Discussion idea: Why is Abraham's salvation recorded in Genesis, according to Romans 4:23-25? The Bible includes a lot of history; how does God use examples to help us?
Prayer focus: Pray for the ability to grow in faith, and take God at His Word.
Key verse: Romans 3:23
Big idea: The gospel is the universal solution to the universal problem of sin.
Discussion idea: How can God, who is a perfect, holy Judge, forgive us without sacrificing justice?
Prayer focus: Thank God that when we could never get to Him, He came down to us.
In high school, I competed with some success in Lincoln-Douglas debate. My favorite part was the cross-examination portion, where you could lead someone along a path, and have them inside the trap before they ever realized it. In a moment, everything they said came crashing down on their head. Although most of the debate was still to come, they had already lost. When Paul stood before Agrippa II and Festus, he could not hope to trap some opponent by a sleight of hand. He had already appealed to Caesar, so his release was out of the question. More to the point, Paul’s biggest goal was not to be released from prison (and certainly not to win an argument) but to see people trust Jesus as their Savior.
Older kids: Have you ever been arguing with someone, and realized you were wrong? Is it easier to admit your mistake and end the argument, or to keep fighting and hope to “win” anyway?
When Paul had traveled from city to city, he had begun with the synagogue for two reasons. One was theological, the gospel came first to the Jew and also to the Greek. The second was practical: they knew the Old Testament, which Paul could build on to show how it was all fulfilled in Christ. Agrippa was Jewish, and Paul could build on that knowledge while fulfilling the words of Jesus from Acts 9:15.
Younger kids: What is something you are good at? If you wanted to teach a baby how to do that, what would they need to learn first? Do you think Paul had to teach people certain things before they could understand who Jesus is?
Paul shared what Jesus had done for him (for the third and final time in Acts). But Paul was not content to just share information; the apostle wanted the king to make a decision. Agrippa had three pieces of information: the background of the Old Testament, an understanding of Paul’s conversion, and the knowledge of the incredible life of Jesus, perhaps 25 years earlier. He just needed to connect the dots. Herod Agrippa’s response reminds me of his uncle Antipas, who killed John the Baptist because he did not want to go back on a vow made at a party. Sitting beside Porcius Festus, but also before a crowd, Herod would neither confirm nor deny that he believed the prophets. Instead, he told Paul that it would not be so simple to take him all the way to being a Christian. Paul responded that whether it was easy or difficult, he wanted everyone to become as much of a slave of Jesus as he was, the chains around his wrists the only exception.
We exist, whether it is easy or hard, quick or slow, to bring people to Christ. Our goal is not to win arguments on social media, impress people with our debating tactics, or even get someone intellectually to accept what we say. The churches of Jesus are here to reach people with the precious message of Jesus.
Discussion idea: What are some practical ways we can build on what people in our society already know to bring them to Jesus?
Prayer focus: Pray for an opportunity to share Jesus with someone, and the grit to endure, whether it is easy or hard.
Paul had been providentially protected and smuggled in the night to the palace of Herod to await his accusers. Ananias, the high priest who ruled from AD 48-59, came with a lawyer to make his case against Paul to Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judea. Ananias didn't need to follow Paul through this trial, but the same temper that he had displayed at the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:3) brought him to Caesarea with a heart full of hate. The charges were a desecration of the Temple and inciting the people.
Paul quickly showed that both were ridiculous. He had been purified in the Temple, and if he had started a riot, there would be witnesses. No, Paul told Felix, he was on trial for one thing only: the resurrection of the dead. Over and over again, the book of Acts hammers home this theme. If death is the end, for Jesus and us, then the life of Christ means nothing. But if He rose from the dead, and we will too to give an account of our lives to God, the life of Christ means everything. In Acts, we have seen the ongoing works of Jesus through His body. By this point, the churches have overcome social, racial, and cultural barriers to form coherent bodies.
If God is not assembling
us by a common set of interests or a common background, what is the secret?
Paul would boldly testify that it is the resurrection of Jesus that breaks down
all old barriers and brings us together. Our unity is centered not on a style
of music, a type of outreach, or an earthly political allegiance. The historical
fact that Jesus died and rose again is the center of the Christian faith, and
without it, there is nothing. Calvary is the hill worth dying on because all of
our hope is in our Savior who gave His life and took it up on the third day.
For two years, Paul would wait in prison without resolution, but he continued to preach the same message, to guards, to Felix, and to anyone else who would listen. Felix was looking for a bribe, Ananias was looking to take a problem off his hands, but Paul only cared about one thing: Jesus died for me and rose again. That is the foundation of my life individually, of your life and of our life corporately. We are bought with a price.
Discussion idea: Does it matter that Christianity is based on a
historical event, instead of a statement or a vision? Can you have something
like Christianity without the resurrection of Jesus?
Prayer focus: Pray for boldness, like Paul had, to preach Christ crucified at all times, and to not let our deepest fellowships be built on anything else.
|Source: Faithlife Bible Art|
Key Verse: Acts 20:28
Big Idea: The church of Jesus was bought with His blood.