Week 9 summary:
Last week was the culmination of Jesus' ministry on earth. Jesus was crucified, was buried and rose from the grave on the first Easter Sunday.
This week we start to look at the spread of the church, the spread of Christianity. The book of the Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke who also wrote the gospel called Luke. So he picks up the story right before Jesus' ascension.
Day 1: Acts 1-3
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told the disciples to not do anything until they received the gift He had promised – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would provide the power they needed to spread the gospel. They were instructed to spread the good news to the Jews first (Jerusalem and Judea), and then to the gentiles (Samaria and the rest of the earth).
As the 11 apostles wait, they choose a 12th apostle. There are 2 requirements for the new apostle: 1) he must have been around during the time of Jesus' ministry; 2) must become a witness of the resurrection. Acts 1:24 says that the apostles prayed for the correct choice. Matthias wins.
Pentecost was already a festival celebrated by Jews and it occurred 50 days after Passover. So many Jews, from many different places were in Jerusalem to witness the coming of the Holy Spirit and hear the 1st Christian sermon from Peter. Those Jews, after hearing Peter, will go back to the places they came from and share about Jesus. The gospel will start to spread. What did Peter communicate? Because of Jesus, we should change our hearts and minds – repent! Be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.
As you read Acts 2:42-47, pay attention to what the early church (believers) did.
Day 2: Acts 4-6
Peter gets to preach again, this time to the leaders and elders of the people. “Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.” (Acts4:12 CEB – Common English Bible translation) The leaders demanded that Peter and John stop preaching about Jesus. To that demand, Peter and John reply, “As for us, we can't stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20 CEB) Also, they said later, “We must obey God rather than humans.” (Acts 5:29 CEB)
Through the teaching, preaching and healing that the apostles were performing, the number of Christians continues to grow as the good news spreads.
Day 3: Acts 7-8
If you want a pretty good synopsis of the Old Testament, especially starting with the call of Abraham (Genesis 12) through when the Israelites entered the promised land (in the book of Joshua) and a little about David and Solomon thrown in, read Acts 7 very carefully and look at all of the references back to the Old Testament. Stephen at his trial, was giving a brief history of the Jews that led up to Jesus. Stephen was accusing the Jewish leaders which led to him becoming the first martyr.
Saul (later to be known as Paul – the Paul who wrote most of the New Testament) was at the stoning of Stephen and actually approved of it. He goes to work persecuting the early Christians.
After Stephen's death, believers in the early church scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Sound familiar? Jesus told the apostles to start spreading the good news in Jerusalem and then go to Judea and Samaria. The stoning of Stephen is the impetus for the gospel to spread past Jerusalem.)
Day 4: Acts 9-10
In Acts 9, as Saul is going to Damascus with orders to arrest more Christians, he encounters the risen Jesus. He once was the chief persecutor of the Christians. Now he is a Christian himself and will become one of the main Christians to spread the gospel of Jesus to the gentiles. Saul/Paul will resurface in Acts 13.
Up to this point, there were many who felt that the good news of Jesus was for the Jews. Peter might have been one of them. But then he has a vision in Acts 10. Through the vision and his visit with the gentile Cornelius, that view changes. Pay attention to how the stories of Peter and Cornelius and their respective visions are intertwined and work together. A God-thing! Peter says, “I really am learning that God doesn't show partiality to one group of people over another. Rather, in every nation, whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35 CEB)
Day 5: Acts 11-12
Even though Peter now gets it (Jesus is for everyone), not everyone back in the church at Jerusalem agrees. Once Peter shared the story about Cornelius, the other apostles and believers understood too – that God has enabled gentiles to change their hearts and minds as well.
Day 6: Acts 13-14
The first of three missionary journeys of Paul is recorded in these two chapters. Part of the journey included establishing churches in the area of Galatia (in the cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe).
Paul's typical mode of operation when he came to a new town to spread the good news of Jesus was to go to the Jews first. That was the plan from the beginning. However, when the Jews reject it, Paul then goes to the Gentiles. (Remember Jesus said that the good news was for the Jews first.) We see that the Jews start to harass Paul (which will become frequent as he proceeds on his missionary journeys). But listen to what Luke says about Paul in Acts 13:52 (CEB): “Because of the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the disciples were overflowing with happiness.”
Day 7: rest