Daily Bible Study Tips –

Acts, Chapters 3 – 8

Overview of Acts

Comments on Acts Chapters 1 – 2

Acts 3:12-19
Acts 4:1-13
Acts 4:5-12
Acts 4:32-35
Acts 6:1-8, Lay members are appointed to service.
Acts 6:8-7:2, Acts 7:51-60
Acts 7:55-60
Acts 8:26-40

Comments on Acts Chapters 9 – 17

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Acts 3:12-19 (4/20/09)

At mass at my niece's church a couple years ago, the priest commented that although no one wants to talk about sins, we don't seem to have any trouble committing them. This week we're going to talk about sin and repentance. The bad news is that God hates sin. The Good News is that God has provided a means for us to be cleansed of our sins through the saving act of Jesus Christ. The bad news is that in order to be cleansed of our sins, we have to repent.
 
Contrary to popular opinion, repentance does not mean saying that you are sorry. "I'm sorry" most often means (let's be honest) "I'm sorry I got caught," "I'm sorry I'm in this mess," or "I'm sorry you're such a jerk that you are blaming me for this."
 
True repentance means that you (1) turn back toward God, (2) stop committing the sin, and (3) intend not to do it again. Repentance often includes (4) being sorry for what you have done, and (5) making reparation. But the main thing is to turn back to God, stop committing the sin, and decide that you aren't going to do it again. So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven!


Acts 4:1-13

Stephen was the first Christian martyr.  He died about A.D. 34.  Because he had complete faith in God, he was able to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.  Naturally this got him into trouble with the religious leaders who thought they had solved their problem by crucifying Jesus.  When he was brought to trial on bogus charges, he could have tried to explain that he had said no such thing.  Instead, he took the opportunity to witness about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ending with an indictment of the very men who were to pass judgment on him.  He had to know what was going to happen, but his courageous faith first led him to be a witness, and then led him through death to victory.
 
By the way, "martyr" originally meant "eye witness."  Only after the deaths of many Christians for witnessing about their faith did it come to mean someone who has sacrificed life or liberty for the Christian faith or some other cause.


Acts 4:5-12 (5/1/09)

Are you a leader or a follower? Peter and John knew how to follow their shepherd Jesus. For three years they had followed him literally, listening as he taught, watching as he worked miracles, and practicing new skills as he directed. After his death, resurrection, and ascension, they continued following him, but at the same time they became leaders for other people. When Peter and John were arrested for healing a lame man and then explaining to the crowd how it happened, the authorities handed Peter a great straight line: "How did you do this? What power do you have or whose name did you use?" Peter seized on this and proclaimed them that the man was healed by the power and in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter was both a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Christian community.


Acts 4:32-35 (4/14/09)

I've always been a little hazy on the concept of a prenuptial agreement. It seems that if I am going to trust someone with my life, my future, and my existing or potential children, I ought to be able to trust him with my money. If I can't trust him with my money, maybe I should rethink trusting him with my life, future, and children. If I think a divorce settlement is going to be an issue, maybe I should rethink the wedding. Call me old school, but I think that if I'm not in a marriage relationship heart and soul, I shouldn't be in it at all.
 
The early Christians were in a relationship with each other heart and soul. They were a very large small group, with the disciples at the core. They worshipped together, prayed for each other, and took care of each other's physical needs. They even trusted each other with their money! If Christians today held to each other in this kind of spiritual unity, we would win the rest of the world for Christ in fifty years.


Acts 6:1-8, Lay members are appointed to service.

Pastor Craig said last Sunday that he thinks "committees are not from God."  I share that view; however, I am forced to admit that committees definitely are "from the Church."   The Church has the authority and power, given to her by God, to create new organizational structures (cf. Matthew 16:18-19; on committees in particular, Mark 16:18a).
 
The earliest Church committee we know of was created around 33 or 34 A.D., almost simultaneously with the birth of the Church herself.  Two characteristics of the first committee strike us:  it was made up entirely of lay members, and its purpose was service.  St. Stephen, the leader of the committee, was a man of faith and power.  He was martyred in 34 or 35, and I'm sure that all committee leaders since his time feel that they are following in his footsteps.
 
The earliest Christians were all Jews, but they were Greek-speaking Jews and Aramaic-speaking Jews.  Most Jews who lived in Jerusalem and Judea spoke Aramaic, and most who were from outside Judea spoke Greek.  Remember that Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to worship during the five major Jewish religious festivals; at Pentecost, many had become Christians.  Apparently a lot of these Greek-speakers from out of town had stayed and become part of the tiny, but rapidly growing, Church. 
 
I like to think that the Greek-speaking widows were not being neglected out of malice, but rather because their needs were not known as a result of the language barrier.  When the Greek-speaking portion of the congregation grumbled about the situation, the apostles quite rightly told them that seeing a problem makes you partly responsible for finding a solution.  Thanks to the Evangelical United Brethren portion of the merger that became the United Methodist Church, UMC laity shoulder a big portion of the responsibility for seeing and solving the problems of service.


Acts 6:8-7:2, Acts 7:51-60

One of the standard plots in fiction is that Person A lays down his or her life on behalf of Person B.  B is, naturally enough, tremendously affected by this.  B is usually the hero or heroine of the story, and B's life is changed.  B realizes that whatever happens next, it has to be worthy of A's life.
 
As a matter of fact, this has happened in history.  Jesus voluntarily laid down his life on behalf of me, you, and everyone else - not as a group, but as individuals.  Are our lives changed?  Is what happens next worthy of Jesus' life?


Acts 7:55-60

One of the earliest Christian martyrs was Stephen, whose death we read about today.  Stephen was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5) who did "great wonders and signs among the people" (6:8).  He was such a convincing speaker that some members of the synagogue arranged for him to be charged with blasphemy before the Sanhedrin.  Asked to respond to the charge, Stephen reminded the Jews of their history and of the importance of their relationship with God (ch. 7).  At the end of this sermon, Stephen proclaimed that he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of God (see below).  They seized him and stoned him to death, setting off a wave of persecution that forced many Christians to leave Jerusalem.  This dispersion resulted directly in expanded evangelism and the conversion of many souls in Judea, Samaria, and the Roman world. 


Acts 8:26-40 (5/10/09)

Today’s Trivia: Did you know that your fellow reader Candace D. was named after the Biblical Queen of Ethiopia? True fact. Although it's not 100% clear whether "Candace" is a name (Queenie) or a job title (Queen), her parents did know when they chose this name that it was derived from the Greek word kandake

I have a friend who has such a gift for evangelism that he has made converts for Christ while running marathons!  Philip the Evangelist was the same kind of guy, which is no doubt why he is called "the Evangelist."  My favorite part of today's reading is, "So beginning from this scripture, Philip told him the Good News of Jesus."  Philip started talking to the eunuch exactly where he was at the time.  He didn't start by giving him a lecture on Isaiah, he didn't ask him what his social or political background was, and he sure didn't demand that he sign a doctrinal statement!  He just started with something that was on the man's mind right that minute and told him the Good News of Jesus.  Philip’s gift was evangelism, and he bore the fruit of converts.  Others have the gift of learning, and they bear the fruit of teaching; or the gift of charisma, and they bear the fruit of church leadership; or the gift of helps, and they bear the fruit of service; and so on.  Every lover of God has a gift, and God puts each one into a congregation that needs the fruit of that gift.   

By the way, there were apparently two Philips:  Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist.  Today's passage is about Philip the evangelist.  Don't get confused and think that this is the apostle.  I was confused about this for decades.


Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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