This is the second of six divisions in the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit having come upon the disciples in Jerusalem results in the persecution of the newly born church. The persecution scatters the church from Jerusalem to Samaria. Now the Jewish Church that began in Jerusalem is becoming mixed with Gentiles. As we saw in the first seven verses of chapter six, the spontaneous growth of the church brought challenges that were met by selecting spiritually qualified leaders.
Now we will continue to observe and discover the key principles that are applicable today.
Acts 6:8-15: Stephen was “full of grace and _______”, doing great wonders and signs among the people, not human wisdom.
Acts 7:1-53: Stephen used the Word of God to confront a “stiff-necked people” who “always resist the Holy Spirit”.
Acts 7:54-60: Stephen is “full of the Holy Spirit” as he faces death and sees the “glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. This is the reward of walking in the Spirit and being led by Him!
Acts 8:1-8: The stoning of Stephen fostered persecution and the church was further scattered. But those scattered ________ the word. Philip went out proclaiming Christ, working signs and wonders, so that “there was much joy in that city”.
You will notice that I am not providing the application to these “key principles”. That is where you must ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in making the application to yourself and the church in your culture. How exciting to know that He wants to help us cross the bridge from THEN to NOW!
As we continue the journey through Acts, we find more key principles that were very evident in the Early Church and are critically necessary in the church today. These “timeless, supracultural principles” can be used in any culture and do not need to conform to a “western” model, and they do not require money, education or buildings. They only need hearts yielded to the Holy Spirit and His powerful transforming work.
Let’s continue to list these principles in the rest of this section.
Acts 4:1-22: Opposition and persecution do not stop those filled with the Holy Spirit. They increase in powerful preaching and astonish those who oppose because they were “uneducated, common men… [but] they recognized they had been with Jesus” (4:13).
Acts 4:23-31: Opposition drives God’s people to prayer and they ask for more __________.
Acts 5:1-11: Discipline is exercised in the church through unity between God and the leadership. This resulted in: “great fear came upon the whole church and all who heard these things” (5:11).
Acts 5:12-16: “________ and __________ were regularly done among the people”
Acts 5:17-42: God makes sure that doors of opposition open to further the preaching of the gospel.
Acts 6:1-7: “The disciples were increasing in number” (6:1) and leader/servants are selected who are full of the _______ and __________. God’s Word continued to ___________!
This is what we want to see God doing in the church today! We must be willing to submit to the Holy Spirit and desire with all our hearts to do God’s work His way.
This is the first of six divisions in the book of Acts. In this first division, the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples at Pentecost giving birth to the church. This ignites a fire beginning in Jerusalem and spreading to Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This section involves primarily Jews.
Observation: As we have indicated before, it is important as you read through this section to note those activities, events and habits of the Early Church which we call “timeless, supracultural principles” that apply anywhere, and under any conditions. These principles apply to the church today. I will list some (not all) of these principles in this section. At times I will leave a blank expecting you to read the verses and fill in the missing key principle.
Acts 1:1-5: Jesus commands the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:6-11: “You will receive ________ when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses”.
Acts 2:1-13: All received the Holy Spirit and spoke under His control.
Acts 2:14-41: Peter preached boldly from the Scriptures which resulted in repentance, baptism, and three thousand souls being added to the church that day.
Acts 2:42-47: They devoted themselves to ______, _________, _______________, and prayer.
Acts 3:1-10: Physical healing results in praise and a witness to the name of Jesus.
Application: Which of these principles are part of your life and church? What changes do you or your church need to make to follow the way of the Apostles and the Spirit?
Tomorrow we will look at the remainder of this section. I trust your appetite is increasing for God’s Word so that you will read ahead and make your own observations.
For the purpose of our manual, we have divided the Book of Acts into six sections, each revealing the amazing work of the Spirit and the expansion of the church. Below are the sections of Acts and what God was doing, starting in Jerusalem. Keep in mind the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
Lesson 1 – Expanding Churches: Jerusalem – Acts 1:1 – 6:7
Lesson 2 – Expanding Churches: Judea and Samaria – Acts 6:8 – 9:31
Lesson 3 – Expanding Churches: Antioch – Acts 9:32 – 12:24
Lesson 4 – Expanding Churches: Asia Minor – Acts 12:25 – 6:5
Lesson 5 – Expanding Churches: Aegean Area – Acts 6:6 – 19:20
Lesson 6 – Expanding Churches: Roman Empire – Acts 19:21 – 28:31
The map below will help give a visual idea of this rapid expansion by area and approximate dates. Tomorrow we will look at the key principles of Lesson 1 and start comparing and applying them to the church today. I trust you will read Acts 1:1 to 6:7 ahead of tomorrow and jot down key principles that you observe where the driving force of the Early Church.
As we work through the Book of Acts, it is vital to discern God’s timeless and supra-cultural key principles that were used to plant and establish churches, starting in Jerusalem. Remember that in about 25 years, this divine movement reached Rome, and of those 25, only about 10 of them were the missionary trips of Paul. What an amazing movement of God!
It is important to recognize those principles that stay consistent throughout the Book of Acts. As we (you) identify these principles, you will need to compare how they impacted the Early Church with the church today. This helps discover the strengths and/or weaknesses of today’s church (or the church you and I fellowship in). The next vital step is asking the Holy Spirit, who is the author of these principles, to help us make changes that allow Him total and complete control of our lives and ministries. Only the Holy Spirit is the bridge between then and now!
With this objective in mind let us begin this incredible, exciting and challenging journey with the Holy Spirit working through us and the church.
The Holy Spirit Comes and God’s Plan for His Church Unfolds
We have learned that God has a plan to reveal His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in Heavenly places. God’s purpose and plan is to be accomplished through His Church by preaching the pure gospel and revealing the mystery of God’s wisdom. As this marvelous plan is fulfilled through His church, God will be glorified!
Now we embark on a journey like no other. We will take a close look at Luke’s historical account in Acts that focuses on the establishment and growth of the early church. The church was not only born, but in its birth God gave it a powerful force that literally turned their world upside down in ways nobody would have imagined or thought possible. Truly this will be an unforgettable journey, so hold on as we join the movement of the Holy Spirit through Acts.
In the following blogs, we will go through each chapter of the Book of Acts and discern God’s timeless and supra-cultural key principles necessary for establishing strong, biblical churches. It is important to recognize those principles that stay consistent throughout the book of Acts. You will compare and contrast the early church with today’s church so you can discover what strengths and weaknesses are in today’s church. In doing this, you will be able to see where changes need to be made and how to bring today’s church more in line with the Scriptures. Then you will be equipped to start a new work or to renew an existing work.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I will not cover every principle or compare and contrast the early church with today’s church. In order for you to gain from this series, it will be important to download a copy of the manual, God’s Plan for His Church, from the “Training Resources” page on this website or click on the link below. Then you can note for yourself changes that need to be made and how to make them.
If you have questions, please email us at email@example.com. Comments can be made on this blog page.
J. D. Payne wrote of Roland Allen; “I often hear of how Allen has influenced people’s thinking and actions regarding missions in the twenty-first century…even though Allen sleeps, he still speaks, but this time people are listening” (Payne 2012: 242-43).
We heartily agree that Roland Allen had a biblical view of missions that is critically needed in our day. Below is a quote from one of his books, Missionary Methods – St. Paul’s or Ours? 1962, page 48. If you have not read any of his books, go to our “Training Resources” page and download two of his best books on the subject of missions or click on the picture above.
“Every day we see how it is not the possession of great powers but rather the spirit in which any power is used which attracts, which moves, which converts…We have powers enough whereby to let the Spirit shine forth. We have powers sufficient to gather hearers, we have powers sufficient to demonstrate the Divine Presence of the Spirit of God with us; we have powers sufficient to assure inquirers of the superiority of Christianity to all heathen religions; we have powers sufficient to illustrate in action the character of our religion, its salvation and its love, if only we will use our power to reveal the Spirit!” (Italics mine).
Let us make sure we are living the revealed mystery, the pure gospel, in the power of the Spirit!
We have noticed that through God revealing the mystery that was hidden for ages, the preaching of salvation through Jesus Christ is proclaimed to all nations (“ethnos”). But there is more. Paul continues to expand our view by explaining how the church in God’s plan will disclose the wisdom of God. Notice how Paul says this:
“To bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:9–10).
I am sure you would agree with me that the world is in desperate need of seeing God’s wisdom lived out in our lives. The chaos and confusion that reigns in individuals and families, to governments and nations, is a proof that the world needs God’s kind of wisdom to right so many wrongs that prevail. While this world is not our home, God intends that the church exert a powerful influence through those who live the gospel here and now. But have you carefully considered the larger view that “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” also need to see His wisdom lived out through the church? “This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:11).
The next time you are alone, think about this truth and realize that you are being watched by these “rulers and authorities”. Are they seeing the wisdom of God lived out through your life? Many believe that we are not the church unless we are gathered in a church building. This limits the truth that we are baptized into the body of Christ and wherever we are, we are the church (1 Corinthians 12:13). It is time we let the Holy Spirit enlarge our spiritual vision, and then act on what He is teaching us.
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages” (Romans 16:25).
The last three verses of Romans 16 are a beautiful summary of Paul’s first six letters that establish and defend the gospel of grace. Once the Spirit came at Pentecost, this Gospel was preached to the Jew first, and then the Gentile in the power of the Holy Spirit. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). Notice in both references that “strength” and “power” are in the pure gospel of grace that Paul preached, because the mystery has been revealed. When this truth “enlightens” the eyes of our heart (Ephesians 1:18), there is no reason to be ashamed to preach this gospel anywhere, at any time or under any circumstances (Read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7). I am afraid that we too readily excuse ourselves from our responsibility to tell others the “Good News” and make “Disciples” because we look at our weakness rather than the power of God that “is able to strengthen you according to [Paul’s] gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ”! The Holy Spirit is wanting to ‘plug us in’ to His power supply so God can do His work through us in reaching the unreached – all nations.
There is absolutely nothing more wonderful and amazing than understanding that in the coming of Christ, God would proclaim the gospel to both the Jew and the Gentile. Before this highest of all moments in history, Israel was looked at as the “chosen people of God” which seemed to leave out all the other nations. “BUT NOW in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… and might reconcile us both [Jew and Gentile] to God in one body [the church] through the cross” (Ephesians 2:13, 16).
How fitting it is then that we who have been reconciled by this AMAZING GRACE should be consumed by preaching the message of Christ to every “ethnos” (nation). Let me repeat what Paul says, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise [to Abraham – Genesis 12:3] in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6). This is so profound that I feel totally embraced in its wonder!
Paul was so profoundly moved by this truth and grace of God that he says, “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.” (Ephesians 3:7). According to Matthew 28:19, we all have been given this same grace; to minister and proclaim this gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – the purpose of Pentecost.
May God’s grace also give each of us a passion to reach the “ethnos” who have never heard. Don’t worry about the “how”. The Holy Spirit will reveal that when our heart receives the “what” – the mystery of Christ – salvation offered to all freely, without price (money).
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