Session 1 : Introduction and Acts Chapter 1 vs 1 – 11
Jesus’ words raise questions in their minds:
When will the Kingdom be restored to Israel?
His ascension in glory raises the unspoken question – what are we supposed to do now?
Session 2 : Acts Chapter 1:12-2:42 – The Spirit comes with power
Ten days of united prayer.
One outcome of this was the decision to choose a replacement for Judas. Why did they do this? Some people argue that it was a mistake – they should have waited for Paul!
Was it just restlessness, filling in time?
Session 3 : Acts 2:43-4:30 – The power of the Name of Jesus (Part 1)
The central theme of these chapters is The Name of Jesus. In that Name Peter called down the power of God to heal a lame man… He declared that Name to be the one and only pathway to salvation… On the basis of that Name called the religious authorities to account because of their unbelief…
Session 4 : Acts 2:43-4:30 – The power of the Name of Jesus (Part 2)
Of course not everyone was pleased. Some had a vested interest in preserving the status quo and in maintaining their place within it. They were the same people who had judged that “it would be expedient for one man to die for the nation” and preferred this expediency to the issue of truth…
Session 5 : Acts 4:32 – 5:42 – Corrupt Christians, Courageous witnesses
Persecution fails to damage the church, but in this chapter we see a new danger, arising within the community itself. The disciples expressed community life by sharing material things. At the end of Chapter 4 we were introduced to Barnabas, a man of generosity and transparent honesty who participated in this good and generous practice. He serves as a contrast to those who introduced the poison of deceit and hypocrisy.
Session 6 : Acts 6 – Problems of growth, Recognizing anointed leadership
This story raises an important issue- “how we behave when we think that no-one is looking? Do we really live our lives before the face of God, or are we only concerned about avoiding the disapproval of other people?” Before they could sin against the community, they first had to conspire together against God…
Session 7 : Acts 7 – Stephen’s defence and martyrdom
Stephen was the first disciple to stand on trial for his life, and to face the same charges that Jesus faced. All of the charges were related to what Stephen said rather than to what he did. They chose to ignore the miracles as signs pointing to Jesus, and focus on how he cut across issues to do with interpretation of religious belief.
Session 8 : Acts 8: 1-25 – Persecution and powerful preaching
Stephen’s death triggered the greatest persecution so far. Stephen’s death seemed to legitimise the fierce persecution of other disciples; in this way the purposes of God were fulfilled. Up to this point the church had been largely confined to the area of Jerusalem. Now they were scattered and went everywhere preaching the word.
Session 9 : Acts 8: 26 – 40 – The Gospel spreads to Africa
Samaria is a long way from Ethiopia and was far from Philip’s thoughts. The Holy Spirit called him to leave a highly successful situation where many people were receiving Jesus. It didn’t make any sense but demonstrates the importance of hearing God and responding with prompt obedience. If he hadn’t left at once he would have missed his appointment, and wondered what it had all been about.
Session 10 : Acts 9: 1-9 – Saul the persecutor is converted
Saul was just as passionate about his mission as Philip had been about his. The effect of the persecution in Jerusalem had been like pouring petrol on a fire, and Paul was determined to extinguish that fire before it got completely out of, control. He set out on a mission to destroy the church, with the authority of the same leaders who had condemned Stephen to death.
Session 11 : Acts:9 10-31 – Apostle to the World
Ananias had a problem. God’s instruction was in complete contradiction to his own information and opinion. He has heard about Saul the persecutor and was probably anticipating his arrival with some trepidation. Now Ananias is instructed to go and visit him to and lay his hands upon him so that his sight will be restored…
Session 12 : Acts 9: 32-43 -Two miracles with special significance
These two miracles prepare us for the critical events in which the door is opened for the Gentiles to come into the church. Peter is at this stage the unquestioned leader of the Apostles in Jerusalem, having been prominent in the events that have taken place since the ascension of Jesus. If anyone has the credibility to promote the inclusion of gentiles, surely it would be Peter?..
Session 13 : Acts Chapters 10:1 – 37 – Jewish Apostle meets Gentile Centurion
The events recorded in Chapters 10 and 11 are like a drama, with a prologue and four scenes. The main actors, Cornelius and Peter, are introduced where they are residing, miles apart, in Caesarea and Joppa. Once again there is the mysterious interaction between God’s sovereignty and human choice…
Session 14 : Acts Chapter 10:38 – 11:26 – God declares Gentile believers clean!
Peter and Cornelius treated each other with great respect, and Peter was now asked to fulfil Cornelius’ vision and communicate what the Lord has commanded him to tell them. Peter does not have a catch-all sermon to use on all occasions…
Session 15 : Acts Chapter 11:27 – 13:12 – God delivers and directs
Barnabas and Saul spent a year teaching the young believers in Antioch. Now we are introduced to another group of people who, like the apostles and teachers, are gifts to the church…
Session 16 : Acts Chapter 13:13 – 14:24 – Proclamation and Persecution in Asia
The next stage demonstrates that the journey itself was not carefully pre-planned. It depended on the circumstances they encountered, and on the leading of the Holy Spirit. John Mark, their assistant, returned home, possibly deterred by the unknown terrain. Later this led to a serious disagreement between Paul and Barnabas about taking Mark again…
Session 17 : Acts Chapter 15:1-16:5 – Gentiles do not need to become Jews
It is probably no accident that this section is close to the centre of the Acts of the Apostles. It involved a ruling about the very nature of salvation and would determine the whole future of the church…