Sunday School Lesson: God Protects Paul’s Life

This lesson continues the journey through Acts as a plot to murder Paul is thwarted.  Students will learn that God guides and protects His servants as they obediently follow Him.  This study is based on the 23 chapter of the book of Acts.

The lesson was originally prepared for older students.  Use this as your guide to help teach the students in your class.  Adapt according to the needs of your students. Click here to see all the lessons in this curriculum series.

Bible Story: Conspiracy against Paul’s life is thwarted
ScriptureActs 22:30-23:35
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, sheet of paper for comparison of Jesus’ sufferings and Paul’s sufferings, pencils/pens, copies of word search, Bible pictures/flannels of the lesson,

Learning Goal: Students will learn that the Holy Spirit leads and protects believers as they follow God’s plan.

Learning Indicator: Students will demonstrate their comprehension of the lesson by actively participating in discussion throughout the teaching of the Bible lesson and by answering review questions.

Learning Activity #1: Compare similarities of Jesus’ sufferings at the hands of religious leaders and Paul’s sufferings.  Use as an activity for students to participate in as they wait for others to arrive.  Have Scriptures that compare Jesus’ sufferings at the hands of Religious leaders to compare with Paul’s treatment in Acts 23.

Learning Activity #2: Word search about Paul from Acts 21-23.

Test: Review Questions

Memory Verse: Psalm 31:3 “Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me.”

Teaching the Memory Verse: Explain the meaning of rock and fortress and how God is our protection when we trust in Him.

Bible Lesson:  Conspiracy against Paul’s life is thwarted

(Introduce memory verse.)

God has a plan for each one of His children.  If you have been saved by believing in Jesus you are one of God’s children.  He has a plan for your life and He will use you to help others to learn about Jesus so they can be saved from their sins.  God gives you His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you to complete the work He has given you.

God’s plan for Paul when he became a believer was to take the Good News to the Gentiles and their kings and before the Jewish people.  (Acts 9:15-16)  God said that as Paul did the work He prepared for him, he would face difficulties.  As we have been learning about Paul’s life as a believer we have seen how the Holy Spirit has given him everything he needs to obey Jesus’ plan for his life.  The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to have courage as he went from place to place sharing the message.  The Holy Spirit led Paul to the places he needed to go and gave him the words to speak to each group of people that he shared the Good News with.

In our last few lessons we have been learning how Paul responded to the difficulty he faced in Jerusalem.  To refresh our memory what happened to Paul when he was in Jerusalem?  (He was arrested because the Jews were trying to kill him)  What did the commander allow Paul to do?  (Speak to the crowd)  Why did the crowd get angry when Paul spoke to them?  (He said that God sent him to share the Good News with the Gentiles)  Why did the commander stop the soldiers from whipping Paul?  (It was illegal to punish a Roman citizen before proving they committed a crime)

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Acts 22:30 as the story of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem continues.  Have a volunteer read the verse.

The commander wanted to figure out what crime Paul had committed so he could resolve the problem.  He gathered the chief priests and the Sanhedrin which is a group of 70 religious leaders made up of Sadducees and Pharisees.  The commander brought Paul and had him stand before this council of religious leaders.

Acts 23:1-11 The Holy Spirit enabled Paul not to be intimidated by the religious leaders that he stood before.  He said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”  Paul believed that he had been obedient to all that God had asked him to do and his conscience was clear.

Luke tells us in verse 2 that the high priest Ananias ordered those standing closest to Paul to strike him on the mouth.  At this moment Paul does not recognize that this is the high priest because a high priest is supposed to be very familiar with God’s laws.  The high priest’s actions and words should reflect God’s laws.  It was against God law having Paul’s face smacked as punishment when he had not been proven guilty of breaking any laws. (Deuteronomy 25:1-2)

We aren’t really sure why Paul didn’t recognize the man as a high priest.  One reason may have been that his words and actions didn’t reflect that of a high priest who knew God’s laws.  Maybe it’s from Bible story pictures I have seen but I always imagine high priests as dressing in a way that would identify them as high priests.  Maybe the commander’s request for the religious leaders to gather didn’t allow the high priest time to dress as a high priest. (We don’t really know why Paul didn’t recognize him as the high priest)  Since Paul didn’t recognize him as the high priest he said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!  You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck.”

  • As believers we are ambassadors (representatives) for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)  We are not representing Him well if someone has to ask us if we are a Christian. Our words and actions should reflect what the Bible teaches.

Those standing near Paul question him about insulting the high priest.  Paul immediately repented of showing disrespect to the high priest.  He knew that God’s word said, “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”

Before Paul became a believer he was a Pharisee.  He knew what the Pharisees believed and what the Sadducees believed.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees did not.

God had a plan for Paul and it was not for him to stay in Jerusalem to defend his faith in Christ.  He knew God had told him he was to go far away to tell the Gentiles the Good News.  The Holy Spirit gave Paul wisdom to know what to say to the religious leaders.  Let’s read verse 6 to see what Paul says.  An argument broke out between the Sadducees and the Pharisees and they no longer were focused on Paul.

The two groups argued and became so violent that the commander in charge was afraid they would tear Paul into pieces so he ordered soldiers to take him away from the religious leaders by force.  God used the soldiers to protect Paul and he was taken to the barracks where he was safe from the angry religious leaders.

Sometimes when a believer is obedient to what God has said, difficulties can cause discouragement and even doubts.  We don’t know if Paul was discouraged or had doubts.  Is it possible that as he sat in the barracks that night he questioned whether he misunderstood God’s direction to him?  God is faithful to encourage His obedient servants.  That night the Lord stood near Paul.  Choose volunteer to read Acts 22:11.  Jesus comforted Paul and encouraged him by telling him that he would go to Rome and share the Good News.

  • The reason why it’s so important for believers to read and memorize God’s word is so the Holy Spirit can comfort us and help us when we face difficult circumstances.

Acts 23:12-22 While Paul was safe in the barracks, unbelieving Jews were plotting evil plans against Paul. Since we don’t have all the details of the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ of this plan, let’s use our imaginations as we discover the plans to harm Paul.

The Scriptures tell us that this plot takes place the next morning (23:12).  We don’t know if it was in the early hours of the morning before the sun came up or after the sun came up.  Typically evil takes place in the darkness (John 3:19-21), and since these men were plotting evil let’s assume that it is before the sun comes up.  More than forty unbelieving Jews came up with a plan to end Paul’s life.

Read Acts 23:12-15.  We aren’t told where this plan to kill Paul is being discussed.  What is planned in darkness is seen by God.  God is in control and knows about evil plans that are intended to harm His servant Paul.  Somehow as these men are discussing their plans a young man who happens to be Paul’s nephew overhears their conversation.  There are no coincidences for God’s children.  God placed Paul’s nephew there at that very time for an important purpose.

We don’t know how old Paul’s nephew is or what his name is.  We can see that he must have loved his uncle Paul very much and did not allow fear of the unbelieving Jews keep him from doing what was right.  Read Acts 23:16-22.

  • What risk did Paul’s nephew take?  Are you willing to risk your comfort and have courage to do what is right when you hear that someone is planning to hurt someone else?

God used Paul’s nephew to protect Paul from being killed.  The commander listened to Paul’s nephew and prepared 470 soldiers to take Paul safely to Caesarea so that the Governor Felix could determine what to do about Paul (since he didn’t have any solutions for the problem that the Jews had against him).  The commander wrote a letter (Acts 23:26-30) to Felix explaining why he was sending Paul and even about the plans of the men plotting to kill Paul.

  • In just a few verses we learn about Paul’s nephew and the courage he had to do what is right and we see that God protected him (Acts 23:22)  God sees your right choices and protects you as you follow Jesus.

Acts 23:31-35 Paul arrived in Caesarea safely. Felix read the letter from the commander and said that until those who were accusing Paul of committing a crime arrived in Caesarea he would be guarded by soldiers in Herod’s palace.

Paul’s enemies plotted to end Paul’s life.  God is in control of Paul’s life and He had a plan and purpose for Paul.  No one was going to end Paul’s life on this earth until God’s purposes for Paul’s life were complete.

If you are a believer you can trust God to guide you and protect you as you serve Him.  He has a plan for your life and nothing can stop His plan for your life.  The Holy Spirit gave Paul comfort, courage, wisdom and protection as he obeyed God and shared the Good News.  The Holy Spirit gives that same comfort, courage, wisdom and protection in the life of all who have believed in the Lord Jesus.

(Close in prayer asking God to help each student to trust Him with their lives.  Pray for those who are not saved that they will trust Jesus to save them for their sins.  Pray for those students who are believers to be encouraged that God has a purpose for each of their lives and He will guide and protect them as they obey Him.)

Review Questions:

  1. Why did Paul say that God would strike Ananias?  (Because he ordered Paul to be smacked in the face without being found guilty of breaking any laws)
  2. How did Paul respond when he realized he spoke harshly to the high priest? (He repented because he knew it was against God’s law to speak evil of rulers)
  3. Why did the Pharisees and the Sadducees get into a big argument?  (Because Paul said that he believed in the resurrection.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection but the Sadducees did not so they began to argue become violent)
  4. Why did the commander order his soldier to put Paul in the barracks?  (He was afraid the Jews were going to tear him to pieces)
  5. How did God comfort Paul?  (The Lord stood near him and told him to take courage because he would share the Good News in Rome)
  6. How many unbelieving Jews took an oath not to eat or drink until Paul was killed?  (Over 40)
  7. What was their plan to kill Paul? (Pretend to have more questions for Paul and kill him when the commander let him come to the religious leaders)
  8. Who stopped the evil plot?  (God/Paul’s nephew)
  9. When have you seen God protect you?
  10. What did you learn from this lesson that will help you trust God more?

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