Carla Rieger (artwork), Metropolitan Ministries, Chapel of Hope, Tampa, Florida. Stained Glass by Katglass.
Carla Rieger (artwork), Metropolitan Ministries, Chapel of Hope, Tampa, Florida. Stained Glass by Katglass.

For sheer action, the first twelve chapters of the Acts of the Apostles rival any other book of the Bible.

Jesus' ascension takes place, the Holy Spirit falls on the believers, thousands turn to the Lord in Jerusalem alone, the new Church is established, and miracles propel the fledgling congregation into conflict with the authorities and persecution.

We meet some powerful men and women -- Peter, Stephen, Philip, Dorcas, and Saul of Tarsus -- and are inspired by their lives. A careful journey through Acts 1-12 is vital to a true understanding of Christ's Church, as God envisioned it.

As we study, we'll find at least seven themes that show up again and again in the early chapters of Acts.

  1. The role of the Holy Spirit in the new church -- baptism, fillings, outpourings, anointing, tongues, and prophecy. We'll look carefully at these. Acts has been called "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," and with good reason. The leading of the Spirit is a prominent theme.
  2. The characteristics of the early church are important since they reveal the character and values that underlie this new body that Jesus is building. We see themes of unity, fellowship, teaching, breaking of bread, prayers, boldness to witness, and evangelism.
  3. The church's early preaching of Messiah Jesus demonstrates how the apostles explain from the Scriptures how a crucified Messiah can be raised from the dead and exalted to God's right hand. These early sermons form a Scriptural basis for our own understanding of Christ's death and resurrection.
  4. God preplanned Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection from the beginning. A clear hint of predestination occurs several times in these chapters. Salvation and even faith are gifts from God for which we can take no credit.
  5. Evangelistic breakthroughs come with signs and wonders combined with powerful preaching. God grant that we can apply this to the desperate need for evangelism in our day!
  6. God's heart for all peoples -- Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles -- is one of Luke's clear emphases. Ridding ourselves of our very human tendency to discriminate against people of other races and cultures is an obvious application. So is an impetus to declare good news to unreached people groups around the world.
  7. Persecution and witness is a final theme that I am tracking. The importance of giving bold witness before our enemies is mentioned again and again.

The Early Church: Acts 1-12 (JesusWalk, 2021) can be considered part I of a study of the Acts of the Apostles. My study Apostle Paul: Passionate Discipleship (JesusWalk, 2019) is part II, covering chapters 13-28.

These lessons contain discussion questions to help you grapple with the key issues that come up. I hope you'll take time to write out your answers, perhaps in a journal. This exercise will help you go deeper so you can grow in Christ and in your understanding. There are also links to an online forum where you can post your answers and read what others have written. And, for those who like to listen to a lesson, audio links are available at the top of each lesson.

Teachers and small group leaders: I am including Participant Handout masters for each lesson that can be duplicated and given out at no charge (available about Sept 10). You'll find that Lesson 2 on the Holy Spirit is somewhat long; you might want to break that lesson into two weeks as you study it (perhaps at Section 2.3).

I hope you'll take this journey with me through the first twelve chapters of Acts. My prayer for you is that your growth in Christ is as challenged as mine has been as you study. May the Church that Jesus' Spirit created so long ago, live on today through your ministry with increasing strength and vibrancy to bring Christ's glorious light to our dark world!

May God richly bless you,

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Loomis, California
August 15, 2021

 

Copyright © 2021, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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