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Acts Introduction

Luke’s account of the early church is a companion volume to his Gospel account. In the first paragraph of Luke’s Gospel, he says that it was written to Theophilus. He is either addressing a man with that name, or the reader as a “lover of God”. Again, at the beginning of Acts, Luke addresses the same “Theophilus”. He had an amazing story to tell, and he greatly wanted to bless all those who loved God with as thorough a rendition as possible of the story of the early church.

The primary theme of Acts is the institution and growth of the church. It is nicely connected with Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus tells his followers (Luke 24:49) just before his ascension, to wait to minister until they have received the fullness of the Spirit, and then repeats Jesus’ instructions in Acts 1:4-5.

The major segments of this early church history are:

  • The departure and ascension of Jesus, and Peter’s first run of leading the disciples as they appoint Matthias to take Judas’ place (Acts 1)

  • The infilling of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost and Peter’s first sermon to three thousand (Acts 2)

  • The rising of the disciples into the place of Jesus as wonder workers and the resulting conflicts with authorities and growth of the church (Acts 3-5)

  • Appointment and commissioning of administrators who also do miracles, grow the church, and Stephen becomes the first martyr (Acts 6-8)

  • Saul’s attack on the church and his conversion through Jesus’ appearance to him (Acts 9)

  • Peter’s ministry including bringing the Spirit to the first non-Jewish converts, and the subsequent controversy, acceptance, and growth of the church (Acts 10-12)

  • Paul and Barnabus’ call as missionaries and first missionary journey to Syria, Cyprus, and southern Turkey, bringing the Gospel both to Jews and non-Jews (Acts 13-14)

  • The Council in Jerusalem and resolution allowing non-Jews to be Christians without becoming Jews (Acts 15)

  • Paul and Silas’ exploits in the second missionary journey primarily to Macedonia and Greece, including the recruitment, training, and sending of Timothy, and the establishment of a number of churches, including in Corinth (Acts 16-18)

  • Paul’s third missionary journey, primarily 2 ½ years devoted to defeating idolatry and establishing the church in Ephesus (in western Turkey) and visiting Macedonia and Greece (Acts 19-20)

  • Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem and imprisonment and trial and defense before two different Roman governors Felix and Festus and Jewish King Agrippa (Acts 21-26)

  • Paul’s transport by ship to Rome, subsequent shipwreck, rescue, and delivery to prison in Rome (Acts 27-28)

Just as in Luke’s Gospel, the author has clearly interviewed many people to arrive at a coherent account. Based on his use of a first-person plural “we”, Luke appears to have joined Paul’s team in Troas on the way to Philippi in Acts 16:10. However, Luke is not with Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail or at certain other points in his travels. He remains with him however for his journey to Rome. Acts ends before the end of Paul’s life which also apparently is prior to the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Luke excellently conveys key aspects of the life of the early church:

  • The power and boldness given over and over to ordinary men as they chose to follow Jesus, were discipled, and received the infilling of the Holy Spirit

  • The love, unity, and community among the early followers

  • The active involvement of God in the person of the Holy Spirit and Jesus himself in guiding, confronting, and emboldening disciples at key points in their lives.

  • God’s surprise plan to reach all men everywhere with the Good News of Jesus and full citizenship in the church, regardless of background.

  • God’s choosing and empowering of specific individuals such as Peter and Paul to reach people groups and nations

  • The difficulties and conflicts among Christian leaders and God’s ability to lead the church to overcome division.

Acts Introduction

Luke’s story of the acts of God working through his chosen vessels is still inspiring and helps us to believe that all of these things can and will happen even in our own time.

Acts Guide to the Transcommentary

Acts Guide to the Transcommentary

This is a little bit more than a translation and a bit less than a full commentary.  It serves a similar function to the Amplified Bible, though that work’s purpose was to provide a complete sense of the meaning of the words used by the writers of scripture.  This work has a somewhat different purpose:

  • To convey as close as possible the actual meaning of the sentences as they would have been understood at the time they were originally spoken or written.  To accomplish this for twenty-first century Americans, dynamic equivalent words and sayings have been used at a sentence level.  An attempt has been made to preserve intended wordplay and irony from the original author.

  • We have attempted to clarify ideas, references, and thought sequences that would have been clear to first century audiences but are not clear to modern audiences because of differences in culture, customs, language, or degree of familiarity with Old Testament scriptures and Messianic prophecies.  The phrasing of the translation itself aims at that clarity, but we have also added words, phrases, and sentences to the narrative for improved understanding.  All such additions are in brackets [].  This allows the reader to have the explanatory additions when reading but also insulate these additions from the translated scripture – indeed, with a little effort they can be skipped entirely when reading aloud.

  • Color codes for different types of additional material are intended to further aid understanding:

- As in many editions, the words of Jesus are shown in red.

- Words of Father God or the Holy Spirit are shown in blue.

- Green is used for words added to descriptive narrative because they are implied or as commentary to explain the context.

References to scriptures are shown in gold.

  • As in many translations and editions, we have added headings in bold to help understand when a new theme is introduced by the author.

  • The author frequently refers to "Christ" or to "Jesus Christ".  We have employed the words “the Anointed One” rather than "Christ", since that is the meaning of “Christ”.  We wanted to avoid the sense of "Christ" as Jesus’ surname, yet still recognize it as a well-known title.

  • We have also added study questions at the end of each chapter to help you think more thoroughly about the meaning and application of the author’s writing.

An example of the use of bold headings, color, and brackets can be seen in the following paragraph taken from Acts 1.

The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit

Dear Lover of God. My first book was about all that Jesus did and taught, from the time he began his work, through the giving of instructions to the apostles [sent-out messengers], whom he chose through the [inspiration of the] Holy Spirit, until he was taken up [to Heaven]To those same apostles, he proved he was [resurrected and] alive after his suffering [and death], through many clear demonstrations. [He had to prove he was no longer dead but that it was his real body alive again, not a spirit or ghost. This he did by showing the disciples his wounds and also by eating. See Luke 24:40-42, John 20:20,27.] He showed himself to them for forty days while he spoke about the things concerning the kingdom of God. And when Jesus and the apostles were all together, he commanded they should not leave Jerusalem but, “Wait for [the fulfillment of] the promise of the Father [Luke 24:49], which you have heard about from me. For John [the Baptist] baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

We will have succeeded in this translation if you the reader find that you can read this work of scripture with greater comprehension and enjoyment than ever before.  Please let us know if you find the various supplementary materials helpful. or too distracting, or if you have any other suggestions about how to improve this approach to translation.

Richard Tittle,

Acts Chapter 1

Acts Chapter 1

Promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit

Dear Lover of God.  My first book was about all that Jesus did and taught, from the time he began his work, through the giving of instructions to the apostles [sent-out messengers], whom he chose through the [inspiration of the] Holy Spirit, until he was taken up [to Heaven]. 3 To those same apostles, he proved he was [resurrected and] alive after his suffering [and death], through many clear demonstrations. [He had to prove he was no longer dead but that it was his real body alive again, not a spirit or ghost. This he did by showing the disciples his wounds and also by eating. See Luke 24:39-43, John 20:20,27.] He showed himself to them for forty days while he spoke about the things concerning the kingdom of God. And when Jesus and the apostles were all together, he commanded they should not leave Jerusalem but, “Wait for [the fulfillment of] the promise of the Father [Luke 24:49], which you have heard about from me. For John [the Baptist] baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit

While they were all together, they asked him, “Will you at the time [when the Holy Spirit comes] restore again the kingdom [the right to rule themselves and others] to Israel?”  And he replied to then, “It’s not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has appointed in his authority. [It’s up to the Father when Israel will be restored and when I will return. However, there is a kingdom that is being established right now, and it is the Kingdom of God.] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be my witnesses[, telling the truth about who I am and what you’ve experienced] in Jerusalem [right where we are], in all Judea [the surrounding area], in Samaria [close but foreign lands], and in the farthest places on the earth [everywhere else].”

Ascension of Jesus

And after he had spoken these things, while they were watching, he rose and disappeared into a cloud. 10 And while they kept their attention on the sky as he ascended, there were two men who stood near them in white clothing, who said, 11 “You men of Galilee, why do you stand there staring at the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you up to heaven, will come again in a similar way as you have seen him depart into the sky.” [One of the great promises of our faith is that Jesus will return to the earth and, when he does, he will descend from the sky (1 Thessalonians 4:16).]

Ascension of Jesu

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is a Sabbath Day’s journey [around half a mile][A Sabbath Day’s journey is the distance that rabbis had determined was allowed before it was accounted as work on a Sabbath. During the years the tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle, it was the distance from the farthest edge of the camp to the Tabernacle at the center.]

Gathering of 120 believers and Peter’s speech

13 They went inside a house and to the upper room, which is where [the eleven disciples] were living – Peter, John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All of them remained continuously in prayer with one heart, along with the women [who were followers of Jesus], and Mary his mother, and his brothers.  [“Brothers” may include other male followers, in addition to Jesus’ family. By now Jesus’ brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude (Matthew 13:55), were believers in Jesus. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:7 that Jesus appeared to his brother James after he rose from the dead.]

Gatheing of 120 believers and Peter's speech

15 During those days, there was a gathering of one hundred twenty followers of Jesus.  Peter stood up in their midst and said, 16 “Friends and family, there is a scripture which had to be fulfilled, spoken by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who guided the mob that arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of us [whom Jesus named apostles] and had taken part in our work [including going out to bring healing and the kingdom of God and serving as leaders as well as witnesses].

18 “With the payment given for his evil act, a field was purchased. He had fallen headlong [from hanging himself] and had burst asunder, his bowels spilling out. 19 This was known to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so they called the field in their own language, Akeldama, which means “field of blood”. [Matthew 27:5-8 explains that the field was so named because the money from which it was purchased was originally given to Judas to shed the blood of Jesus, but the more popular and colorful reason was because of the bursting of Judas’ body and therefore the field was stained with his blood.]

20 “Now, it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘Let where he lives be abandoned and no man live there’. [Psalms 69:25 was understood to refer to the Anointed One, and the quote applies to the fate of those who betrayed the Anointed One. Peter is saying that Judas received what he deserved.] [And in Psalms 109:8 it is written,] ‘Let someone else take his position of responsibility’. [This is another psalm, about a betrayer, and it is saying that it is right the person be condemned but someone must take over his responsibilities.]

Selection of Matthias to replace Judas

21 “Therefore, we need to choose someone among the men who have been with us throughout the ministry of Jesus, including all his travels, 22 from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us, so that he can be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”  23 They considered two, Joseph called Barsabbas and whose last name was Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which of these two men you have chosen, so that man may take the responsibility and apostleship from which Judas turned away and has gone to his own place [of judgment].” And they brought forth lots [and cast them], and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted among the eleven apostles [as a twelfth].

Selection of Matthias to replace Judas

Discussion questions

1. When Jesus taught the disciples about the kingdom of God, what kinds of things do you think he taught them? Why do you think the disciples were so concerned about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel?

Acts Chapter 1 discussion questions

2. Why do you think Jesus bodily departed? Why did he not begin his rule on the earth directly after his resurrection? Why do you think he departed by ascending rather than by simply disappearing?

3. Why did the eleven disciples cast lots rather than pray to find out which of the two men was called to take Judas’ role as apostle? Why was it important for there to be twelve of them?

Acts Chapter 2

Acts Chapter 2

Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers [the followers of Jesus] were gathered together in one place. [Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of the Grain Harvest which was celebrated 50 days after Passover. In this case, it was also ten days after Jesus had ascended to Heaven, so the believers had been praying together continually for ten days.] Suddenly, there came the sound from heaven of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And something visible formed that looked like fire which separated into tongues over each of their heads. They all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to form the words.

Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Effect on the Jews gathered for Pentecost

In Jerusalem, devout Jews were residing who came from every nation under heaven. [It was an international city, especially during feast days such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, as the devout Jews were required to come from wherever they lived to Jerusalem and celebrate at the Temple. The location where the disciples met is generally assumed to be the upper room mentioned in Acts 1:13-14, where the twelve were staying, and which may also be the place of the Last Supper. However, it’s possible the outpouring of the Spirit occurred in the Temple. Acts 2:2-4 says the sound of the Spirit filled the “whole house”, which is appropriate to the house of “the Upper Room”, but the Temple was also called a “house”. Luke 24:53, the last verse of Luke’s Gospel, says that after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples spent all their time in the Temple, praising God. It was the Day of Pentecost, a major feast day, and the disciples would have just participated in the morning sacrifice and worship in the Temple. There were many gathering places inside the Temple. After the Spirit fell on 120 people, at least three thousand heard Peter’s sermon and were converted and then baptized. The baptismal pools for ritual cleansing were all located near the Temple. Thus, the Temple itself is a strong candidate for the location where the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost.] When the crowd heard the sound of the voices mixed together [from the Spirit being expressed through the believers’ gathering], a large crowd gathered, and they were surprised, because each man heard the believers speak in his own language. 

Effect on the Jews gathered for Pentecost

They were amazed and wondered [how it was possible], saying, “Look, all of those speaking are Galileans [based on their looks and accents], but we hear each of them speaking in our native languages – [and we are] Parthians [from Iraq and Iran], Medes [from northwest Iran], and Elamites [from southwest Iran], residents of Mesopotamia [between the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq and Turkey], Judea, Cappadocia [in central Turkey], Pontus [northeast Turkey], 10 Phrygia [west central Turkey], Pamphylia [southern Turkey], Egypt, Libya [the northern area] near Cyrene, and Romans. 11 Whether we are [native born] Jews or converts, Cretes or Arabians, we hear them speaking in our languages the wonderful works of God.” 12 All of them were astonished but also puzzled, saying, “What does this signify?” 13 Others, making fun of them, said, “They are full of new wine [and drunk].”

Peter’s sermon explaining the outpouring

14 But Peter stood up with the [other] eleven [apostles], lifted his voice, and said to them, “Men of Judea and you who are living in Jerusalem, so you can understand what is happening, listen to what I say to you. 15 These men are not drunk, as you were thinking, for it is only the third hour of the day [nine in the morning].

Pete's sermon explaining the outpourng

16 “This is what was spoken about by the prophet Joel [Joel 2:28-32], 17 “‘It will come about in the last days’, God declares, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 And on my male and female servants, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs in the earth below – blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 And the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before that great and memorable day of the Lord comes. 21 And it will come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

[Peter has the insight that this very time of the Spirit’s outpouring was described by Joel long in advance. The extent of Peter’s quote indicates that he believed the Spirit would be made available to everyone, and that this would usher in a time of great advancement in the Spirit, with signs and wonders, and many coming into God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus. The fulfillment of this is what the Book of Acts describes.]

Peter’s description of Jesus

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words. [The words I am about to speak are what you most need to know.] Jesus of Nazareth was a man whom God displayed among you through works of power [such as healings and deliverances], wonders [such as multiplying loaves and fishes], and signs [such as fulfilling of prophecies]. God did these things through Jesus right in the midst of you, as you are aware. 23 By God’s own predetermined plan and will, Jesus was handed over to you, and you killed him by having sinful men hang him on a cross. 24 But God raised him up again, breaking the chains of death, because it was impossible that death could keep him prisoner. [Jesus was life itself, and life has victory over death.]

Peter's description of Jesus

25 “For David spoke [Psalms 16:8-11] concerning Jesus, ‘I saw the Lord before me, for he is always at my right hand [to strengthen me], so that I should not be troubled [by the many problems that come to me]26 Therefore, my heart rejoiced and my tongue was glad. In fact, my whole being will remain in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the place of the dead, nor will you allow your Holy One to see decay. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life, and your face [presence] will fill me with joy.’ [Much of the psalm applies to David, but also applies to the Anointed One, and so it was regarded as a Messianic prophecy, as were many of the psalms.]

29 “Brothers, let me speak to you bluntly about the patriarch David. He is both dead and buried, and his memorial tomb is with us to this day [and remains sealed]30 He was a prophet, and he knew that God had promised him that He would raise up one of his own descendants to sit on his throne. [The promise was that one from David’s line would reign forever – see 2 Samuel 7:12-16. This was partially fulfilled when Jesus became a king at his ascending to heaven but will be completely fulfilled in Jesus upon his return to the earth.] 31 David saw in advance what would happen, that the Anointed One would be resurrected, and thus he would not stay in the place of the dead nor would his flesh decay.

32 “This Jesus, God has raised up – of this all of us [twelve] are witnesses! 33 He has now been elevated to the right hand of God [the place of power], and having received the Holy Spirit, which was the promise of the Father, he has poured forth what you are now seeing and hearing[, which is being demonstrated in the supernatural praise of God in other languages].

[John the Baptist had been told by God, and had told the disciples, that Jesus would be the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit [John 1:33]. Jesus could not do this until he had removed our sin by dying in our place [2 Corinthians 5:21], for a holy God cannot live in unholy men. While Jesus paid the penalty on the cross, it is only when we decide to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior that our sins are erased [Romans 10:9] and we receive a new heart and a reborn spirit [Ezekiel 36:26-27]. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed his followers to wait and pray together until they received the promise of the Father, which would give them power [Luke 24:49]. Peter was now very aware that the gift of the Holy Spirit was delivered by the Father to Jesus who, at God’s right hand, was responsible now for baptizing in the fullness of the Spirit every believer willing to receive.]

34 “For David did not ascend to the heavens [like Jesus], but it was him who said [Psalms 110:1], ‘Yahweh said to my Lord [Jesus], “Come and sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies into your footstool.”’ 36 Therefore, I announce to all the people of Israel, ‘Know with assurance that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the one whom God has made both Lord and Anointed One!’” [Both the psalm and Peter’s declaration indicate a conviction that Jesus, having accomplished all he did through his life and death, was now restored to his heavenly glory. Once Jesus returned to heaven, his Father invited him to co-rule with him, and ultimately that rule will result in every enemy being totally defeated. This victory is described in more detail in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 and Revelation 20.]

Peter’s invitation to 3000

37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply affected, and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What should we do? [We accept that we are guilty, and we want to make it right.]” 38 Peter said to them, “Turn your hearts over to God and be baptized, every one of you, on the [authority of the] name of Jesus, the Anointed One, for the redemption of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For this promise is to you and your children and to everyone, no matter how far away they are [in distance or righteousness]. It’s for everyone who calls on our Lord God.” 

Peter's invitation to 3000

[It was typical for the Jews to be ritually cleansed before attending a feast at the Temple. And John the Baptist had taught that there needed to be a real change of heart to go with the washing. Peter was now telling these men that to be thoroughly cleansed of sin, they needed to turn over their heart to God, and decide to follow Jesus as God himself, as they submitted to baptism using his name. The proof of their forgiveness would be their experience of the Holy Spirit coming into and residing in their hearts.]

40 And with many other words, Peter testified and encouraged them, saying [for example], “Save yourselves from this perverted generation!” 41 They accepted all that he said and were baptized. And around three thousand persons were added to their number that day. 

Life of the early church

42 And they continued to regularly receive the apostles’ teaching, spend time together, and share in the breaking of bread [fellowship meals that included a celebration and remembrance of the Lord in Communion] and in prayers [which probably included traditional Jewish morning and evening prayer as well as spontaneous prayers for their needs].

Life of the early church

43 Everyone was filled with awe as many signs and wonders were done by the apostles. [They were now beginning to fully function in the ministry of Jesus, but they had not yet taught or imparted to other believers the same ministry.] 44 All of those who believed were together and had everything in common. 45 And they gave what they owned or sold their property so that each person would have what they needed. 46 Daily they met together at the Temple and shared meals together in homes with gladness 47 and praised God with singleness of heart. They had such favor with all the people that the Lord was adding daily to their number those who were being saved [from their old lifestyle and from eternal separation from God].

Discussion questions

1. Have you ever prayed together with others for a number of days in a row? What happened as a result?

Acts Chapter 2 discussion questions

2. This is the first instance of people speaking in other languages under the influence of the Holy Spirit. What effect did this have on others who heard it? From your own experience with the gift of tongues, are they always the distinct language of another people group?

3. What would you say caused three thousand people in one day to decide to follow Jesus?

4. What were the elements that characterized the early church? How is that different from what occurs in our churches today?

Acts Chapter 3

Acts Chapter 3

Healing of the lame man

Peter and John went up into the Temple for prayer at the ninth hour [three in the afternoon, the time of the afternoon sacrifice]There was a man who had been born lame who was carried daily and dropped off at the gate to the Temple called “Beautiful” so that he could ask for offerings from those who entered the Temple there. The man saw Peter and John about to go into the Temple and asked for offerings from them. 

The healing of the lame man through Pete and John

And Peter stared at him along with John and said, “Look at us.” And the man looked up at them, expecting to receive something from them. And Peter said, “I don’t have any gold or silver, but I will give you what I do have. [I have faith for you to be healed.] In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One, rise up and walk!” And Peter took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And springing up, the man was able to stand and walk, and so he entered into the Temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized that it was the man who begged for offerings at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were filled with amazement and wonder about what had happened to him. 11 The man held onto Peter and John as the astonished crowd rushed over to Solomon’s Porch [the covered area of the Temple where the disciples studied the word and prayed together]

Peter’s sermon on faith in the name of Jesus

12 Seeing this, Peter spoke to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you so amazed about what has happened and about what we have done? Why are you staring, as though it was by our own power or holiness that we made this man able to walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has given glory to his son Jesus, whom you turned over and rejected before Pilate, though he [Pilate] had decided to let Jesus go. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Just One and desired a murderer [Barabbas] to be turned loose to you. 15 And you put to death the Prince of Life, but God raised him from death, which we ourselves have witnessed. 16 And it was based on faith in his [Jesus’] name that this man whom you see and know was filled with strength. And the man himself now has received faith in Jesus’ name which has made him completely well in front of all of you.

Peter's semon on faith in the name of Jesus

17 “And now brothers, I understand that you and your rulers did it [that is, killed Jesus] through ignorance. 18 But God had already shown through the mouth of all the prophets what things the Anointed One would suffer, which Jesus has also fulfilled [through his death on your behalf][Psalms 22:1-18, Isaiah 53:7-8, Daniel 9:26, Zechariah 12:10 are examples of the prophecies of the suffering of the Anointed One.]  19 Now, confess before God your willingness to change your thinking and to submit to God’s plan, so that your sins may be removed. This will lead to times of revival coming through the presence of the Lord. [As many repent and turn to God, believing in Jesus, God’s presence will be more and more with you, which will strengthen the whole community.] 

20 “And he will send to you the one who was chosen, Jesus, the Anointed One[, when he comes to rule as the returning king][Jesus will also come personally to each believer and to the entire community of believers through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.] 21 However, Jesus must remain [physically] in heaven until it’s time for the restoration of all things. This is exactly what God has spoken through the mouth of all his prophets since the world began.

[Peter was saying that, in the timing of God, the Anointed One will not return until a period of restoration. One of the restorations will be Israel’s kingdom (Acts 1:6). The prophets speak many times of the return of the Jews both to their land and to their relationship with God. Isaiah 11:11 tells us that there will be a second restoration of Israel after the Anointed One has come. At the time Peter is speaking, there has been one exile and return, but the second exile did not happen until Rome sacked Jerusalem in AD 70, almost forty years later. The return of Israel occurred with the creation of modern Israel in 1948. Second, there is to be a walking out of the restoration of family and community, as prophesied in Malachi 4:6, which began to be fulfilled when John the Baptist introduced the Anointed One to the world but continues through the spread of Christian community to people groups throughout the earth. Third, there was to be a fulfillment of all the earth being blessed through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 22:18), as the non-Jewish peoples received faith through those carrying the good news. Fourth, the Gospel would be preached throughout the earth (Matthew 24:14), and the earth consequently would be filled with the glory of the Lord (Numbers 14:21-23, Habakkuk 2:14). There are other aspects of restoration that will only happen when the Anointed One returns.]

22 “For [example,] Moses spoke truly, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet for you like me[, Moses,] from your brothers. Listen to all he says to you. 23 And every person who does not listen to that prophet will be destroyed from among the people”. 24 And yes, in the same way, the prophets beginning with Samuel each have spoken and foretold these days.

[The prophets foretold the coming of the Anointed One, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the return of the Lord. For example, 2 Samuel 7:12-16 says that there would be one from David’s line who would rule forever. As Peter already cited in Acts 2:2-4, Joel 2:28-32 described the time of the Spirit’s outpouring. But so did Isaiah 44:3-5, Ezekiel 36:26-27, and Zechariah 12:10. Likewise, the second coming of the Anointed One is also prophesied in many places such as Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 14:1-9.]

25 “You are the sons [heirs] of the promises and of the covenant God made with our fathers. As he said to Abraham, “In your seed [descendant], all of the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 22:18]26 So God, having raised up his servant [Jesus], sent him first to you to turn you away from your sins.”

Discussion questions

1. How did Peter turn the miracle that just happened into a means to glorify Jesus and to lead people to follow Jesus?

Acts Chapter 3 discussion questions

2. Peter says that turning to Jesus would lead to times of revival (v 19). What did he say in that verse would be an important ingredient of that revival?

3. Peter also said that Jesus would not return until the “restoration of all things”? Where do you believe the world is in the fulfillment of that restoration? What still remains to happen? What part do you think we play in that restoration?

Acts Chapter 4

Acts Chapter 4

Peter and John before the Jewish Council

Peter, along with John, was still speaking when some of the priests arrived, including the officer in charge of the Temple guards, and some of the Sadducees. Those who arrived were upset with Peter and John because they taught the people, proclaiming the resurrection of the dead through Jesus. [There were many political and philosophical parties within the Temple and the priesthood. One faction, the Sadducees, did not believe in the Resurrection, but Peter and John were teaching not only that Jesus came back from the dead, but that all who followed Jesus would also resurrect. The Sadducees brought the highest ranking Temple authority other than the High Priest to order Peter and John to stop.] The guards took hold of Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day, since it was now evening. But many believed who had heard what had been preached, and the number of the men [who now believed] was around five thousand.

Peter and John before the Jewish Council

The next day, the chief priests, elders, and teachers of the Law, gathered together in Jerusalem. This group included Annas, [formerly] the high priest, and Caiaphas [who was now the high priest but under the thumb of Annas], and John and Alexander, who were of the high priest’s family. And when they brought Peter and John before this group, they were asked, “By what power, or in [the authority of] what name, have you done this [healed the lame man]?”

Then, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, said to them, “You chief priests and elders of the people, if we are being tried for this good deed, which has caused this man who had been lame to be made whole, 10 let it be known to you and to all the people of Israel, that it is in the name of Jesus, whom you crucified, and whom God raised from the dead, that by him this man is standing before you healed. 11 Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders of the house, which has now become the head of the corner [the final and most important stone in the structure, as described in Psalms 118:22-23 and later by Jesus himself in Mark 12:10-11]12 In fact, wholeness is found in no other name. The name of Jesus is the only name that men can use under heaven by which we can surely be made whole.”

13 The priests noticed the self-assurance of Peter and John, and realizing that they were uneducated and unskilled speakers, they were amazed. They also realized that these men had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man still standing there who had been healed, they could say nothing against them. 15 But telling them [Peter and John] to leave the group, they [the priests] continued to meet, saying, 16 “What shall we do to these men, for the fact that a remarkable miracle has been performed by them is clear to everyone who lives in Jerusalem, and we can’t deny it. 17 But to keep this from spreading further among the people, let us threaten them so they won’t continue to speak this name [Jesus] to any man.” 

18 They called Peter and John back and commanded them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Which is right, to listen to the very person of God, or to listen to you. You be the judge. 20 For we cannot but speak of the things we have seen and heard!” 21 The Jewish leaders further threatened Peter and John and then let them go, finding no way to punish them, because the people were all glorifying God for what had been accomplished [the healing of the lame man]22 For the man was more than forty years old who had experienced this miracle of healing. [He had been lame for a very long time and was considerably past the age where anyone would hope for him to recover, except for a miracle from God.]

Prayer for boldness of the believers

23 Once they were released, Peter and John returned to their own group and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said. 24 And when the group heard [their account], with singleness of purpose they lifted their voice to God, “You are our ruler, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that are in them. 25 Through the Holy Spirit, you spoke to our ancestor, David, your servant, saying, ‘Why are the non-Jews so angry, and the people making foolish plans? 26 For the kings of the earth prepared for battle and the rulers were gathered together against our Lord and against his Anointed One’ [Psalms 2:1-3]27 For in fact, in this city, both Herod and Pontius Pilate gathered together along with both the non-Jews and the Jewish people who were against your holy child Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 Yet they accomplished what your hand and your purpose had determined in advance must happen.

Prayer for boldness of the believers

29 “And now, Lord, see what they have threatened, and grant to your servants that we might speak your word with complete boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and grant that amazing things and miracles may be performed through the name of your holy child Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke out the word of God with boldness. 

32 And the crowd of believers were of one heart and mind. And no one claimed any of their possessions as their own, but they had all things together in common. 33 And with great power, the disciples told the story of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was on all of them. 34 For none of them there lacked for anything since those who owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. And what they had was distributed so that everyone had whatever he needed.

36 There was a man, Joseph, called Barnabus by the apostles, which translated [into Greek] means “son of encouragement”. [The word is “parakletos” which is also can mean help or consolation. It is the same as the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit. This nickname may have been given to him prophetically at the time of his baptism.] Barnabus was a Levite [a Jew from the tribe of Levi] from the country of Cyprus. 37 He [also] had land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.

Discussion questions

1. How did the miracle performed through Peter and John affect their examination by the authorities? How did they utilize the miracle in their evangelism? Do you believe that healings and miracles are an important component of spreading the good news?

Acts Chapter 4 discussion questions

2. Peter and John declared that listening to God took precedence over being told not to proclaim the name of Jesus by religious leaders. Have you ever gotten in trouble for talking about your faith? What did you do about it? What did God tell you to do?

3. If the disciples were already bold in the spreading of their faith, why did they need to ask for more boldness? Do we need to ask for more boldness?

4. The scripture says that “great grace was on them all”. How did that grace manifest among them? Is there any connection between boldness in sharing and grace in caring?

Acts Chapter 5

Acts Chapter 5

Death of Ananias and Sapphira and the fear of lying to God

[Among those who sold land,] there was one named Ananias who, along with his wife, Sapphira, sold property they owned but kept back some of the profit, his wife also being aware of it. And Ananias brought a portion of the profit and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said to Ananias, “How did Satan fill your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and keep back part of the price of the land? Before you sold it, was it not yours? And after you sold it, wasn’t it your right to do whatever you wanted? Why did you decide in your heart to do this? You have lied to God, not men.”

Death of Ananias an Sapphira and the fear of lying to God

And hearing these words, Ananias fell down and gave up his spirit. And great fear came over all who heard about this. [People tend to not be fully honest and hold many things back. But this incident made it clear that God expected a much higher standard for followers of Jesus.] And the young men [from among the followers] got up, covered the body, carried him out and buried him.

After a space of about three hours, Ananias’ wife came in, not knowing what had happened to him. And Peter spoke to her, “Was it for this specific amount that you sold the land?” And she answered, “Yes, it was for that amount.” Then Peter said to her, “Why have you [and your husband] agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who buried your husband are at the door and they shall carry you as well.” 

10 Immediately, she fell at his feet and gave up her spirit. The young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her away and buried her with her husband. 11 And great fear came on the assembly of believers and all who heard about this story.

Apostles’ miracles and the growth of the church

12 And through the hands of the apostles, many miracles and amazing acts were performed among the people, and they [the followers of Jesus] were unified together in Solomon’s Porch [a covered area of the Temple open to the outside]13 Those who were outside their group did not dare to join them, even though the people looked at them favorably.  [The story of Ananias and Sapphira made people hesitant who had not fully decided to follow Jesus.]

Apostles' miracles and the growth of the church

14 [In spite of this fear,] more and more men and women became believers and were added to the [followers of the] Lord. 15 The movement became so great that people brought out the sick into the street and laid them on beds and couches, so that if Peter passed by, his shadow [the presence of the Lord that abided with him] might touch some of them [and they would be healed]16 There were also crowds that came from the cities around Jerusalem bringing those with sicknesses or bothered by unclean spirits, and all of them were healed.

Jailing of the apostles and their divine release

17 Then the high priest [Caiaphas] got up along with all those who were allied with him [the party of the Sadducees] and were filled with self-righteous anger. 18 They had the apostles arrested and thrown into the common jail. 19 But in the night the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison and brought them [the apostles] out and said, 20 “Go, stand in the Temple and speak to all the people the words of life.”

Jailing of the apostles and their divine release

21 When they heard [what the angel had said to them], it was early in the morning, and they entered the Temple and taught. But the high priest, with his allies, called together the council [Sanhedrin] and the other judges of the children of Israel [there were several levels of court system and Caiaphas wanted them all in on the decision], and sent to the prison to have the apostles brought.

22 But when the officers went and did not find the apostles in the jail, they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison locked and secure with the jailkeepers standing where they normally are, but when we opened the doors, we found no one inside.” 24 When the captain of the Temple guards and the chief priest heard this, they wondered what had happened and what would result from it. 25 Then someone came and told them, “The men you put in prison are standing in the Temple and teaching the people!”

Peter standing up to the council, Gamaliel’s good advice

26 Then the captain with his officers went and led them back without force, for they were afraid of the people, who might stone them [because the people were by this time totally impressed by Peter and John’s boldness]27 The officers brought the apostles before the council, and the high priest asked them, 28 “Didn’t we just command you not to teach in that name [of Jesus]? But look, you have filled all of Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to make us responsible for the blood of this man [Jesus].”

Peter standing up to the council, Gamaliel's good advice

29 Then Peter and the other apostles said, “We have to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus [from death]. He’s the one you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God has lifted him up to his own right hand, establishing him as commander and deliverer, so that [all of Israel] could start new and have their sins forgiven. 32 And we are the ones who are witnesses of all this – as is also the Holy Spirit whom God has given to all who [choose to] follow him.”

33 And when the council heard all this, they were enraged, and decided together to have the apostles killed [for blasphemy and outright disregard for their commands]34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law respected by the people, had the apostles taken outside the meeting for a while, 35 and he said to the council, “Men of Israel, think about it before you take action with these men. 36 For, in an earlier time, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred joined up with him, but he was killed, and all who trusted him were scattered and the movement was brought to nothing. 37 After this, Judas of Galilee [not the betrayer of Jesus] rose up in the days of the census tax, and drew many followers, but he also was destroyed, and all who followed him were scattered.

38 “And now, I say to you, have nothing further to do with these men and leave them alone. For if what they are teaching and doing originated with men, then it will amount to nothing, 39 but if it is from God, you can’t stop it, or you will be trying to fight with God. [In fact, all along they had been doing just that – fighting with God, but no one had pointed it out before.] The council agreed [with what Gamaliel advised]40 After they called the disciples and had them beaten, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus and then let them go.

41 And the apostles departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to be dishonored for [the sake of remaining faithful to] the name [of Jesus]42 And they never stopped teaching daily in the Temple and preaching Jesus the Anointed One to every household.

Discussion questions

Acts Chapter 5 discussion questions

1. Have you ever seen those who pretended to be more than they actually were, like Ananias and Sapphira? Have you ever “pretended” yourself to be more than you were? Why do you think the penalty that God brought to them was so great?

2. What do you think was causing many to become believers during this time? How can a church today become like the early church with such powerful results?

3. The Jewish leaders accused the apostles of “filling all Jerusalem with their teaching”. How did they manage to do that? How could your church do that in your city or area?

Acts Chapter 6

Assignment of leaders over the distribution of goods

In those days, as the number of disciples continued to increase, there was a complaint by the Greek-speaking [believers] against the Hebrews [native-born believers], that their widows were not included in the daily ministry [distribution of goods by the community of believers]Then the twelve [apostles, who were the leaders of the community of believers,] called the whole community of disciples to them and said, “It doesn’t make sense for us to abandon [studying and teaching] the word of God to serve tables [or to do the accounting of who should receive what]So, brothers, select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint to handle this business [of the distribution of goods to those in need]Meanwhile, we will dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”

Acts Chapter 6
Assignment of laders over the distribution of goods

What the apostles said pleased the whole congregation [of believers]. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nikanor, Timon, Parmenus, and Nikolas, who was a convert from Antioch. The congregation set those whom they had chosen before the apostles, and when the apostles had prayed, they laid their hands on these men [to impart the authority and power to accomplish their assignment]And the word of God increased [both in its effectiveness and how far and wide it was heard] and multiplied the number of disciples greatly in Jerusalem. And [even] a great number of the [Jewish] priests followed the faith [in Jesus].

Trumped up charges against Stephen

And Stephen[, the first of the seven whom the Apostles had appointed over the distribution for the widows], full of the gifting [of the Holy Spirit] and power, performed amazing acts and great miracles among the people. [Stephen had already shown the favor of God in his life, but when the Apostles imparted authority to him through the laying on of hands, this favor became all the greater.] And opposition rose against Stephen among those from the place known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen [followers of the Jewish faith that were part of a congregation formed by former slaves], including some from Cyrene [Libya], Alexandria [Egypt], Cilicia [southeast coastal Turkey close to Syria], and Asia [western Turkey including Ephesus], who were arguing with Stephen. 10 But they were not able to stand up to the wisdom and the Spirit by which Stephen spoke. [Ironically, Stephen was a predecessor to Paul as a brilliant proponent of Christianity who encountered opposition. Jews from the Diaspora, who had come to faith in various communities around the Mediterranean but many of whom now lived in Jerusalem, greatly valued their faith and did not take kindly to the challenge presented by believers in Jesus that purported to advance Jewish doctrine.]

Trumped up chages againt Stephen

11 Then they bribed some men to say, “We have heard him speak unholy words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people, and the elders, and the teachers of the Law, and then they came and caught him and brought him before the Council [Sanhedrin]13 They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking words against this holy place [the Temple] and the Law. 14 We have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and shall change the traditions that Moses gave us.” 15 And as the council stared at him, all of them saw his face take on the appearance of an angel.

Discussion questions

1. How important was the emphasis of the apostles on prayer and the teaching of God’s word? How much emphasis does your church place on prayer? Or on God’s word? How can you help?

Acts Chapter 6 discussion questions

2. Seven were appointed to handle administration, but Stephen and Philip began teaching and performing miracles, outshining even the apostles for a period. Did they overstep their assignment and authority? Or should we expect this kind of explosion of faith when we lay hands on people for an increase of authority and power?

3. What caused Stephen’s face to take on the appearance of an angel? If Stephen was so full of God, why did people oppose him and become so furious against him?

Acts Chapter 7

Stephen’s address to the Council

And then the high priest said to him, “Are the charges against you true?” And Stephen replied [by telling in great detail the history of Israel's interactions with God so he can show how his following of Jesus fits in with that history], “Men – brothers and fathers – hear me! The glorious God appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to Abraham, ‘Leave your home country and your family, and come to live in the land that I will show you.’ Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran, and then when his father had died, Abraham left again, and God had him move to the land where you now live. [Genesis 11:31-32 tells the story of Abraham moving from Ur (in modern southern Iraq near the mouth of the Euphrates River) to Haran (in modern northern Syria). Genesis 12:1-7 then continues the story of God speaking to Abraham and inspiring him to move to the Promised Land which was to become Israel.]

Acts Chapter 7
Stephen's address to th Council

“Yet God had given Abraham no right to this land by inheritance, not even to set his foot on it. Even so, God promised Abraham that he would give this land as a possession to him and his descendants after him, even though Abraham did not yet even have a child. [This story is told progressively in Genesis 12:7, Genesis 13:14-17, Genesis 15:18-21, Genesis 22:15-18.] And God told Abraham that his descendants would live in a strange land [Egypt], a country that would enslave them and treat them poorly for four hundred years. And the nation who enslaves them, “I shall judge”, God said, “and they [Abraham’s descendants] shall come forth and serve me in this very land [the Promised Land][All God spoke to Abraham about his future is told in Genesis 15:13-16.]

“And God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision [Genesis 17:9-14], and so he fathered Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day [Genesis 21:1-4].  And Isaac [fathered and circumcised] Jacob [Genesis 25], and Jacob [fathered and circumcised] the Twelve Patriarchs [his sons] [Genesis 29-30]And the patriarchs, because of jealousy, sold Joseph to Egypt [Genesis 37:19-28]. But God was with him, 10 and delivered him out of every one of his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made Joseph governor over Egypt and all Pharaoh’s possessions [Genesis 39-41]

11 “Now, a drought fell over all of Egypt and Canaan, and there was great suffering, and no one found provision, including our fathers [Genesis 41:54-57]12 And when Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers [his sons] first [before he would come himself] [Genesis 42]13 The second visit, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Pharaoh was introduced to Joseph’s family [Genesis 43, 45]14 Joseph sent a message to his father Jacob, inviting him to move there, him and all his family, 75 persons in all [Genesis 45:25-28]15 Jacob moved to Egypt [Genesis 46], and he and our fathers [his sons] died there [Exodus 1:1-6]16 And they were each carried to Shechem and laid in the burial place that Abraham had bought for a sum of money from [the clan of] Hamor in Shechem [Genesis 23].

17 “But as the time grew closer for the promise [to be fulfilled] that God had declared to Abraham, the people [his descendants] grew and increased in number. 18 By that time, another king rose up in Egypt, who did not know Joseph [or remember all he had done for Egypt][According to the Exodus story, the Egyptians were afraid the Jews would rise up and overthrow them or join their enemies.] 19 This king took advantage of our people and treated our fathers with evil, forcing them to abandon their own children so that they would not live. [Exodus 1 tells us the Jews were made slaves.  The Egyptian midwives were to kill male babies but would not. And then the Jews were forced to give up their sons who were to be cast into the Nile River.]

20 “During this time, Moses was born, and he was a very beautiful child. He was [hidden by his mother and] taken care of for three months in his own father’s house. 21 And when he was cast out [onto the river as was required], Pharaoh’s daughter drew him from the water and took care of him as her own. [Exodus 2:1-10 tells us the story of how Moses’ mother placed him in a basket on the river near where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing. The name Moses’ means “drawn up”. Moses’ mother then volunteered to serve as nurse to Moses and take care of him during his early years.]  

22 “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians [including the magical arts] and was powerful both in what he said and what he did. 23 And when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit all his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 He saw one of them treated unjustly, and trying to defend him, he avenged him by killing the Egyptian [who had harmed the Israelite]25 For he figured his brothers would have understand how God had positioned him to deliver them, but they didn’t understand. [He was in a unique position since he was descended from Israel’s line but was given the privileges of Egyptian royalty.] 26 And the following day, he showed up when two of the Israelites were having a fight, and wanted to reconcile them, so he said, 'Men, brothers, why are you treating each other unjustly?' 27 But the one who had wronged his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you our prince and judge? 28 Will you kill me too as you did the Egyptian yesterday?’. [This story is told in Exodus 2:11-14.] Then Moses ran away when he heard this [because he was afraid he would be punished as a murderer in Egypt], and he became a foreigner who lived in the land of Midian. There he fathered two sons. [Exodus 18:2-4] 

30 “Forty years later, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a fire burning in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. And as he drew near to see it, the voice of the Lord came, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses became terrified [because it was known that those who heard and saw God might die] and turned his face away. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take your shoes off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 Understand, I have seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard the expression of their pain, and I have come down to deliver them. Now come forward. I will send you to Egypt’ [Exodus 3:1-10].

35 “This was the same Moses whom they had rejected, saying, “Who made you a ruler and judge?”, whom God was now sending as ruler and judge, by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. 36 He did bring them out [from Egypt]. He showed supernatural signs in Egypt and in the Red Sea, and in the forty years in the wilderness. [The story of deliverance from Egypt is told in Exodus 4-14. The story of wandering in the wilderness is told in Numbers 33 and Deuteronomy 2-4.] 37 This same Moses [later] said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me out of your brothers’ [Deuteronomy 18:15]. 38 This is the same man who was with the people of Israel assembled together in the desert, and who spoke with the angel on Mount Sinai and received the living words of God to give for our fathers and for us [Exodus 19-24]. [Stephen is setting up the case that Jesus is the prophet that Moses referred to, and that the people turned away from his guidance just as they did for Moses. However, Stephen never gets to complete this comparison in his teaching.]

39 “But our Fathers would not obey him. They turned aside from him and turned back toward Egypt. 40 They said to Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who will lead us, for that man Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 41 During those days, they fabricated a calf, and offered sacrifice to the idol, and worshipped what they themselves had made [Exodus 32].

42 “God turned away from them and turned them over to worship the starry host, just as written in the Book of the Prophets [a scroll of all the lesser prophets] [Amos 5:25-27], ‘It wasn’t for me that you slaughtered and offered animal sacrifices during the forty years in the wilderness. 43 Yes, you carried the tabernacle of Moloch [a Canaanite God] and the star god Raiphan [an Egyptian God represented by a star], images that you crafted to worship them. [Because of your idolatry,] I will exile you beyond Babylon.’

44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, and God spoke to Moses, instructing and showing him exactly how to make it [Exodus 26]45 And the same tabernacle came with our fathers who followed Joshua in to possess the land of the non-Jews, who were driven out by the presence of our God [Joshua 3-4]. And the tabernacle remained there until the time of David.

46 “David won God’s favor and desired to find a [fit] dwelling place for the God of Jacob [2 Samuel 7]47 But it was Solomon [his son] who built God a dwelling place [1 Chronicles 22:6-10], 48 though the Most High God [is not restricted to] dwell in that which was made by human hands. As the prophet said [Isaiah 66:1-2], [quoting God,] 49 ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool. What kind of house could you build that could contain me?’, says the Lord. ‘Or where shall I rest? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

[It appears that Stephen is continuing to build the case that God over and over offered himself to the family of the Jews, but over and over the Jews resisted him and turned away. Even at this point in Stephen’s account, he has yet to describe the coming of Jesus, his miracles, and his death and resurrection, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit. It seems his narrative points in that direction. However, Stephen abruptly stops his history lesson here and directly confronts the Jewish leaders. Perhaps he senses their complete resistance to what he has already said and therefore he has accomplished his purpose – to clarify their sin and stand up against them for the sake of his devotion to God.]

Stephen’s accusation and murder

51 “You are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears [not dedicated to God on the inside]! You always resist the Holy Spirit - you are just like your fathers! 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? Have they not murdered all who came before to talk about the coming of the Righteous One? And you now have betrayed and murdered Him! 53 You are the ones who received God’s Law, which was handed down by angels, but you have not obeyed it!”

Stephen's accusation and murder

54 And when they heard all this, they were so enraged they began to grind their teeth. 55 But Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man is standing on the right hand of God! 57 And they cried out with a loud voice, stopped up their ears, and rushed upon him as one. 58 They forced him out of the city and stoned him. The [so-called] witnesses [who were supposed to testify against Stephen] laid down their garments[, which they removed so they could be freer to throw stones,] at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen. And he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Kneeling, he cried out with a loud voice, “Do not add this to their sins!” And when he said this, he fell asleep [died].

Discussion questions

1. Why did Stephen tell the story of Israel in response to the charges against him that he was teaching the people to abandon the Jewish traditions?

Acts Chapte 7 discussion questions

2. Do you find it interesting and helpful to hear a summary of God’s history and training of the Jewish people? Do you agree with Stephen that they are stiff-necked and always resistant to the truth? Why are some people ready to hear the good news and others so resistant?

3. Does it feel to you that Stephen deliberately provoked his accusers to kill him? Why would he do that? What was the value to God’s kingdom for Stephen to become a martyr?

Acts Chapter 8

Acts Chapte 8

Persecution and dispersion of believers

And Saul went along with Stephen’s death. At that time there was a great persecution against the assembly of believers in Jerusalem. They [left Jerusalem and] scattered throughout all the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the Apostles , who stayed in Jerusalem][Meanwhile,] faithful men came and carried Stephen [to his burial] and mourned over him loudly. But Saul brought great harm to the church, invading every house [of the believers], dragging out men and women, and turning them over to be put in prison. And those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word, telling the good news about Jesus.

Persecution and dispersion of believers

Philip in Samaria

[Like Steven, Philip was one of those who had recently been appointed to minister to the believers by managing the distribution of food. Perhaps this had been managed so well that those appointed did not need to remain in Jerusalem.] Philip went to the city [Sebaste, the main city of the province] of Samaria, preaching about the Anointed One to them. And the people listened with great interest to what Philip told them, as they all listened and saw the miracles he did. For many people had unclean spirits [demons] that came out of them with a loud cry, and many who were paralyzed, or lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.

Philip in Samaria

There was a man in that city named Simon who practiced magic there and had amazed the people of Samaria. He called himself “The Great One”, 10 and, from the least to the greatest, 11 everyone paid attention to him, saying this man is himself “the Great Power of God”, because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.

12 But when they believed Philip’s preaching about the kingdom of God and the [power of] the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed and, when he was baptized, he stayed with Philip, seeing and himself amazed at the signs and miracles which happened.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them [the Samaritans] that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of Jesus. 

Interaction between Peter and Simon the magician

17 Then they [Peter and John] laid their hands on them, and they [the Samaritans] received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that through the laying on of hands by the apostles the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power too, so that on whomever I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

Interaction between Peter and Simon the magician

20 But Peter said to him, “May your money be destroyed along with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased for a price. 21 You have no part or inheritance in this, for your heart is not right before God. 22 So turn away from your evil thoughts and ask God to forgive you for the thoughts of your heart, 23 for I see that you have been poisoned by bitterness and are in bondage to unrighteousness.” 24 Then Simon said [to Peter], “Pray for me to the Lord that none of what you have spoken would come upon me.” [Simon was smart to realize that he needed help.] 25 When they [Peter and John] had testified [of their own experiences] and preached the word of the Lord, on their way back to Jerusalem, they preached the good news in many of the Samaritan villages.

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 [Meanwhile,] the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and go south on the way from Jerusalem towards Gaza, through the wilderness.” 27 And Philip [obeyed these instructions and] got up and left, and he saw a man from Ethiopia, a high-ranking eunuch [or official], under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians. The man had charge of Candace’s treasury, and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 but was now on his way back home. He was sitting in his chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah. [The Ethiopians were likely descended from the Queen of Sheba who had visited Solomon. Candace (pronounced “kandakay”) was a royal title similar to “Caesar” or “Pharaoh”. The area they ruled was located in modern day Sudan, somewhat north of modern Ethiopia.]

Philip and the Ethiopian

29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and hang around the chariot.” 30 Philip ran up close, and heard the man reading [out loud] the prophet Isaiah, and said to him, “Do you understand [the meaning of] what you are reading?” 31 And the man said, “How can I unless someone provide me some guidance?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The place in the scripture that he was reading was this [Isaiah 53:7-8]: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb remaining silent when taken to the shearer, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated, and never received justice. No one can tell about his descendants, because his life on the earth is ended.” 34 The official asked Philip, “Please tell me, of whom is the prophet speaking? Himself, or someone else?” 35 Philip began to speak and, beginning with this scripture, taught him about Jesus [since the passage was describing Jesus’ atoning death though written 700 years in advance.] 36 And as they continued on their way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, water! Is there any reason I can’t be baptized?” [Some manuscripts add, 37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 So he commanded the chariot to stop. Both Philip and he went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

39 And when they had come up out of the water, the Spirit caught up Philip and took him away. The official no longer saw Philip but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip found himself in Azotus [Greek for Ashdod, a former Philistine city along the sea in Israel][The Holy Spirit had transported him physically some miles away.] And he preached to all the towns along the way to Caesarea.

Discussion questions

1. What do you think enabled Steven and Philip to be so effective in preaching about Jesus, and for Philip to heal and deliver so many?

Acts Chapter 8 discussion questions

2. What do you suppose is the difference between human magic Simon practiced and the God enabled giftings of Philip?

3. Why did Philip need for Peter and John to come to pray for the new believers to receive the Holy Spirit? Do you think that it should be normal for new believers to be prayed for to receive the gift of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

4. Do you think that Philip was unusually sensitive to hear the Holy Spirit, and quick to obey what he heard? In what ways did that contribute to the effectiveness of his ministry? Does it seem to you that he must have been physically and instantly moved from Gaza to Azotus? Do you imagine that Christians can have that same gift of instant transportation if they ask for it?

Acts Chapter 9

Saul’s campaign against Jesus’ followers

Meanwhile, Saul was still carrying out his threats to destroy the followers of the Lord. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who were of “The Way” [those who followed Jesus], whether men or women, he might take them prisoner and bring them to Jerusalem [for trial][Rome gave the Jewish Council authority over the Jews throughout the Roman Empire. Paul received delegated authority over Jewish believers. Damascus was the nearest large city to which believers were fleeing from the persecution that he himself was instigating. He was determined that those he felt were perverters of the truth would not get away with it.]

Acts Chapter 9
Saul's campaign against Jesus' followers

Saul’s encounter with Jesus

And as he traveled and came near Damascus, suddenly there was a light from heaven which enveloped him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”[Some manuscripts add, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” A goad was a stick with an iron protuberance used to prompt an ox to go in a desired direction. The Lord was telling Saul that he had been trying to get his attention, but Saul had resisted up to now.] 5 Saul replied, “But who are you, Lord?” [And he heard the response,] “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Arise, and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Saul's encounter with Jesus

The men who traveled with Saul stood speechless [with astonishment], as they heard the voice but saw no man. Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but he couldn’t see a thing. They took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He couldn’t see for three days, and he didn’t eat or drink. [Obviously, he was profoundly affected. He had put all his energy into the persecution of the church, and now a greater power had stopped him in his tracks.]

Saul’s healing and new life

10 And there was a follower [of Jesus] in Damascus named Ananias, 11 and the Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And Ananias responded, “I’m right here, Lord.” And the Lord told him, “Get up and go to the street called “Straight”, and at the house of Judas, ask for the one called Saul of Tarsus, for he is praying there. 12 And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hand on him so that he can receive his sight.”

Saul's healingand new life

13 Ananias replied, “I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to the saints in Jerusalem. 14 And now he has the authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go ahead [and obey what I have said], for he is a vessel chosen by me to carry my name before the non-Jewish peoples, and kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

17 And Ananias departed and [found and] entered the house [where Paul was staying on Straight Street], and laid his hands on him, saying, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you as you came on the road has sent me so that you can receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. And he got up and was baptized [presumably by Ananias]19 And when he received some food, he felt stronger. Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. [It is worth noting that even though Ananias feared Saul, he was completely obedient in ministering to him, laying hands on him to heal him, baptizing him, talking to him about God's plan for his future, and introducing him to church members. And Paul was also filled with the Holy Spirit, which the early church expected to happen along with baptism with water.]

20 And right away he began to teach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God. 21 But everyone that heard him was amazed, saying, “Isn’t he the one who brought destruction in Jerusalem to all who called on the name of Jesus, and came here with the same intention, to capture them [the followers of Jesus] and take them to the high priest?” 22 But Saul became even stronger [in his preaching], and totally perplexed the Jews of Damascus by his proofs that Jesus was the Anointed One. 

23 After many days of this, the Jews made plans to kill Saul. 24 But Saul was told of their plot. They watched the city gates day and night, so they could kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him and let him down over the city wall in a basket. 

Saul’s introduction to the church in Jerusalem

26 But when Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join up with the followers [of Jesus], but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was [truly] a follower. 27 But Barnabus took him and brought him to the apostles and told them the story of how he had seen the Lord on the road [to Damascus] and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And so Saul was with them [the apostles and the Jerusalem company of disciples] and freely went in and out and spoke boldly wherever he went in the name of the Lord.

Saul's introduction to the church in Jerusalem

29 He also repeatedly talked and argued with the Hellenists [Jews from Greek-speaking nations], but they planned to kill him. 30 But when the brother [believers] found out about it, they brought him to Caesarea [on the coast of Israel] and shipped him off to Tarsus [Saul’s home city in Turkey]

31 For that time, gatherings of believers throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, had a time of peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they greatly increased. [This means that already there were pockets of believers throughout all Israel. Once Saul had been converted to their side, for a period, no one was attacking them. Even so, they did not take their freedom for granted and remained close to the Lord, who enabled them to grow.]

Peter’s healing of Aeneas and Tabitha

32 During this time, Peter traveled around [the assemblies of believers], including visiting the believers who lived in Lydda [not far from Joppa on the coast of Israel]33 And there he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Anointed One heals you. Get up and make your bed.” And right away he got up [well]35 And everyone who saw him at Lydda and Saron turned to the Lord.

Peter's healing of Aeneas and Tabitha

36 In Joppa, there was a follower of Jesus called Tabitha [“gazelle” in Aramaic], which translates to Dorcas [in Greek]. This woman spent all her time doing good works and helping the poor. 37 Around that time, she happened to get sick and die, and they washed the body and laid it in an upstairs room [a common practice in Israel for those who have just died]38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, and the local followers of Jesus had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, asking for him that he would remain in the area and come to them.

39 Then Peter got up and came with them. When Peter arrived, they brought him to the upper room [where Dorcas’ body was laid], and all the widows stood around him and showed him all the shirts and other clothes which Dorcas had made. 40 But Peter had them all leave and knelt and prayed. And turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, rise up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. And when he had called the believers and widows, he presented her alive to them. 42And this became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

Discussion questions

1. Saul, the most effective enemy of the good news, became its most devoted and effective preacher. What do you think enabled such a turnaround? When we run into enemies of the good news, what should we do?

Acts Chapter 9 discussion questions

2. Why were the Jews so angry with Saul that they kept trying to kill him? Do you think Saul was afraid? Are you afraid to evangelize because it might make people angry at you?

3. In what ways does Peter remind you of Jesus in his healing and raising of Aeneas and Tabitha? If Peter could imitate Jesus and be successful, imagine yourself in the same situations. What would it take for you to be successful too?

Acts Chapter 10

Acts Chapter 10

Cornelius’ and Peter’s visions

Peter stayed many days in Joppa at the home of Simon, who was a tanner of animal skins. There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion who led Roman soldiers called the Italian Squad. 2 He was a man of faith. He and his whole family worshipped God and gave much to the poor, and he frequently prayed to God. 

Cornelius' and Peter's visons

It was about the ninth hour [three o’clock in the afternoon] when Cornelius had a vision in which he saw an angel come to him and say, “Cornelius!” And Cornelius stared at him with fear and said, “What is it, sir?” And the angel replied to him, “Your prayers and charity have been recognized by God. Now, send men to Joppa to call for Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner who lives by the sea.” And when the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a soldier who was one of his personal attendants and faithful to God. After telling them all that had occurred, he sent them to Joppa.

While they were on their journey and approached the city, Peter went up to the housetop to pray about the sixth hour (noon)10 He became very hungry and would have eaten, but while they [his hosts] prepared a meal, he experienced a vision. 11 [In his vision,] the sky opened and something that looked like a large sheet was lowered by its four corners to the ground, 12 and it contained all kinds of four-legged animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice spoke to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat.” 14 But Peter replied, “No, Lord, I have never eaten anything non-kosher or unclean [as defined by the Law or the rules added to the Law]!” 15 The voice spoke to him again, “What God has called clean, do not call unclean!” 16 This happened three times, and the sheet lifted into the sky. 

[What was God’s purpose in giving this vision? In order for the good news to be shared with non-Jews, and for there to be unity, meaning no distinction between Jew and non-Jew among believers (Galatians 3:28), God had to remove the restriction of dietary laws, or else Jewish and non-Jewish believers would be hampered in fellowship. When Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17) by paying the complete penalty for all mankind in his own death, he himself was replacing the Law as the guardian for believers (Romans 3:21-25). From now on, it would be belief in Jesus, walking according to the Spirit, and following the law of love that would replace the written Law (Romans 8:1-4), as the guiding light. All of these changes were signs that the New Covenant (through Jesus’ blood shed for us) was different from and brought a greater freedom than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7,13).]

17 While Peter was uncertain about what the vision meant, the men sent by Cornelius had found the house of Simon [the Tanner], and stood before its gate, 18 where they called out and asked if there was a man named Simon Peter staying there.  19 At the same time, Peter was thinking about his vision, but the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men are looking for you, 20 so rise up and go downstairs, and go with them without bias against them, for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. Why have you come?” 22 And they told him, “[Our master,] Cornelius the centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man, who is of good reputation among the Jewish people, received a revelation from God through a holy angel to call you to come to his house so he could hear your words.” 23 Peter invited the men in and had them spend the night there. [If Peter had not had the vision, then he would not have been able to invite the non-Jewish servants and soldiers of Cornelius to stay in Simon the Tanner’s house nor would he have traveled with them and stayed with Cornelius.]

The next day, Peter went away with them, along with some of the brother believers from Joppa who accompanied him. 24 And on the following day, they arrived in Caesarea, where Cornelius waited for them, having called together his family and closest friends. [Cornelius completely trusted that he had heard accurately from the Lord and that Peter would come, though they had never met.] 25 And as Peter came into his home and was introduced to Cornelius, Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet to give him reverence. 

Peter’s witness to the non-Jews

26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Rise up, for I am [only] a man [and not worthy of reverence].” 27 And as Peter was talking with Cornelius, he entered the house, and found many more gathered there. 28 And he said to them, “[I’m sure] you realize that it’s not lawful [according to our scriptures] for a Jewish man to associate or enter the house of a non-Jew, but God has revealed to me that I must not call any man unclean or defiling. [Peter is now understanding the vision he had on the rooftop at Simon the tanner’s house in Joppa.] 29 That’s why I came without hesitation as soon as you sent for me. So now, I ask you, why did you want me to come?”

Peter's witness to the none-Jews

30 Cornelius said, “This is now beginning the fourth day from when I was in my house praying around the ninth hour [three o’clock in the afternoon], and a man stood in front of me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayers and your charity have been recognized by God. 32 Therefore, send to Joppa, and ask for Simon Peter to come, who is staying in the house of Simon the Tanner, who lives near the sea.’ 33 Right away, I sent for you, and you are good to have come! Now, we are all gathered here before God to hear whatever God tells you to share.”

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and began to speak, “I can see it’s true that God has no favorites, 35 but every people group that is reverent towards God and does what is right is accepted by God. 36 I bring you the word he sent and proclaimed to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace in Jesus the Anointed One, who is Lord of all. 37 That word has spread through all Judea, but it began in Galilee after John preached [the necessity of repentance and] baptism. 38 [It’s all about] how Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by the Holy Spirit and with power and went all around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39 ”And we are witnesses of everything he did in the Jewish nation and in Jerusalem, where they executed him by hanging him on a tree. 40 But God raised him [from the dead] on the third day and revealed him, 41 not to everyone, but to the witnesses God chose, including us, who ate and drank with him after he raised from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and share our testimony that it was he that was chosen by God to be the judge of those living and dead [at the time of final judgment and resurrection]. 43 All the prophets spoke about him [in advance] that whoever would believe in him would receive forgiveness of their sins through his name.” [Many of the prophecies of the Anointed One tell us that he would be a suffering servant but Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 33:15-16, and Daniel 9:26 in particular speak of his removing our sins.]

Holy Spirit falls on the non-Jews

44 While Peter spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to what he said. 45 The Jewish believers who came with Peter from Joppa were amazed when they saw that the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the non-Jews. 46 For they heard them speak with [Spirit-given] languages and praise God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone forbid these people from being baptized with water, since they have already received the Holy Spirit, just as we did?” 48 And he instructed that they should be baptized in the name of Jesus the Anointed One. Then the newly baptized prevailed on Peter to stay with them for a while.

Discussion questions

1. Has God ever sent someone to you in response to your prayers? Have you ever had God speak to you through an angel?

Holy Spirit falls on the non-Jews
Acts Chapter 10 discussion questions

2. Have you ever been, like Peter, among people with different customs and foods? How did that affect what you were willing to eat and do when you were with them? What was the effect of Peter’s vision on his actions?

3. Do people have to be baptized before they are baptized in the Holy Spirit? Why do you think that God spontaneously poured himself out on the non-Jews?

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