So much could be said about the church. So much. I could write a book about it, but it would get lost in the shuffle, literally, with the thousands of other books written on the subject. I could write about the problems in the church, some of which give people (even now, as you're reading this) a bad taste in their mouth, and a bad (inaccurate) view of Christianity and maybe even Jesus. I could write about possible solutions to these problems in the church, some of which are really bad ideas, but are extremely hip right now. I could do and say a lot of things.
Instead, I'm going to give you bible study notes from the Book of Acts. Boring, right? Actually, you might be surprised. These outlines represent the skeleton of deep, penetrating, and transforming conversations that are going on right now among a community of people who are committed to trust and wait on a God who saves. These are the beginnings of a life-long dialogue about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel that is as relevant today, to all people, as it was in the days of the early church and the beginnings of Christianity. These are observations and convictions that confirm the Gospel and the function of the church. These are cries and praises of a community of people who are desperately and passionately working out their salvation with fear and trembling. These are the evidences that the Bible is not just about the grace of God, but it is grace, delivered on the spot, to its hearers. Much is not included in these "notes", as conversations of this depth cannot be easily summarized, and are more powerful in community. But they lay and describe the foundation of a real gospel community that is about the Bible, Jesus, the Cross, and the implications of these absolute truths to our time and our culture. You can fill in the blanks. The impact of this foundation is limitless.
I pray as you glance through it, and mediate on the themes, that the Spirit of the Living God would convict, empower, encourage, and transform you in a way in which you experience saving faith in Jesus Christ, be assured of it daily, and become equipped to be vessel of it to everyone you encounter. This post will be updated as we work through the book.
a. Gospel balance – word and community; sermon and togetherness in Ch 2
b. Application i. What’s the point? Personal holiness, passion or means to serve, give life meaning ii. Eternal value iii. Should happen naturally, shouldn’t have to force it iv. Don’t stray too far from text
c. Scripture i. God-breathed; grace to you on the spot
II. First book – v. 1
a. Luke i. Luke 4:18-19 ii. Upside down kingdom, day of reversals
III. Began to do and teach – v. 1
a. It is finished, but still more to do b. Balance of doing and teaching
IV. What disciples needed and what we need - v. 2-3
a. Commission from Holy Spirit b. Verification of Resurrection c. Further instruction about the Kingdom of God d. Eventually presence of Holy Spirit
V. Acts 1:8 – outline of book
a. BUT i. Romans 3:21, Romans 5:8 – Gospel is but ii. God knows best, power is better than kingdom now
c. WITNESSES i. Not about figuring out timing and details but about being witness; not about us ii. Need empowerment from Spirit iii. Plural
VI. Ascension – v. 9-11
a. What does it mean for us that Jesus is alive in heaven? i. Working through us from heaven ii. Power of God – exaltation of Christ, not just incarnation iii. Continuity between ministry of Jesus, disciples, and then church iv. Sending of Spirit – “better that I go” v. Pledge of return – he’s coming back vi. Missionary activity of church rests on presence in heaven, hope of return vii. Christianity Today article in context of depression
VII. Prayer – v. 14
a. Why would it be hard to “devote yourself to prayer” for them? i. Waiting on God (on Spirit), not ready to receive answer
VIII. Invincible power of Holy Spirit – v. 16
a. Why did Scripture HAVE to be fulfilled? i. Psalm 69 and 109 ii. Lloyd Jones analogy of child and father’s face in time of crisis and danger
IX. Judas – v. 16-20
a. Why use Judas to demonstrate this? i. Not out of control like canon – God is in control
b. Why talk about his replacement? i. Not just about power but also teaching and work of historical Jesus
X. Matthias – v. 23
a. Why Matthias? i. Spiritual calling in church – Assessments ii. Think of yourself as Matthias
XI. Barsabbas (Joseph, Justus) – v. 23
a. Why not Barsabbas?
i. Spiritual calling outside of church 1. Hope International 2. Good Samaritan Network 3. Prison Ministry
ii. Casting lots was before Holy Spirit iii. Think of yourself as Barsabbas
a. “Day of Pentecost” i. God’s timing 1. Feast of harvest 2. Lots of pilgrims from across known world in town
b. “Suddenly” i. We cannot make the Spirit come
c. “Wind” i. Violent / mighty rushing ii. Like a tornado – freight train sound iii. They were inside – “house where they were sitting”
d. “Tongues of fire” i. Presence of God in holiness and purity ii. Experience of John White – vision at Bible study during prayer
e. “Rested on each of them” i. Not a free for all release of Holy Spirit, but individual distribution ii. Knowledge – passion – zeal “Every remnant of timidity, hesitancy, weakness was swallowed up in experience of God’s greatness.”
f. Verse 4
i. Spirit-filling (various times) vs. Spirit baptism (one-time) 1. Pentecost, various times in Acts, conversion 2. 1 Corinthians 12:13
ii. Main points of filling with the Holy Spirit 1. Permanent indwelling 2. Formation of new body 3. Power
iii. Tongues vs. Languages 1. Not about tongues as much as harvest 2. Promise to speak in foreign language – Isaiah 28:11 3. Audience was different than in Corinth – people understood!
g. “Multitude” i. At least 3000 – Verse 41 ii. Based on capacity of temple area, could have been 200,000
iii. Diversity 1. Racial reconciliation not possible without Spirit of Jesus Christ 2. Pentecost is reversal of Tower of Babel; human unity in God’s unhindered work 3. New social identity
h. “Mighty works of God” i. They heard the Gospel in their own language ii. Spirit-filled connection with Gospel proclamation and service, outreach
i. “Amazed and perplexed” i. Division in Christian community: People who say “what does this mean?” vs. people who say “they are just drunk.”
j. Application i. Openness to rejection ii. Courage in relationships iii. Live on God’s relational agenda
II. Acts 2: 14-41
a. “What does this mean?” i. Embrace questions ii. But there is explanation
b. Sermon i. Should be exciting and leave you asking questions and talking about it after church
i. Why does it matter? 1. Because we are in the “Chapter of the Spirit” a. Chapter of the Father – Old Testament b. Chapter of the Son – Life, death, resurrection of Jesus c. Chapter of the Spirit – empowerment, conviction of sin, Great Commission
e. What do you dream? i. Not just at night ii. Scripture said all would be prophets – old, young, men, women, servants, masters 1. Spirit-prompted, yet fallible – 1 Thess 5:19-22
f. Was Jesus the Messiah?
ii. Resurrection 1. Verse 23 – God’s sovereignty and human responsibility
g. Did you crucify Jesus?
i. Do you reject God’s endorsement of Jesus?
ii. If so, either you or Jesus is a blasphemer 1. Worked signs and wonders through him 2. Planned his death for sins of the world 3. Raised him from the dead 4. Exalted him and subjected enemies to him 5. Declared worthy to receive and deliver power of Spirit
h. How often are you cut to the heart? i. Daily repentance – thinking and action – 2 Chronicles 6:38 ii. When you see your rejection of God, you understand grace iii. Cross-centered service – only kind that is uniquely Christian
III. Acts 2: 42-47
a. Fellowship i. What maintains it? 1. All things in common – Christ, not personalities, traits, or backgrounds
b. Sharing – Acts 4:32 i. What motivates it? 1. Awe, fear in God and his promises 2. Materialism in our culture vs. hope in Jesus
c. Sincere heart – Hebrews 10:19 i. What assures it? 1. Faith in God’s promises 2. Encouragement – from each other, and from God 3. God’s Word – grace on the spot
d. Continuing to be devoted i. Apostles’ teaching ii. Fellowship – sharing not just possessions, but time, property iii. Breaking bread – sharing meals iv. Prayer
a. Objective: External pattern to imitate – Jesus Christ i. Light – walking in holiness ii. Love – words and deeds, selflessness
b. Subjective: Internal power to experience – Jesus Christ i. Light – sensitive to sin ii. Love – see needs of other people
II. Values of realization of this life
a. Value for us i. Realize life that God intended for us ii. Intimacy with God perfects our personalities
b. Value for God i. God enjoys fellowship with us ii. Sees in us a way to manifest His glory, be instrument of His grace
III. Responsibilities in this life
a. Light i. Obey – responding positively to knowledge of God’s will ii. Seek – forsake darkness of obedience and keep walking in the light
b. Love i. Yield to its impulse – don’t quench the Spirit ii. Guard love’s purity – love never justifies sin
a. Individual – test whether we are living in fellowship with God i. Is light of holiness shining brightly? ii. Is love burning brightly or is life just about learning?
b. Church – keep priorities in line with God’s i. Intimacy is His goal for us ii. Rather have few committed disciples than multitude of compromising disciples iii. Pure church is more important than large church
a. What is the significance of signs and wonders? Isn’t the Word of God alone enough?
i. The Spirit bears witness with signs and wonders to the saving power of Word of God
ii. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones: “We can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that. The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church.”
II. 17 – 21
a. What is “this Life”?
b. What characterizes your life?
i. Work, social, family, friends? ii. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, personal relationship with Jesus, gospel community
c. Sharing from beginning of Ch. 5 – what motivates it?
i. Awe, fear of God, trust in his promises
III. 21 – 32
a. What teaching?
i. Rose from dead ii. Exalted at right hand of God iii. Repentance and forgiveness
b. How did they fill that place with teaching?
i. Radical obedience to God
c. What created this radical obedience?
i. Power of God 1. Delivering vs. Dying power 2. Price and preciousness of power
d. What would it look like to fill Indianapolis with this teaching?
i. Boldness, telling about what we have seen and heard
IV. 33 – 42
a. Do we realize that God’s purposes won’t be overthrown?
i. Individually – facebook posts ii. Church
b. Can we endure the price?
i. Flogging ii. Ridicule, loneliness, public humiliation
e. Were the false witnesses actually revealing true things about what Stephen was proclaiming? How is this similar to false witnesses in our life?
i. People say that Christianity is rules and doesn’t let you enjoy food, drink, sex, money – Partly true because God knows you won’t be ultimately satisfied in these things
f. Why does Stephen give such a long speech in Ch 7 about people and events that the Jews already knew and agreed with (until the end)? i. Took the things that they valued most and deconstructed it ii. No neutral – were either going to repent or get really angry
a. Continuing to confront idolatry in my life and helping me confront it in others through the Gospel
b. Decompartmentalizing my life through God’s consistent and sufficient grace
c. Serving others so as not to make my life about myself
II. Main points of Stephen’s speech:
a. God is not confined to a place or building
i. What does this mean for our compartmentalized lives? ii. How do we really bring God to every “compartment” of our life? iii. Pray for people as you walking around bar, street, mall, etc. iv. Maintain same priorities Sunday morning, at night with your family, and Monday at work v. Gifts at Christmas vi. Ask “how are you” and care about answer
b. We continue to reject God’s will and his servants, namely Jesus
i. In what ways do we do this with our idolatry every day?
1. Work of our hands 2. Family, community 3. Money, prestige, place 4. Self
ii. Can you relate to selfishness being a direct rejection of God?
iii. How can a lifestyle of service free us from this? What does that kind of a life look like?
1. Don’t want life to be about myself 2. Struggles look different, easier to cope 3. Decisions / Discernment different
a. Wish you could know and see difference btwn when I’m reading the Bible and nothing is happening, or I’m bored – and when I’m inspired to the point of having a lot to say. It happens every week.
b. Evidence that Bible is grace, living, and active.
II. A Christmas Story?
a. Advent Conspiracy b. Creator of Universe c. Center of history d. How do you make Christmas about these things in context of stoning of Stephen
III. Stoning of Stephen
a. Someone who had context of history, and understood significance of Jesus in context of past prophets, workings of God b. Gave up everything for Jesus c. How can we give up everything for Jesus in the context of Christmas? d. Will it be the same witness as Stephen?
b. Confusing whether God exists to glorify man vs. man exists to glorify God
III. What things in our life distract us from the bird in the window (Jesus)?
a. Signs and wonders b. Human talent; artistic or athletic c. Sermons and worship d. Gifts of God e. Community f. Service
IV. How do these distractions stifle our faith?
a. Man-centeredness b. Harder to cope with failures of men c. Unhealthy response to suffering d. Not complete joy; contrary to how we were created e. Not active, because you’re not seeking after someone; harder to follow Jesus
V. How is God calling us to follow him in faith, and put aside these distractions?
a. Individually: i. desire to encounter Jesus in the Bible, nothing else
b. As community: i. God centeredness ii. We’ll become selfless the more we focus on God, and helping others will be natural outflow of this
a. Read as if you have no idea what it could be about
II. “Rise and go toward the south”; “Go up and join this chariot”
a. Leading of the Spirit in personal life
b. Personal examples of spontaneous leading? i. Story of punching stranger in the face
c. What happened to sufficiency of Scripture? i. Scripture and supernatural guidance work together ii. More focus on and better understanding of Scripture helps you discern and act on supernatural guidance
d. Leading of the Spirit in evangelism
III. “He was reading the prophet Isaiah”
a. Significance of reading the Bible at all i. People are incurably spiritual --- examples?
b. Significance of reading Isaiah i. Eunuch reference in Isaiah 56:3-5 ii. Isaiah 53:7-8 is center of Gospel
c. What is modern equivalent of someone reading Isaiah in chariot? i. Wearing a cross ii. Expressing awe at nature iii. Laminin iv. Practicing Lent v. Books, songs, movies about Jesus
d. How can we help facilitate heart yearnings to head knowledge, so that it can then become authentic head and heart faith?
IV. “Philip ran to him”
a. Do we respond this way to the Spirit?
V. “Philip opened his mouth”
a. Different than description of Jesus in Isaiah b. What does it look like for us to open our mouth?
VI. Who is this prophet talking about?
a. The Gospel according to Isaiah
b. If not fulfilled in Jesus, then who?
c. If Jesus not fulfillment of prophecy, then who was he? i. Was the Cross a coincidence? ii. Did it never happen?
d. What does Isaiah passage mean for us personally? What did it mean for the eunuch personally? i. Personal salvation, forgiveness of sins
e. What does Isaiah passage mean for our community? What did it mean for community in Acts? i. Power to save ii. Power to keep on saving
The teaching, words, and ministry of many people (to be referenced and credited periodically) have contributed significantly to the thoughts and efforts of the writings posted on this site, perhaps in some cases verbatim. May God make me invisible and show me as helpless, show the people quoted and referenced as humble and anointed, and most importantly show Jesus Christ as infinitely glorious and irresistibly desirable.