THE BIG IDEA:
Many people believe there are numerous paths to God, but God offers a single pathway through Jesus Christ.
Some people believe there are many paths to God. We’re afraid to say that anyone is wrong because we don’t want to be in conflict with anyone, so we say all paths are OK.
Turn from our own ways of seeking God and seek him through Jesus Christ.
Without traffic signs, our streets would be chaos because everyone would go whichever way they thought was best. That’s kind of how our culture is with religion these days: whatever you believe is fine as long as it works for you. A one way sign reminds us that not everything can be true. In our search for truth, we find that Jesus is the one way to God.
- What I want the group to know and understand: Even though people pursue many ways to get to God, Jesus is the only way.
- What I want the group to experience: Confidence that Jesus is the only way to God, yet a humble, compassionate heart toward the beliefs of others.
- How I want the group to respond: By boldly sharing Jesus’ good news while treating others with respect and sensitivity.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
The gospel calls us to believe and trust in Jesus alone. Yet we live in a world that says all beliefs are equal, so we need to anchor ourselves on what God says and trust him for the ability to share this with others in a kind and humble way.
When your math teacher gives you a problem to work and tells you to do it a certain way, how do you feel about that? Why do you feel that way?
Allow the group to discuss. Some may like having a certain way to do something, but others may not like this because they want the freedom to do it their own way.
It’s one thing for someone to tell you there’s one way to do a math problem. It’s another thing for someone to tell you there’s just one way to God, especially because many people believe all religions lead to the same place. Why is it so difficult to believe there is only one way to God?
READ TOGETHER: Paul is a Christian that was visiting a town called Athens where they worshiped a lot of different gods. As Paul was walking through the town, he saw statues to these gods all over the place.
[We suggest that you use THE MESSAGE version of Bible for this study]
1. Read Acts 17:16-21. What was bothering Paul, and how did he respond (see verses 16)?
Paul, a leader in the Christian movement in the first century A.D., was bothered by all the idol worship he saw in Athens. So he talked with them about the ideas and topics of the day but focused on Jesus and his resurrection (rising from the dead). Verse 16 says that Paul wanted to speak to them because it disturbed him that there was so much worship of false gods without an awareness of the one true God.
2. What was the focus of Paul’s preaching (verse 18)?
Paul stayed focused on Jesus and His resurrection. It is easy to get sidetracked in religious conversations about unimportant things. Paul knew that he needed to continue to bring the conversation back to Jesus. He didn’t want to debate just to debate. He wanted people to know Jesus so they could be saved.
3. When talking with someone who has different religious views, it’s important to respect them even if you don’t agree with their views. Read Acts 17:22-23. How does Paul affirm the people?
Allow the group to discuss. He notes that they are religious and worshipful. He quotes their poets as he explains himself. He is respectful of their views without agreeing with them. When we talk to others, we need to be sure not to bash their beliefs and make fun of them, but encourage them. Our goal is to be wise and loving to everyone. Tell an athiest that you admire how much she has thought through her ideas. Tell someone of another religion that you admire his faith in the unseen.
4. What does Paul teach about God in verses 24-31 to give them a better understanding of the one true God?
Allow the group to discuss. He explains that God made everything, is in charge of everything, and doesn’t live in man-made temples (verse 24). He doesn’t need people to serve him since he has no needs and gives life to all humanity and creation (verse 25). He made everyone from a single ancestor and decided the exact times and places they should live, in the hope that they would connect with him even though he’s not far from anyone (verses 26-27). He’s the source of our life, and we’re his offspring (verse 28). Since we’re his offspring, we shouldn’t think that God is made of gold, silver, or stone (verse 29). God is gracious because he has overlooked the ways our understanding of him has been off base (verse 30). God will judge the world through the man he’s appointed (Jesus), giving proof that this will happen by raising him from the dead (verse 31).
5. According to verse 31, why is it so important for us to turn from our false ideas about God and worship the one true God through Jesus Christ? Read John 14:6 for more insight to this question.
Allow the group to discuss. This is so important because someday God will judge the world (including each of us) through Jesus. Trusting in Jesus is the only way to “pass” that judgment. In John 14:6 Jesus claims to be the only way to a relationship with God. That’s because Jesus took on himself (through his death on the cross) the punishment for our failure to meet God’s standard. Since Jesus is the one true God and will one day judge the world, this settles once and for all the questions: “Who’s Right?” and “Are all religions the same?”
6. Based on this story, how do you think Paul would respond to someone who says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe since all religions lead to the same place?”
Allow the group to discuss. Paul would likely respond in a way that’s humble and compassionate like he did in this story. He would likely say that it does matter what we believe because all religions don’t lead to the same place. Only trust in Jesus brings us into a relationship with God by giving us forgiveness and rescuing us from his judgment. Paul might bring up Jesus’ words in John 14:6 to make his point: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
7. Why do you think it’s so attractive to believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe and that all religions lead to the same place?
Allow the group to discuss. It’s attractive to believe this because it takes away the challenge of discovering whether your faith is right or wrong. It also means you don’t need to tell people they’re wrong.
8. What from this story strengthens your trust in God and his Son Jesus Christ? What questions or doubts remain about Jesus and how Christianity relates to other religions?
Allow the group to discuss. Knowing that God is the Creator of all things (verse 24) may strengthen trust in him because it builds our confidence that he’s in control of all things, including the details of our lives. Knowing that he sets up circumstances so we’re able to find him may strengthen our trust in him because it assures of his wise power to bring good into our lives. Knowing that he will someday judge each person strengthens our trust in him because it assures us that he will right every wrong and hold every person accountable in perfect justice.
9. Why is it important to overcome the fear and awkwardness of talking with someone with different beliefs than yours about God?
Allow the group to discuss. Paul was willing to talk about this topic because he knew there was One God who someday would judge poople. He cared too much for these people to not tell them that Jesus was the only way for them to escape God’s judgement. Who do you care about that isn’t a Christian? Do you care enough about them to talk to them about it? What will happen to them if you don’t?
10. As you have conversations, you might find people to be receptive, resistant, or open to further conversation, just like Paul did in verses 32-34? How might you handle these different responses?
Allow the group to discuss. No matter where they are, we want to help people take a step closer to God. Whatever the response, we want to relate to people with respect and humility.
11. As a result of this story, who do you think God might want you to talk with about Him?
Allow the group to discuss. Encourage your group to consider family members, classmates, teammates, and teachers as possible categories.
For more on this topic:
Article by Keith Johnson
Every Student.com – Do all religions lead to the same God?
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.