Lesson: Barnabas and Paul Begin Their Missionary Journey

Free Sunday School LessonsThis lesson is based on the calling of Paul and Barnabas to take the message of the Gospel to others.  It is based off the events in Acts 13. The original teaching context of this lesson plan was Sunday School. With some modification you could also use this material for a Children’s Church lesson.  With some work, it can be simplified for preschool and younger students.

Bible Story: Paul and Barnabas’ adventure begins (you could also title this story God calls Barnabas and Saul)
Scripture: Acts 12:25-13:12
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Bibles, cards for God is calling activity, suitcase with items needed to go on a mission trip, map to point out where Paul and Barnabas traveled.

Learning Goal: Students who are saved will learn that God calls believers to a work He has prepared for them to do and the Holy Spirit empowers and enables them to do that work.  Unsaved students will learn that God calls all people to be saved.

Learning Indicator: Students who participate in the “God is calling” activity will be able to identify Biblical characters who received God’s call and their responses.  Students will demonstrate their understanding of the lesson by answering review questions.

Learning Activity #1: Students will pack a suitcase with items they would need if they were going on a mission trip.  (Bible, prayer journal, prayers of other believers, passport, clothes etc.)

Learning Activity #2: “God is calling” A Bible search for students to identify people in the Bible who were called by God and their response.  Create cards with ‘phone numbers’ (Bible Address of someone God called). Have blank cards for students to create the answers/response of the people receiving God’s call.  (These cards can be used later as a memory/concentration game allowing students to match up the call with the response.)

Some examples:  Moses (Exodus 3), Samuel (1 Samuel 3), Gideon (Judges 6:11-27), Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Disciples (Matthew 4:18-22), Jonah (Jonah 1), Rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), Felix (Acts 24:24-27), Agrippa (Acts 26:26-32)

Test: Review Questions

Memory Verse: Acts 13:2:  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Bible Lesson:  Paul and Barnabas’ adventure begins

This is a guide for a possible way to teach this passage of Scripture.

(Give Bibles to students who need one.  Having a Bible each week is very important.  It is important for students to be able to read the passage along with you and see that you are not making up what they hear.  God’s Word is powerful and what the student may not hear you say as you teach the lesson, they may hear loud and clear from reading for themselves the Word of God.)

As we have studied the Book of Acts so far we have been learning more and more about the Holy Spirit.  Some of you have been here each Sunday and have been learning about the Holy Spirit.  Some of you here today may be brand new to the Bible and are not familiar with the Person of the Holy Spirit.

God is Three Persons in One.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons with different jobs.  Some are confused about how God can be 3 persons and still be One God.  One way people have tried to explain this is by using water.  Water can be liquid, ice and steam.  Whatever form the water is in it is still water.

When Jesus, God the Son returned to heaven God the Father sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit came upon the believers in Jerusalem and He empowered them to speak in different languages and praise God.  As we have studied Acts we have seen how the Holy Spirit gave believers the power to be brave and teach the Good News about Jesus despite difficulties.

The same Holy Spirit that we read about in Acts is still working in the world that we live in.  When a person hears the message that Jesus died on the cross for his sins, the Holy Spirit works in his heart and shows him that he needs Jesus to have a right relationship with God and have his sin forgiven.  The moment he believes Jesus is his Savior the Holy Spirit comes and lives within his heart.  The Holy Spirit will give him the power to obey God.  As he studies God’s Word the Holy Spirit will teach him and give him a deeper understanding of who God is.  The Holy Spirit will help him to be brave in difficult situations.  When he sins the Holy Spirit will convict this believer that his behavior doesn’t measure up to how God’s Word says a believer should live. John 16:8 This conviction causes him to feel bad in his heart and he confesses his sin to God (or tells God what he did) even though He already knows and asks Him to forgive him and help him not to continue in that sin.  After he confesses his sin the Holy Spirit fills his heart with peace because the sin that was interfering with his right relationship with God has been repaired.

This was a brief summary to help us remember or understand the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our lesson today continues to teach us how the Holy Spirit is involved in the lives of followers of Jesus or as we learned in Acts 11:26 believers were first called Christians in Antioch.

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Acts 12:25.  Barnabas and Saul had taken gifts from the believers in Antioch to the believers in Jerusalem because the prophet Agabus said there was going to be a severe famine in the land.  When Barnabas and Saul left Jerusalem they brought Barnabas’ cousin Mark (Colossians 4:10) back with them.

When Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch they join the other Christians in a time of prayer and fasting.  What is fasting?  (Allow students to respond)  Fasting is removing something from your life (food, TV, video games, etc.) for a time so you can focus more clearly on God and what He wants you to do.

At Antioch the Christians were praying and fasting because they wanted to know what God wanted them to do.  Let’s read Acts 13:2.

Sometimes when we can’t see something we wonder if it is real.  We cannot see the Holy Spirit and yet He is very real.  He is working in the lives of believers so others can see the Power of God and come to know Jesus as Savior.

Let’s look at what we learn about the Holy Spirit from this verse.  “The Holy Spirit said.”  What does this show you about the Holy Spirit?  He speaks.  The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of believers.  As we read God’s Word, pray and worship with other believers we learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to us.

One way to recognize if we are hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to us is to think about what we believe the Holy Spirit is saying.  The Holy Spirit is always going to keep us focused on God’s Truth and living our lives to bring honor to Jesus.  John 16:13-14

As God had a work for Barnabas and Saul to do, He has prepared a work for each believer to do.  (Ephesians 2:10)  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus He prepares us and leads us to the work He created in advance for us to do.

Earlier we packed a suitcase with items in it that we would take if we were going on a missionary journey.  The Bible doesn’t tell us what Barnabas and Saul packed but we know that they were going on this trip filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would be the One who told them where to go.  Read Acts 13:4.

Have a student find Seleucia on the map.  Allow another student to locate Cyprus.

What do you think Barnabas and Saul felt like as they set out on this missionary journey?  (Allow students to respond)  Barnabas and Saul had been sent by the Holy Spirit to do the work God had planned for them.  It must have been a time of excitement knowing they were obeying God’s plan for them.

Read Acts 13:5.  Barnabas and Saul continued to take the Good News to the Jewish people and they had Mark traveling with them as their helper.

(Locate Paphos on the island of Cyprus.)

Up to this point Saul was using his Jewish name.  In our passage we see that he begins to use his Roman name Paul.  (Acts 13:9) God had called Paul to take the Good News about Jesus to the non-Jewish people called Gentiles. (Acts 9:15)  It was appropriate for him to use his Roman name from this time on.

In Paphos there was a governor or leader of the city named Sergius Paulus. He had heard that Barnabas and Paul were visiting his city and asked that they would come and teach him from God’s Word.

When a person wants to hear God’s Word taught they are responding to God’s call.  God desires all men, women, boys and girls to be saved from their sins. (2 Peter 3:9)  In order for a person to be saved they need to have someone share the Good News with them.  (Romans 10:14-15)

God’s enemy Satan will do whatever he can to keep people from being saved.  He knows the power of God’s Word and if people hear it they will be taken from his kingdom of darkness and sin and be rescued into God’s Kingdom of light and righteousness.

Sergius had a man working for him named Bar-Jesus.  Let’s look at Acts 13:6-8.  What do you learn about him?  He is a Jewish man.  He is not obedient to God’s laws because we read here that he is a sorcerer and a false prophet.  When God gave His laws to Moses He told the Jewish people not to practice sorcery/witchcraft.  (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10-13)  This is an evil practice that God said not to have anything to do with.  Bar-Jesus was also a false prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 God’s prophets speak His truth and do not lie.

Bar-Jesus or Elymas (el’-im-as) was being controlled by Satan and he didn’t want Sergius to hear the truth that Paul and Barnabas would speak.

Filled with the Holy Spirit Paul had wisdom to recognize what Elymas was up to in trying to keep Sergius from believing in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit gave Paul the power to speak the following words:  (Choose volunteer to read Acts 13:10)

Paul knew the power Satan had over his own life before he believed in Jesus.  Paul did everything in his human power trying to stop people from hearing the message about Jesus.  God allowed him to be blind for 3 days after he met Jesus on his way to Damascus.  It’s possible that’s what he was thinking about when he causes Elymas to be blind.

As believers we do not have to fear Satan.  We have God with us through the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Satan is God’s enemy and if we allow God to control our lives we will be able to speak boldly and powerfully as Paul did when Elymas tried to stop God’s work.

As Sergius hears God’s word being taught by Paul and Barnabas and sees God’s power to blind Elymas he answers God’s call.  Let’s read what his answer to God is in Acts 13:12.

As we close let’s think about something most of us use on a daily basis.  One of the main ways we communicate with others is through a phone.  Suppose you want to invite your friend to spend the night and you call him on the phone.  What are some good and bad things about communicating on a phone?  (Allow students to respond)  Sometimes the line may be busy and your call can’t get through.  Sometimes the people are at home but let the phone ring and no one answers.  Sometimes an answering machine is the only voice you hear on the line asking you to leave a message.  Your friend might actually pick up the phone and start talking to you and the phone doesn’t have a good connection so he won’t be able to hear what you are asking him to do.  If everything is working with the phone the result you want is for your friend to answer, hear your invitation to spend the night and gets permission from his parents to do so.

In a similar way God calls people today.  He doesn’t use a telephone to call.  His Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls. Sometimes people are too busy to recognize that God is calling them.  Some people ignore God’s call and avoid Him.  Sometimes people don’t hear God’s call clearly because someone is teaching them lies about God and His Word and they don’t understand.  The people who hear that God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for sins, was buried and rose again and believe are those who hear God’s invitation to be saved and say yes.

Some of us have answered the call to be saved.  When God calls us to be saved, He is not done talking with us.  He wants to talk with us every day.  We need to pick up our Bibles, open them and allow God to speak as we read.  God has called each believer to a work He has planned.  When we stay in a right relationship with God day after day we are in a place that when God clearly shows us what He wants us to do for His Kingdom we will hear Him and answer yes just as Paul and Barnabas did.

As you listened to this lesson today God had a message for you personally.  Before we close in prayer we are going to have a time of silence to allow you to respond to the message the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about.  After we pray if you have any questions please talk to us.

Close in prayer.

Review Questions:

  1. Who is the Holy Spirit?  (God, Third person of the Trinity, Lives in the heart of believers)
  2. What were the Christians doing in Antioch when the Holy Spirit spoke?  (Worshiping the Lord and fasting)
  3. Where did Barnabas and Saul go first?  (They sailed from Seleucia to Cyprus)
  4. Who did they preach God’s Word to in Salamis?  (The Jews)
  5. Why did Saul start using the name Paul? (Because it was his Roman name and he was sharing the Good News with non-Jewish people)
  6. Why did Sergius Paulus send for Paul and Barnabas?  (He wanted to hear God’s Word taught)
  7. Who tried to stop Sergius from believing in Jesus? (Bar-Jesus/Elymas)
  8. How did Paul treat Elymas? (He spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit and caused him to be blind)
  9. What was Sergius Paulus answer to God’s call?  (He believed in Jesus)

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