Acts of the Apostles: Learn How the First Church Spread to the World
The Acts of the Apostles is the continuing story of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus leaves his disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit so that they can carry on the work of the Kingdom for him. Read and observe as this first generation of Jesus’ followers wrestle with how to present his message across cultural boundaries.
This study was originally written in the spring of 2005 for a network of house churches called Hart Haus. Each week the members of the community would commit to spend 5 days studying the designated passage of scripture and then share what they learned with the group when they gathered in the various homes on Sunday.
Originally, this was designed to be a 12-week study, with 60 daily lessons. You may choose to follow the fast-paced, 12-week study, or you may choose to slow down and spread it out over a longer period of time. To facilitate a more flexible format, this version is structured around Sessions, and Lessons rather than Weeks and Days. Feel free to use whatever method fits best with your group’s needs.
This PDF is 164 pages of full-color illustrations, daily readings, study questions, and commentary. It also contains a “Just for Kids” section to help you engage children in the study.
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King Jr. The mere mention of these names springs to life a flood of stories, emotions, and meaning. Why? Because these people are founders, they are the heroes of a particular group of people.
Every society has heroes, and those heroes have the stories that made them so. One of the key components that is necessary for any society to maintain cohesion and sustain viability over the turbulent experience of history is to share a common story that embodies the values that lie at the root of that society.
In this study we will be exploring the stories and the heroes that form the foundational, root structure, for this society called the church. Its founder was Jesus Christ. He began with a small group of disciples, taught them for three years, demonstrated his power and glory to them, allowed himself to be executed at the hands of his enemies, and then miraculously rose from the dead. He said that he was bringing the Kingdom of God to the world and he commissioned his disciples to be the vehicle through which that mission would be accomplished.
This is their story. As we study it two things will happen for us.
- We will be informed about their lives. We must first be educated and filled with the knowledge about the stories before we can do anything with them.
- We will be inspired to carry on the torch that they so courageously began 2,000 years ago. We will discover that the book of Acts is actually the Never-ending story and that we are characters in this epic as well.
There are four basic sections to Acts
- Peter in Jerusalem (ch. 1-7)
- The Disciples in Judea and Samaria (ch. 8-12)
- Paul the Missionary to the Ends of the Earth (ch. 12-20)
- Paul the Prisoner (ch. 21-28)
It is important to note that Luke is the author of Acts. It is also important to note that Acts is actually part 2 of Luke’s gospel. it may be helpful to go back and read through the Gospel of Luke straight through before you launch into Acts.
Although Luke was not an apostle or an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, he is one of the best people to have written these stories. If you pay close attention to Acts, you’ll notice that about half way through the story the voice changes to the first person. Luke was a traveling companion of the apostle Paul. Many of the stories in Acts were written because Luke experienced them himself.
While Paul was in prison for two years in Caesarea, it is most likely that Luke spent time in Jerusalem, investigating the life of Jesus and the early days of the church in Jerusalem — interviewing Mary, Peter, John, the Sanhedrin, etc. — in order to write his two-volume history.
Throughout this study we will be using the image above as the overarching analogy for the study. The Kingdom of God is like a tree. It begins with a single seed which was planted by Jesus. It is empowered by the sunlight of God’s Truth and the water of the Holy Spirit.
The story of Acts Chronicles the growth cycle of the church in its first 20-30 years of life.
- Peter is the star of the first section as the roots are established in Jerusalem and the trunk grows up strong.
- God prunes the tree through persecution and forces it to begin growing branches and spreading out to the world. The first phase of expansion came to Judea and Samaria through the ministry of Peter and Philip.
- After the Jerusalem council clarified the fact that God was indeed reaching out to the Gentile world with the Kingdom, the apostle Paul moves into the forefront and dominates the rest of the story. Through three journeys he plants churches across Asia and Greece.
- The final section of the story demonstrates how God can even use adversity to proclaim his Kingdom as we watch Paul be carried to Rome as a prisoner.
Two Sermons from the Narrative Lectionary
Watch the Bible Project videos on Acts