Monday, October 29, 2012

“Paul Before King Agrippa” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 4, 2012

Purpose: To strengthen our resolve to maintain our convictions and be faithful to the gospel regardless of the consequences

Scripture Text: Acts 26:19-32

Acts 26:19-32 (CEB)
(19) “So, King Agrippa, I wasn’t disobedient to that heavenly vision. (20) Instead, I proclaimed first to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, then to the whole region of Judea and to the Gentiles. My message was that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God, and that they should demonstrate this change in their behavior. (21) Because of this, some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to murder me. (22) God has helped me up to this very day. Therefore, I stand here and bear witness to the lowly and the great. I’m saying nothing more than what the Prophets and Moses declared would happen: (23) that the Christ would suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to my people and to the Gentiles.”

(24) At this point in Paul’s defense, Festus declared with a loud voice, “You’ve lost your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you mad!”

(25) But Paul replied, “I’m not mad, most honorable Festus! I’m speaking what is sound and true. (26) King Agrippa knows about these things, and I have been speaking openly to him. I’m certain that none of these things have escaped his attention. This didn’t happen secretly or in some out-of-the-way place. (27) King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

(28) Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you trying to convince me that, in such a short time, you’ve made me a Christian?”

(29) Paul responded, “Whether it is a short or a long time, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today will become like me, except for these chains.”

(30) The king stood up, as did the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them. (31) As they left, they were saying to each other, “This man is doing nothing that deserves death or imprisonment.”

(32) Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The purpose statement for this lesson is particularly challenging to me this week. As of this writing I have a nephew Mike Walter lying in an Indiana hospital suffering from the fungal meningitis that has been in the news. While most of the twenty-five or so others in this hospital have been able to go home and continue the medications orally, Mike's case seems to be more severe, after four weeks or so he remains in the hospital. Mike was just informed that when he is released he will have to continue his treatment intravenously, which requires two visits to the hospital each day. Mike is in his fifties and is stressed that he is unable to work to provide for his family. Mike's faithfulness, along with our family’s faithfulness is being tested. We pray that all of our faith will be strengthened as we go through the process; we know that God has a plan for our lives and we are trusting for a miraculous conclusion to this chapter in Mike's life.

Paul found himself in a life and death situation in our text, but it in no way prevented him from sharing the Good News of a Messiah that had come to change him and the world.

This lesson takes a considerable leap forward from our previous lessons on Stephen and Philip, and it skips over most of Paul's earlier work and conversion, including his three missionary journeys recorded in the Book of Acts chapters 13 through 21.

Paul's background led to suspicion on the part of the Jerusalem council shortly after his Damascus road experience, but he has now gained a lot of respect from this same group and while visiting Jerusalem he was threatened with violence and had to invoke his rights as a Roman citizen, having been born in Tarsus a Roman city. After Paul's nephew became aware of a plot to kill Paul he was transported to Caesarea, where the governor Festus was to hear his case. King Herod Agrippa (son of Herod the Great of Jesus' time) heard of Paul's confinement and situation while visiting Festus in Caesarea, along with his wife Queen Bernice (who was also King Agrippa's sister) .

Paul was never shy about witnessing, and sharing his biography. Knowing that King Agrippa was a practicing Jew, Paul shared his conversion story and the prophets foretelling of the Messiah being born, and also the foretelling of Jesus death and resurrection. Paul's bold confessions and preaching inclined Festus to call him a madman from too much studying. Agrippa on the other hand seemed moved by Paul's testimony and only accused Paul of trying to convert him to Christianity. Paul's reply (verse 29) was “I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today will become like me, except for these chains.”
Paul had convinced both Festus and King Agrippa he had not committed any violation of Roman law and would have been released except Paul had requested a hearing in Rome.

As you read this portion of scripture at first glance you might be inclined to think Paul was foolish to request a hearing in Rome, when he could have enjoyed his freedom. However, we could never be sure of Paul's safety if released, he was much better off in the custody of Roman officials. It also gave Paul a couple of years in Rome where he wrote many of his letters, and was also able to create some churches in the homes of other Roman citizens.

Sometimes God takes what looks like a negative, and uses it for the positive. That is our hope, we fully trust God with our lives or we don't. God is in control and what we think might be a burden God turns into something we could never accomplish without the trials and tribulations we go through.

Paul withstood the slings and arrows and endured to the end, his faithfulness never wavered. Even in death he was the victor, just as Christ was. “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.” Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”

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