The Book of Acts

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The Book of Acts

This is a five-week course taught by Dr. Mark Yarbrough. The book of Acts will introduce you to the history of the early church in the first century, Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and about some of the persecution the church faces as Christianity spreads.

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The Witness in Jerusalem - Acts 1–7 Part 1

This week we will get an overview of the book and talk briefly about the first seven chapters. A special guest joins Dr. Yarbrough at the end of this week’s lesson. Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at DTS, wrote a commentary on Acts as part of the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.

Lesson Points

Acts is a continuation of the story Luke began in his Gospel.
In Acts 1:8, you find the person, power, program, and plan for the entire book.
The disciples are anxious for the kingdom of God; however, Jesus gives them a task instead of a timeline.
At Pentecost, Peter explains that Jesus left so He could send the Holy Spirit.
The evangelistic sermons of Acts don’t focus on the “how” of becoming saved, but the “Who” that saves us.

Worship Moment

In his introduction to the book, Dr. Yarbrough tells us that 25 percent of Acts is speeches. People who have just experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are explaining God’s redemptive story and inviting others to believe in Christ. How blessed we are to be able to read and study these accounts of God’s faithfulness!

Discussion Questions

Dr. Yarbrough notes that the eyewitnesses of Luke 1 become the witnesses of Acts 1. All of us who have had an encounter with Christ are compelled to share Him with others. How do you share Christ with those around you?
How is Christianity an extension of Judaism? Why is it important to see the continuity between what appears to be separate religions?
Darrell Bock talks about the faithfulness and integrity of the early church that made their community attractive. What is it about the church today that makes us attractive to those outside? Or, if you don’t think the church is attractive today, what do you think we’re lacking?

Further Study

Acts 1–4 (recommended)
Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Insights on Acts by Charles R. Swindoll pg. 3-94 (recommended)
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The Witness Begins - Acts 1–7 Part 2

This week we dig deeper into the first section of the book, where all the action is still taking place in Jerusalem.

Lesson Points

Peter explains that Israel can know that Jesus is the Messiah because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible uses many terms to describe conversion—repent, turn, believe, faith—because conversion is such a deep concept.
The prophecy of Joel 2 is fulfilled in two parts.
The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost provides the initial fulfillment.
The future fulfillment is the Second Coming, when Christ will return in judgment.
The judgment of Ananias and Sapphira shows us that we are accountable for our actions even after we join the community of believers.
The stoning of Stephen is a major event in the Book of Acts.
It shows the heightening of persecution.
It leads to the scattering of the church, which causes the gospel to spread beyond Jerusalem.

Worship Moment

Early in the Book of Acts, Peter explains how so much of what has happened recently is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Moses told the people God would raise up a prophet like Moses himself. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would suffer. David wrote of the Messiah’s resurrection. Joel said the Holy Spirit would be poured out. It’s so striking to see all these examples of God keeping His promises! Praise God for His work to redeem us. Praise Him that He is trustworthy to finish the work!

Discussion Questions

Many modern Jews would argue that Jesus can’t be the Messiah because He didn’t do all the things the Messiah is supposed to do. For one, there is no universal peace under Christ’s just rule. How would you respond to this criticism?
Stephen is able to call out people’s sin but still invite them to accept the gospel. Why is it problematic to teach truth without loving well? Why is it problematic to love well without teaching truth?
Bock explains, “forgiveness of sins sets the foundation for the gospel, but the real gospel is the life you can have in God as a result of the forgiveness of sins.” Why is this an important point?

Further Study

Acts 5–7 (recommended)
Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Insights on Acts by Charles R. Swindoll pg. 95-135 (recommended)
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The Witness Expands - Acts 8–16

This week we will see the gospel spread to Judea and Samaria and even begin its path to the ends of the earth.

Lesson Points

The stoning of Stephen begins a great persecution that pushes the gospel out of Jerusalem and into all of Judea and Samaria.
When he hears Jesus speak, Paul immediately believes that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The Spirit who indwells believing Jews is the same Spirit who indwells believing Gentiles.
Paul and Barnabas go on missionary journeys in obedience to God’s command to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles.
The Jerusalem Council has to decide what to do with the new group—Gentile believers.
The Council determines that the Gentile believers are not required to obey the Mosaic Law.
The Council does require the Gentile believers to turn completely from their old idolatrous lifestyles.
Christianity seems new, but it’s actually the faithful continuation of something God started with Abraham.

Worship Moment

Praise God that He has made salvation available to all who believe, both Jew and Gentile. As Peter explained to Cornelius and his friends, everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means you believe He is the Son of God who died on a cross as a sacrifice for sin. May all who take this course believe and receive such forgiveness!

Discussion Questions

How does Jerusalem’s rejection of Christianity lead to the spread of Christianity?
Bock explains that Peter’s vision in Acts 10, where he’s commanded to eat unclean foods, is to prepare him to visit Cornelius, a Gentile. How could Jewish dietary restrictions hinder Peter’s fellowship with Cornelius?
In Acts 15, some of the believers assert that the Gentile Christians must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. Peter rejects this idea because salvation is by grace. How would a circumcision requirement undermine salvation by grace?

Further Study

Acts 8–16 (recommended)
Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Insights on Acts by Charles R. Swindoll pg. 136-332 (recommended)
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Paul and Cross-Cultural Outreach - Acts 17

This week we’ll glean some lessons about cross-cultural ministry from Paul’s sermon to the people of Athens. Our special guest for these videos is Dr. Victor Anderson, Department Chair and Professor of Pastoral Ministries at DTS.

Lesson Points

Much of our communication is cross-cultural, even when we’re talking to people in our same country who speak our same language.
Cross-cultural ministry helps us understand the needs of people who are different from us.
Paul tolerates the idolatry in Athens so that he may preach Jesus to Athenians.
Cultural engagement involves bringing people with different sets of values to the same biblical truths.

Worship Moment

Like Paul in Athens, we often find ourselves distressed over the sin around us. Praise God that He has saved us from the sinful lifestyles we would surely have chosen apart from Him. Praise Him that His saving grace is available even to the vilest of offenders.

Discussion Questions

How good are you at handling life’s interruptions? Do you see people with needs as a bother or as an opportunity for ministry?
Why do you think it’s hard for some people to minister in a rapidly changing culture? Do you ever find yourself wanting someone to clean up their behavior yet forgetting that he or she must receive new life in Christ before transformation can occur?
As you think about the nonbelievers in your circle, have you listened to them enough to know what they value? How could you connect with them and introduce them to the gospel?

Further Study

Acts 17 (recommended)
Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Insights on Acts by Charles R. Swindoll pg. 333-351 (recommended)
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Paul’s Move to Rome - Acts 18–28

This week we This week we’ll cover Paul’s third missionary journey and final imprisonment. Our special guest is Dr. Vladimir Pikman, Founder and Executive Director of Beit Sar Shalom in Germany and visiting professor in the World Missions and Intercultural Studies Department at DTS.cover worldliness, patience, and prayer.

Lesson Points

Paul continues to preach and endure persecution in various Asian and European towns.
Paul succeeds in taking the gospel to Rome.
Paul never gives up being Jewish. Even at the end of his life, he explains that he’s never acted against the Jewish people or the ancient customs.
Messianic Jews have been freed from the burden of the Law, but some choose to follow the practices prescribed by the Law.

Worship Moment

What a journey! From a room full of people in Jerusalem, we’ve seen the gospel travel all the way to Rome, some 1,400 miles away. Christian tradition tells us that other apostles made it as far as Russia, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and India! Today there are millions of Christians all over the world from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Praise God that His followers have been Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth! May everyone on this planet have the opportunity to respond to the good news of salvation available through Christ Jesus.

Discussion Questions

What are some reasons a Messianic Jew might have for following the restrictions and customs prescribed by the Law? Does obeying the Law mean they are trying to earn their salvation?
What customs do you follow as expressions of your faith? Daily Bible reading? Midweek Bible study? Refraining from particular practices like drinking alcohol or listening to certain types of music?
What is one thing you learned from our study of Acts that you didn’t know before?

Further Study

Acts 18–28 (recommended)
Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary: Insights on Acts by Charles R. Swindoll pg. 352-522(recommended)
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