Acts
Establishment
of the Church


To Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, to the Ends of the Earth

Background: Luke continues his Gospel to cover the Acts of the Apostles (29-62 AD)
Theme: Establishment of the Church
Outline: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and Unto the Ends of the Earth
Key Verse: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV)

Preface

Lesson-1

Intro

Notes

Questions

1

2

3

4

5

Lesson-2

Intro

Notes

Questions

6

7

8

9

Lesson-3

Intro

Notes

Questions

10

11

12

13

Lesson-4

Intro

Notes

Questions

14

15

16

17

18

Lesson-5

Intro

Notes

Questions

19

20

21

22

23

Lesson-6

Intro

Notes

Questions

24

25

26

27

28

Bibliography

Preface

The following notes are divided into six sections for a survey course. Reading the Bible at this speed will take you through the entire Bible in three years.

These notes use and refer to the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol 2, New Testament). This commentary, and other resources in the Bibliography, give geographical, cultural, and language information that supplement the reading of the Scriptures.

A. Author - Not named in the book of Acts, but inferred to be Luke, the physican and companion of Paul. The early church also attributed the book to Luke.

B. Key Verse - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV)

C. Purposes -

  • Present a history of the beginnings of the church.
  • Provide a defense of the Gospel to Jew and Gentile (note the many trials).
  • Provide a guide for how Christians and Churches should act.
  • Depict the triumph of Christianity in spite of opposition.

D. Significance -

  • A bridge between the Gospels and Epistles. The Gospels give Jesus' life and the Epistles show an existing Gentile church.
  • Shows changes as a Jewish Sect becomes a World Religion.
  • Presents the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Shows early church organization and cooperation.

Week 1 - Ch 1:1-6:7 Introduction

The first week's reading covers the Introduction, Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, waiting for the Holy Spirit, the events on the day of Pentecost, the healing of a lame man leading to the arrest of Peter and John, sharing of goods, arrest of the twelve apostles, and the selection of seven deacons. Action centers on the ministry in Jerusalem and comprises about 3 years.

Week 1 - Ch 1:1-6:7 Notes

I. The Witness in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)

1:3 Mr. Toussaint (BKC) limits the phrase Kingdom of God to the coming millennium. I agree that the Kingdom of God will include that 1000 year reign, and be clearly seen at that time. But I do not limit the Kingdom only to that time, and see present aspects of that Kingdom which has been initiated in this age. Those aspects include the reign of Christ in the believer's life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This is not a minor point, for the question is, "What did Jesus talk about for 40 days after rising from the dead and before ascending to Heaven?" When we interpret the Kingdom of God only as the Millennial Kingdom for a restored Israel, then we are saying that Jesus taught primarily about that yet future time. If we interpret the Kingdom of God in a more general sense, then Jesus taught about how believers (Christians) are to live in obedience to God.

1:8 The end of the earth may refer to the farthest parts of the known world. We do know that Paul desired to go to Spain (and perhaps did), quite a bit further from Jerusalem than Rome. There is also evidence that Thomas traveled beyond Persia into modern India, the opposite direction of Paul. Today we apply this to the entire world, much of which was unknown to the disciples.

2:40 Mr. Toussaint in the BKC states, "They would be set apart to Christ and His Church if only they would be disassociated from Israel." This statement is misleading. The Jews would be saved if they put their faith in Jesus. They would be saved from the penalty of Israel's sin, Adam's sin, and their own sin. There does not appear to be a conscious separation from Israel at the time of this sermon. In later times, Jews who converted would be put out of the synagogues by other Jews, and this a struggle for Jews who become believers today. However, we see Paul throughout the book of Acts teaching in synagogues and finally being arrested at the Temple, not at all separating himself from the nation of Israel or the religion of the Jews.

Week 1 - Ch 1:1-6:7 Questions

  • Has Acts 1:8 been fulfilled? Which do you apply the verse to: (a) the Apostles, (b) the Early Church, (c) the Church of today, or (d) yourself as a Christian?
  • Have we as a church received P O W E R ? Do you ever notice it? Have you received POWER? Do you use it?
  • Compare the Peter before the Sanhedrin to the same Peter denying Jesus months earlier. What accounts for this change?
  • How did the early believers pray? What were the results? Does praying like that still work today? Do we pray like that?
  • Church divisions are not new! What can we learn about how the early church handled the ethnic division over widows?
  • What does Acts say about the deacons? Were ttey limited to 'serving widows'? How important was this appointment?

Week 2 - Ch 6:8 - 9:31 Introduction

This reading covers the spread of the Gospel to Samaria and through Judea. A simple division into three parts is Stephen, Philip, and Saul's Conversion. Stephen is framed and tried, and although God showed his favor of Stephen by changing his apprearance, he was stoned. The believers (other than the apostles) scattered away from Jerusalem and bearing witness. One example, Philip, a deacon in Jerusalem, is seen witnessing in Samaria and then to an Ethiopian official. Saul, who approved of the stoning of Stephen, persecutes followers of the Way, and is dramatically converted.

Week 2 - Ch 6:8 - 9:31 Notes

II. The Witness in all Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31)

"May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!" (Acts 8:20, NIV)

Philip preached in a city in Samaria, soon after the martyrdom of Stephen. A sorcerer named Simon saw the miracles which God performed through Philip, and made a profession of faith. Soon, the apostles Peter and John made a visit to the city, because they hear that Samaratans were believing in Jesus. When they arrived, they placed hands on the Samaratan believers, who then received the Holy Spirit. Apparently there was some visible or audible sound of this happening.

"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostle's hands, he offered them money, and said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit'". (Acts 8:18-19)

Why do we serve God? Simon was willing to believe and serve God only if he could be a famous leader, or a miracle worker. Perhaps Simon wanted to sell the Holy Spirit to people, or charge for performing other miracles. Do we serve God so that we may be noticed, or be important? Do we help people for the thanks that we might receive? I hope not. Pure motives are VERY important to God.

The result for Simon was that Peter pronounced a curse on him, "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!" (Acts 8:20, NIV). Friends, may we all serve God because of who He is, and not for our own fame or fortune.

We must also remember that we cannot earn God's love or His power to work in us. It is his gift, which we cannot buy with money, offerings, or our own work.

8:21-22 Perhaps Peter meant that Simon had no part or share in the ministry of administering the Holy Spirit and performing authenticating signs (rather than meaning that Simon was not a part of the Body of Christ). We should be cautious in cataloging sins we think believers may or may not be capable of. Other true believers may unpleasantly surprise us in their ability to sin on occasion, and to have mixed or selfish motives.

9:29 Paul continues the work of Stephen, witnessing to the Grecian or Hellenistic Jews. Paul had previously stood by and approved of the stoning of Stephen. Paul was himself a Hellenistid Jew, coming from Tarsus (was not born in Jerusalem).

Week 2 - Ch 6:8 - 9:31 Questions

  • Why was Stephen framed with false charges? What were the charges? How did he respond to them?
  • The stoning of Stephen appeared to be a defeat. How did the Lord use this for good? Were the results worth the sacrifice?
  • How do we handle 'persecution'?
  • Simon the Magician had 'believed', what got him 'off-track'? What is similar today? Does this relate to 'Cults' today?
  • Why would Jesus use the worst enemy of the church (Saul)? Is there anybody that you think is beyond being reached and used by the Lord?
  • Do you think believers were jealous of Paul? (For instance, the twelve?)

Week 3 - Ch 9:32 - 13 Introduction

This reading begins the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The samaritan and the Ethiopian were, to some extent, Jews or Jewish converts, but non-Jews will now believe.

It is easy to break this lesson into three main sections - Cornelius, Herod, and the sending of Paul and Barnabas.

CORNELIUS: Peter heals in Lydda and Joppa. Cornelius, a Roman soldier, is told by an angel to send for Peter in Joppa. Peter has a vision about unclean food three times, and is told to go with the men who come for him. He visits Cornelius, and breaks Jewish custom by going in his house. After Cornelius believes, Peter defends his own actions to his fellow believers.

(Barnabas verifies that the Grace of God is with gentile believers in Antioch, and brings Paul there.)

HEROD: Agrippa persecutes the church. He puts James (brother of John) to death and arrests Peter. Peter is delivered by an angel while the believers pray. They are surprised when Peter joins them. Herod is flattered in public, even called a god, and because he did not give glory to God he is struck with a disease of worms and dies.

PAUL AND BARNABAS are commissioned and sent on the first missionairy journey. They travel through Cyprus and Pisidian Antioch, where Paul's sermon in the synagogue is recorded. Being opposed, Paul preaches to the gentiles with many believing, but is expelled from the city.

Week 3 - Ch 9:32 - 13 Notes

III. The Witness to the Extremity of the Earth (9:32-28:31)

10:23 Peter is taking the step of sharing a meal with gentiles. This was a large cultural step, but shows that the Church is open to all people of all cultures (understanding that God may change parts of those cultures).

10:30-33 This would be a great attitude for every gathering where God's word is proclaimed.

11:18 "Soon thereafter the Jews opposed the church (BKC)." Admittedly the opposition increased. We cannot ignore the previous opposition that was characterized by the leaders flogging the Apostles, stoning Stephen, and sending Paul to arrest believers. Now the common people will also oppose Christians who fellowship with gentiles.

12:1 This Herod (Agrippa) was a grandson of Herod the Great (who killed the infants) and nephew to Herod Antipas (who beheaded John the Baptist and tried Jesus). Antipas was exiled, and Herod Agrippa now ruled Galilee, Judea, and Samaria.

12:13-17 "It suggests that ... an angel may look like the person ...(BKC)" Rhoda did not open the door or see Peter immediately. Apparently, they recognized Peter as really being Peter when they saw him, and were astonished by his presence. This verse therefore tells us nothing about a belief that an angel may look like the person he is caring for or representing, as the suggestion that it was Peter's angel was made before anyone saw him and was discounted upon recognizing him.

Incidentally, the idea that a specific 'guardian angel' is assigned to each believer is sometimes read into this verse. The reasoning is that since Peter had an angel, all believers have one. However, we must again recognize that the disciples were mistaken as to the identity, for it was actually Peter and not an angel at all. This is not to deny that angels may be sent to protect believers, but simply to say that a mistaken identification by believers trying to explain how Peter's voice could be heard when they believed Peter was in prison (or dead) should not be taken as authoritative teaching that Peter had an angel who sounded or looked like him!

13:9 The Saul/Paul name change did not take place at Saul's conversion, nor at the beginning of his ministry to Jews and Gentiles in Antioch. It takes place here, on his journey, and was perhaps an aid in reaching gentiles in the Roman world. It is possible that Paul uses either his Roman name (Paul) or Hebrew name (Saul) whenever appropriate, and that he had both names from birth or the Hebrew name from when he moved to Jerusalem to study.

Week 3 - Ch 9:32 - 13 Questions

  • In the vision, Peter is told to do something forbidden by the Law of Moses (eat an unclean animal). How do we explain this? Was the vision about food?
  • How did the vision relate to Peter being in the house of Cornelius?
  • Do you think a Christian might be led by God to enter an Un-Christian home or business place?
  • The guards were executed because Peter escaped. Was this fair?
  • Paul is brought to Antioch by Barnabas, and both of them are sent out by the church. In both cases, his potential was seen and put to use by other believers. Has anyone played the part of Barnabas in your life? How does someone do this?

Week 4 - Ch 14-18 Introduction

Paul and Barnabas continue to Iconium Lystra, and Derbe. In Lystra, Paul heals a man, which causes gentiles to call him Hermes and Barnabas, Zeus. They return to Antioch, having had much sucess amid opposition. Controversy over circumcision develops in Antioch, and the matter is settled by the first Church Council in Jerusalem.

Paul and Barnabas go separate ways after disputing over John Mark, Paul and Silas go on the second missionary journey. They bring along Timothy at Lystra. Paul receives a vision directing him to Macedonia, Lydia and others are converted in Philippi, and Paul and Silas sing in prision. After being set free, they travel to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens, where Paul preaches to philosophers. They continue to Corinth, where Paul stays for 1 years. Paul takes an oath.

Week 4 - Ch 14-18 Notes

14:15-18 What a twist! First they attempt to worship them, then stone them. Several observations are:

  1. We may be respected as Christians until we preach the cross. The pagans would honor them only on their own terms.
  2. The pagan priest of Zeus was not the one to prevent the gentiles from abandoning the pagan gods, but Jews!
  3. The pagans assumed that the chief god Zeus would not speak to them, therefore Paul is identified as the messenger god Hermes and the silent Barnabas as Zeus.

14:24-28 As further clarification, if Paul had written the letter to the Galatians after the Jerusalem Council, he probably would have mentioned the decision because it was relevant to the topic of that letter.

15:6-9 Christians may disagree, and some believers may hold wrong beliefs (out of ignorance or misunderstanding). If this was not so, no discussion would have been needed, but only a declaration by any of the Apostles. Often the use of logic and reasoning based upon the Scripture and the history of God's dealings play a large part in determining true doctrine.

15:11 My paraphrase: We (Jews) are saved by faith as they are. They (gentiles) are not saved as some might think we are, by circumcision and obedience to the law in addition to faith in Christ.

15:13-14 Significantly, James was the apparent head of the assembly and not Peter.

15:15-18 BKC 4 The vowels are not considered to be part of the original text, but later insertions to prevent misunderstanding. Today, Hebrew is commonly printed without vowels. The Septuagint is an early Greek translation, and it precedes our oldest Hebrew text. We do not know for sure what the original Hebrew was in this case, although our Masoretic Text is highly reliable.

15:19-21 BKC 3 The Noadic Covenant was with all of mankind. All men are descended from Noah and his sons, the only human survivors of the great flood.

16:1-3 A consideration here is that Timothy was not just a Christian, he was reckoned as a Jew because of his Jewish mother. His circumcision was certainly not for salvation, but to show his acceptance of his Jewish heritage. We must also remember that no one would know Timothy was uncircumcised unless he told them or he was asked. Total honesty was assumed by all parties.

16:31-32 I think that Paul meant the members of the jailer's household who were old enough to believe would be saved if they trusted in Christ. However, this verse is disputed, and mostly those who advocate infant baptism use this as evidence that the parent trusts for the infant or very young child. At best it is an argument from an inference, for we are told nothing of infant children in the jailer's family!

16:33 The baptism took place immediately, at night, and possibly in the jail. This is evidence that perhaps the baptism was not by immersion, but by pouring or sprinkling. This is not a clear argument, but an inference. Some Christian groups that practice believer's baptism accept other modes than immersion.

16:34 BKC 2 Perhaps they realized that Paul was a Roman citizen, entitled to a full hearing before any punishment could be administered. Such rights did not extend to non-citizens who were the bulk of the Empire's population.

Week 4 - Ch 14-18 Questions

  • Was Paul or Barnabas right about Mark? Is it ever right for believers to separate over a disagreement? When or why?
  • Why was Timothy circumcised? Would this be affected by the Council of Jerusalem?
  • Why did the jailer try to kill himself? How did the conversion and baptism take place (jailor AND his family)?
  • How was Roman citizenship of benefit to Paul? How is this similar to our citizenship in the United States?

Week 5 - Ch 19-23 Introduction

Paul goes to Ephesus, and baptizes in the Holy Spirit. Silver workers riot against the Way. Paul travels through Macedonia, raises Eutychus (who sleeps during Paul's lecture and falls to his death), and gives a farewell address to the Ephesian Elders. He travels to Jerusalem, although warned of captivity.

Paul teaches at the Temple and is arrested. Giving the testimony of his conversion to a crowd causes a riot. Paul divides the Sanhedrin by speaking of the resurrection. The leaders conspire to kill Paul, but the Roman Commander sends him to Caesarea.

Week 5 - Ch 19-23 Notes

20:7 This is an important verse to reference for the doctrine of Sunday worship. Various groups, such as the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses, insist upon Sabbath (Saturday) worship as a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Here, we clearly see the early Gentile church worship on Sunday, and we simply follow their example.

20:8-10 BKC 1 Soporific: A lowered oxygen level. Perhaps due to crowding and lamps, it tended to make people drowsey. Although they were falling asleep, they were anxious for more teaching as evidenced by the meeting continuing until dawn!

20:16-17 A layover at a port would be normal for the unloading and loading of cargo. The ships were primarily used for cargo, with passengers being an added income.

20:21 BKC 1 This is an excellent explanation of repentance and faith. As Mr. Toussaint states, repentance is turning from unbelief to faith or belief in Christ. The forsaking of sin is not primarily in view, but is a natural part of faith in Christ.

21:31-32 BKC 1 "At least 200 men". The rank of Centurion, 'leader of one hundred', does not mean that he always has 100 men with him! The 'at least 200 men' is a good approximation, but we really do not know if there were more or less than 200 men on such short notice, or that each centurion had a full complement of 100 troops. No one assumes that the Chiliarch, 'ruler of 1000', had 1000 men at his disposal (10 centurions as assistants).

21:31 The Centurion and Roman Government, although hated by the nationalistic Hebrews, did have a legitimate fuction as ordained by God. This does not mean that the Government is godly, or that the Centurion was a believer. But, the government has the duty to maintain peace and enforce justice (as the Centurion did here).

21:37 BKC 1 "surprised that Paul could speak Greek." Mr. Craig S. Keener in The Bible Background Commentary (New Testament)states, "The public administration of Syria-Palestine used Greek, which was also the first language of the Jerusalem aristocracy, and most Jewish people in Palestine knew at least some Greek. The "tribune" (NRSV) or "commander" assumes that Paul is a particular troublemaker (v. 38); most rabble-rousers he would know would have spoken Aramaic by choice. But most Egyptian business documents of this period were in Greek, which seems to have been the main language there; he thus should not be surprised that one he supposses to be an Egyptian speaks Greek. The point is not that Paul speaks Greek; it is that he speaks it without an accent, like someone educated and fluent in the language, which the tribune assumes the Egyptian Jew who had caused problems would not be."

Week 5 - Ch 19-23 Questions

  • Should we worship on the seventh or first day of the week? Why?
  • Why did Paul baptize 'in the Holy Spirit'? Should we expect such signs today?
  • Should Paul have avoided Jerusalem after being warned about the danger? What were his purposes in going to Jerusalem?
  • Was Paul truly on trial for belief in the 'resurrection'? How critical is this belief to the Christian faith? Why did it start such a controversy?
  • What are some of the God-ordained functions of Government? How does this relate to pagan and ungodly governments?

Week 6 - Ch 24-28 Introduction

Paul is tried by Felix, but waits under guard for two years. Festus replaces Felix, and hears Paul appeal to Caesar. Herod Agrippa II (son of Herod Agrippa who died of worms) hears Paul with Festus. Paul is sent to Rome, but a storm drives the ship to Malta where it breaks on the rocks. Paul survives a snake bite, and arrives at Rome. Acts ends with Paul under house arrest for two years in Rome, "Boldly and without hindrance" preaching and teaching.

Week 6 - Ch 24-28 Notes

Festus take office in 60 AD, appointed by Nero.

Although Herod Agrippa states that Paul could have been set free, it does not mean that he would have set him free (which could set off the troublesome Jews). Only ten years later, Jewish unrest would culminate in the destruction of rebellious Jerusalem by Titus.

28:14 Three years after writing the Letter to the Romans, Paul finally arrived in that city (61 AD)

Week 6 - Ch 24-28 Questions

  • Why did Felix leave Paul 'under guard' for two years?
  • Why did Paul appeal to Caesar?
  • What was the character of the townspeople in Malta?
  • Did the snake bite have any effect on Paul's ministry?

Bibliography

New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney : Highly recommend this book for a good background to the life of Jesus and the New Testament. The first half covers background, what the world was like under Roman rule and what the conditions of the Jews were. The second half gives background, outline, and introductions to each of the New Testament books (including Acts).

Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener : Printed by InterVarsity Press, this is an excellent one-volume resource for understanding the customs and background (history, language, and geography) behind the verses of the New Testament. It is not an interpretation of the New Testament as are most commentaries, its purpose is to give background information. I highly recommend this to the serious student of Scripture, who already has a good grasp of the meaning and application of the New Testament.

Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) by the Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary : Admittedly a 'dispensational' interpretation, meaning that the authors take the book of Revelation very literally and teach that Jesus will take the Church out of the world before the 'Tribulation Period'. Although I do not agree totally with their opinions, I have found this to be a fair commentary, also explaining the views of others which the authors do not hold. If you use my notes you will receive some insight as to where the points of disagreement are. Highly recommended as the best short commentary on the market. I am easily in agreement with 98% of what this commentary teaches, and who knows if I am right about the other 2%??

Acts (Shepherd's Notes) editor David R. Shepherd. I highly recommend this one for leading a group study or personal use. Concise commentary and a few questions for thought on each chapter. 117 pages. Excellent background notes in margins, a modern and well designed format.

Acts 1 and Acts 2 by J. Vernon McGee : A popular paperback set written in a conversational tone. Explains and applys Acts in a devotional manner. Level of reading is High School and Adult.

Acts 1-12 and Acts 13-28 by John MacArthur : A balance between the devotional and conversational commentaries by McGee above and the more scholarly and academic Expositior's following. Appropriate for a mature reader at College reading level.

Acts, (Expositor's Commentary Series, Vol 9) by Richard N. Longenecker [bound with John, by Merrill Tenney] : A scholarly commentary for advanced students and trained pastors, College and Graduate reading level. Deals with all major views of each passage of Scripture, along with notes on any textual and translation problems (notes on Greek text are perhaps useable by those without knowledge of that language, but intended for those with at least some familiarity with the language.)

The Apostle (A Life of Paul) [bound with The Master (A Life of Jesus)] by John Pollock. A very readable biography which fills out the life of Paul with a few probable assumptions. It makes Paul come alive as you relive the events of his life.


Updated by Ron Miller in August 2017

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