Week 3 Discussion – ACTS: We Are The Church.

Published September 24, 2023

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Week 3 Discussion – ACTS: We Are The Church.

Table of Contents

Welcome to our 12-week Bible study, ‘Acts: We Are The Church,’ delving into the Book of Acts—a continuation of Jesus’ ministry through the early church.

Throughout this study, you’ll gain a profound understanding of how the early church carried forward the mission of Jesus, performing miracles, spreading the gospel, and facing challenges with unwavering faith. We’ll explore the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the formation of a vibrant community of believers.

Each week, we’ll dive into a different aspect of Acts, examining themes of faith, courage, and unity among believers. Together, we’ll discover what it means to be part of the body of Christ and how these early church experiences can inform our lives as modern-day Christians.

Discover a profound understanding of the Scriptures, relish the fellowship with fellow believers, and experience the delight of nurturing your faith while sharing the Gospel of Jesus with others. Don’t miss out!

Week 3: Pentecost

Here’s a quick recap of what we covered in week three using Justin S. Holcomb’s Acts: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible) as our weekly discussion guide:

  • How and why the Day of Pentecost is pivotal in expanding the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • The interplay of God’s sovereignty with human frailty, accountability, responsibility, and even sin in advancing the gospel.
  • Key spiritual disciplines that led to ever-expanding numbers of believers strengthened their faith and unity as the Church.

1 The Coming of the Holy Spirit (2:1-13).

Acts 2:2-3 describes the filling and presence of the Spirit as a mighty wind and fire.  Considering passages like Exodus 13 and Ezekiel 1, what is the significance of the Spirit appearing and being described in this way?

The descriptions of the Holy Spirit as wind and fire in Acts 2 serve to emphasize the powerful and transformative nature of the Spirit’s presence. It indicates that the Spirit is not only with the Church but within it, empowering believers for their mission and symbolizing God’s guidance and divine origin of this new era.

In Acts 2:5-13 the disciples speak in other tongues, and the resident foreigners “hear them telling in [their] own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11).  The miraculous communication did not depend on their education (which was minimal, among “these…Galileans”; v.7) nor eloquence, but on the movement of God’s Spirit.  Where else in Scripture do you see the power of God working despite or through weakness?

Throughout Scripture, we see instances where the power of God works despite or through human weakness. Here are some examples:

1. Gideon’s Army (Judges 7): Gideon’s army was intentionally reduced to a small number by God to demonstrate His power. With only 300 men, they defeated a much larger Midianite army, showcasing God’s strength through human weakness.

2. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17): David, a young shepherd, defeated the giant Goliath, who was a formidable warrior. David’s trust in God and his simple sling and stone demonstrated God’s power through the weakness of a young boy.

3. Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh (2 Corinthians 12): The Apostle Paul speaks of a thorn in the flesh, a weakness or ailment that troubled him. Despite this weakness, God’s grace was sufficient for him, and His power was perfect in Paul’s weakness.

4. Moses’ Speech Impediment (Exodus 4): Moses had a speech impediment, but God still chose him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God provided Aaron as a spokesperson for Moses, demonstrating His ability to use human weakness for His purposes.

5. The Crucifixion of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:18): The crucifixion of Jesus, an event that appeared as weakness and defeat, became the means of salvation for humanity. God’s wisdom and power were displayed through the apparent weakness of the cross.

These examples show that God often chooses the weak and the humble to demonstrate His power, emphasizing that His strength is made perfect in human weakness. It encourages us to rely on God’s strength rather than our abilities or resources.

2 Peter’s Sermon (2:14-41).

In Acts 2:14-21 Peter starts his gospel presentation with a citation from Joel 2:28-32.  Joel says God’s Spirit will be poured out in the last days, the days before the final judgment (the “day of the Lord”). It is clear that Peter is saying the “last days” have begun.  What does Peter’s quote from Joel 2 say will happen?

In Acts 2:14-21, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 to emphasize that the “last days” have begun with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. According to Joel’s prophecy:

  • God’s Spirit will be poured out on all people, enabling prophetic visions and dreams.
  • There will be signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
  • Symbolic cosmic events like the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood will occur.
  • The message is one of hope: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This emphasizes the universality of salvation through faith in God’s name.

Peter’s use of this prophecy highlights the significance of the events on the Day of Pentecost and urges repentance and faith in preparation for the coming “day of the Lord.

In Acts 2:23 we see that God is so sovereign and creative that what was intended for evil he uses for his redemptive plan.  God both foreknew and foreordained that Jesus would be crucified, yet that still did not absolve of responsibility those who contributed to his death, for Peter goes on to say, “you crucified and killed” him.  Read Genesis 50:20.  Where else in Scripture do you see a clear teaching of God’s sovereignty over world events and human responsibility for evil deeds?

The following passages emphasize the complex relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, showing that God’s purposes can be accomplished even through human sin and evil actions:

  • Isaiah 10:5-7: God uses the Assyrians as a tool of His judgment, but they are held accountable for their arrogance.
  • Romans 9:19-21: Paul addresses the tension between God’s sovereignty in choosing vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath while holding humans responsible for their choices.
  • Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble,” highlighting God’s sovereignty in all things.

In Acts 2:34-35 Peter cites Psalm 110 and refers to Jesus being at God’s “right hand.”  Jesus also refers to himself as being at the “right hand” (Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; Luke 20:42; 22:69).  Read Psalms 16:11; 17:7; 98:1; 139:10; and Romans 8:34 regarding the right hand of God.  Considering these passages, what does it mean for Jesus to be at the “right hand” of God?

When Jesus and Peter refer to Jesus being at the “right hand” of God, it signifies His supreme authority, exalted status, intercessory role, and the assurance of His continuous presence, guidance, and protection for believers.

Peter finishes his speech in 2:36 with a short summary of his message: Jesus if “Lord and Christ.”  Throughout his speech Peter provides a number of different points of evidence for the lordship of Jesus.  What evidence does Peter point to?

In his speech, Peter provides evidence for the lordship of Jesus through the fulfillment of prophecies, the miracles and signs performed by Jesus, His resurrection from the dead, and His exaltation to the right hand of God.

3 The Spirit at Work in the Disciples (2:42-47).

The grace of God is fruitful and effective, and we see God taking the initiative to spread his grace to ever-expanding numbers of people.  Considering Acts 2:42-47, what happens when God works in these first believers individually and collectively?

When God works in the first believers, we see them devoted to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. They experience awe and witness signs, share their possessions, maintain unity, and the community grows daily, reflecting God’s grace’s fruitfulness and commitment to living out their faith.

Take a few moments now to ask the Lord to bless you, change you, and help you understand and apply the unique light Acts throws on the gospel to your life.

We hope these notes have helped catch up on what we’ve covered. We’re excited to continue our study of Acts together next week in week four!

In the meantime, explore a very engaging animation video from the Bible Project team that explains the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts.

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