Faithlife Sermons

The Method to Paul's Madness

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  • Open up with Temple of Doom video showing the Dinner scene. 


  • Ask questions to the students regarding weird cultural things:


What is the weirdest social custom that you've taken part in.


What is the weirdest food you've ever eaten.


What is the weirdest clothing style.


  • Share some of your own weird experiences:

I have been to 5 countries in my life: Japan, Israel, Jordan, Ecuador and Italy.  Each has its own strange customs with both everyday life and eating.  In Japan, they seem to have a ceremony for everything.  They have a tea drinking ceremony which I took part in.  They have you take off your shoes before ever coming into the house, but when you go to the bathroom, you have to put on special bathroom shoes because it's considered poor hygiene to walk barefoot on the bathroom floor.  When you eat in the traditional way, you don't sit on chairs at a table, you sit on the ground in front of a low table.  Shoveling your food and slurping your soup is considered acceptable dinner etiquette.   

In Israel, there are two distinct cultures - the Israeli and the Palestinian.  Both have strict dietary laws.  The Israelis will never serve any dairy product along with meats.  This tradition comes from Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26 & Deuteronomy 14:21.  Apparently they take this to mean that you cannot have milk or dairy along with meats.  The Israelis also treat their weekends very seriously.  Their holy day is on Saturday, called Shabbat (where we get our word Sabbath).  It lasts from Friday evening until Saturday evening.  Once Shabbat begins, all businesses and work shuts down.  Even public transit.  Nothing owned or run by Israelis is open until Saturday evening.

  • Jordan is a Muslim nation.  They have a call to prayer 5 times throughout the day and night.  A man or recording will climb a tower within earshot of every neighborhood and does the prayer call.  Everyone stops what they're doing and prays toward Mecca.  They also have a strange way of greeting people.  Men never talk or socialize with women, but when men greet other men, they hug and then kiss both cheeks…even if they've never met.

  • Ecuador has some strange foods.  In the orphanage I worked, they would serve horse stomach and chicken foot soup.  Also, when the cooked rice, the kids would fight over the rice from the bottom of the pot that was burnt into hard flat cakes.  Also, if their national soccer team happens to be playing in the world cup, the whole country seems to come to a halt.  If the team wins, everyone breaks out into a massive party. 

  • In Italy, everyone seems to be in a relaxed mood all the time.  If you mention the word bar, it's not a place to go drinking…it's a place to get ice cream.  Almost every business shuts down at sunset, except the ice cream bars.  During the day, between 1:00 and 3:00, they have a siesta.  Everything shuts down and people either rest or take naps.

  • Introduce the name of the lesson - The Method to Paul's madness.

  • Pray

  • Give out verses to read.  I Corinthians 1:23, I Corinthians 9:19 - 23 & Acts 17:1-15

  • Paul was said to be the most powerful and influential missionary of all time.  After his Damascus road experience, he witnessed and preached to both Jew and Gentile.  He caused either a revival or a riot wherever he went.  His life followed a pattern of the 4 "…vals" - arrival, revival, rivals and survival. 

1.    ARRIVAL...Paul goes to the synagogue and shares the Gospel with reason and passion.

2.    REVIVAL...Many are persuaded and put their faith in Christ.

3.    RIVALS...Many people oppose him and stir up increasing antagonistic opposition.

4.    SURVIVAL...Paul escapes with his life to the next city, where the cycle repeats itself.

Paul was a very educated man, he was raised to be a Pharisee and he also was a Roman citizen.  He was very smart and very mindful of how he did things.  Read I Corinthians 9:19 - 23.  This verse gives an overview of how Paul approached both interacting with people and how he preached the Gospel to them.  What does verse 19 say about how he treated the average person?  Read each verse and break down how each verse explains his strategy to witnessing to people.  Vs 20 - acting like a Jew although not under Jewish law anymore.  Vs 21 - spending time with the gentiles and following their customs without thought to his old customary ways (except he never followed a custom that would not glorify God).  Vs 22 - he sympathizes with all the weak and misfortunate of society.  Paul becomes "all things to all people" as he says in vs. 22.  His overall purpose and motivation was to do these things and be all things for all people for the sake of the Gospel.

  • Read Acts 17:1-15 and discuss not only what he had to go through on a regular basis, but also his preaching style to the Jews.  Paul's method of preaching to the Jews mainly spoke of Christ as being the Messiah that they've been waiting for.  His strategy was to use the scripture they already knew to show that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah.

  • Read Acts 17:16-21 and discuss how he again preached in the synagogue to the Jews and then went into the market to preach to anyone who would hear.   Paul again preached to the Jews but also went and spoke to the general public.  His fearlessness and passion caused the Greeks to take him to a very prominent place in the city where people spoke about new ideas.

  • Read Acts 17:22-34 and discuss how he had a completely different sermon style to those who had no background in the truth about the one true God, the sin we all have and the Savior from that sin.  Paul summed up the entire Creation account and described who and what the One True God.  Paul went from preaching to Jews who understood the One True God and the meaning and penalty of sin to preaching to people who were totally ignorant of the God of the Bible, sin and the need for a savior.  The Jews had known about this since the inception of their people group back in the days of Abraham.  The Greeks had no idea and had to be brought up to speed.  If they didn't even know they needed a savior, talking about Jesus dying for their sins seemed stupid. 

  • Have someone read I Corinthians 1:23.  To the Jews, Jesus was a stumbling block.  They were on the right path, but they didn't want to believe that Jesus was who they've been waiting for…hence the term stumbling block.  To the Greeks, Jesus was foolishness because to them, there was no One True God and no original sin and no need for a savior.  Paul recognized that he needed to start from scratch with them but didn't need to waste time with that when talking to the Jews.  If you could categorize the majority of the people in our country as either "Greeks" or "Jews" based on the context we just explained, which one would you consider the USA to be generally?  Explain how your life's passion regarding Creation science is related to the fact that the country is filled with more "Greeks" than "Jews". 

  • To summarize, Paul's one and only mission from the time of his Damascus road experience until his death was to bring the Gospel to every corner of the Earth.  He was careless only in regards to what happened to him.  He didn't care if he died so long as it was God's will.  He was, however, VERY careful about how he acted around others and how he presented the Gospel message to them.  He made sure that what he said would be understood so he changed his lifestyle and speaking strategy based on the culture he was in and the people he was talking to. 
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