This is a continuation of the Journey through Acts. This lesson covers Paul’s visit to Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. The lesson reveals the different responses of people as the message of the Good News is shared. This part of Paul’s activity is often called the second missionary journey. The lesson was prepared for older elementary students but can be adapted to focus on the specific needs of your students. Click here to see all the lessons in this curriculum series.
Bible Story: Paul visits Thessalonica, Berea and Athens
Scripture: Acts 17
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, Bible map, digital camera (to capture the students responses to the different statements you make),materials to make magnet for memory verse.
Learning Goal: Students will learn that whenever God’s Word is taught some people will believe in Jesus and some will not.
Learning Indicator: Students will be able to communicate the different responses people had to the Good News in the three locations Paul went. They will be able to demonstrate their comprehension by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Response Activity. This activity is a fun way to help students to see how they respond to statements the teacher reads to them (examples: Make a scary face, pose as a statue, say a 3 letter word, say your favorite color, etc.) It is helpful to say before the statements where the students speak to say to the students: ‘before you say your answer I am going to count to three and then you say the 3 letter word you thought of’ (it helps to do this so the students have a chance to think and respond together rather than copy the students who quickly think of a 3 letter word)
Learning Activity #2: Write the three different locations on the board or a large piece of paper. After the lesson have students write the responses the people had to the Good News in each location.
Learning Activity #3: Have students create a magnet with the memory verse on it.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Psalm 67:1-2 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Bible Lesson: Paul visits Thessalonica, Berea and Athens
Before the lesson have the students participate in the response activity. (If possible have a volunteer use a digital camera to capture the responses that require physical actions so that the group can see the various responses)
Because we are all different we respond differently. Some of our responses were similar to others in the class but many of our responses were not the same.
Let’s think about the believers who shared the Good News in the Book of Acts. From the chapters we have studied, what are some responses you remember that people had as they heard the Good News? (Some believed, some didn’t believe, some got jealous and angry)
Let’s open our Bibles to Acts 17. Today I want you to be detectives as we learn about 3 different visits that Paul makes on his second missionary journey. What you are looking for in each place is the response of the people who heard the message of the Good News.
Remind me again what the Good News is. (Jesus died on the cross for my sins; He was buried and rose from the dead three days later.) Why is this Good News? (Because we all have sinned, our sins separate us from God and unless our sins are forgiven we cannot have a relationship with God or spend eternity with Him.)
Using a map of Paul’s Second Missionary journey have students point to the last place Paul and his team shared the Good News (Philippi). Let’s find Thessalonica on the map. It was 30 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica. Choose volunteers to read Acts 17:1-3. When Paul traveled to a new place, if there was a synagogue, he always went there. Why did he go to the synagogue? (To share the Good News with the Jews first Romans 1:16) Who worshiped in synagogues? (Jews and Gentiles who feared God) How many weeks did Paul teach in the Thessalonica synagogue? (3) What did he teach the people? (He showed from the Scriptures how Jesus is the Promised Messiah who suffered and died and rose from the grave)
In Acts 17:4 what response do you see? (Some Jews believed and a large amount of Greeks (Gentiles) and women believed)
While in Thessalonica the missionary team had been staying at Jason’s house. Jason was related to Paul. (Romans 16:21)
Not everyone responded by believing that Jesus is the Messiah. In verses 5-8 what response do you see? (Jealousy, anger, riot)
How do you think Jason and the believers that were dragged into town felt with all this noise and chaos taking place because the unbelieving Jews didn’t like Paul’s message? The Holy Spirit gave them courage and comforted them in the middle of all the chaos.
The Holy Spirit helped Paul know when to leave and when to stay. (Matthew 10:23) Later that night, the believers quietly sent Paul and Silas off to the city of Berea (locate on map). Timothy stayed a little while longer in Thessalonica to encourage the new believers and teach them from God’s Word. He later joined Paul and Silas in Berea.
When Paul arrives he goes to the __________ Verse 10 (let the students respond). Let’s see what the Scriptures say about the Jewish Bereans. Read 17:11. International Standard Version “These people were more receptive than those in Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive the message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if those things were so.” The Berean Jews listened with an open mind-they didn’t allow their opinions affect what Paul was teaching.
If you were Paul looking into the crowd of Bereans what do you think a crowd that was receptive to the message looked like? Let’s demonstrate a receptive crowd (sit up in our chairs, eyes on the teacher, Bibles open). Let’s demonstrate what the opposite would look like. (Slouch in chair, Bible on floor under seat, look at watch, poke your neighbor, close your eyes like you can’t stay awake, etc.)
The Bereans were listening to Paul teach but they didn’t just accept what he said was true, they went home and every day searched the Scriptures to see for themselves if he was teaching the truth.
From our demonstration, when we come to church who do we look more like when our pastor looks out into the congregation? I pray that we look more like the Bereans who are listening carefully as we are taught from God’s Word. How often do we go home and read the Bible for ourselves to know that what we hear our pastor says is true?
Let’s read Acts 17:12. The Bereans response to the Good News must have encouraged Paul. Whenever the Good News is shared the best response is when people believe. It would be great if believers got this response every time they shared Jesus with others. Unfortunately it won’t happen every time.
During this period of history we are learning about in the Bible how did people who lived in different cities and towns communicate? Could the people turn on the TV or radio and hear reports of multitudes of people believing in the Lord Jesus? Most information was shared from word of mouth.
In Acts 17:13 the unbelieving Jews heard the news of what was happening in Berea. They didn’t like what they heard so they traveled there and stirred up trouble with crowds of people.
Believers quickly got Paul on a boat that set sail for Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea to continue to teach the new Berean believers and encourage them.
When Paul arrived safely in Athens he sent a message back to Silas and Timothy asking them to come to Athens as soon as they could.
Alone in Athens, Paul could have decided to quit sharing the Good News. He had already faced many hard times from those who didn’t believe the message. Thankfully, Paul didn’t allow the hardship to keep him from serving Jesus. He had the power of the Holy Spirit living in his heart and He was helping Paul to keep doing what God told him to do. (Acts 9:15, Acts 1:8)
Athens was a city full of idols. The people of Athens worshiped many gods. When Paul saw all the different statues of the gods the people worshiped, it troubled him greatly. He went to the synagogue and shared the Good News. He went to the market place day after day and shared the Good News.
The people living in Athens loved knowledge. There were two groups of philosophers (people who are considered intelligent). One group was called Epicurean. They believed in living life and fulfilling every pleasure that they had. The other group was the Stoics. They believed that people should be very disciplined and self-controlled not indulging in pleasure. As the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers listened to Paul they argued with him. Some people called Paul a babbler; others said he was teaching about foreign gods because he had shared about Jesus and His resurrection.
The people of Athens loved to learn new things so they decided to take Paul to a meeting called the Areopagus (Air-ree-op-agus). This was a meeting of leaders in the city. They asked Paul to explain this new teaching about Jesus to them.
The Holy Spirit gave Paul wisdom how to speak to these people. These people worshiped many idols and they also liked to learn many things. As he began to speak he remembered seeing all the statues in the city that represented the gods the people of Athens worshiped. With all these statues was a stand with no statue on it that had a sign that said “To an unknown God”. Paul began to teach them about this unknown God that they worshiped along with all the other idols.
Let’s read Acts 17:24-27. Paul explained how God is the creator of all things and He placed people in the countries where they would live and He determined the time in history when they would be alive. Everything God does is so men will seek Him and reach out to Him because He is not far from anyone. (Psalm 67:1-2)
Paul explained how God had overlooked their idol worship and didn’t punish them for their sin. But now God is commanding that people everywhere repent because one day Jesus, the Savior who was raised from the dead will judge the sins of the wicked and punish them on the day of judgment.
The crowd had different responses to Paul’s message. What were they (verses 32-34)? (Some sneered, some wanted to hear him speak about this again, and a few became believers)
Paul has been in three different places sharing the Good News and has had many different responses. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to continue to share no matter what the response was. If you are a believer the Holy Spirit will help you each time you share and you won’t allow how people respond affect whether you will share or not.
Even if someone does not believe the message that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again doesn’t mean they won’t ever believe. Paul is the perfect reminder for all of us that we need to be faithful to pray for unbelievers and share the Good News.
Close in prayer.
1. Where did Paul and his missionary team go first? (Thessalonica)
2. Why was there a riot in Thessalonica? (Jealous Jews stirred up trouble)
3. How did the Bereans respond to Paul’s message? (They were receptive and studied to see if what Paul taught was true)
4. Why was Paul troubled in Athens? (The people worshiped many idols)
5. What are the different responses that people have when they hear the Good News? (Some believe, some don’t believe, some cause trouble trying to get you to stop sharing)
6. When you face difficulty because you are a Christian how do you respond? If you don’t respond the way you should will you ask God to help you?
7. How often do you study the Bible to see what it says for yourself? What will you change in your daily schedule to allow more time to study God’s Word?
8. Have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior? If not, what is keeping you from believing in Him? If you have been saved, how are you sharing the Good News with others?