One of the great challenges facing Christians is not necessarily what they believe, but how they live.
When God Surprises
By Mark A. Finley
I recently followed the footsteps of the apostle Paul on a journey to Greece. What impressed me most was the power of the gospel to change lives. Paul courageously preached in some of the most influential, sophisticated cities of his day. Hearts were touched. Lives were changed. Entire cities felt the life-transforming grace of God. In this month’s Bible lesson we will journey with Paul to some of the political, intellectual, and commercial centers of the ancient world, and study together the power of the cross.
What prompted the apostle Paul to travel to the European continent? Read Acts 16:6-10.
Paul was sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Although he must have been perplexed initially when the doors to preaching the gospel in Asia were closed, he had confidence that if God closed one door, He would open another.
Where were Paul’s first evangelistic efforts in Europe? Read Acts 16:11, 12.
Philippi was a city in Macedonia, northern Greece. It was on the Egnatian Way, the road that connected East and West. This influential city probably had a population of more than 100,000 people. Paul knew that if the gospel was going to make a difference in Europe, he must begin in its great population centers.
Who were the first three converts as the result of Paul’s ministry in Europe? Read Acts 16:13-34. What are the characteristics of these three individuals? What are their similarities? What are their differences?
The gospel changed the lives of a wealthy businesswoman, a demon-possessed slave girl, and a middle-class Roman jailer. The gospel changes lives, all kinds of lives. In Paul’s first evangelistic endeavor in Europe we have a demonstration that the power of the gospel reaches all humanity.
How did Paul describe the believers in Berea? Read Acts 17:11. What are the implications for our own personal Bible study?
What was the impact of Paul’s teaching in Athens? Did he have any converts in this center of intellectual and philosophical thought? What do you discover as you read Acts 17:22-34?
Paul carefully reasoned with the philosophers of Athens on Mars Hill. He met logic with logic, and the Greek intellectuals were amazed at his clear reasoning. One of the city’s most influential men, Dionysius, a prominent judge, was converted to Christ, as were a number of other men and women.
In Athens Paul used a more intellectual, rational approach. What were his tactics in Corinth? Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Although Paul faced major challenges in Corinth, what was the result of His preaching there? Read Acts 18:8-11.
There were miracles of God’s grace everywhere Paul preached. The gospel transformed the most desperate lives. Light penetrated the darkest minds. Grace reached and delivered men and women caught in the grip of sin.
Paul’s message of God’s love and grace speaks to our hearts today. Nothing is too hard for God. His power for us is still available through His Word. He is still in the business of changing lives. He still surprises us with the majesty of His love, the power of His grace, and the glory of the gospel.