STUDY | Spend the week studying Acts 25:13–26:32. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | The truth of the gospel gives me hope to live a changed life.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
UNLEASHING THE GOSPEL’S POWER
It happens to us all. We put our hope in something or someone, and we get disappointed. Maybe it’s for a relationship to work out or a job promotion. To get into that college or for that family member to turn their life around. We need hope to carry on in life, don’t we? Hope gives us confidence. It gives us a buoyancy to persevere through difficulties and overcome obstacles.
What if real hope was available to you? Not a vague hope that may end in disappointment, but a rock-solid, certain hope. In Acts, Paul is on trial for his faith and gives his defense before King Agrippa. He defends the truth of the gospel, that Jesus died for sins and was raised from the dead. This was a message that gave Paul real hope and changed his life forever.
Ironically, Easter falls on April Fool’s Day this year. To some the gospel seems foolish. But to Paul, the story of Jesus in the gospel had power. It still does today. And when its power is unleashed, you live with hope. You live differently. You live changed.
Q: Why do we need hope to carry on in life?
Q: How would you respond to someone who thinks your belief in the gospel is foolish?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
After Paul converts to Christianity, he embarks on missionary journeys to take the gospel beyond Jerusalem. Later in his journeys, he returns to Jerusalem, where he is arrested for preaching the gospel and makes a series of appearances before various rulers who hear his case. As a Roman citizen, Paul knows his rights and appeals his case all the way to the court of Caesar, which meant a hearing before King Agrippa II.
When Paul goes before Agrippa, he is told to speak for himself concerning the charges brought against him by his Jewish opponents. Paul shares how he was once a fierce opponent of Christianity, but was miraculously converted on the road to Damascus when a light blinded him and he was given a new calling by Jesus Himself—to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
READ: Read Acts 25:13–26:32. What can you learn about evangelism from Paul’s defense?
Q: What does Paul’s calling reveal to you about the kind of people God uses to serve His purposes?
TRUE AND RATIONAL
Paul refers to the Old Testament and its many prophecies of Jesus’s coming, death, and resurrection. As he was speaking, Festus, a Roman procurator in the case, shouted, “Paul, you’re out of your mind!” Paul responds with clarity and boldness. “I’m not out of my mind. My words are true and rational. All these things (the events surrounding Jesus) were not done in secret. Agrippa, you know about these prophecies. Do you believe them?” Agrippa, unfazed, responds with a quip. “Do you think you could convert me in such a short time?” Paul answers, “Whether short or long, my desire is for everyone here today to believe like me.”
Q: Why is prophecy important evidence for the truth of the gospel?
Q: Recall a time when you had to defend your faith. What was most challenging?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
A NEW STORY TO LIVE IN
Paul went from persecuting believers to being the most influential missionary in history. How does something like this happen? While Paul’s story is miraculous, it isn’t really much different from ours. The gospel gives us a new story to live in. God powerfully intervened in Paul’s life and gave him a new story. God continues to do that in each of our lives every day.
Paul’s witness wasn’t just his conversion story. He appealed to the truth of the gospel. Jesus died and rose from the dead. It really happened, and God promised that it would happen long ago through His prophets. When you get to share your faith, don’t just point to yourself. Point to Jesus and what He did to pay the penalty for sin, making it possible for anyone to have a relationship with God. Because of what Jesus did, we can have a new story to live in.
Split into pairs and share (in less than a minute) how God has changed your story.
Q: What are some practical ways you can “point to Jesus” when sharing your faith?
A GOSPEL-SHAPED LIFE
Paul’s entire life was shaped by the gospel. Everything he did was motivated by the gospel and what Jesus did. Living out this story changes you. It makes you see the world through a gospel lens. You see circumstances and relationships differently. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. You were created to live for Him, not yourself. Your story is part of a bigger story—the Gospel Story.
You are a missionary like Paul. Your mission field may not be to the ends of the earth. It may be your children, your co-workers, or your classmates. God wants to use you like He did Paul to advance His kingdom and reveal the truth and power of the gospel to others.
Q: What does a gospel-shaped life look like? Describe it.
Q: Where is your mission field? How could you reach those who need to hear the gospel with greater effectiveness?
LONG LIVE THE KING
The truth of the gospel gives you hope to live a changed life. The gospel isn’t just a feel-good story about Jesus’s sacrifice. The resurrection changed history forever. The gospel gives you hope in difficulties big and small. Jesus overcame your greatest enemies. You have new life and a relationship with God that can never be taken away. The gospel gives you hope when you worry. It gives you hope when life isn’t working out like you thought it would. It gives you hope when the doctor tells you that you have cancer. The gospel changes you when you see it in every area of life.
Q: How does someone with real hope react to difficult circumstances?
Q: What change would you like to see in your life right now?
Praise God for the truth of the gospel. That He took the initiative to save you from a eternity without Christ. Ask God to give you faith to believe in the power of the gospel and its ability to change your life. Ask God to reveal others who need to hear this truth today.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 and reflect on how God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
King Agrippa II at a Glance
King Agrippa II was the last ruler in the Herodian dynasty. He was the great-grandson of Herod the Great, who tried to kill Jesus after His birth. He was considered an expert in Judaism and the legal aspects of Paul’s case.1
For Scriptures on the suffering of Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy, see Luke 24:26–27, 45–48; Acts 2:24–36; 3:17–26; 13:32–39).2
God’s call to Paul echoes the calls of the prophets Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1, 3), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:7–8), and Isaiah (Isaiah 42:6b–7). In a way, Paul was a prophet. He proclaimed God’s truth to others. That same mission is given to Christians today. We proclaim that the promises of God made in times past have all come true in Jesus’s life and work.
Hope is a Person
Paul David Tripp tells us that we need hope. We’re hardwired for hope. Hope gives us identity, meaning, purpose, and an inner sense of well-being. Whatever we set our hope on determines the direction of our lives. We’re always preaching a gospel of some kind of hope. We reach for hope. But our hope is not in something, but Someone. Hope is a person. Jesus is with you, whether what you hope for works out or the worst thing imaginable happens. His power and grace are always with you.3
1. P.G. Mathew, “Paul's Trial Before King Agrippa,” Grace Valley Christian Center, November 5, 2000, http://www.gracevalley.org/ser- mon/pauls-trial-before-king-agrippa/ (accessed March 27, 2018); D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2274.
2. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2140.
3.Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014), January 20 entry.