The BIG IDEA
Some people believe there are many ways to God, but God offers a single path through Jesus Christ.
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 to God are OK.
Be confident about pointing people to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
Why THIS MATTERS
The gospel calls us to believe and trust in Jesus alone. Yet we live in a world that says all beliefs are equal. 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.
I WANT MY STUDENTS TO:
- KNOW: Even though people pursue many ways to get to God, Jesus is the only way.
- EXPERIENCE: Confidence that Jesus is the only way to God, yet have a humble, compassionate heart toward those with different beliefs.
- DO: Boldly share the good news of Jesus with respect and sensitivity.
The idea box is a place where you can find some creative ideas for leading this study. You might find videos, activities, or great illustrations that really bring the main point home. The ideas come from small group leaders like you, so if you have an idea that isn’t in there, click below to share it with the community!
*WHAT DO YOU THINK?
When a 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?
Pass out copies of the maze at http://www.printactivities.com/Mazes/Shape_Mazes/Basketball-net-maze.html. After students complete the maze, ask the following:
- What are some of the understood rules that you use when you complete a maze like this? (You can’t go through the lines. You have to only follow the open path. If you come to a dead end, you back up and go another direction.)
- How many ways are there to complete this maze? (Only one. There are a lot of dead ends. But only one path that leads to the end of the maze.)
People often say there are many paths to God. Much like this maze, Christianity says there is one way. Who’s right? Let’s take a look at the following passage from the Bible to find out what it says about this question.
WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?
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.
*1. Read Acts 17:16–21. What was bothering Paul, and how did he respond (see verse 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. Are there people in your life that don’t believe in the God of the Bible?
2. How did people respond to Paul as he shared about Jesus? (see verses 17–21)
Some thought he was an idiot (msg: airhead), others thought it was an interesting and new teaching they hadn’t heard of. They wanted to know more. They even organized a meeting for Paul to talk to people.
*3. What are some things that Paul noticed about the Athenians in verses 22–23?
They were religiously devoted. They created an idol without a name just in case there was one they had missed. In other words, it appeared that they were trying to do the right thing and be right before the gods.
4. What new thought did Paul present to the Athenians?
That their idol represented the One True God. However, the One True God doesn’t live in an idol and cannot be represented by an idol made by human hands.
*5. How did Paul describe God to them?
- How does this description line up with what you believe about God?
The One True God is the creator of all things. He is not one among many. He is reachable and you can actually know him personally. He is so much greater than a “god” that can be represented by a little stone idol.
Allow the group to discuss how this description lines up with what they believe about God. Don’t be threatened by those who express beliefs that don’t line up with what Paul says.
6. In verses 30-31, Paul refers to an “appointed judge.”
- Who is this judge?
- Who is he judging?
- How does the idea of Jesus judging the world sit with you?
Jesus is the appointed judge by God, the Father (see John 5:22–23). Jesus is appointed to judge us. Someday God will judge the world (including each of us) through Jesus.
Allow the group to discuss how the idea of Jesus judging the world sits with them. It’s OK if some group members have a hard time with this.
*7. Read John 14:6. What does Jesus claim?
- What do you think of this claim?
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, trusting in him is the only way to “pass” judgment. This settles once and for all the questions: “Who’s Right?” and “Are all religions the same?”
If we believe Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God, it may raise another hard question: what happens to those that have never heard of Jesus or aren’t able to believe in him because of age or mental disability. The Bible doesn’t address this question specifically. But it does make it clear that 1) All have fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:10–18, 23); 2) Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5); and 3) God is both just and merciful (Genesis 18:25; 2 Samuel 24:14). So we can be confident that God will deal with all who have not heard of his son or who aren’t able to believe in him because of age or mental disability through Jesus in a way that lines up with his justice and mercy.
Allow the group to discuss what they think of Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God. It’s OK if some don’t agree with this. But look for ways to affirm gently that Jesus is the only bridge that can connect us to God.
HOW DO WE APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES?
*8. 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.”
9. 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.
10. 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 us 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.
*11. 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 people. He cared too much for these people to not tell them that Jesus was the only way for them to escape God’s judgement. Lead your group to consider who they care about that isn’t a follower of Jesus. Invite them to consider what it would look like for them to show care to them by telling them about him.
12. 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.
For more on this topic:
Article by Keith Johnson
Every Student.com – Do all religions lead to the same God?
Our review cards are an excellent way to review your past lessons with your students before each study. Not every lesson has one yet but if we have them, you can find them on the PRINT page. Check them out and use them each week to help your students grab hold of the truths in these studies.
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.