As we begin our study of the Acts we recall that it was written between 80-90 A.D. by Luke, a Syrian physician from Antioch and probable companion of Paul.
It’s a sequel to Luke’s Gospel and uses the Ascension as the hinge which connects the two books. (The Ascension in the Gospels ends Jesus’ ministry and time on earth. In Acts, it is the event which leads to Pentecost and the beginning of the Apostles’ ministry and the building of the Church.)
Jesus sets the tone of what’s to come: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8)
After Pentecost, the Apostles share their news in Jerusalem. But with the death of Stephen there, the Apostles move on to Judea and Samaria. Whether they leave out of fear for their own lives or to carry the message to new areas, we don’t know.
Saul’s conversion is dramatic and memorable! And Peter moves into Caesarea where he baptizes Cornelius, a Roman centurion.
Thus begins the “witness to the ends of the earth.” (Remember, the Roman Empire was for people of the time the whole world!)
Following the persecution by Herod and Herod’s death, we learn of the beginning of the journeys of Saul (now, Paul).
There are 4 journeys in all across Asia Minor and into Rome, where the book of Acts ends with Paul under House arrest. Even from prison, he is allowed to proclaim the kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus to the people.
Upon reflection …
Listen to Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-42). I love this passage! It sets before us the wisdom to watch, listen, and rely on the gifts of the Spirit in determining what is of God and what is not.
Many times in my life I have needed God’s grace given through the voice of another to help me know “Truth.” Gamaliel says, “If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
What great wisdom!
My other favorite wisdom in these chapters comes from the Apostles who rejoice that they are worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus. How do we feel about this?
What’s your favorite wisdom? Why?
For closer study:
1. Why should Judas need to be replaced?
2. If the Jews were truly looking for the coming of the Messiah, why are these chapters so full of doubt on the part of Sanhedrin? Can you relate this to the way we deal with new ideas today or results which differ from our expectations today?
3. What is the connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Jewish Feast of Pentecost?
4 How would we say Acts 2:13 today? What would the implication be?
5. What speaks to you in the Communal living accounts in 2:42-47 and in 4:32-35? Can it be applied to modern day life?
6. What do you think was the intent of the Cure of the Beggar by Peter and John (Ch. 3) and their summons before the Sanhedrin (Ch. 4)?
7. There seems to be a parallel between the land money donation by Barnabas in 4:36-37 and the donation of Ananias and Sapphira in 5:1-11. What is the message?
8. What does the need for “assistants” in chapter 6 tell us of the early Church? Is this applicable to the Church today?
9. Who is Stephen?? What are some of the implications of and surprises in Stephen’s speech?
10. What are the implications of Stephen’s death?
11. What in this “introduction” and “Jerusalem Ministry” struck you?
Next week: Acts 8—12