Paul has been a busy man these past few chapters in our Bible, he’s visited large portions of the Roman empire, we’ve seen him visit the biggest trading town (Corinth), seen him kicked out of a town or two, and seen him be stoned, but today’s Sunday School lesson he isn’t even involved in the riot, it was just an after-effect.
Lessons from Paul in Ephesus
Sometimes it’s funny how I have a certain lesson in mind for my kids to get from the text, and they go in a completely different direction. I read this text and I see a great example of someone recognizing what is holding them back in learning more about God. I see some new believers saying, “These books I used to read are distracting me from God, I need to get rid of them.” Then they burned them (and the bibliophile in me is cringing at the thought), unfortunately, this is where many church leaders get the idea of book burnings from, but there is a great idea in this. Sometimes you need to destroy the thing that is holding you back. I was thinking this could be a great lesson.
But the kids focused on a different element. At one point a riot starts in Ephesus, Paul is nowhere near it, but he wants to go and save his friends. Everyone else holds Paul back saying, “you’ll just make it worse.” Then a city official, not a Christian, steps in and says (in Ticia translation): “You’re being idiots, if your god is so great what Paul says doesn’t change a thing, go home before Rome punishes us.” I took from this, God uses everything and everyone to achieve HIS purposes, both the good and the bad. The kids then got off on a very long discussion and debate on predestination, free will, and why did God have the tree in the garden?
30 minutes later we were late for an appointment, but it was a good discussion (one that entire books have been written on, so I’m not going to address it here in any depth). My very simplistic answer was to take them to Romans 8:28-30.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Now verse 28 has often been misapplied to tell some poor soul in the midst of a terrible time, “You know God works all things together for good,” and that’s just beating someone up who’s hurting with the Bible. That is mean, and not helpful right then. But it is helpful for the conversation my kids wanted to have. God knew in the beginning of time what was going to happen. He used everything, the good and the bad to achieve His ends. So do we have free will? Yes. Does God know what’s going to happen? Yes. How do those two things go together? I don’t know.
Paul in Ephesus craft
I’d originally planned to have the kids illustrate a verse Paul made reference to, but the kids spent so long on their tangent that I cut that idea out. Instead, we did a project I’ve been wanting to do for a while. All throughout the Bible God uses several numbers over and over again: 3, 7, 12, and 40. Twelve shows up in this story again, we see 12 disciples of John the Baptist. So, I thought it would be fun to see what they could come up with.
And they happily set to it. Some were easy to come up with. Twelve disciples, twelve tribes of Israel, three parts of God, but then it became harder. The kids started having to think, I tried my best to limit it to stories from the Bible, but the kids kept bringing up instances in nature with those numbers, and saying “But Mom, God made it, so that’s God using the number.” Argh, using my own logic against me. Not fair!
But eventually, we got a fair amount filled out, apparently, my kids have been reading Revelation, because they brought in several items from there.
I don’t know why God uses these numbers over and over again, but it is interesting.
Paul in Ephesus resources
(yeah, there’s not a lot as of yet, but two of my major Bible sources are working their way through Acts, so I’m hoping one of them will have something in their posts)