Paul’s Bible School (Acts 19:8-10)
Daniel Webster once said: “If we work upon marble, it will perish; if one brass, time will effect it; if we rear temples, they will crumple into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds, and imbue them with principles, with the just fear of God and love of our fellow men, we engrave on those tablets something that will brighten to all eternity.”
It’s that time of year again in which we strive to engrave upon children “something that will brighten to all eternity.” So many of you have worked diligently already preparing for this week’s Vacation Bible School and so many of you will put in many hours this week so that children can learn the Word of God.
Of course, this isn’t the only time of the year we seek to teach the Word of God. On a weekly basis, there are many of you who help teach children the Word of God. We do not wish to diminish the work of our regular Sunday school teachers. Yet, this is a time of the year that we focus on our Bible school program, and we do wish to use this opportunity to draw attention to our educational program.
I know of no better way to discuss our education program than from Scripture. The Apostle Paul had a vigorous Bible school curriculum in Ephesus. Paul spend more time in Ephesus than he did anywhere else in ministry—some three years. In that time period, Paul established “Paul’s Bible School.”
This morning, we wish to ask the question, “What kind of Bible school did Paul have?” Paul had:
A Shared School, v 8
“He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.”
“Paul’s Bible School” was a shared school, for he shared the message of Jesus.
In sharing the message of Jesus, Paul entered the synagogue and taught the Word of God. The Apostle didn’t decorate a classroom, get snacks together, put up a sign, and expect the people to come to him. He went to the people. Paul is gong to establish a place where people can come to him, but first he goes to the people.
Unless we go to the people, our efforts this week will fail and fail miserably. The entire promise of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ left heaven to come to earth. he came to us. Likewise, our Lord has instructed us to go to others. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The Lord never envisioned the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and allow people to come to them; they were to go. From the church’s earliest days, the followers of Jesus Christ have gone into the world to share Jesus’ message: the Twelve often went to the Temple; Philip, the evangelist, took the message to Samaria; Peter went to Cornelius’ home; Paul took the Gospel to Macedonia.
If we wish our Vacation Bible School to impact the lives of people, we need to go to people first. Maybe there’s a coworker who has displayed a deep interest in eternal matters or a neighbor who is dissatisfied with the denominational body where he worships or a family member who is not very far from the kingdom of God. We can’t expect to open the doors tomorrow night at 7:00 and expect them and their children to be here to receive with eagerness the Word of God.
However, if we go to them, we may very well be able to impact them with the gospel of Jesus. Maybe we need to invite them to ride with us or inform them that we’re having Bible school this week. Notice that after Paul had been to the people, they go to him. In verse 9, Paul’s teaching in the synagogue begins to unnerve a lot of the Jews and they basically run him out of the synagogue. Those who are receptive to Paul’s message then go with him to the hall of Tyrannus. But before these people came to Paul, he had gone to them.
What about you? Will you go to people that they might come and hear the Word of Jesus? Will you this afternoon go to friends or family and invite them this week? Will you see what students you can bring to make our Vacation Bible School a shared school?
A Stubborn School, v 9
“When some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdraw from them and took the disciples with him.”
“Paul’s Bible School” quickly became a stubborn school, for some of the Jews stubbornly held to their unbelief.
We must understand that the Word of God does not always impact the heart in a positive way. Some tenaciously cling to their error in spite of the truth. Jezebel tenaciously clung to her error in spite of truth. Elijah had a contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and demonstrated conclusively the truth of the message he preached. After fire came from heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice, for Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal. Jezebel sends word to Elijah saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow” (1 Ki 19:2).
There could be no doubt whatsoever that Elijah was a prophet of the true God and that the prophets of Baal were prophets of nothing more than an imaginary god. The prophets of Baal called upon their god for hour after hour to send fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice; Elijah saturates his sacrifice with water, but fire still comes from heaven and consumes it. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Jezebel stubbornly clings to her error.
Jesus encountered those who stubbornly clung to error. When Jesus told the rich young man that he needed to sell his possessions and give to the poor, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt 19:22). When Jesus taught about himself as the bread from heaven, we read, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (Jn 6:66).
Whenever we teach the Word of God, we may encounter some who cling to error in spite of truth. The Word of God calls for change, change that is both radical and difficult. We ought not be surprised when folks stubbornly cling to their comfortable error instead of the painful Word of God. When the Word of God is rejected by those who hear it, we must never forget that we have done our duty. We can never force people into obedience to the Word, but we can encourage such obedience.
A Swollen School, vv 9b-10
Paul “withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily int eh hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Paul’s Bible School became “A Swollen School,” for its students included every single resident of Asia.
When the situation at the synagogue became untenable, Paul took the disciples and began to teach in the hall of Tyrannus. The hall of Tyrannus was some sort of lecture hall. In Paul’s era, philosophers and other teachers had lecture halls where they would teach. Whether Tyrannus was a philosopher who taught in this school or the owner of the lecture hall, we do not know. Tyrannus’ identity, of course, does not matter.
What’s extremely important is that from that one location, Paul taught the entire continent of Asia. There is only one way that every resident of Asia could have heard the Word of God: The students of Paul took the divine message and shared it with others who in turn shared it with others.
God always intended that his Word should be passed from person to person to person to person. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). The author of Hebrews declares that this is how he had learned the Gospel; he says, “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard” (Heb 2:3).
The point is that only the Lord God himself knows what good will be accomplished this week. We shall be planting the wonderful Word of God upon tender hearts.
Who knows what hearts will be impacted through their sharing the message of Jesus with others? It may be that one of the kids who comes this week is deeply touched by what he or she learns and spends the rest of his or her life telling others of Jesus’ love all because you touched his heart this week. Shall we endeavor to have “A Swollen School”—a school that continually swells in numbers as more and more folks hear the truth of God?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.