamo Court Cases
1. Believers falsely accused by family or neighbours,
2. Godly judges appointed throughout the judicial system,
3. Invitation given to our class to preach the gospel in the local prison.
"…while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
Remember: PAUL ARRESTED IN THE TEMPLE
Memory verse: 2 Timothy 2:12
“…if we endure, we will also reign with him”
1. Sometimes the people I want to help will reject me.
2. I will love those who persecute me.
3. I will stand firm in my faith and continue to preach the gospel.
Pray for Zalamo court cases involving believers.
Study 12 | Eternity— Apostle Paul | africaatts.org/go-teach