Paul’s third missionary journey is a testimony to his character and his dedication to the cause of Christ. Acts chapter 19 contains several accounts of Paul in Ephesus. While there he taught and baptized, healed the sick, dealt with Jewish exorcists, and narrowly escaped mob violence at the hands of worshipers of Diana. All of these experiences bear witness to the power of the Holy Ghost as it worked through Paul. Chapter 20 shows him raising a young man from the dead in Troas and counseling Church elders in Miletus. To these leaders of the branch in Ephesus he cited a teaching of Jesus not found in any other passage of scripture: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Prayerfully study Acts 19–20and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 280–81.
“The Missions of the Apostle Paul,” 296 in this manual.
Choose from the following ideas or use some of your own as you prepare lessons for Acts 19–20.
Ask your students:
What evidence can you give that miracles really happen?
What do you think brings miracles about?
Recount the following story from the history of the modern Church. When the Saints were driven from Missouri, they camped along the banks of the Mississippi River, where they were stricken with severe illnesses. One day the Prophet Joseph Smith rose from his own sickbed, assembled several of the brethren, and proceeded to heal as many people as he could lay his hands on. Have a student read the following, written by President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“In this manner the Prophet and the brethren passed from house to house, healing the sick and recalling them from the mouth of the tomb. It was on this occasion that a man, not a member of the Church, seeing the mighty miracles which were performed, begged the Prophet to go with him and heal two of his children who were very sick. The Prophet could not go, but said he would send some one to heal them. Taking from his pocket a silk handkerchief he handed it to Elder Wilford Woodruff and requested him to go and heal the children. He told Elder Woodruff to wipe the faces of the children with the handkerchief, and they should be healed. This he did and they were healed” (Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. , 224).
Consider discussing the following questions:
By what power did Joseph Smith heal?
How would you react if you were asked to do the same thing as Wilford Woodruff?
Do objects or articles of clothing have miraculous power?
What part did the handkerchief play in bringing about this miracle?
Ask students to read Acts 19:11–12looking for similarities to what happened in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s day. Read the following explanation by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
“Healings come by the power of faith; there is no healing virtue or power in any item of clothing or other object, whether owned by Paul or Jesus or anyone. But rites and objects may be used to help increase faith” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:169).
If desired, point out other objects that have been used in this way in the scriptures: spittle and clay (see John 9:6–7), Jesus’ clothing (see Matthew 9:20–22), and the shadow of Peter (see Acts 5:15–16).
Explain that faith in the Lord is essential for healing to occur. Have students read Acts 19:13–16looking for another important element. Ask:
What did the sons of Sceva think one had to do to cast out evil spirits?
Why did just using the name of Jesus fail?
Why did the evil spirit recognize Jesus and Paul but not these men?
Why is it vital to have priesthood authority to heal in Jesus’ name? (see D&C 63:60–62).
Read with students Acts 20:7–12. Testify that healings occur through priesthood authority and the power of faith.
Turn off the lights in your classroom. Hold up an object that is dark blue and an object that is black. Ask students if they can tell what color the objects are. Explain that just as it is difficult to distinguish colors in the dark, it is also difficult to discern spiritual truth when the light of revelation goes out. Paul and other early Apostles predicted such a spiritual darkness.
Have a student read Acts 20:28–30, and ask:
What did Paul say would happen to the Church after he was gone?
Who are the “grievous wolves” and the men “speaking perverse things”?
How are people who teach false doctrine like wolves?
How can false doctrines destroy the Savior’s flock (the Church)?
Write the word Apostasy on the board. Tell students that “apostasy” means abandoning one’s religious beliefs or departing from the truth. This is the word we use today to describe what happened in the early Church. Paul spoke about the Apostasy many times in his writings.
Have students mark Acts 20:28–30and write the following cross-references next to those verses: 1 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 1:6–8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3; 1 Timothy 1:5–7; 4:1–3; 2 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:10–16. Read each of these references with your students and have them look for the causes and characteristics of the Apostasy or “falling away.”
Explain that with the death of the Apostles and the acceptance of false doctrines, the ancient Church departed from the truth. This was not just an apostasy of members from the Church but an apostasy of the Church. Because of this apostasy, within a relatively short time of its establishment by Christ, the true Church was withdrawn and could no longer be found on the earth. In the sixteenth century religious reformers in Europe tried to correct the damage done by the Apostasy. This movement was known as the Reformation. But only a Restoration could bring back the truths and authority that had been lost. Joseph Smith was the prophet through whom Heavenly Father began this Restoration.
Explain that some of the same influences that led to the apostasy of the ancient Church cause some people to apostatize from the Church today. Have students read the following statements by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“As surely as this is the work of the Lord, there will be opposition. There will be those, perhaps not a few, who with the sophistry of beguiling words and clever design will spread doubt and seek to undermine the foundation on which this cause is established. They will have their brief day in the sun. They may have for a brief season the plaudits of the doubters and the skeptics and the critics. But they will fade and be forgotten as have their kind in the past” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 76; or Ensign, May 1994, 60).
“There is a tendency on the part of some to become indifferent. There are those who drift off, seeking the enticements of the world, forsaking the cause of the Lord. I see others who think it is all right to lower their standards, perhaps in small ways. In this very process they lose the cutting edge of enthusiasm for this work. For instance, they think the violation of the Sabbath is a thing of unimportance. They neglect their meetings. They become critical. They engage in backbiting. Before long they have drifted from the Church.
“The Prophet Joseph once declared, ‘Where doubt is, there faith has no power’ (Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], p. 46).
“I invite any who may have so drifted to come back to the strong and solid moorings of the Church. This is the work of the Almighty. Whether we as individuals go forward will depend on us. But the Church will never fail to move forward” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 95; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 72).
Discuss with students some of the causes of individual apostasy. Ask: What can we do to avoid and prevent it?