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Lesson 12: Worship in the Early Church *

Introduction: How did the people who lived with Jesus worship? The early church was filled with people who had the opportunity to hear Jesus teach. Did they receive some special insight from our Lord? Can we import into our worship what they used in their worship? Let's dive into the Biblical account and see what we can learn!

  1. The Instruction

    1. Read Acts 1:1-3. What two subjects did Jesus discuss with His followers after His resurrection? (That He was truly resurrected from the grave, and the Kingdom of God.)

      1. Was Jesus the only teacher involved? (No. The text reveals that Jesus ascended to heaven "after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit.")

    2. Read Acts 1:4-6. After His post-resurrection instruction about the Kingdom of God, did Jesus' followers clearly understand? (No! They still thought that the Kingdom of God was to be brought about by a revival of the Kingdom of Israel.)

      1. How do you explain that the disciples still had this wrong? (This shows that we can sometimes have great difficulty understanding the truth - even with the very best teachers.)

    3. Read Acts 1:7-9. Why didn't Jesus say, "You dopes! Why have you not been paying attention?

      1. Is it possible that the disciples did not have it wrong? (Read Revelation 21:1-3. A time is coming when Jesus will make all things new on earth, including bringing from heaven the New Jerusalem.)

      2. Notice in Acts 1:8 that Jesus refers to His followers being His witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria." What should this tell His followers about the kingdom? (That the Kingdom of God is not just Israel, but Samaria and all the earth.)

      3. What does this teach us about worship in the early church? (They were still resolving major gospel issues.)

    4. Let's look again at Acts 1:8. We learned that the Holy Spirit was already working with Jesus to instruct His followers. What is Jesus promising when He says "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you?" (This suggests degrees of power with the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

      1. Read again Acts 1:5. What does it mean to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit?"

    1. Read Acts 1:12-14. For what do you think they were praying? (The restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. The power of the Holy Spirit.)

    2. What lessons do we find here about worship? (They were in prayer. We need to pray for a correct understanding of the gospel. We need to pray not just for the Holy Spirit, but to be baptized in the Spirit, to receive great power.)

  1. Fulfillment

    1. Read Acts 2:1-4. We saw that the Holy Spirit worked with Jesus to give the last series of instructions to Jesus' followers. What is different now? (The Holy Spirit has come in power.)

      1. What were the signs of the Holy Spirit coming in power? (The wind sounded like a hurricane. Fire rested on each of them. They had the miraculous gift of speaking in foreign languages.)

      2. This has never happened to me. Has this happened to you? All sorts of churches have pictures of fire on their signs and logos, but no actual fire in their church. As far as I can tell, I have "regular" Holy Spirit. I have never experienced "high power" Holy Spirit. Why? (I have been in meetings where I thought I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit, but I've neither heard the wind nor seen the fire.)

        1. How did these disciples receive such power? (Two things. They were promised it, and they prayed fervently for it.)

    2. Have we been promised the Holy Spirit in power?

    3. The listeners said ( Acts 2:12) "What does this mean? Let's read what Peter says that it means. Read Acts 2:14-18. Have we been promised the Holy Spirit, not just regular power, but high power? (Yes! If two thousand years ago qualified as "in the last days," what would we call our time now? If Joel 2 says this promise applies to those in the "last days," the only reasonable understanding is that it applies to us.)

      1. Recall the two ingredients for the Holy Spirit coming in power? Promise was one, and fervent prayer was the other. Have you fervently prayed for the Holy Spirit to come in power?

    4. Let's read on. Read Acts 2:22-24. What is this? (The gospel message.)

      1. What role did high power Holy Spirit play in this worship/evangelistic service? (Read Acts 2:32-33. The Holy Spirit was proof of the truth of the message. It got the attention of the others, it proved that Peter was not just drunk and making this stuff up.)

    5. Read Acts 2:37-39. What other role does the Holy Spirit play? (The Holy Spirit helped to convict the listeners of their sins. (See John 16:8-11.) The Holy Spirit was also a promised gift.)

      1. Was Peter promising regular or high power Holy Spirit as a gift in Acts 2:38? (Have you ever purchased something and when you got it home it did not begin to perform the way it did in the store? What did you do when that happened? I cannot see how Peter was doing anything other than promising what they had just seen -- high power Holy Spirit.)

    6. Read Acts 2:40-43. What a wonderful response! Three thousand were converted in one day! Notice the reference to high power Holy Spirit in verse 43. What does this suggest? (Everyone was in awe over the wonders and miracles. But, it seems that only the apostles were doing them.)

      1. Should we conclude that high power Holy Spirit is (was) only available to the leaders?

      2. Read again Acts 2:17-18. Are leaders being described here? (No. Just the opposite. The young and the old have the gift. Women have the gift. "All people" have the gift.)

      3. Friend, I do not know the answer as to why high power Holy Spirit is not present today. I want to hear the wind, see the fire and experience high power Holy Spirit. I think we need to fervently pray for this and see what God will do! In the meantime, let's explore this issue further.

  2. Another Evangelistic Meeting

    1. Read Acts 17:16-21. What kind of reaction is Paul getting to his preaching? (It seems to range from skeptical to mildly curious.)

      1. Would things be different if Paul had high power Holy Spirit working with him?

    2. If you skim over Acts 17:22-31, you will see that Paul preaches the gospel to them based on the evidence of nature. His message is similar to Peter's at Pentecost. Peter cited the Bible and Paul cites nature. Read Acts 17:32-34. How many converts does Paul have? (Just a few.)

      1. Peter had high powered Holy Spirit and 3,000 conversions. Paul did not have it and had a few conversions. Is something wrong with Paul? (Read Acts 9:17. Paul (Saul) is "filled with the Holy Spirit.")

      2. Read Acts 18:4-5 and Acts 18:8-11. Who is with Paul in his evangelistic preaching? (We fault Paul for not having the power connected with Pentecost, but God says that He is with Paul's preaching.)

      3. Since God says that He is with Paul in his preaching, why is high power Holy Spirit not present?

  3. Advice on High Power Holy Spirit

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. What is the relationship between spiritual gifts and love for others? (We are told not to lose sight of the goal. The true goal is not high powered Holy Spirit. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools to advance the gospel. The heart of the gospel is loving God and our fellow humans. Matthew 22:37-40.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 14:1. What attitude should we have about high power Holy Spirit? (We should desire (and pray for) all the power of the Holy Spirit that God is willing to share. But, we need to recognize that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools for us to bring others into the Kingdom of God.)

    3. Friend, will you fervently pray not only that high power Holy Spirit will be given to you and to your church, but that the Spirit will give you a heart of love towards others?

  4. Next week: Worship in the Book of Revelation.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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