SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Acts 1:1 through 7:60
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Acts of the Apostles is the Biblical account of the establishment of the Early Church, and the primary source of information about the expansion of Christ’s message in the first century. Traditionally ascribed to Luke, it continues the narrative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ recorded in the Book of Luke and the other Gospels. Chapters 1-7 describe the ascension of Christ into Heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter’s sermon following the outpouring, and the subsequent actions of the Apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit that established the church in Jerusalem.
At His ascension, described in chapter 1, Jesus commanded His disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit. They were to begin their ministry as Christ’s witnesses only after they had received this power from on high, for the Holy Spirit would equip them to spread the Gospel, beginning at Jerusalem and then expanding out to all points of the earth.
Chapter 2 records the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost upon the disciples who had tarried together in the Upper Room with hearts in perfect unity. Shortly after being filled with the Holy Ghost, Peter boldly faced the crowds, who were amazed at what was happening, and preached a Spirit-anointed sermon. About three thousand people were converted and baptized in water the same day.
A miracle of healing at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple is the key event of chapter 3. A lame man asked Peter and John for money, but through Jesus’ Name, they gave him a much greater gift — the ability to walk, though he had been lame from birth. Following this miraculous healing, Peter preached another sermon, recounting how Moses and Samuel had prophesied the coming of the Messiah who would fulfill the covenant of blessing to Israel, and asserting that Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. More souls received salvation after that sermon, and the congregation grew to about five thousand.
While numbers were increasing, the fledgling church faced great adversity. Chapter 4 records that in reaction to the healing of the lame man, Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. This governing body of elders, rulers, scribes, and priests demanded to know “by what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Peter fearlessly responded that it was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified.” He and John were released after being commanded to never preach again in the Name of Jesus, but in spite of that warning, the Apostles continued to proclaim Christ in synagogues without fear. The believers gathered in homes for fellowship, prayer, and communion. They were unified spiritually and demonstrated Christian love, with many selling their possessions and sharing with those in need in the church.
In addition to facing adversity from without, the body of believers faced challenges from within. Chapter 5 records what happened when Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter about their offering, and in doing so, lied to God. Judgment was swift and sure; both husband and wife died when they were confronted, and were buried within a few hours. As a result, great respect and reverence for God came upon the new church.
The influence of the Gospel spread, and multitudes began coming from cities around Jerusalem, bringing their sick to the Apostles to be healed. Once more the Apostles were imprisoned but were miraculously delivered by an angel. Again they were commanded to cease from preaching in the Name of Jesus, and once more they refused, saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
In chapter 6, a dispute arose concerning the daily ministration to needy members of their group. Stephen was one of seven chosen to remedy this situation. His messages, which were “full of faith and power,” stirred up more opposition, and Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin and accused of blasphemy.
Stephen’s powerful sermon as he faced his accusers is recorded in chapter 7. It was not a defensive message, but rather a bold proclamation of truth going back to God’s covenant with Abraham, and recounting God’s blessing through the eras of Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. He asserted that the people had continued to reject God and ultimately had even put to death the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Stephen’s accusation enraged the people, and he was condemned to death by stoning, becoming the first Christian martyr of the Early Church.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Just before His ascension, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ final words to His followers are recorded in Acts 1:4-8. What were they instructed to do, and what was promised to them before fulfilling the Great Commission?
Acts 1:4 tells us that Jesus instructed His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Refer your class to Acts 1:8, which describes the natural outcome of receiving the promised infilling — they would become witnesses for Jesus Christ all over the earth. Jesus’ words were not a command but a simple statement of fact; His promise that “ye shall be witnesses” is in the indicative rather than imperative mood. Jesus was not recommending that they become witnesses, He was saying they would be witnesses.
- The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions to tarry in Jerusalem, and Acts 2:1 tells us that when the Day of Pentecost came, they were “all with one accord in once place.” What does this statement tell us about the disciples’ spiritual condition when the Holy Ghost descended?
Your group may offer several responses to this question including that the disciples were obedient, persevering, committed, etc. Lead the discussion to an understanding that the disciples were in perfect unity. Jesus had prayed for His followers to experience this oneness, which comes about through the experience of sanctification (see John 17). This was the evidence that Christ’s prayer had been answered and His followers had been sanctified.
Use this question to review the prerequisites for receiving the Holy Ghost. Salvation accomplishes the forgiveness of sins, and sanctification results in the removal of the sin nature, thus making a suitable dwelling place for the Holy Ghost. The God who wants to live within us is a holy God, so the place where He dwells must be a holy place. When the habitation is cleansed and made pure and holy through sanctification, we are ready to receive the infilling of the Spirit.
- On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost descended upon those who had tarried in prayer. According to Acts 2:4, what was the external evidence that the Spirit had descended?
Speaking with other tongues was the evidence that signified the Spirit had descended. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is about receiving power rather than tongues, but the Scriptural evidence of receiving the baptism is that the recipient speaks in an unlearned language that can be understood by others. That evidence is consistent among Spirit-filled Christians in all eras and cultures.
It may be helpful to explain to your group that the expression “speaking in tongues” comes from a Greek word that combines glossa (tongue) and lalia (speaking). It refers to a language uttered through the power of the Holy Spirit. This will not be gibberish, but a definite language. That is evidenced by the fact that when the power fell at Pentecost, bystanders from surrounding nations who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost were amazed to hear words clearly spoken in their own languages (see Acts 2:7-12).
- Following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, Peter stood and preached with courage and boldness to the crowd that had gathered. According to Acts 2:37, what was the response to his message? What does this reveal about the effect the Holy Spirit has on the unsaved?
The response was that the people were “pricked in their heart” and asked, “What shall we do?” Point out that Peter offered no invitation, but merely declared the truth. His listeners themselves inquired what they should do! The description that they were “pricked” is a good way of describing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In the original Greek, the word katanusso, translated “pricked,” means “to pierce thoroughly; to agitate violently.” Through the words of Peter, the Spirit impressed upon these listeners’ hearts that they were responsible for the death of Jesus and that they had to do something about it.
In response to the second question, the point should be made that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to the sinner. God’s desire is for confession and repentance to follow such conviction. That was the case in this instance, as verse 41 relates that the same day about three thousand souls were added to the church.
- The lame beggar by the Beautiful Gate of the Temple asked Peter and John for alms. The disciples had no money to give, but the lame man received far more than the monetary donation he had hoped for. What did he receive, and how? Acts 3:6-8
The lame man received healing of his lameness when Peter took him by the hand and raised him up; he was immediately able to walk and leap. The point should be made that this healing wasn’t something Peter did on a whim or as a promotional event; he did it in the Name of Jesus, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Peter pointed to Christ as the Source of miraculous power — he was just the channel. His words, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” showed a total confidence in the power of Jesus’ name, and implied that all the honor and glory for what was to be accomplished belonged to Him.
- In Acts 5:1-2, Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession but conspired together to hold back part of the proceeds, while giving the impression that they were offering the full amount for God’s use. The Greek word translated kept back in verse 2 means “to set apart or appropriate for one’s own use,” indicating that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was deliberate deception to portray full submission and participation. Divine judgment was immediate, and caused a healthy fear of God among the people. Why do you think God punished this couple so quickly and with such finality? What can we learn from this?
Lead your group to consider that God was establishing the Early Church and its call to be pure and holy. This couple’s duplicity showed utter disregard for the corruption they were bringing into the body of believers. Ananias and Sapphira not only lied to Peter, they lied to the Holy Ghost. Their deceit and hypocrisy were a direct threat to the church’s spiritual success, and thus resulted in swift punishment from God. Those who witnessed this event — individuals who had been brought up revering the Law as the ultimate authority — undoubtedly had a deepened respect for the divine authority of God manifested through the Apostles, based on this evident act of judgment.
Class discussion of the second question may bring out several lessons we can learn from this incident. These could include such thoughts as:
• One cannot serve both God and mammon (money).
• Sin and holiness do not mix.
• Dishonesty and covetousness are destructive in people as well as the church.
• God’s judgment of sin, whether immediate or postponed, is sure.
• Ananias and Sapphira may have been attempting to “look good” in the eyes of the other church members. It is dangerous to base our behavior on trying to make a good impression before others.
• Even believers are not immune to Satan’s temptations.
• God sees the heart. He knows if our spiritual stand is true or false.
- Multiple references in chapters 1-7 indicate that the early disciples were people of prayer even after the amazing prayer meeting where they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 3:1; 4:24-31; 6:4-6). What conclusion can we draw from this?
Class discussion of this question should bring out that one good prayer meeting does not replace consistent, daily seeking of God. Temptations and trials continue to come. We need to maintain a constant connection with God in order to meet the challenges of daily life, withstand the opposition of the enemy, discern the guidance of the Spirit, and effectively witness for Christ. Communion with God in prayer is a sure way to help us maintain victory in our Christian lives.
- Acts 6:1-7 describes the appointment of seven individuals to attend to the physical needs of the growing group of believers. According to verse 3, what qualifications were necessary in those who would fill the position? Why are these qualities important for the service of the Lord?
Qualifications needed for the recruits for this position were: being of “honest report” (having a good reputation), being full of wisdom, and having the infilling of the Holy Spirit in their lives. These qualifications were to define the character and spiritual attributes of the men to be chosen. Clearly, the Apostles were more concerned with the internal quality of the recruits than their outward appearance or the skills they possessed.
As your class discusses the second question, following are some points that could be brought out.
A Christian needs a good reputation. One must be looked upon by one’s associates as being a person of integrity, and one who can be trusted, in order to be a light in a lost world. If one’s reputation is tainted, it will negatively impact those who might be interested in learning more about Christianity.
The qualification of wisdom refers to being of a practical mind. The Bible scholar Matthew Henry says of this passage, “It was not enough that they were honest, good men, but they must be discreet, judicious men, that could not be imposed upon, and would order things for the best.” Wisdom is more than accumulated knowledge but implies the ability to apply knowledge and discern what is true, right, or lasting.
The Holy Spirit is vital in the lives of those who desire to serve God most effectively, for He will guide, teach, and empower. God’s Spirit will also convict sinners when a believer is witnessing to a lost world. One does receive a measure of the Holy Spirit at salvation and has a testimony to share, but after being filled with the Holy Ghost, God’s Spirit multiplies the effect of that witness.
- Stephen was charged with speaking blasphemous words against God and the Temple, and attempting to change Jewish customs. Chapter 7 records his defense before the Sanhedrin. Why do you think Stephen could so fearlessly address the council, even though he must have known his life was in danger for doing so?
As your class discusses this question, they should conclude that the Holy Spirit gave Stephen a spirit of boldness. It was the Holy Spirit who used his words to convict — to “cut to the heart” of his accusers (verse 54). Although the Sanhedrin reacted with rage instead of submission to the Spirit, Stephen did not back down or soften his words. When his accusers rushed forward to kill him by stoning, the Holy Spirit helped Stephen finish his earthly life by committing his soul to the Lord and devoutly praying for his persecutors.
Use this question to wrap up your lesson, pointing out that having the power of the Holy Spirit will influence every part of our lives, even its end. When we think of needing God’s power, we might focus on one or two areas of our lives where we suppose God will help us. Perhaps we think He will make us able to testify better, speak to others about God more easily, or perform some challenging task for Him. However, it is not any one task for which the Holy Spirit empowers us. He will impact our whole inner man. That includes our intellect, our affections, our desires, our focus, our purpose, and our will. Every part of us will come under the influence of His power. God helped the Apostles, Stephen, and the other believers establish the church in Jerusalem, and He will help us as we face the challenges of our day.
Prior to Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, He promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses for Him, “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” After receiving the promised power, the disciples began to witness and evangelize, and as a result, the Early Church was established in Jerusalem and grew rapidly.