Apostles

Selfless - Acts 6:1-7:60

1.      In a world filled with unmet needs and good causes that clamor for attention, how do you decide where to start? (Meeting needs effectively requires insight and organization.)

2.      Is the church filled with unmet needs and expectations that are beyond any one individual’s ability to fulfill?

Today’s study provides a great example of what happens when needs are not being met and the division that can easily come, even in a church.

God calls and equips Christians for a variety of ministries. All are important and necessary but everyone is not given a burden for the same ministry. So we shouldn’t get upset when someone doesn’t have the same passion for a particular ministry that we do.

 

Key point in today’s Scripture passage: Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside them and has been given at least one spiritual gift for ministering in the church. However, regardless of what other responsibilities we have as members of the church, we are called to do the work of evangelism. Secondly, if there is a ministry need in the church it will not just happen, there must be someone in charge to lead that ministry!

 

A Need Discovered! Read Acts 6:1-2

 

1.      Based on this passage, what unmet need did the early church encounter? (As the early church grew, so did its challenges. Some scholars estimate that the church is approximately 5 years old now. Some of the Greek-speaking widows were not being cared for properly. Widows did not have the economic and physical protection a man provided in that society. There may have also been a language barrier to overcome.)

Some believed an unusually large population of widows lived around Jerusalem because they wanted to spend their final years near the Holy City. The unmet need of the widows was a legitimate issue. In fact, the Bible provides instruction about caring for widows (see James 1:27 and 1 Tim. 5:16).

2.      How was the care of widows a way for the church to demonstrate God’s love selflessly? (The selfless act of caring for widows demonstrated love that is shown without any expectation of return. This principle led the early church to direct their attention to the place of ministry needs within the body of believers.)

3.      What action did the apostles take? (They summoned the church together to resolve the situation.)

4.      What did the apostles say that some church members might get upset about? (All they want to do is preach the Word; they are not interested in serving us.)

5.      How might the increasing involvement of the apostles in the care ministry for widows have potentially weakened the effectiveness of the church?

6.      How does understanding one’s call to a particular type of ministry give clarity when facing choices about involvement?

7.      What challenges were involved in meeting the newly discovered need? (They recognized the importance of balancing a newly discovered need with the church’s ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.)

The apostles realized that if the need were left unaddressed, it could create a potential rift in the church. Believers can help spread the gospel by meeting needs before the need becomes a stumbling block to others.

 

A Solution Reached! Read Acts 6:3-7

 

1.      What did the apostles not do to resolve this issue? (They did not ask the congregation what they thought should be done. They came with a plan and allowed them to select the men.)

It is the responsibility of the church leadership to “lead” the congregation. Part of that is to bring proposed solutions to problems the church may face. But notice the church gave their stamp of approval.

2.      What was the plan proposed by the apostles? (Their ultimate concern was to do what was pleasing to God.)

3.      What were the qualifications for these men to be selected to serve in this capacity? (“Good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom”.)

4.      Why are these characteristics important to be leader/servants in the church?

The early church members were cooperative and demonstrated appreciation for different people’s gifts. The body of Christ is only healthy when all members function in accord with their giftedness. Therefore, it is essential for each member of a local church to find a meaningful role of service to Christ in accordance with his or her unique giftedness.

When you are serving within your giftedness you will be energized but when you try to serve outside your giftedness you will be drained. There are times we all must serve outside our gifted area but not for prolonged periods.

5.      How would you compare the way this issue was handled to the way similar issues are handled in our church?

6.      What were the results of the church stopping and organizing how they were going to minister to needs within the church and preach the gospel to others? (If friction within the church is not dealt with and solved the outward ministry of the church will suffer! Satan likes nothing better than to get a local church fighting among themselves, because it stops the spread of the gospel and is an eye sore to the community.)

7.      What were some ways meeting this need brought about a rapid increase among those who were seeing and hearing the message of Christ lived out among its members?

This is one time when the church as a whole was seeking to do the will of God. Corporate problems should involve the church leadership prayerfully seeking to guide the body to solutions. Without a connection to one another, we forget the call to work together as members of the same body.

 

A Servant Tested! Read Acts 6:8-15

 

1.      What uniquely qualified Stephen for his ministry? (He was “full of grace and power”)

2.      What role did Stephen’s dependence on the Holy Spirit play in his life?

3.      How does the Holy Spirit provide us power to take a stand for Christ?

4.      What do you think prompted these men to bring false charges against Stephen?

Virtually all of chapter 7 is Stephen’s message to the Sanhedrin about the gospel starting in the Old Testament through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It so inflamed the “Council” that they became a mob and stoned Stephen. (If time permits read Acts 7:51-60.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

We can see that the practice of selfless love was critical to the church’s ministry, both within the body and for the eventual expansion across the world. How we love one another in the church should be contagious and not a distraction to the world around us.

1.      In what ways do you feel uniquely gifted to serve? (Every believer has an important role to play in a local church.)

2.      There are numerous service opportunities open right now in our church. Could you be the person God would have meet one of those needs?

Sometimes all we need to do is volunteer for a position to find how God can bless you and others through your faithful service.

 

This week, evaluate the ways you are serving God. Consider your motivation. Are you serving selflessly and through the power of the Holy Spirit? Prayerfully consider other ministry opportunities for which you may be uniquely gifted. Your church staff can help point you to current ministry needs in which you may be interested.

 

Ask for and listen to God’s direction!

 

Faithful - Acts 5:12-42

1.      What are some words or phrases you would use to define or illustrate the word “faithful”? (Constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, loyal, pious, staunch, steadfast, steady, true, dependable, reliable, responsible, solid, tried, trustworthy.

“Firm to one’s allegiance to someone or something!” “Following an original exactly.”)

2.      What motivates people to stand for a cause they believe in or will be faithful to? (People who take a stand are motivated by passion for their cause. It also takes courage to take a stand, particularly when standing up for our faith.)

3.      What are some ways a person willing to take a stand might respond to opposition? (Challenges to our faith are inevitable, as illustrated by today’s Scripture passage. The challenges sometimes involve persecution and physical pain.)

4.      What does faithfulness to Christ and His church look like?

 

The leaders in the early church in Jerusalem were bold in the proclamation of the gospel, even in the face of persecution, as we saw last week. But the persecution would only get worse as the Apostles’ boldness in sharing the gospel grew.

 

Luke records in Acts 5:12-16 that the church was growing by leaps and bounds. People were bringing the sick out into the streets so that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them. People were bringing the sick from surrounding towns and they were being healed.

The Jewish religious leaders were filled with jealousy so they arrested the Apostles and had them put in the city jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the jail doors and told the Apostles to go proclaim the Word of God in the temple complex and they obeyed.

Read Acts 5:21-24.

 

At this point you would think the Jewish leaders would simply repent and accept the truth of the gospel, but that didn’t happen.

 

Returning to the Scene! Read Acts 5:25-28

 

1.      Why do you think the Sanhedrin didn’t address the miraculous escape from jail?

2.      What motivated the religious leaders to silence the apostles?

3.      How is that motive seen in today’s world?

4.      What do these verses reveal about the apostles’ determination to share the gospel amid opposition?

5.      How does the apostles’ opposition compare with what most believers experience today?

6.      How faithful will we be in sharing the gospel when opposition comes?

 

Standing Their Ground! Read Acts 5:29-32

 

Peter did not deny that they had deliberately disobeyed the orders of the Sanhedrin; he did, however, indicate that they were following instructions from God.

1.      What is civil disobedience? (Refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.)

2.      When is it appropriate for believers to submit to earthly authorities?

3.      How can we know when it is appropriate to disobey our civil laws? (We should obey laws in general, but sometimes it’s necessary to disobey laws that are contrary to God’s directives. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to lead us in the right direction.)

Key Doctrine: God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word.

4.      What message did Peter choose to share before the Sanhedrin—again?

5.      Why was this message more powerful than other things he could have said? (The gospel is the power of God unto salvation!)

 

Waiting During Deliberations! Read Acts 5:33-39

 

1.      Why might their rage have caused them to consider killing these men? (The Jewish leaders almost lost control of their emotions by acting impulsively.)

2.      What do we know about Gamaliel from this passage and others? (Gamaliel took a bold stand by addressing the Sanhedrin. He was most likely one of the older members of the council. He was a highly respected Jewish teacher and a Pharisee. Paul learned at the feet of Gamaliel. He was a voice of reason.)

3.      What wisdom do you see in Gamaliel’s proposal to the council?

4.      How might his words help believers today who face opposition to the gospel?

5.      Have you ever been guilty of fighting against God?

6.      What was the result?

Gamaliel stated that the test of time would prove the apostles’ message as true or false, and it has!

 

Rejoicing for the Opportunity! Read Acts 5:40-42

 

1.      What would you say to give a recap of what happened in these verses? (The apostles were punished that day; they received a severe beating and were ordered once again to STOP teaching and preaching in the name of this man Jesus.)

2.      How did the apostles respond to their treatment by the council?

3.      How can opposition to the gospel produce encouragement and courage in believers? (Jesus was also opposed by those in power, so we are in good company when we are opposed for proclaiming the truth of Scripture.)

4.      How does opposition and persecution provide a platform for the gospel to be shared and lived? (Even today when Christians are told by the authorities to either do something that is against the teachings of the Bible or stop doing something that the Bible clearly teaches us to do WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN! Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years, we must be faithful to God, no matter what others say or do.)

5.      How can we turn opposition for our faith into an opportunity to speak up for Christ? (Remember that the truth of the gospel is trustworthy and can be shared with confidence. We, as believers, can rejoice when persecuted, realizing that the gospel was proclaimed in the process.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Self-evaluation:

1.      When has my faith been challenged or opposed by others?

2.      When have I boldly proclaimed the truth of the gospel in the face of persecution?

3.      Consider times in your life when someone challenged your faith. How did you respond?

4.      What can you learn from the response of the apostles to help you respond when facing opposition in the future?

 

We don’t actually know how many of the apostles were involved in this incident, but we do know it was more than one. We know from personal experience that it is much easier to stand for what is right when we are not standing alone! We need to stand together for the truth of God’s Word, but if the situation should come when we must stand alone know that the Holy Spirit is right there with you and will give you strength to do what is right in the face of opposition.

 

Rely on God’s strength to be faithful to Him in all circumstances.

 

Close with a prayer of commitment.