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Lesson 3: Life in the Early Church *

Introduction: Our study this week is the church after Pentecost. Is it a model for us today? It is certainly different than the church today. What lessons can we learn? The early church called on sinners to repent. What does that mean? If we see different opinions, and one side resorts to threats rather than persuation, what should we conclude? Let's plunge into our study of Acts and see what we can learn!

  1. Days of Awe

    1. Read Acts 2:42-43. What activity is missing from this daily calendar? (Working! They are eating, praying, being taught, having fellowship, and observing miracles. It is a great time, but it does not seem like a "workable" long-term plan.)

      1. Can you think of any parallel today? (In one of my religious liberty cases, I defended the wife of a "Black Hat" (ultra-conservative) Jewish man. I was only supposed to speak to him, not directly to her. Because of this strange (to me) situation, I became aware that only she worked. He spend his days studying and discussing the Torah.)

    2. Read Acts 2:44-47. What is the solution to the financial problem of eating and not working? (They sold their possessions when the need arose.)

      1. I don't recall seeing this model anywhere else in the Bible. Some have suggested this is how Christians should live today. What do you think? (This is a voluntary program. However, when governments take the property of those who have it and give it to those who do not, eventually they run out of "other people's money" and the situation gets much worse. In the absence of divine intervention, this is not a long-term plan.)

      2. If this is not a model or a long-term plan, why is it described, why is it recorded in the Bible? (Pentecost, this "retreat" time of prayer, study, miracles, fellowship and eating, is special. Perhaps its unique nature is the reason why it is described?)

        1. Have you ever experienced anything like it? ("Campmeeting" reminds me of this. A special time of the year for spiritual teaching, fellowship and eating with friends. I loved those times.)

  2. Days of Healing

    1. Read Acts 3:1-4. Why didn't the man automatically look at Peter and John? (No doubt begging was demeaning. He did not look into the eyes of those who gave him money.)

      1. Look back at Acts 2:46. If the new believers had everything in common, and they passed by this crippled beggar every day, why didn't they take him into their group, and share their food, fellowship, and teaching with him?

    2. Read Acts 3:5-8. What solution does Peter prefer? (They could have taken him in. Perhaps they did later, but Peter heals him through the power of God so that the beggar can take care of himself.)

      1. Look again at Acts 3:6. Did Peter truly not have any money? He certainly must have had access to money if Acts 2:45 is understood literally - and I understand it literally. What are we being taught here? (This makes us look deeper. A shallow approach to the texts we have read concludes that "rich" people should just give their property to those in need. While the Bible says a lot about charity, it almost never endorses indiscriminate giving, or what we today call "random acts of kindness." The Bible encourages work ( Leviticus 19:9-10), worthiness ( 1 Timothy 5:9-10), and compassion (Proverbs 28:27 & Exodus 22:25-27).)

    3. Read Acts 3:9-12. What additional motive does this suggest for this man's healing? (We saw the same thing with Jesus - miracles were the basis for gaining people's attention and then teaching them the gospel.)

    4. Skim over Peter's sermon on Jesus in Acts 3:13-18. Read Acts 3:19-21. What call to action does Peter make? (He calls on them to repent.)

      1. Repent of what? (The sermon that we skimmed over had to do with their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. The call to repentance is the call to accept Jesus.)

      2. I have long wondered about what it means to "repent." When I was young, I was led to believe that I must remember and confess every sin. If, somehow, I missed a sin, then I was not saved because I had an unconfessed sin. Today, this seems to me to be another form of righteousness by works. This time the work is tracking down and confessing each sin. If I don't get it right, I'm not saved. Is the idea of recalling and confessing every sin consistent with Peter's call to repentance? (Peter is asking his audience to accept Jesus and repent from rejecting Him.)

    5. Read Hebrews 6:1. How does this describe repentance? (It calls repentance an "elementary teaching about Christ.")

    6. Read Hebrews 6:4-6. How many times can we repent? (The writer of Hebrews says it is "impossible" after "fall[ing] away." This sounds like something that we do once.)

      1. Let me ask you a personal question. Do you find yourself confessing (repenting) of the same sin over and over again? (I know I do that, and that makes me think what I was taught as a child about confessing sin is wrong. Repentance is a change of mind, a decision to accept Jesus as your Savior.)

    7. Read Acts 3:19, Acts 5:31, and Luke 24:47. Are repentance and forgiveness of sin two different things? (The result of repentance is that our sins are "wiped out." At the same time, they seem to be two different things.)

    8. Read Acts 26:20. How are actions connected here to repentance? (If you have changed your mind, changed your attitude, then you should act differently.)

    9. Read Luke 11:2-4. How often does Jesus say that we should pray this? ("When you pray." That suggests this is a regular prayer. We say it frequently.)

      1. Why is forgiveness of our sins linked to us forgiving others? (This is what makes me think, once again, that repentance and confession of sin is likely more of an attitude, than a chasing down of every sin. Do I forgive those who sin against me? If I have that attitude, then Jesus employs that same attitude towards me.)

      2. Note to the reader: I included these questions about repentance and confession to spur your thinking on the subject, the matter is not yet resolved in my mind.

  3. The State Strikes Back

    1. Read Acts 4:1-4. What is the message that troubles the Jewish authorities? ("In Jesus [we have] the resurrection of the dead.")

      1. What do you think this means? (I doubt that resurrecting the dead was a burning issue. Rather, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the point of controversy.)

    2. Read Acts 4:5-6. Why is the issue of Jesus' resurrection of concern to this group? (They are the leaders who pressed to have Jesus' crucified. If Jesus is resurrected, and I think they knew this, their problem has just gotten worse, not better.)

    3. Read Acts 4:7. What is the specific question given to Peter and John? (By whose power did you heal the crippled beggar?)

    4. Read Acts 4:8-10. Is this the answer the Jewish leaders were looking for? (It is just the opposite. Peter's argument, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is that Jesus' resurrection is proved by the miraculous healing of the crippled beggar!)

    5. Read Acts 4:11-12. What is the claim made for Jesus? (Think about this. This statement means that the entire Jewish system of worship is without any value when it comes to the issue of salvation. This is a frontal challenge to the Jewish leaders.)

    6. Read Acts 4:13-14. What defense do the Jewish leaders have to this courageous challenge? (What could they say? The proof was standing in front of them!)

    7. Read Acts 4:15-18. What does this tell you about the spiritual goals of the Jewish leadership? (They have now decided to leave the truth behind. Threats take the place of proof and argument, because threats are all they have left.)

    8. Read Acts 4:21-26. What is the first basis on which they praised God in their prayer? (That He is the Creator! Accepting creation is central to acknowledging the power of God. If God can speak the creation into existence, He can take care of all of the lesser things we need in life.)

    9. Friend, will you examine your life? Will you see if there are areas in which you hold opinions that are contrary to the evidence before you? Please ask the Holy Spirit to align your views with the revealed power of God.

  4. Next week: The First Church Leaders
* Copr. 2018, 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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