Acts 15-16 Lesson: New Missionary Teams

This lesson combines the Jerusalem council, Barnabas and Paul’s disagreement and Paul’s call to Macedonia.  The focus on the lesson is how the Holy Spirit resolves conflict and directs believers in the way they should go.

This Bible study was prepared for older elementary students and is only a guide to help you teach your students. Please adapt to the needs of your students.  This is only a suggested guide to give an idea how to teach this lesson. Make adjustments and adapt to the needs of your students. Click here to see all the lessons in this curriculum series.

Bible Story: Jerusalem Council and New Missionary Teams
Scripture: Acts 15-16:10
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, map, Faith equation cards (explained in activity #1), Written letter that paraphrases what the apostles and elders concluded to send to the Gentile believers, (an option would be to use the ERV  that uses vocabulary that the students would understand adapting the phrase ‘don’t be involved with sexual sin’ to don’t use your bodies in an impure way.)

Learning Goal:  Students will learn that the Holy Spirit shows obedient believers what to do in all circumstances.

Learning Activity #1:  (Faith equation-create cards similar to math cards) The aim of this activity is to teach students that Faith plus nothing =Salvation.  Create a Faith card, and an =Salvation card.  On other cards create +Nothing, +Reading my bible, +Going to church, +Praying,+Tithing,+Helping the poor, +Sharing the Gospel, etc.  Teaching the activity:  Have 2 volunteers read Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4.  Have the cards laying face up on table or floor (where all students can see).  We just read two scriptures that tell us the equation of being saved from our sins.  Looking at these cards what would you put together that is the correct equation?  (Faith +Nothing=Salvation)  When we add anything to faith in Christ we create an unbiblical equation.  When we share the Good News with others we want to present the Truth from God’s Word and nothing else.  Adding anything to Faith in Jesus Christ alone will always equal a wrong answer just as 2+3=4 does.

Test: Review Questions

Memory Verse:   Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Bible Lesson:  Jerusalem Council and New Missionary Teams

(Faith equation activity)

The Holy Spirit resolves conflict between Jewish and Gentile Believers Acts 15:1-35

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Acts 15. Read verse 1.

Who came to the church in Antioch?  (Men from Judea)

What did the Jews from Judea make the equation for salvation?  (Faith + Circumcision=Salvation)

Read verse 2.  Where did Paul and Barnabas go?  (Jerusalem)

Why did they go to Jerusalem?  (To discuss this question that had caused a debate about whether Gentiles had to do anything besides believe in Jesus to be saved)

How did the Holy Spirit help resolve the problem between Jewish and Gentile believers?

  • They had a meeting with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to discuss the issue. (Verse 6)
  • Peter, Paul and Barnabas shared how God showed them that He makes no distinction between Jews and Gentiles because all people are saved by faith in Christ.  (Verses 7-12)
  • James an elder in the Jerusalem church (half-brother of Jesus (James 1:19)) agrees that what Peter, Paul and Barnabas are sharing agrees with what God taught in the Scriptures. (Acts 15:13-18)
  • James decides the best way to deal with this issue is to send a letter to Gentile believers to abstain from food offered idols, meat from strangled animals and blood, and to keep their bodies pure.

When the meeting was over Paul, Barnabas along with Judas and Silas returned to the Antioch church bringing the letter with them.

Choose a volunteer to read the letter (or verses 23-29 if you don’t have a letter prepared).

  • When the Holy Spirit resolves difficulties people will be encouraged and strengthened in their faith.  Read verse 31.

The Holy Spirit uses disagreement to send two missionary teams.  Acts 15:36-16:5

Paul and Barnabas remained at the Antioch church preaching God’s Word.  Judas and Silas had returned to the church in Jerusalem.

While staying in Antioch, Paul must have prayed for and thought about the believers he met on his first missionary journey.  After being away from them for a few years he really wanted to go back and visit them and see how they were doing.  Barnabas agreed that they should travel and visit the believers.  He told Paul that he wanted to bring John also called Mark with them on this trip.

Read verse 38-39.  Why did Paul and Barnabas disagree?  (Paul didn’t think it was wise to take Mark since he left them on their first trip)

Paul and Barnabas didn’t allow their disagreement to keep them from serving the Lord Jesus.  They both had valid opinions.  They chose to continue to go into the world and share the gospel.  The Holy Spirit used this disagreement to send out two groups of missionaries instead of one.

Let’s look at our map and see which direction each of these missionary teams went.  (Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus.  Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia.)

Read Acts 16:1.  (Show on a map the places mentioned) While in Derbe Paul added another member named Timothy to his missionary team.

Paul, Silas and Timothy began to travel from town to town visiting the believers.  In each town they stopped town they shared the letter that the leaders in Jerusalem had written for the Gentile believers.  Let’s read Acts 16:5.  Paul’s visits to the believers brought encouragement and even more people were saved.

  • When believers obey the Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit uses difficulties to continue God’s work so others can be saved and other believers can be encouraged.

The Holy Spirit directs Paul where to go with the Gospel.  Acts 16:6-10

When it was time for Paul and his team to move on to another city to share the Good News, how do you think they knew where to go?  (Allow responses)

Paul was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lived in his heart.  The Holy Spirit directed Paul where he should go and where he should not go.

Let’s read Acts 16:6-8.  The Bible doesn’t tell us how or why the Holy Spirit stopped Paul but he knew that God was keeping him from going in the direction of Asia.

Suppose we were going to go on a mission trip to another state.  We thought that  state is where God wanted us to go.  We pack up go to the airport and while we are waiting to get on the plane the flight to where we are going is cancelled because of terrible weather.  We can’t go to the place we were planning but God puts a person in our path at the airport who has never heard about Jesus and we share the Good News with him and he is saved.  This is an example of how we follow Jesus and when things don’t go as we planned, we trust that the Holy Spirit is leading us in the way God wants us to go.

When the Holy Spirit told Paul no, he obeyed and traveled in a different direction trusting that God would clearly show him where to share the Good News next.  As Paul and his team travel to a place called Troas, God made His directions perfectly clear.  Let’s read how God did this in Acts 16:9.

When Paul saw the man from Macedonia begging him to come and help, he knew that this was from God.  Paul immediately obeyed what he knew God was telling him to do and Silas, Timothy and Luke (who joined the team in Troas) got on a ship and prepared to travel to Macedonia.

There are many ways that the Lord shows us what we should do and what we should not do.  In order to know that we are following the Holy Spirit’s directions we must pray, stay in God’s Word and be sensitive to what He is leading you to do and also what He may be preventing you from doing.

One way to know if God is trying to prevent you from going in a direction is by making you have an uncomfortable feeling in your heart.  This uncomfortable feeling should cause you to pray.  After asking God for peace and you still have no peace it may be God saying not to do what you were planning to do or to wait.

Our next lesson continues with Paul and his missionary team’s adventure to Macedonia.  We will see how the Holy Spirit continues to empower and guide Paul as he obeys God.

In our lesson we have talked about how the Holy Spirit helps believers solve difficulties and gives direction.  If you have never believed by faith that Jesus saves you from the penalty of sin, you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life to help you.  If you have any questions or want to talk to us about how you can be saved please talk to us after we pray.

Close in prayer.

Review Questions:

  1. What is the faith equation?  (Faith + Nothing=Salvation)
  2. Why did Paul and Barnabas leave the Antioch church and travel to Jerusalem?  (Jews came to Antioch telling Gentiles they had to be circumcised to be saved)
  3. How did the Holy Spirit help resolve the problem between the Jewish and Gentile believers?  (Wrote a letter for the Gentile believers telling them 3 things not to do)
  4. Why did Paul and Barnabas go on the second missionary trip on two different teams?  (They had a disagreement)
  5. How did the Holy Spirit use Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement? (Used 2 teams to share the Good News instead of only 1)
  6. Who joined Paul’s missionary team in Derbe? (Timothy)
  7. How did Paul know that God wanted him to travel to Macedonia?  (He had a vision of a man begging him to come to Macedonia)
  8. What changes do you need to make to help you be able to recognize the Holy Spirit’s direction in your life?  (Confess any known sin, turn away from it, spend more time in prayer and studying God’s Word)