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Teaching God’s Word
Sunday school lesson for the week of November 29, 2015
By Dr. Charlene Black
Lesson scripture: Acts 18: 1-28
The Book of Acts is an account of work of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost Jesus tells all who are gathered there, not just the apostles, that when, not if, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit they are, “To be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” It is a command, not a suggestion.
After Paul’s dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, God began to send him visions directing him where to spread the Gospel. Paul followed these visions to Macedonia leading to the conversion of Lydia, the first European.
Arriving in Corinth Paul discovered Aquila and Priscilla, tentmakers (Greek leather workers) and believers. Paul immediately joined them in their occupation. It was Paul’s custom to “pay his way,” to not be a burden to anyone.
Reaching out to members of our work setting is a natural means of making disciples for Christ. Paul also joined them for worship on the Sabbath and began preaching to Jews and Gentiles that Jesus was the Messiah. He baptized Crispus, an official in the synagogue. When he was no longer welcome, he went next door to the Gentiles and preached God’s Word there.
How many members of your work group or how many of your neighbors have you invited to Sunday school or to worship?
The Praetorium declared Claudius (41-54 A. D.), being the last male in the Julio-Claudius dynasty, Emperor after the assassination of Caligula, whom may regarded as an insane tyrant.
Claudius’ edict expelled the Jews due to the spread of Christianity in Rome. Historian Louis Feldman suggests that the Roman government did not distinguish between Christians and Jews. Aquila and Priscilla, bearing Greek names indicating they were Gentiles, must have been leaders of the local faith community.
Paul preached and taught the gospel everywhere he went. God had given him the task of taking Christ to the Gentile world. Paul was planting seeds of the Gospel. Some seeds fell on fertile ground; others did not. Paul did not know which soil would be fertile, but when the gospel was not received Paul moved on as God had instructed him.
Inspired by Priscilla and Aquila‘s faithfulness and effectiveness in working together, Paul took the couple with him to Ephesus. As wives and husbands are you dedicated to being his witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth? Would you have been willing to go with Paul?
Paul learned much about planting as he attempted to “bring them Christ.” Later in his first letter to the Corinthians Paul would write, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (growth NRSV) (3:6) “For we are labourers together with God (3:9a).”
Paul had his head shorn at Cenchrea for he had a vow. William Barclay reminds us that when a Jew especially wished to thank God for some blessing he took the Nazarite vow (Numbers 6: 1-21). If the vow was carried out in full it meant that for 30 days he neither ate meat nor drank wine and he allowed his hair to grow. At the end of the 30 days he made certain offerings in the Temple; his head was shorn and the hair was burned on the altar as an offering to God. Barclay suggests Paul was thinking about all God’s goodness to him in Corinth and had taken this vow to show his gratitude.
How do you thank God for his goodness? Have you ever made a vow in thankfulness and if so, did you carry it out?
During a trip to China in 1998, I visited Xi’an. After viewing the famous Terracotta Warriors I had an opportunity to lecture about male and female roles in the United States at Xi’an Institute of Foreign Languages (now Xi’an University). After speaking to an overflow crowd, I opened the floor for questions. A young man quickly rose to his feet and said, “You are a Christian, your apostle Paul says that women should not speak in church. How do you explain this?”
I responded, “The Apostle Pau wrote to various churches, addressing problems unique to each situation. His words were not meant to be applied to all situations.” I had brought the current issue of the Upper Room with me to use for my morning devotionals. I continued, “As I read this morning during my devotional time, Paul said in Galatians 3:28, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I continued, “Christianity teaches that all persons are equal in Christ.”
If God were not guiding this south Georgian’s path, what is the probability that that would have been the scripture for that particular day and that a young Chinese student’s question would allow me to preach the gospel in China with impunity?
I could have been admonished, severely punished, or even made to leave China without accomplishing the purpose for my trip, but God gave the question and gave me courage to witness to my faith.
The young man and a couple of his friends followed me to the dorm where I was staying and we continued the conversation. It was evident that the students were interested in learning more about Christianity. I believe I was planting seeds about the Gospel and pray that they fell on fertile soil. Someday I would like to return to Xi’an to see the growth God has given.
When, where, and to whom have you planted seeds of the Gospel?
Faithful and loving God, may we, like Paul, hear your call to share the Good News with everyone in our homes, in our work settings, among our friends and neighbors, to the strangers we meet and through our gifts to your Church may we plant and trust you to give the growth. Amen.
Dr. Charlene Rushton Black is a former Conference Lay Leader and former president of the Conference UMW. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.