Lessons for the Book of Acts coming s
Acts Lesson 7
Scripture for this lesson are taken from Acts 7.
At the close of Acts chapter 6, Stephen had been brought before the Sanhedrin by members of the Freedmen synagogue. They had produced false witnesses who testified that Stephen had been speaking against the temple (Solomon’s Temple) and against the Law of Moses. Those in the Sanhedrin chamber watching Stephen saw that his face shinned like that of an angel. After the high priest had asked Stephen concerning the truth of the charges brought against him, Stephen began his defense by addressing the audience respectfully. The focus of his message was that God was too great to be limited to so-called holy places and sacred rites.
[Acts 7:1-3] 7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.
In Stephen’s defense address before the Sanhedrin he recalled the Old Testament history of the family of Abraham which through his son Isaac, became the Nation of Israel. He accused their ancestors of persecuting all of God’s prophets and finally killing Jesus, God’s Son, the Messiah.
[Acts 7:4-8] 4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
Israel spent over 400 years in Egypt until God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand that he free the Israelite slaves. God took them to Mt Sanai where He gave them the laws they were to live by and they built the tabernacle which was God’s dwelling place with them.
When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 they had their son, Isaac who was the father of Jacob and Esau. Jacob then became the father of 12 sons whose descendants became the 12 tribes of Israel.
[Acts 7:9-16] 9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
Jacob favored Joseph his son with his beloved Rachel and the other brothers were jealous so they sold Joseph to traders who took him to Egypt and told Jacob that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. God took care of Joseph, gave him favor with Pharaoh who made him a ruler in Egypt. When there was a famine in Israel their family was reunited in Egypt.
[Acts 7:17-29] 17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
The new Pharaoh was afraid that the Israelite slaves were of such a large number that they could rebel and become a threat to Egypt, so he ordered all the newborn babies to be killed. Amram and Jochebed had a new infant son that they hid for three months until it was not safe. So Jochebed made a reed basket that would float and put him in the river where Pharaoh’s daughter would find him when she came to the river. She did find Moses and raised and educated him in the court of Pharaoh. One day after he was grown, Moses defended one of his Israelite brothers who was being beaten and killed the Egyptian. After that, being afraid for his own life, he fled into the wilderness.
[Acts 7:30-34] 30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
When he was in the desert, Moses came to the home of Jethro who was a herdsman and a priest of Midian. Moses married his daughter, Zipporah and had two sons by her. After living there 40 years, Moses saw a fire on the mountain and went up to see what it was. Here, he met God in the burning bush. God told him to take off his sandals because he was on sacred ground. It was common in Old Testament times for the seller of property to give the buyer his shoe meaning that it was the buyer’s property now and the seller had not right to walk there anymore. This is God’s Holy place and Moses had no right to walk there. It was Holy ground. God then told Moses that He was sending him back to Egypt to free the Israelites.
[Acts 7:35-43] 35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness. 37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.
God led the Israelites out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai. While they were there, God took Moses up the mountain to give him the laws they were to live by and the instructions for building the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place with Israel. While Moses was up on the mountain 40 days, the people got restless. Moses was not coming back and they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf, one of the god’s of Egypt. The people began to dance and worship the calf in fertility worship activities. Worshiping the sun, moon and stars were the way they worshiped in Egypt and according to this passage during the 40 years they wondered in the wilderness.
[Acts 7:48-53] 44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Still addressing the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of Israel, he reminded them that their ancestors had the tabernacle throughout their wilderness wanderings and then God allowed Solomon to build the temple as a dwelling place for God with Israel. Then he reminded them that God’s true dwelling place was in heaven and worshiping God could not be limited to one place like the temple. Stephen accused their ancestors of persecuting God’s prophets and then of killing the Messiah, the Son of God. He went on to say that they had the law of God but did not obey it.
[Acts 7:54-60] 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was given a vision of Jesus in heaven at the right hand of God. When he told them what he had seen, they dragged him outside of Jerusalem where they stoned him to death. The young man, Saul was holding their outer cloaks. These cloaks or coats were very expensive so they needed to be watched. The young man holding the coats would soon meet Jesus on the road to Damascus where he was going to arrest Christians. This Saul later became the Apostle Paul who wrote many of the New Testament letters.
Like Jesus did on the cross, Stephen asked the Lord to forgive these men for the sin that they had committed against him, then he passed on to be with the Lord.
Lessons we can learn from Acts chapter 7:
1. The Jewish Religious were hypocrites. They preached the Law but did not obey it. We Christians need to live the Christian life so that our witness matches what we confess to be.
2. Saul was one of the biggest persecutors of Christians ever, but he became one of the greatest witnesses for Christ. Whatever your life has been like, it is never too late to accept Christ.
3. Like Stephen, we need to be forgiving toward those who persecute us.
Acts Lesson 6
The Witness of Stephen
Scripture for this lesson are taken from Acts 6, Philippians 1, 1Timothy 3.
At the close of lesson 5, the apostles were preaching and teaching daily in the temple. People came from all around to see Peter so they could be healed. Many were accepting Christ and the numbers of disciples was growing every day.
[Acts 6:1-8] In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The young church suffered from persecution from the Jewish Religious leaders and now they are experiencing problems from within their membership. Sounds like our churches today! The Hellenists were Greek speaking Jews who worshiped Jehovah, yet their culture was like that of the Grecian world. They were Greek speaking, Greek Culture, Jewish in religion. So, there was a great deal of difference in the Grecian or Hellenist church members and the Hebrew members. The donations made by the members who sold their property were used to feed the poor and needy of the fellowship. Many of these were widows who had no men to support them. The Hellenist widows claimed that they were not being supported as well as the Jewish women. The apostles did not want to take any time away from preaching and teaching the gospel so they decided to choose 7 good men from their group to take on the responsibility of distributing food to the needy and to minister to the members of the church. They chose men who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
These seven men who were chosen would be the first deacons of the church. In this instance all seven of the men were Greeks. It stands to reason if all the men making distributions were Grecians, the complaining Grecian needy would be satisfied. The apostles laid their hands on the seven men and prayed for them.
Stephen was a man who was full of faith and the Holy Spirit, he was a preacher who performed miracles and was full of wisdom. Phillip was also a preacher who performed miracles. He was the one who explained the gospel to the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road to Gaza as told in Acts chapter 8. There is no other mention in the Bible of the other five men. Tradition holds that Prochorus was consecrated Bishop of Nicomedia by Peter. Parmedas suffered martyrdom at Phillippi.
There are other scriptures in the New Testament that deal with the choosing of deacons.
[Philippians 1:1] Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
[ 1 Timothy 3:1] Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
[1 Timothy 3:8] In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
[1 Timothy 3:10] They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
Let’s apply these scriptures to our churches today.
1. Pastors cannot do everything, they need help.
2. Others can preach and teach.
3. The Lord has a place for every member to serve.
4. Whatever problem arises within the church can be solved if the members will be led by the Holy Spirit.
5. The original purpose for the office of deacon was to serve the needs of the members.
[Acts 6:8-15] 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
The meaning of Freedmen or Libertines as they are called in some translations, is not certain, but it is believed that they were Jews who had been made captive by the Romans under Pompey and afterward freed. They had built their own Synagogue in Jerusalem. Some interpreters believe that the freedmen from Rome, the Cyrenians, Alexandrians and Asians had their own synagogues in Jerusalem. Others believe that all of these people worshiped in the same synagogue. Stephen, being a Hellenist was probably preaching and teaching Jesus in one of these synagogues. Some of their members refused to believe his teaching about Jesus and the New Covenant but were unable to refute his words. In order to stop Stephen from preaching about Jesus, they got false witnesses to testify against him before the Sanhedrin. Verse 15 tells us that Stephen’s face shined like that of an angel, like Moses’s face when he had been in the presence of God.
Lessons for us from Acts chapter 6:
1. The purpose for Deacons in a church is to minister to the needs of the members.
2. Deacons should love the Lord, be respected, honest, not heavy drinkers. They should be tested before being ordained as a Deacon.
3. There is a place for every member to serve in the church.
4. Problems between members in a church can be solved if the membership will be led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Christ’s church should be open to people of all nationalities.
Lesson 7, The Stoning of Stephen
Acts Lesson 5
Faithfulness in Spite of Opposition
Scripture for this lesson are taken from Acts 4,5
In our last lesson, the disciples and apostles were in Jerusalem. Peter and John had healed the lame man by the power of the Holy Spirit causing a lot of excitement among the people. This is the beginning of persecution against Jesus’ followers. The religious leaders threatened Peter and John and warned them not to be preaching and healing people in the name of the resurrected Jesus. Peter and John went to the place where the disciples were staying and they all prayed for boldness to continue to preach and heal in Jesus’ name in spite of the danger. God answered by shaking the house where they were and filling them with the boldness that they had requested.
In this lesson we will find examples of generosity and hypocrisy.
[Acts 4:32-35] 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
In these early days following the resurrection, the disciples and apostles fellowshipped together a lot. The reason was that it was dangerous for them to preaching and teaching in Jesus’s name. The Jewish religious leaders had Jesus crucified in order to stop His movement among the people and they wanted to keep that movement stopped. But Jesus’ followers were so filled with love for Him that they continued without fear. The Lord would protect them. They had a oneness of heart and purpose so that they stuck together and provided for one another. Those who had property and financial means gave to the Apostles so that all could eat and the work would continue.
[Acts 4:36-37] 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
We are introduced to Barnabas here whose name was Joseph but he was called Barnabas,which means, “son of encouragement.” This tells us that Barnabas was a kindly man who was concerned about others. Barnabas was a Jew born of the priest tribe of the Levites. He may have worked as a priest, we don’t know. That could have been why he was in Jerusalem. He owned some property on the Island of Cyprus which he sold and gave the money to the apostles which they used to provide for the needs of their disciples.
The Jewish religious leaders where not the only problem that the early disciples had. When a Jew at that time accepted Jesus, they were often disowned by their families. No one would do business with them. They were ostersized in the Jewish community. Later as Christianity moved into the more Greek communities this was not such a problem.
[Acts 5:1-11] Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
The generosity and giving of Barnabas probably prompted Ananias and Sapphira to sell their property and give the money to the Apostles.The fact that they held back some of the money indicates they did not trust God to provide for them and seeking the praise of their fellow disciples was a primary motive. Their lie was in pretending to give all, when they had given only a part. Their death was an act of God, not Peter. It was evidently intended to be an example for all time of God’s displeasure at the sin of covetousness and religious hypocrisy. After Ananias had lied, died and been carried out, his wife, Sapphira, came in. Peter gave her a chance to tell the truth about the money. When she lied too, then she received the same punishment by God as her husband. Verse 11 tells us that the whole church was seized with fear because of this event. If God struck someone down today for greed and hypocrisy in your church, what effect do you think it would have on the rest of the congregation?
[Acts 5:12-16] The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Signs and wonders are miracles, healings both physical and spiritual. The believers would meet and what was called Solomon’s colonnade or Solomon’s porch. It was a covered porch around the outside of the temple. It was covered and out of the hot sun. The people would gather there when they came to worship. After the death of Ananias and Sapphira, some people were afraid to get involved in the Christian movement. In spite of that multitudes continued to believe both men and women. Peter’s reputation had spread to the extent that people came from surrounding towns bringing their sick to be healed. They believed that just putting them in Peter’s shadow would heal them.
[Acts 5:17-20] 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.
The family of the High Priest and many of the members of the Sanhedrin were Sadduccess who did not believe in a resurrection after death. Other members of the Sanhedrin were Pharisees who did believe in a resurrection of the dead. When the High Priest and others who were with him heard the Apostles preaching to the people, they had the temple guard to put them in jail. They had threatened Peter and John earlier not to preach in the name of Jesus. Now there were many more of them preaching about Jesus and great numbers of people were believing and being healed. These apostles were becoming a much bigger threat to the religious leaders.
[Acts 5:21-28] 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
During that night an angel was sent to open the jail doors and let them out. They were told to go back to the temple at daybreak and begin to teach the people again about Jesus. From verse 28 we are told that they were teaching that the Priests and the Sanhedrin had been responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. They had killed Him. The next morning the High Priest had called for a meeting of the entire Sanhedrin, 71 in number, to decide what to do about these Apostles. The Priests told the disciples that they had been warned not to be teaching in the name of Jesus and yet they were telling everyone that the Priests were guilty of having Jesus killed.
[Acts 5:29-32] 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The apostles boldly told these religious leaders that they must obey God rather than man. The religious leaders had killed Jesus but God had raised Him from the dead, taken Him to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God. The apostles went on to say that they were witnesses of all these things. God had sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with all who believed.
[Acts 5:33] 33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
The members of the Sanhedrin were so enraged by the apostles bold condemning statement that they decided to kill them too.
[Acts 5:34-39] 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Gamaliel was a Rabbi and the most prominent and respected teacher of the law in his day. He was either the son or grandson of Hillel who was one of the best loved and most famous teachers of the Jewish law in all times. He loved God and his fellowman. Hillel came from Babylon about 30BC to Jerusalem and he lived and taught there until about 10 AD.. During the time that Hillel’s time in Jerusalem the wise men came from Babylon to King Herod looking for the new born king of the Jews. There were many Jews in Babylon who knew the Old Testament scriptures that prophesied the birth of the Messiah.
The learned Gamaliel wisely told the members of the Sanhedrin to be careful how they handled this situation. He reminded them that there had been a man called Theudas who had appeared earlier with a large following claiming to be the Messiah. He had been killed and it all came to an end. There had been another that was killed and his followers scattered and that turned out to be nothing. Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin to leave Jesus’ followers alone. If His followers are truly led by God then they would not be able to stop them and they would be working against God Himself. If Jesus’ followers were not from God then they too would go away.
[Acts 5:40-42] 40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
The Sanhedrin accepted Gamaliel’s advice, had the apostles flogged and warned them again not to teach in the name of Jesus. The apostles ignored their threats and went daily to the temple and door to door in Jerusalem teaching the people that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.
Lessons for us from Acts chapter 5:
1. Serving God does not mean that He eliminates problems. The disciples were arrested for obeying God and disobeying the ruling body of the Jews. God expects us to be obedient to Him.
2. Christians today should be willing to share of their abundance with those who are needy.
3. God does not forget us when we are persecuted or suffering. He is always there for us.
4. In our churches today we should have a proper balance between preaching and teaching.
5. The most important lesson is for us to Love God and obey His commandments!
Acts Lesson 4:Boldness in the Face of Opposition
Scripture for this lesson are taken from Acts 4
In Chapter 3, Peter and John healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful in the temple through the power of the Holy Spirit. The healed man clung to Peter and John as all the excited people ran to Solomon’s Porch to see them. Peter told the people to give all the credit to God because the man had been healed in the name of Jesus who was the Son of God. Peter then boldly preached Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and urged all those listening to repent.
[Acts 4:1-4] The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
All the activity caught the attention of the priests, the captain of the Temple guard and the Sadducees. The High Priest and his family and many of the members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees and they did not believe in resurrection of the dead so they put Peter and John in jail. They could not deny the healing of the lame man but they certainly did not want Peter and John preaching that he had been healed in the power of Jesus. They had put so much effort into getting the Romans to crucify Him. They certainly did not want healing done in the name of a resurrected Jesus. These events must have occurred in the week of the Pentecost festival, because five thousand men believed on Jesus as a result of the lame man being healed and Peter’s sermon.
[Acts 4:4-7] 5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin the next day. The Sanhedrin is the ruling body of the Jews. It was made up of 70 elders, Pharisees and Sadducees plus the High Priest making a total body of 71. Annas was the High Priest appointed in 7 AD by the Romans. He was succeeded in office by his son, Eleazar, his son-in-law, Caiaphas, Jonathan, another son, Theophilus, a son, Matthias, a son, Annas II, a son and Matthias a grandson. But Annas was always the man in control. Caiaphas was High Priest when Jesus was crucified less than two months before these events took place. Annas’ family owned the booths in the temple where the people bought their animals for sacrifice, their lambs, goats, pigeons, turtledoves, etc. They also owned the money changing tables where people exchanged their money for money that could be used to pay their temple tax. Annas’ family gained great wealth at the expense of the Jews. Jesus called their booths in the temple a den of thieves, took a whip and drove them out. He was a great threat to the position, power and income of Annas and his family. They had gotten rid of Jesus and now these men were performing miracles and preaching in the name of a resurrected Jesus and on top of that, thousands of Jews believed them.
[Acts 4:8-12] 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
Peter was addressing the High Priest family and other religious leaders, members of the Sanhedrin. These are the men who put Jesus on trial and convicted Him of blasphemy against God, and then they pushed Pilot to have Him crucified. They were the leaders of the Jewish nation and they rejected their Messiah, powerful men who could have Peter and John killed. But Peter filled with the Holy Spirit stood before these powerful men and declared to their faces that the lame man was healed in the name of Jesus Christ, the man they had crucified. Jesus called these religious leaders builders. They were the leaders of the Jewish Nation at that time. Their mission was given long ago to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Moses was given the Laws of God for the nation to follow and they were to teach the world about God by their words and deeds. They were supposed to be building toward the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was the Messiah who was the cornerstone, the foundation of that kingdom and they, the Jewish leaders had rejected Him. Jesus was the foundation of the Jewish religion, He is the foundation of the New Testament church, and He is the foundation of our relationship to God. He should be the cornerstone of our lives. Without Jesus there is no salvation!
[Acts 4:13-22] 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Peter and John had been arrested and brought before the very body of men who condemned Jesus to death. They were Jesus’ followers who had performed miracles and now they were a threat. Yet, knowing their position was very dangerous; they stood their ground and accused these men of crucifying the Messiah. These learned Jews looked at Peter and John, knowing that they were uneducated, common men and wondered how they were able to have to courage to face them and to perform such miracles. The answer of course, was through the power of the Holy Spirit which these religious leaders would not accept. The priests and other members of the Sanhedrin were in a predicament. They wanted to punish Peter and John severely, to shut them up, but a great miracle had happened, people all over Jerusalem had heard about it and many were witnesses. There was no way to deny that the lame man had been healed and they did not want to upset all those thousands of people in Jerusalem for Pentecost so they called Peter and John in again and threatened them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!
[Acts 4:23-31] 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
When Peter and John were released, they went back to where Jesus’ followers were gathered and told them how the priests and religious leaders had warned them not speak or preach in the name of Jesus. Then in one accord they all lifted their voices to God in prayer saying:
1. The Lord is creator
2. King David prophesied that the rulers would turn against the Lord
3. King Herod and Pilot were against Him
4. They prayed not to be afraid but to help them be bold so they could continue to share the gospel.
God answered their prayer by shaking the house to express His approval and He granted their request by filling them with the Holy Spirit and boldness.
A question? What did these people in Jerusalem about 31 AD have that we do not have today?
Answer: A sincere, focused and powerful love for Jesus!
Lessons for us from Acts chapter 4:1-31:
1. When Christians dare to take their stand for Jesus in today’s world, the Holy Spirit will provide the courage and the leadership to enable them.
2. Jesus is the only person who can bring salvation to persons.
3. Dedication to Christ’s cause can bring victory over personal fear.
Acts Lesson 5 will begin with Acts 4:32
Acts Lesson 3: Ministry and Witness in the Temple
Scripture for this lesson are taken from: Acts 3, Deut 15,
At the close of Acts Chapter 2, the Apostles and disciples are still in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit had come to dwell with the Apostles and Disciples of Christ. At the Feast of Pentecost about 3,000 people had been saved. The believers were fellow-shipping together and preaching and teaching in the temple that Jesus was the Messiah who had come, was crucified and now gone back to heaven. All those who accepted Jesus as their Savior received the Holy Spirit.
[Acts 3:1] 3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.
Peter was a brother to Andrew. He was from Galilee and a follower of John the Baptist. Peter was a man with a strong personality, outgoing and impetuous, a natural leader. He was the leader of the Apostles and disciples. John was the brother of James and they were the sons of Zebedee and Salome, native of Galilee and partners with Peter and Andrew on the Sea of Galilee. They were praying and teaching in the temple daily.
[Acts3:2-10] Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter and John had gone to the temple at the time of the evening sacrifice being the 9th hour with was 3:00 pm. It was customary for the Jews to pray three times a day; at the 3rd hour, the 6th hour and the 9th hour. Alms giving was a part of Hebrew worship, so the blind, lame and otherwise impaired would pick a spot in the temple area to beg. People coming to worship would pass by them and would give to gain righteousness. This man’s place where he came to beg was at the Gate Beautiful in the temple.
[Deuteronomy 15:11] 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
It is most likely that Peter and John had seen this man before, maybe many times begging there at the gate. This day was different. They had the power of the Holy Spirit and through His power they were able to heal his legs and give him back his life, his ability to earn his own living. He accepted this great gift by jumping around in excitement and praising God. Others in the temple who knew who he was were filled with wonder at this great miracle.
[Acts 3:11-16] 11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
When Peter saw the people’s reaction, he realized that they believed that he and John had done this miracle in their own power so he took the opportunity to preach the gospel, the story of Jesus to the crowd. Peter took no credit for himself or John but gave all the credit to Jesus. It had only been 50 days or a little more since Jesus was crucified at Passover so it was fresh on the people’s minds. These Jews listening and watching believed the religious leaders that Jesus was not the Messiah. Peter was stating the Jesus was the Messiah by telling them that Jesus was glorified by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These men were the patriarchs, the founding fathers of the Jewish nation. The God these men followed glorified Jesus as the Messiah. Peter told them that they had rejected their Messiah and pushed Pilate to have Him killed. They had killed the Messiah but God had raised Him from the dead and this man was healed through His power.
[Acts 3:17-26] 17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people. 24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed. 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Having told the crowd of Jews that they had killed the Messiah, Peter went on to tell them that they really did not understand what they were doing but they could receive forgiveness. If they would repent and turn to God, their sins would be wiped out and they would be made new. All the Old Covenant prophets had foretold the coming of Jesus, He had come and gone back to heaven with God, but He would come back again when God was ready to restore everything.
Lessons from Acts chapter 3:
1. The Lord gives us all that we have and He expects us to help those around us who are needy. It is our Christian responsibility.
2. Through our kindness and giving to others, we are given an opportunity to witness to them about Jesus and the forgiveness and new life that He offers.
3. By giving to others and helping them, we receive the blessings from the Lord.
4. People are always watching us and they judge us not only by our words but by our deeds
Acts Lesson 2
Scripture for this lesson are taken from: Acts 2.
In the first chapter of Acts, just before Jesus was taken up into heaven, Jesus was preparing His Apostles and disciples to carry on after He was gone. Still confused about the Old Covenant scriptures that prophesied the Messiah would restore the Kingdom of Israel, the asked Jesus if He was still going to do that. Jesus explained that the time for those events was still in the future and not to be known by them. Then Jesus told them to all go back to Jerusalem and wait together for the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them the power they needed to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the gentiles. The gospel was to be preached to the Jews first, then the gentiles.
Luke 24:50 tells us that Jesus and His disciples were on the road toward Bethany when He ascended into heaven. Following Jesus’ instructions, they went back into Jerusalem, probably to the upper room to wait. The eleven apostles were there with other disciples, numbering 120 altogether. Peter told the apostles that they needed to choose from the disciples another man to be an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus and was now dead. By casting lots, they chose Matthias.
[Acts 2:1-4] When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
It was the day of the Feast of Pentecost which came fifty days after the Passover. The Apostles and disciples had been going to the temple and meeting together probably at the upper room since Jesus had ascended. All of a sudden, they heard a loud sound like the wind in a big storm. Can you imagine how frightening that was? They were expecting power to come from heaven, but they had no idea what it would be like. Then there were flames of fire that came upon each of them. When the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus when He was baptized by John the Baptist, it came in the form of a dove, but this was fire. The Holy Spirit had come from heaven to indwell the believers and give them power for their ministry.
What is the Holy Spirit? He is a power, a separate person, one of the Triune God. God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, one Spirit but three in person, function and work.
What does the Holy Spirit do? He dwells within us, teaches us, bears witness, convicts us of our sins, speaks through the scriptures, He ministers, He calls ministers,
[Acts 2:5-13] 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia.” 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Believing Jews from all those areas of that part of the world had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. A crowd had gathered and through the power of the Holy Spirit that had come upon them, Jesus’ apostles and disciples began speaking to the people in their own languages so that they could understand the good news that Jesus and died on the cross for their sins and had arose on the third day. The people were amazed, realizing that most of the apostles and disciples were Galileans, yet they spoke all of these languages. Some even said, making fun of them, that they were drunk. The people from all of these areas would take the message home with them after the feast, spreading the gospel over that part of the world. God works in wondrous ways!
[Acts 2:16-21] 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Peter is quoting the prophet Joel. Joel’s prophecy seems to expand from the coming of the Holy Spirit through the church age until Christ comes in the end times. God foretold through the prophet Joel that His Holy Spirit would come upon all believers both men and women. Men and women would prophesy of the coming of the Messiah. The message then moved into the end times when God would bring His judgment upon the earth. The sun would become dark and the moon would turn to blood before the Messiah would come again and all men would know that He is the Son of God.
[Acts 2:22-36] 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Peter is addressing the Jews, the Israelites. The main thrust of his message so far was that Jesus Christ was the Son of David, the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament scriptures. This Jesus that came from Nazareth was proven to be the Messiah by the many great miracles that He did through the power of God. Peter goes on to say that they, the Jews, killed Jesus with the help of the Romans but God allowed it because it was His plan for the Messiah to die for the sins of mankind. But God then raised Jesus from the dead and they, Peter and the other disciples, saw Him ascend up into heaven where He now sits at the right hand of God. What they were seeing then, the disciples of Jesus, speaking in other languages was from the Holy Spirit that God had sent to be with believers. Peter summed up this portion of his speech by stating that the Jews had crucified Jesus who was both Lord and the long awaited Messiah.
[Acts 2:37-41] 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
When they were convicted of their sins, they asked Peter, “What can we do?” Peter told them plainly that they must repent of their sins and be baptized so their sins could be forgiven. Those who repented were baptized that day, some three thousand in number. They received the promise from God that the Holy Spirit and salvation, eternal life in heaven, were for all who believed in Jesus as their savior.
[Acts 2:42-47] 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It was common for about 2,000,000 people to be in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Out of that number an estimated 3,000 accepted Christ as their Savior. Many of that 3,000 were from the places mentioned at the beginning of this lesson. When they went home, they took the gospel with them. Some of those from foreign places probably stayed in Jerusalem and then some of those who were saved were from Jerusalem. Those who stayed became a part of the apostles and disciples’ group. They ate and prayed, listened and learned from the apostles’ teachings. The apostles were healing the sick and performing many miracles in those early days of the new church body. Some of them sold what property they owned to buy food and to meet the needs of the people. The Lord honored their efforts and souls were being saved every day.
Lessons we can learn from Luke chapter 2:
1. Repentance is a complete change of heart and attitude concerning sin .
2. Every Christian who accepts Christ receives the spiritual power he needs to be a witness for Christ.
3. Continuing to learn and grow is essential for Christians to be able to carry on the Great Commission.
4. The Holy Spirit will still manifest His presence and power when Christians are in one accord and seeking to be faithful in witnessing.
Acts Lesson 1
Scripture for this lesson are taken from: Acts1, Revelation 19.
The book of Acts is the story of the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ over Palestine, Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. This was the area of the main part of the Roman Empire at that time. The book is called “Acts of the Apostles,” but it really is the story of the working of the Holy Spirit through Paul and Peter, but mostly Paul.
The Old Testament is the story of God establishing the family of Abraham who would become the Nation of Israel, whose purpose was to bless all nations by being a witness of God, His word and His laws. Israel failed in their mission so after the long awaited Messiah came and was rejected by His people; Israel’s mission was given over to the gentiles. The book of Acts tells the story of how the gospel was taken to the gentiles and the first churches were established.
The author of Acts is believed to have been Luke, the author of the gospel of Luke. Luke seems to have joined with Paul’s missionary team at Troas and went with them over into Macedonia.
Luke addressed his message to Theophilus. This is a Greek word that means “Lover of God.” This was either a man named Theophilus or a group of people who were probably new Christians, Jews or gentiles. The story begins with Luke telling of Jesus’ post resurrection messages and His ascension into heaven.
[Acts 1:1-5] In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke talked about Jesus’ ministry on earth in Judea and Galilee that was told in the gospel of Luke He told His disciples and Apostles to wait after the Passover until the feast of Pentecost which was 50 days. Jesus said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The apostles and disciples, as instructed, stayed in Jerusalem until Pentecost. At that time the Holy Spirit came to indwell the believers and gave them the power and knowledge they needed to spread the gospel. Many of these believers had been followers of John the Baptist. John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets and when he baptized it was with water to show repentance, but now that Jesus had died and been resurrected and ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit, also called the comforter, came to dwell with believers bringing them comfort, knowledge and power for their ministry.
[Acts 1:6-11] 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
The Jews believed that the Messiah would come and build an army, throw off Roman rule and reestablish Israel as a powerful nation. When Jesus died on the cross those hopes were dashed. Then Jesus came back from the dead and they were wondering if the new earthly Israel was still possible as promised in the Old Testament. But Jesus told them that the time for Israel to become a great nation again was known only by God. We know that Jesus will come back to establish the Nation of Israel from Revelation 19.
[Revelation 19:11-16] 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
This is how Jesus will come back to do battle with the earthly nations, but the “when” is known only by God. For now, their job was to spread the gospel. As soon as the Holy Spirit came upon them they were to begin to witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. Why in that order? Jesus was the Jews’ Messiah. He came to them first. Jerusalem and Judah were the home of the Jews. The Samaritans were mixed Jewish with other nations. After the Jews had been given the gospel then they were to reach the gentiles. After they received their great commission, Jesus was taken up in the air. They watched until a cloud hid Him and they could see Him no more. While they were looking trying to see Jesus, two Angels appeared. They told them that Jesus had gone back to heaven and would come back the same way He went.
[Acts 1:12-14] 12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
A Sabbath’s day’s walk was at that time about 5/8th of a mile. The apostles and disciples went back into Jerusalem, probably to the upper room which was probably the home of John Mark’s mother or sister. Gathered in the room were the eleven apostles, all except Judas, the Galilean women, Mary, mother of Jesus, Jesus’ brothers and other men and women who were disciples. Acts 1:15 tells us there were 120 altogether. According to Jesus’ instructions they continued to gather there praying, fellow shipping, awaiting the coming of power from heaven that Jesus had promised.
[Acts 1:15-20] 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” 18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’
Peter, the leader of the apostles, addressed the group. He told them that Psalms 109:8 was a prophecy that told how Jesus would be betrayed. Judas fulfilled the prophecy and then with the 30 pieces of silver that he received for betraying Jesus he bought a field. In that field he fell, his body burst open and his intestines fell out. In other scripture it tells that Judas hung himself in the field. So, I figure Judas was so remorseful that he hung himself in the field and when his body fell it broke open. The field was thence forth called the “field of blood.” Peter went on to tell them that the scripture said that Judas should be replaced.
[Acts 1:21-26] 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Peter gave the requirements for Judas’ replacement: they had to have been with the group from the time they were following John the Baptist all the time until Jesus’ resurrection. They had to have a personal witness of all the events of Jesus’ ministry so that they could from their own experience witness to others. Two men were nominated, Justus and Matthias. After they all prayed, they chose Matthias to be the 12th apostle. Why did they need 12 apostles? Under the Old Covenant, there were 12 tribes of Israel that were to teach the world about God. They failed. Now, under the New Covenant, there would be 12 apostles who would spread the good news about the Messiah to the world.
Lessons from Acts chapter 1:
1. The work that Jesus began is still not finished, and is now our work. We are His disciples.
2. Jesus commissioned all of His followers to be witnesses. All Christians should be active witnesses by word and deed.
3. God still uses people who will unite with other believers, trusting God for leadership and power from the Holy Spirit.