By Luke Johnson | January 1, 2013
Have you ever been in a really tense situation when you needed to act fast? What happened?
When you hear the phrase “following Jesus,” what comes to mind?
Read Acts 16:16-40
Does anything pop out at you or surprise you in these verses?
What gets Paul arrested? What accusation is made against him?
Is that what really happened?
(Paul freed the slave girl from the spirit possessing her. He caused her owners to lose money. He didn't actually make the Romans do something against Roman law.)
Have you been accused of something false before? Did you end up getting punished?
What did you do about it?
What kind of cheeky thing does Paul do at the end of the chapter? Why do you think he does this?
Do you find it odd that Paul waited to reveal his Roman citizenship to the officials only after he was beaten and thrown in jail? Why do you think he did that?
What do you think of Paul? In one word, how would you describe Paul in Acts 16?
Read Acts 23:6-11
Background: In Acts 21, Paul is falsely accused of bringing a Greek friend into the part of Jerusalem’s Temple where only Jewish people were allowed to go. (This isn’t the real reason they’re mad -- Jews in Jerusalem are mad actually because Paul is claiming that Jesus was raised from the dead and Paul is convincing their fellow Jews to follow Jesus.) The Roman soldiers weren’t sure what to do about the Jews’ complaint, so they brought Paul to the Jewish court (Sanhedrin).
How does Paul identify himself in Acts 23? (v. 6)
What is a “Pharisee”?
(An expert law teacher, respected by the people for knowing how to interpret the Old Testament.)
Isn’t Paul a Christian? How do you think Paul can be a “Pharisee” and a Christian at the same time?
According to Paul, why is he on trial? (v. 6)
How does Paul escape from the Sanhedrin? He does something kind of sneaky. What is it?
Putting it together
What are the two ways Paul identifies himself in these Acts readings? (Roman citizen, Pharisee)
How do you think Paul feels about being a Roman and a Pharisee? Do you think being a Roman and a Pharisee is helpful or unhelpful to Paul?
Take a quick look at Philippians 3:7-11.
What does Paul care about more than anything else, according to Philippians?
As a Roman citizen and a respected Pharisee, Paul has big bragging rights. But how does he feel about these things?
Paul’s life has changed in a huge way because of Jesus’ resurrection -- he started following Jesus instead of trying to arrest and kill Christians.
Why do you think Paul is willing to go through so much trouble for the sake of preaching about Jesus?
Jesus’ resurrection is like a new pair of glasses. Paul sees everything differently now that he knows that Jesus has destroyed the power of death, and has taken all the power away from everything that looks powerful.
He’s not afraid. For Paul, as a person who follows Jesus, he can stand up to the authority of Rome and the Jews because he knows that Jesus’ authority is greater than everyone else’s.
For Paul, following Jesus is about imitating him and being faithful to what he asks us to do no matter what. Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)