Riot in Ephesus: Sunday School Lesson

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This lesson covers the whole chapter of Acts 19.  Depending on your class you can just focus on the riot in Ephesus.  Our class covered the entire chapter as part of the curriculum we use.  To tie it all together the focus is when God’s Word is taught, the Holy Spirit gives light to the hearer.  The hearer can respond to the light by believing in Jesus or they can reject the light by not believing.  The lesson was prepared for older students but can be adapted to other ages. Click here to see all the lessons in this curriculum series.

Bible Story: Riot in Ephesus
Scripture: Acts 19
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, Blind fold, cards with phrases from memory verse, tape, pencils,
Learning Goal: Students will learn that the Holy Spirit enables people to understand the truth about Jesus.  People will choose to believe in Jesus or reject Him.
Learning Indicator: Students will demonstrate their comprehension of the lesson by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Create a Mad Lib or use the following example:
Once upon a time John was in  ___(building)____.  There was a big   ____(type of storm)_ that came.  As he sat in  ___(building)____ the __(noun)___ went out and he could not ____(verb)___.  He tried to get a __(noun)__ so he  could __(verb)__.  He thought he grabbed the ___(noun)__ but he accidentally grabbed the __(animal)_.  The ___(animal)___   ___(animal sound)___ and   John  __(verb)___.  Thankfully the __(noun)__ came back on and John could ___(verb)__.
Learning Activity #2: Activity sheets to use while waiting for students to arrive.  Calvary Chapel Activities
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Memory Verse Activity: Play a game like pin the tail on the donkey.  Using a blind fold on each student give them a card with a word from the verse (have tape on the back).  Turn the student around a couple of times then let them feel their way to the wall to place their card.  After all the cards have been placed on the wall have the students put them in the correct order.  Explain that just as the students were blinded they were not able to know where to properly place the card to have the verse put in in the correct order.  When they were not wearing the blindfold they could see clearly to put the verse in the correct order.  Satan blinds the minds of those who have not been saved.  The Holy Spirit gives light to the unsaved so they can understand that Jesus died on the cross for their sin.

Bible Lesson:  Riot in Ephesus

Introduction to lesson:  Do Mad Lib with the class.  After reading the Mad Lib with the words they chose have them fill in the blanks of the story with words that would help the story to make sense.
When we don’t know what the story is that we are filling in the blanks for, we can wind up with a very funny story.  The story can end up being something that doesn’t make any sense at all.
We are each holding a Bible in our hands.  This is a very special book that God has given to us.  This book we hold is the very Word of God.  Every story in this book is true.  God gave us the Bible so we can know who He is and how we should live our lives.
In our class we have been learning about the Holy Spirit as we study the Book of Acts.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  (God, third person of the Trinity)  What are some things we have learned that the Holy Spirit does?  (When a person believes He comes and lives in his/her heart, He convicts of sin, He gives courage and boldness, He gives power to obey God’s Word, reminds them of what God’s Word says, and He gives people understanding so they can believe in the Lord Jesus)
Let’s open our Bibles to Acts 19.  Today in our lesson we are going to focus on how the Holy Spirit is like a light that shines in a person’s heart so they can understand clearly what God wants them to see.
Summarize Acts 19:1-7.  Paul is in the city of Ephesus. (Locate on map)  Most people living in Ephesus did not worship the One True God.  The people worshiped false gods.  When Paul returned to Ephesus he met twelve men. As Paul talked with these men the Holy Spirit gave him wisdom to know that they didn’t have a full understanding about who Jesus is and what He had done.   As he talked with them he learned that they only knew about what John the Baptist had taught.  They knew that John was preparing people for the One God was going to send as the Savior.  They were baptized to show they wanted to turn from their sinful ways and be prepared for the One John said would be coming.
Paul saw that these people needed more teaching so they could fully understand the One John prepared them for.  He taught them who Jesus was and what He had done for them.  He explained that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, was buried and rose again.  He explained that anyone who put their faith in the Lord Jesus could be saved from his/her sins and receive eternal life.  When these disciples heard Paul clearly teach about Jesus they believed in Him as their Savior and received the Holy Spirit and were baptized.
When God’s Word is taught the Holy Spirit helps those hearing it understand God’s truth.  The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul and helped these disciples to see clearly the rest of the story about Jesus and they were saved.
Acts 19:8-10 Paul spent three months teaching boldly about the Kingdom of God in the synagogue.  Who gave Paul the power to teach boldly?  (Holy Spirit)
The Holy Spirit was turning the light on in the hearts of the people who heard the truth taught to them.  What do I mean when I say that?  Does the Holy Spirit literally take a bright light and shine it on a person when they hear God’s Word taught?  It means that He gives a person clear understanding of what is being taught and what the person didn’t quite get, now he/she completely understands. It’s like the light bulb goes off in his/her heart and they say “I get it now!”)
In a practical every day sense, would you say that people like having light?  Why do you think most people like light?  (Darkness can be scary and confusing)
I don’t personally know any people that love to be in complete darkness do you?  What comes to mind for me is how there are animals and bugs that prefer darkness to light.  Can you think of any bug or animal that prefers darkness?  (Roly poly bugs, bats, etc)
Did you know that the Bible talks about people who love darkness instead of light?  John 3:19-21 talks about how some people love darkness rather than light because what they do is evil.  When God shines light into their heart and shows them that they are sinful and need to turn away from that sin, they would rather stay in darkness than to come out into the light and be saved from their sin.

  • Every person has a choice to love darkness or love light.  To choose to love darkness means to continue to live a sinful life that doesn’t please God and keeps them from having relationship with Him.  To choose to love light means to repent and turn from your sinful ways and believe in Jesus who saves you and helps you to no longer want to do sinful wicked things.

God’s enemy Satan is the ruler of darkness.  He does everything he can to keep people from leaving the darkness of sin.  He knows that when a person understands what Jesus has done he/she can be rescued from God’s punishment for sin which is death and live forever with Him in heaven one day.  Jesus is the ruler of light and all who believe in Him become His children.   (2 Corinthians 3:14-18; 4:3-4)
Let’s read the first part of Acts 19:9.  These people were being taught about the True Light Jesus.  What did they choose to love?  (Darkness) How do we know that they loved darkness?  (They became obstinate (stubborn) and refused to believe)
After Paul left the synagogue he taught daily in a lecture hall called Tyrannus.  The Holy Spirit enabled him to continue to faithfully teach God’s Word so that all of the Jews and Greeks that lived in that area had heard the Word of God.
Acts 19:11-20.  The Holy Spirit is God Himself living inside of each believer.  As Paul obeyed God and shared the Good News on his missionary journeys, the Holy Spirit performed miracles through Paul so that people could see God’s power.
Let’s read Acts 19:11 Paul was a human just like you and me.  The people that he shared the Good News with didn’t have a completed Bible like we do today.  When Jesus was on the earth He taught people and performed many miracles.  A miracle is something only God Himself can do.  One time when Jesus was in a crowd a very sick woman touched the hem of His garment and was completely healed.  It was not Jesus’ clothes that healed her but her faith in Him.  Handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul touched brought healing to those who were sick.  It was not the objects that healed the people it was the faith that Jesus could heal.  The people were healed because God was giving Paul the power through the Holy Spirit to do these miracles.
In order to be an instrument for God to use to point others to Jesus, a person has to belong to God.  That means they need to be a believer in Jesus.  They can only do God’s Work by the power of the Holy Spirit that works through him/her.
Some people who loved darkness (sin) more than they loved light (obedience to God’s Way-salvation through Jesus) wanted the power and fame they thought Paul had.  They paid attention to what Paul was doing and they tried to do the same.  They wanted to heal people who were being controlled by evil spirits.  Let’s read what happened when seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva tried to be like Paul but were not believers in the Lord Jesus.  Acts 19:13-16

  • Jesus has authority and power over evil spirits. (Matthew 28:18)  Evil spirits are not going to obey someone who does not have Jesus’ power.  These seven men were beaten and humiliated for trying to do God’s work in their own power.

When news spread of Sceva’s sons it caused a positive reaction.  People were gripped with fear and treated the Lord Jesus’ name with great honor and respect.  The Holy Spirit turned the light on in the hearts of many people who believed in Jesus.  He pointed out their sin and they confessed their sins and repented of them.  The Holy Spirit showed these believers that sorcery (witchcraft) is sin and they chose to love light and not cling to something they knew was evil.  Let’s read what they did to publicly turn away from sin.  Acts 19:19

  • Sometimes it is hard to give up something we know is sin.  Jonah 2:24 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  If we cling to sin we may never know what good things God had in store for us if we repented and turned away from that sin.

The people in Ephesus show us an example of how God can do good things when we let go instead of clinging to worthless idols (sin).  Obedience to what the Holy Spirit shows you clearly to do pleases God and He uses it to show His power to others.  Let’s read Acts 19:20.
Acts 19:23-41 Earlier I mentioned that the people of Ephesus worshiped false gods/goddesses.  The people of Ephesus believed their job was to guard the temple of the Greek goddess Artemis (Diana).  When Paul came to their city and the Holy Spirit began to shine light in the darkness of Ephesus some people believed in Jesus and were saved.  Some people didn’t like that light and were bothered by it.  A man named Demetrius worked as a silversmith.  He created silver statues of the goddess Artemis.  People would buy the statues and worship Artemis in their homes.  Demetrius was not someone who loved the Light.  He loved being able to make money from making silver statues of a false goddess.  He gathered other business owners together and told them that the message Paul was teaching was going to be bad for their business and it would make people not to worship Artemis as she truly deserved to be worshiped.
These business owners were furious!  They loved Artemis and were loyal to this false goddess.  They began to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  Soon the streets were filled with crowds and a riot broke out.  Two men Gaius and Aristarchus who were traveling with Paul were captured by angry citizens.  They forced Gaius and Aristarchus to go into a large theater and the mob of people crowded into the theater too.
Paul heard that his friends had been taken by the angry crowd and wanted to rescue them but believers would not let him go.  Even some of the leaders of Ephesus begged Paul not to go into the theater.
Inside the theater chaos and confusion filled the air.  For two whole hours people were shouting one thing and others were shouting another.  Most of the people in the crowd had no idea what was going on and why they were even there.
An official (city clerk) quieted the crowd down.  Let’s read what he said to the crowd in Acts 19:35-37.  The city of Ephesus had rules against unruly conduct and these people didn’t have a good reason to be out of control and could be punished for the noise and trouble that they were causing.  The people listened to the city clerk.  After he spoke to the crowd he sent them home.
God’s enemy Satan doesn’t want people to leave his kingdom of darkness. (Ephesians 2:2)  He will do whatever he can to keep people blinded from the truth about Jesus so they cannot be saved.  He used Demetrius to cause chaos and confusion but he did not succeed in keeping Paul from sharing the Good News.  The Holy Spirit gave the people of Ephesus light so they could be rescued from the darkness of sin and come to the Light of the World, Jesus.

  • There is only One True God and He alone is to be worshiped.  Worshiping anyone or anything other than the God of the Bible is to worship Satan.  (“They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols.  They sacrificed to demons which are not God. Deuteronomy 32:16-17a, “No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20-21)

Today you have heard God’s Word taught.  The Holy Spirit revealed truth to you and you have a choice to agree with the truth or reject the truth.  If you choose to agree with the truth you will be walking in God’s light.  If you choose to reject the truth you will continue to walk in the darkness of sin.
Close in prayer, praying that students will respond to what God revealed to them and that they would not reject His truth and walk in darkness.  Provide an opportunity for students who have questions to talk to you after you close in prayer.
Review Questions:

  1. How is the Holy Spirit like a light?  (He helps people to clearly understand what God’s Word teaches)
  2. What did the disciples in Ephesus learn about the One John the Baptist was preparing them for?  (That Jesus is the One that came to die on the cross for their sins)
  3. How did the disciples respond to the Paul’s teaching?  (They believed in Jesus, were filled with the Holy Spirit and were baptized)
  4. Why were Sceva’s sons beaten and humiliated by an evil spirit?  (They tried to cast out an evil spirit without the power of the Holy Spirit)
  5. Who did most of the people living in Ephesus worship?  (Artemis)
  6. Why did Paul’s message bother Demetrius? (He was afraid he would lose business)
  7. What happened when the other business owners became angry when they thought they would lose business?  (A riot)
  8. How can you know whether you are a person who loves light or loves darkness? (If you love light you will obey Jesus and if you love darkness you will cling to sin)
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