Peter

With Anticipation - 2 Peter 3:1-18

1.      How many of you love to wait? (We are not very patient! I despise waiting in an office for an appointment that was at 9 am and at 9:30 I’m still setting in the “waiting room.” The name of the room alone should be a clue as to what we will do there.)

2.      What are your favorite things to do when you have to wait for something? (Play games on your electronic devices? Read? Check emails? Etc.)

3.      When have you given up on something because you grew tired of waiting?

There are areas of our lives that are much more important than waiting in a doctor’s office for your appointment.

It is easy to grow weary when we are waiting for a positive pregnancy test, a job promotion, or some other critical change in our present circumstances. It is tempting, for example, to give up on a broken marriage after a long, painful dry spell. In God’s timing, however, many people have discovered that by refusing to divorce and entrusting their relationship to God, their marriage eventually grew more satisfying.

            Sometimes if we are not careful, we can grow weary of waiting for God. Long before we hit the earth, believers in the early church were already growing weary of waiting for the return that Jesus had promised. Believers today may even forget to anticipate it. 

            The key doctrine we will focus on today is this: According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness.

 

Read 2 Peter 3:1-2 Peter tells his readers that he wrote the two letters to them so that they might remember what the prophets had spoken and the commands of our Lord.

 

 

 

A Sure Return! Read 2 Peter 3:3-7

 

1.      What was Peter’s first warning in these verses to his readers? (“Scoffers will come in the last days…” Remember last week we said the “last days” represent the time between Jesus’ ascension and His second return—now in other words.)

2.      What will be the lifestyle of these scoffers? (“Living according to their own desires”)

3.      What will be their argument against Christ return to earth? (Look, nothing has changed since the world started and nothing is going to change!)

4.      What evidence of God’s judgment will they ignore? (vs 5-6)

Notice how verse seven begins, “by the same word”. Just as God said He would bring judgment in Noah’s day, He has said He will return and bring judgment at the end of time.

5.      What are some reasons people doubt the second coming of Christ today?

6.      How do today’s reasons compare with the reasons heard in Peter’s day?

 

Peter said that God could hold back the Day of Judgment and the destruction of ungodly men. This would happen eventually, but it was not time.

 

The Patient Father! Read 2 Peter 3:8-9

 

1.      What are the reasons or explanations given for the seeming delay in Christ’s return? (God is not bound by time, as we are. It is God’s desire that everyone come to know Him as Savior.)

Peter pointed to God’s delay in the second coming as an act of God’s grace that allows for more to come to Him in repentance.

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.”  (See Mark 13:10 also.)

It seems that we are losing the battle for souls in our nation but around the world, because of His grace, there may be millions coming to know Jesus that we have no knowledge of!

Our Heavenly Father’s greatest desire is that people come to Him in faith. He deeply desires a personal relationship with all of the crown of His creation—human beings.

2.      How is God’s timing of the second coming an act of both grace and mercy?

 

Peter assured his readers that the Day of the Lord would come, so they should not be presumptuous of God’s grace, missing the opportunity to accept His forgiveness.

 

The Warning Issued! Read 2 Peter 3:10

 

1.      What does this verse say are three things that will happen when Jesus returns?

2.      What illustrations other than a thief could be used to describe the Day of the Lord?

See Matthew 24:45-51. A Master places his servant in charge and goes off for an undetermined length of time. The Master suddenly returns to find the servant has not been taking care of the Master’s estate as he should.

All of the following Scriptures say the same truth: Matt. 24:43-44; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3; 16:15.

3.      What impact do you think these events will have on the people of the world? (It will produce shock and awe as the dramatic events unfold. While a full understanding of what will take place is incomprehensible, the warning and image of heaven and earth catching fire should fill us with the desire to lead holy, godly lives until then.)

 

While Waiting! Read 2 Peter 3:11-18

 

1.      What should those of us who are waiting on the Lord’s return be doing as we wait? (Be diligent in carrying out the Great Commission—take the gospel to the unreached world!)

2.      How is the life we are to live in anticipation of the return of Jesus a reflection of the life we will have after His return? (We will live in full obedience to the Father.)

Peter ended his letter where he started it—by encouraging his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ!

3.      If a person is growing in his or her spiritual life, all the other issues faced in this life become secondary. Do you agree or disagree?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How long has it been since you contemplated the Lord’s return and shared your excitement with another believer or your fear with someone who is lost?

2.      How can you use the truths presented in this passage when confronted by a skeptic who denies the return of Jesus? (Record key points.)

3.      With whom can you share these insights?

4.      When do we pray, “even so come Lord Jesus”?

Most of the time when we ask for His return, it is when we are down, in the middle of bad circumstances and we see it as a chance to escape. We should be looking forward to His coming at all times!

5.      What hope do you have to offer non-believers?

 

Challenge: Commit to live confidently and expectantly toward the return of Jesus and live victoriously every day!

 

On Guard - 1 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 16-25

(Display an object you brought for the following activity.)

1.      How much do you think this object weights? (Have everyone guess.)

2.      How did you decide how heavy the object is? Who is likely closest? How can we tell who is closest? (An accurate scale.)

(Display a scale and weigh the object.)

3.      Would you trust the scale as an accurate instrument for weighing something? Why or why not?

Having a recognized standard is necessary for weighing objects as well as for evaluating truth in our world. God’s Word is the only standard of truth we have.

 

Read Matt. 7:15 Jesus’ warning against wolves in sheep’s clothing was among His earliest teachings to His followers.

4.      What did Jesus mean by “wolves in sheep’s clothing”?

5.      What leads false teachers to believe they are speaking truth?

6.      Read Gal. 6:1. What are we cautioned about here?

Today’s Scripture comes from two different books of the New Testament with similar contexts. Both Peter and Jude, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, faced false teachings that was being taught by false teachers in their day.

 

Exposed! Read 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 16

 

1.      What were the false teachers/prophets doing?

2.      What was perhaps the most damaging teaching they were bringing to the church? (Denying the Master!)

3.      What did following false teachings lead them to do? (Follow unrestrained ways and lead others to do so; blaspheme the way of the truth; exploit believers in their greed; use deceptive words.)

4.      How did Jude describe these false teachers/prophets?

5.      There is no evidence that either of these men read the other’s letter. Why do you think they teach basically the same truths? (They both wrote under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.)

6.      Can you name a few of the false teachings that threaten the church today? (It doesn’t matter which “god” you worship, they are ultimately all the same! The acceptance of homosexuality as an option for family life. God wants you to be happy so just follow your desires and enjoy life. Rejecting the authenticity of miracles in the Bible, calling them folklore or tradition rather than literal accounts. And the list goes on!)

7.      According to these verses, why are false prophets so dangerous? (Teachings that confuse, distort, or discount the gospel may cause someone to miss out on salvation through Jesus Christ. Other false teachings may lead us to miss out on the best God has for us.)

8.      Can’t we just ignore them? (No! The teachings of false prophets eventually bring destruction to the prophets themselves but also to those around them.)

Peter probably indicated that the false prophets considered themselves part of the church. They considered themselves as members of the church, so Peter approached it from that vantage point. Only God and the false prophets knew if they had genuine faith but misdirected theology.

9.      Why is it important to measure all teaching by the Person of Jesus Christ?

Read 2 Timothy 4:2-5.

10.  Has that time come?

11.  What character traits help us to identify false teachers? (They introduce heresy in stealth and secrecy. Falsehood often creeps in without fanfare or without much notice until it becomes established.)

False teachers are selfish, critical, arrogant flatterers. They promote ideas, teachings, and people to their own advantage, not the kingdom of God!

 

 

 

 

Predicted! Read Jude 17-19

 

1.      What is so appealing about false teachers, especially in light of the apostles’ predictions? (They appeal to the fleshly desires.)

2.      Why did Jude appeal to the teachings of the apostles to show the rise of false teachers? (The apostles were recognized as truthful leaders in the church and had heard the truth directly from Jesus, Himself.)

3.      In Jude 17-19 what words and phrases did Jude use to describe false teachers and their teachings? (Scoffers; walking according to their own ungodly desires; create divisions; unbelievers; not having the Spirit.)

4.      What happens to a church or Christian community when it is infiltrated by false prophets and teachings? (The church inevitably suffers strife and division when it entertains or permits false teachings.)

Because false teachers do not possess the Holy Spirit and instead follow their won natural inclinations, the church may find itself pursuing strategies or principles that are simply not of God.

 

Countered! Read Jude 20-25

 

1.      What preventative actions for believers does Jude recommend in verses 20-23? (See Eph. 6:16)

2.      Read Titus 2:13. This verse is very similar to Jude 21. Does “waiting” here imply doing nothing? What are we to be doing? (See Jude 22-23.)

3.      How should we handle the doubt that people often feel when confronted with the gospel and truth? (Doubt should not be looked down on or made fun of or condemned. Doubting can be healthy if it leads to understanding and confirming truth. Instead, treat doubters with patience and love.)

We should never disregard the urgency of the gospel. Sharing truth is not just critical but always timely. A lost world needs our timely intervention with the truths of the gospel.

 

We must maintain a sense of caution toward a false prophet. We are more likely to stumble or get sidetracked if we assume that we are above the influence of false teachers. We can trust our all-powerful Savior to keep us from falling away from truth as long as we continually look to God and His Word.

Christians are in real danger of being taken in by a false prophet when we stop reading the Word of God for ourselves and simply listen to them.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

How should you confront false doctrine if you or someone you know has entertained it?

·         Consider researching and providing a well-written book on the subject in question that includes Scripture to give them food for thought grounded in biblical truth.

·         Share with them in all sincerity the strength of your conviction, based on biblical authority, with an explanation of why any false teaching may be detrimental.

·         Seek to help the individual see the truth of God’s Word graciously and with humility, without condemning the person but the falsehood they have embraced.

 

Challenge: Review the cultural traditions, ideas, and routines that have infiltrated our church and your personal daily life. If you determine there is falsehood that you have accepted or ignored, decide on the steps you need to take to remove it.

 

With Trust - 2 Peter 1:12-21

1.      What are some ways we get information today? (TV, Radio, Social Media, Word of mouth, Printed news, Ads, etc.)

2.      What individuals or sources do you consider trustworthy?

3.      How do you determine if a source is trustworthy?

4.      In your opinion, why does “trustworthiness” seem so hard to come by today? (Too many people pass on information without checking to see if it is true or not. Sometimes they want it to be true so bad that they pass it on without checking it out.)

In our passage today Peter stressed trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Peter believed that through eyewitness accounts and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the process of writing, his readers could trust the Word of God to give them everything that they needed to know about God and the gospel.

Paul proclaimed this same truth to Timothy like this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:14-17.

 

Spiritual truth is both subjective and objective. It’s individually embraced, but it’s intrinsically valuable, not when it’s accepted by the masses, but because God has said it. Therefore, everything that veers away from His truth must be considered false teaching.

Some people will say “such and such” must be true because so many people believe it. If it isn’t from God it isn’t truth!

 

Needed Reminders! Read 2 Peter 1:12-15

 

Let’s read 2 Peter 1:10-11 to see what the “therefore” is about.

1.      What are the two major themes Peter addresses in 12-15? (Reminders about Spiritual truths and his approaching death.)

Peter seemed to have an awareness that his death was imminent, and he desired to wake up the believers who were listening to the lies of the false teachers. The word for “wake up” could also be translated as “stir up” or “arouse.”

2.      What are three specific references to reminders about spiritual truths in verses 12-15?

3.      What was it Peter wanted them to do? (Recall the truths they had been taught.)

4.      How can we make sure we don’t forget the truths of God’s Word?

5.      Why would it be important to remind even mature believers of the truth?

6.      If you knew your time was short, what spiritual reminders would you give to those close to you?

Peter spent his remaining time on earth strengthening believers.

7.      What are practical ways we could strengthen others in their faith?

 

Eyewitness Accounts! Read 2 Peter 1:16-18

 

Just as it is today, the people in Peter’s day were surrounded by people who believed myths. Both Greek and Roman religions were filled with myths about their gods, but they had no historical basis. Peter wanted his readers to know that this was not the case with Christianity. He made sure he clearly tied Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection to history. He had firsthand knowledge of Jesus and referenced Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; and Luke 9:28-36.) in verses 17-18. The same phrase quoted in verse 17 is used also in Matt. 3:17 at Jesus’ baptism.

 

1.      What did Peter blurt out at Jesus’ transfiguration? (Let’s build three alters.)

2.      How was he put in his place and reminded of who Jesus is?

Hearing the heavenly voice proclaim that God was well pleased with His Son was a validation that the honor and glory Jesus received on the mountain were legitimate!

3.      How would you handle critics who question the divine nature of Jesus?

4.      What would be the value of having eyewitness accounts when addressing a critic? (As healed Bartimaeus said, “All I know is that once I was blind and now I see.” A changed life is evidence that Jesus is who He says and can do what He promised.)

5.      How do we disseminate truth so that others will recognize it as such? (We share our own experience with Jesus and His Word. But our “walk” must match our “talk”! If our life doesn’t match what we profess no reasonable person would accept it as truth.)

 

Peter turned from eyewitness accounts to the prophetic words of the Old Testament Scriptures!

 

Written By God! Read 2 Peter 1:19-21

 

The idea of a “bright morning star” is a star that outshines all others, and Jesus certainly does do that!

Rev. 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

 

1.      Where did the prophets and writers of the Old Testament get the words to write? (God speaking through them. In Jeremiah 28-29 the writer records that the false prophet Hananiah prophesied that the Babylonian exile would last only two years but God spoke through Jeremiah in 29:10 that the exile would be 70 years and Hananiah answered to God for his false words.)

2.      Why would contending the author of Scripture as God, writing through inspired men, be important for Peter to state and for us believers to also contend? (Understanding that Scripture is God-breathed gives it more weight and validity. The challenge to accept the Word of God as His must be directly stated or some will deduce that the Bible is little more than the poetic, pragmatic, and improbable writings from the minds of men.)

The Bible is more than a history book. It also provides important clues about the future. We must be convinced of the reliability of the Scriptures as the direct Word from God to trust our future to its truths and proclamations.

3.      How would you explain the inspiration of the Scriptures to someone who wonders why they should believe a book written by humans?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Are you convinced in your own heart that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and applicable to all of life?

Suggestion: Re-read the New Testament books, especially looking at those written by contemporaries of Jesus. Put yourself in their shoes as you read. What would prompt these types of men—uneducated fishermen—to write down their experiences unless that experience was amazing?

Review some of your favorite Bible passages that have always managed to inspire or move you. Compare those writings to other secular ones. How many of those have had the power to help you make life changes?

 

2.      When have you stepped out in truth to set the record straight?

All of us as Christians confront untruths on a routine basis through the media or social media. While becoming the person who constantly corrects others will not endear you to friends and family it is the Christian’s responsibility to take living measures to correct false impressions of Christianity or to challenge philosophies and practices that contradict the teachings of Christ.

Challenge: Resolve to kindly and lovingly confront untruth with truth. Rather than post it so everyone sees it, consider messaging the person. (We must be careful that we aren’t seen as “God’s little policeperson to the rest of the world. Use wisely.)

 

Father, help us to stand firm on Your Holy Word and speak truth to others!

 

A Living Hope - 1 Peter 1:1-12

1.      How do people use the word “hope” today? (Wishful thinking, maybe it will happen, maybe it will not happen, etc.)

There’s an older—now archaic—meaning for hope, which was active when the Bible began to be translated into English. The old definition was confident trust that some future event would occur. Jesus offers that kind of hope—a living hope—to all who place their trust in Him.  His resurrection gives believers a living hope! It is a living hope because the more we exercise it the greater our confidence grows that God will bring to pass His promises.

The word hope does not convey wishful thinking or express uncertainty but has the sense of confident expectation based on God’s ability. Hope based on happenstance or human ability can and does die. Christians’ hope is based on God’s ability, such hope never dies!

 

Read 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter dictated this first letter to Silvanus (Silas), which accounts for the excellent Greek that was used. Although Scripture doesn’t record all of Peter’s travels, it seems evident that he had traveled through modern day Turkey. He seemed to have a close relationship with the people to whom he wrote this letter. The harsh, brash Simon had become the mellowed, loving, graceful Peter. God had done a real work in his life. It wasn’t a steady progression at times but progress was made none the less, much like in our lives. He had become “the rock” Jesus named him to be.

 

In these opening verses of his letter Peter included a number of important themes. These are: mercy, new birth, salvation, love, joy, faith and hope. 

Our real hope is only through Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

Hope Discovered! Read 1 Peter 1:3-4

 

1.      What caused Peter to break out into a doxology of praise? (We have a new birth.)

This new birth is because of God’s great Mercy!

2.      How did this new birth into a living hope come about? (“Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”)

Because of His victory over death, Jesus offered hope to those who were enduring persecution. The worst their persecution could do to them would be to take their lives, but because of the resurrection of Jesus, death was nothing to be feared. This was not some blind hope or false hope, but rather a living hope in Jesus Christ.

3.      What does a person’s response to suffering reveal about whom or what he or she places hope in?

4.      Which has the greater impact on those around us who are watching, how we live when things are going wonderful or when life caves in on us?

5.      How did Peter describe the nature of our inheritance? (Imperishable: It cannot be harmed by natural disaster, enemy, or theft; it is permanent. Uncorrupted: It cannot be touched by evil or sin; it is pure. Unfading: It never passes its peak; it is perfect. Kept in Heaven: cannot be touched by anything on this earth.)

The thought of an inheritance that does not perish, cannot be corrupted, and stays forever young naturally fills us with hope. We cannot attain this through our own power, but we can through Jesus Christ!

 

Though Peter explained the Christians’ inheritance as eternal in nature, the suffering believers probably wondered at times if they would be able to hold on to their hope in Christ!

Hope Assured! Read 1 Peter 1:5

 

1.      Have you ever wrestled personally with assurance of salvation or the security of your salvation?

2.      Based on verse 5, how would you counsel someone who is struggling with assurance of their salvation? (Our salvation is not based on our strength to hold on but on God’s great power through faith. You can’t hold on in your own strength, no one can. Only God’s power assures us of our salvation.)

Edward Mote said it this way:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

“When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest in His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.”

“When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

3.      If someone observed your life for the past month, what evidence would they find that you have a living hope, one that is growing stronger in you?

 

Hope Celebrated! Read 1 Peter 1:6-9

 

Peter, who knew a little about suffering, described the trials they were experiencing like this:

·         They may be diverse in kind.

·         They will be limited in time.

·         They are needful in purpose. (Peter was sure that God never needlessly afflicts His people, even though grief may be involved.

·         They are positive in outcome. V. 7

The word “joy” in this passage is not the usual Greek word used by secular writers. Rather, it is a deep spiritual joy! Read Luke 1:46-46 and Acts 16:34.

1.      How is Christian joy different from a sentimental feeling of happiness?

2.      In what ways is it more satisfying?

3.      According to this passage, rejoicing is the appropriate response to trials or persecution. When you see someone focus on their salvation rather than their circumstances, how does that affect you? (Generally, when we witness hope and a joyful attitude in others, it compels us to question the source of their hope. Hope is about focus! When we focus on a secure salvation, we can rise above our circumstances and look forward with joy to the inheritance to come.)

4.      What is the purpose of the trials and difficulties we have to go through? (Refining of our faith. Make it like pure gold!)

5.      What is the goal of our faith? (See verse 9)

 

The world says, “Seeing is believing.” Salvation says, “Believing is seeing.” We have faith in the One we have not seen. Read v 8-9.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Would you describe your faith as a living hope?

2.      Does it have purpose?

3.      Is it growing?

4.      Is it dynamic and breathing?

5.      Does it affect others?

If hope is about focus, then focusing on the right things can help your faith to grow. Spending time reflecting on the salvation of our souls is an expression of faith and hope. Reading God’s Word regularly will encourage your faith.

 

Rather than focusing on our difficulties and circumstances, focus on God and His power to see you through. We know Jesus has the power to change, transform or deliver us from our circumstances.

 

Ask God to help us with specific trials or tribulations we may be going through. Change our focus. Help us turn our eyes upon Jesus.

 

Extraordinary - Acts 12:1-19

1.      Has there been a time when you felt persecuted or marginalized for your faith?

2.      How did you respond?

3.      What did you learn about yourself and about God?

4.      Have you ever been down to your last hope?

5.      How would you describe your feelings at that time? (Sometimes we come to a point where we realize we’re powerless to change a situation. God’s demonstration of His extraordinary power is most apparent when we reach the end of our own ability.)

Today we will study about a situation that the Apostle Peter experienced to which I do not believe any of us can fully relate. Peter, the one who answered Jesus’ question when asked “Who do you say that I am?” answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” This same Apostle denied His Lord three times when the test at Jesus’ trial came to him. But now he is the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem and standing for Christ in the face of death! Peter had come a long way in the past few years.

 

To set the context of our focal passage read Acts 12:1-6.

1.      What do you suppose was the focus of the prayers the church was offering up on Peter’s behalf?

2.      What was Peter doing? How could this be?

3.      What does it say to you about Peter’s faith that he slept so soundly on the night before his scheduled execution?

(Describe the guard situation to keep Peter in prison.)

4.      In what ways did Peter’s situation seem hopeless from a human standpoint?

Deliverance! Read Acts 12:7-10

 

1.      How did Peter respond to the angel’s prodding and command to get up?

2.      What did Peter think was happening?

3.      The chains literally fell off of Peter’s wrists, they walked past two guard posts, and the outer gate opened by itself. How does this encourage you that God can deliver you from whatever binds you?

4.      Why was James “killed by the sword” and Peter delivered from the very jaws of death?

There are Christians around the world today who are being persecuted for their faith. There is a man that we call Tang who is from India. One of our scholarship funds helped him to attend and complete his Seminary degree at Southwestern in Fort Worth. After completing his degree he and his family returned to India and began to pastor a church. A few months ago he went to another state in India to share the gospel. The officials there are very hostile to the gospel and as a result he was arrested when he refused to deny that he was a Christian and beaten for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. He was finally rescued and allowed to go back home after some time in prison. His life was spared this time but he is determined to share the gospel with these people as God gives opportunity.

There are some people who would have you believe that if your faith is strong enough God will always deliver you. That simply is not true! There are scores of examples in Scripture. All we have to do is read Hebrews 11. God in His sovereignty decides whether to extend a person’s physical life through divine intervention or whether to bring that believer home with the affirmation, “Well done.”  The point is that God has different plans for different lives. The death of James and the deliverance of Peter both accomplished God’s purpose for their lives. (Ps 23)

5.      How does Peter’s release demonstrate the care God has for us, even in suffering? (God is aware of our situations and will provide all that is necessary to accomplish His will for our lives at the time it is needed.)

 

Delight! Read Acts 12:11-12

 

1.      How did Peter respond when he realized God had rescued him? (He acknowledged God’s work in his life and expressed praise. He made his way to a house occupied by believers who were praying.)

2.      What does it say about the character of the church that Peter knew exactly where to find them once he was released?

3.      When we pause and look back on our lives, there can be times when we see God’s movement at strategic moments to accomplish His purposes. When you reflect on your life, when have you seen God move in such a way?

4.      How does our church practice fervent prayer? (There are several of our Sunday School Departmentsand individual classes that have a special time of prayer on a monthly or weekly basis. We have a monthly Deacon’s prayer meeting. We have the prayer room. There are also special called times of prayer when specific needs arise. We have seen God do miraculous things!)

5.      When have you been blessed by God’s extraordinary work in your life and how did you express your thankfulness to God?

There are times when miracles happen and we attribute it to something else. Look for miracles every day.

 

Read Acts 12:13-15.

We don’t know the specifics about their prayers for Peter, but if they were praying for his release they refused to believe it when it happened. But they were most likely praying for Peter to be strong in the face of this certain death sentence.

 

Determined! Read Acts 12:16-17

 

1.      Has there been a time in your life when you were persistent in asking God for something, and when He answered the prayer, you were skeptical of the response? (Many times when we pray fervently about something, we have preconceived ideas about how God is going to answer our prayer and when it doesn’t happen the way we thought it would we think it was a coincidence and not God at all.)

2.      What makes us skeptical of God working in an unexpected way?

3.      How does seeing the outcome of a miracle move us away from our skepticism?

Some may ask why Peter went somewhere else instead of stayingand continuing his ministry there. Peter was still in imminent danger. We must rely upon the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and direction, then be willing to follow just as Peter did.

 

Disturbance! Read Acts 12:18-19

 

1.      How would you characterize the response to Peter’s escape?

2.      How did the king respond?

3.      How does Peter’s miraculous deliverance illustrate the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility? (We must follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and leave the rest up to God.)

God’s work was going to be accomplished. By God’s plan, Peter was critical in the gospel’s expansion.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What can we learn from Peter’s experience of being jailed for sharing the gospel message and being delivered by God?

·         God’s work is beyond our comprehension and ability to explain.

·         God is faithful to those who serve Him, even when they experience difficulty for His sake.

·         God honors the prayers of the faithful.

2.      Think of some recent times when you have prayed for others. How would you rate the strength of your faith in the Lord to do marvelous, even miraculous, things in response to your prayers?

3.      How can we show trust in the Lord’s grace even when His answers aren’t what we hoped for or expected?

 

What happened to Herod in the next few verses?

Close with payer praising God for all He does for us and through us!

 

Accepting - Acts 10:1-48

(Display a coffee filter as a representation of filters in general.)

1.      What are some different types of filters we use daily and think little about it? (Vacuum cleaner, oil, furnace, aquarium, and water filters.)

2.      What is the purpose of a filter? (It keeps out some substances and allows others to pass through.)

Sometimes humans have filters in place that affect the degree to which we are open to others coming to Christ.

In groups of two or three brainstorm social and religious filters that keep individuals and churches from being open to everyone. Write your ideas on the filter provided.

(We will read our responses later in our session.)

3.      Are there any long-held prodigious beliefs or attitudes that you have changed your mind about?

Change can occur gradually or through a dramatic encounter. Today’s session deals with a dramatic experience for Peter when he realized that salvation is offered to everyone. It seems that Peter—like me—is a slow learner. His experience at Antioch didn’t seem to cause him to apply the lesson to everyone.

As believers, we can be advocates within our church body for new believers from different backgrounds.

Our focal passage begins with verse 9 but the first 8 verses are important for us to read also.

The designation God-fearers is used in Acts to describe Gentiles who were attracted to Judaism but who never made the commitment to become proselytes or full converts. For Gentile males to become Jewish proselytes would have required circumcision. God-fearers respected Jewish customs and beliefs, including observing special days and following dietary laws.

 

The Vision! Read Acts 10:9-15

Peter was removed from distractions, in the act of prayer, and hungry. The Lord carefully guided the process so that through prayer Peter could “see” the greater scope of God’s grace.

1.      What beliefs were in conflict with Peter’s vision? (Peter’s vision directed him to eat animals forbidden by Mosaic Law. This would have been in conflict with Peter’s background of Jewish beliefs.)

2.      Why is it hard to make changes to longstanding customs or beliefs? (We are programmed by our culture and environment to live within certain boundaries. Stepping outside the boundaries can create internal conflict and concern about how others will respond.)

3.      What did Peter’s negative response to the voice reveal about his understanding of God’s plan to offer salvation to all people in Christ?

4.      How do we know this vision was from the Lord—not from heat or hunger or another explainable circumstance? (Peter heard and recognized the voice from the Lord.)

Peter saw a vision to kill and eat animals not once, but three times. The number three was significant for Peter. He had previously denied Jesus three times, and Jesus had asked Peter about his love three times.

5.      In what way might the early church have been impacted if God had allowed Peter to dismiss the heavenly vision?

Jesus demonstrated to Peter through the vision and the repetition of language that His work on the cross applies to anyone who repents and believes in Him.

 

(Summarize verses 16-42.)

 

The Declaration! Read Acts 10:43

 

Now many of the passages from the Old Testament became clear to Peter, salvation through Jesus was for everyone.

 

1.      Why was Peter the one chosen for this experience? (Peter was the leader of the disciples and now the church. He could help lead others to overcome long-held prodigious beliefs.)

2.      How can you see God’s plan unfolding through the events in Peter’s and Cornelius’ lives?

3.      How does this encourage you on your own journey? (As we look back, we can see how God used unlikely events to further His purpose in our lives.)

4.      How does Peter’s message continue to speak directly to people today? (The gospel message is meant for every person of every background, life experience, and heritage. We cannot earn salvation; it is a free gift of God through faith in Jesus.)

 

The Sign! Read Acts 10:44-46a

 

Some people call this the “Gentile Pentecost”.

1.      What sign did the Holy Spirit provide? (Gentile believers received the Holy Spirit, astonishing the Jewish believers with Peter. Gentiles were considered “pagans,” as they were not part of God’s family at birth. What the Jews didn’t realize was that they weren’t either until they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.)

God specifically designed this event to cause Peter and the others familiar with the original Pentecost to see the similarities.  God demonstrated in this event that He was accepting Gentiles in the same way He accepted Jewish believers. They were not second-class Christians!

These were not events that would be commonly experienced in the future when others accepted Christ. Every believer receives the Holy Spirit, but the manifestation of speaking in other languages was not the normal sign. These were sign miracles intended to establish principles for unity among Jewish and Gentile believers in the church.

2.      Did Peter get to finish his sermon? (No! As soon as the people believed the Holy Spirit came upon them.)

3.      What does this indicate about how God works in the hearts of men and women? (God works without man’s manipulation. He works through obedient vessels!)

The Spirit’s invasion occurred while Peter was speaking. Peter was not able to finish his sermon, but the Spirit was able to baptize all those who received the message of salvation.

 

The Acceptance! Read Acts 10:46b-48

 

1.      How did Peter set an example of inclusiveness for the Gentile believers? (Peter reminded the other believers that the Gentiles had received the same Holy Spirit they had received. He paved the way for them to be accepted through baptism, a significant life marker for all believers.)

2.      Why is inclusiveness so important? (Salvation is inclusive. It is offered to all regardless of race or heritage or pedigree.)

3.      What can we learn from Peter’s example? (Peter took the initiative to speak to the Jewish believers on behalf of the Gentiles.)

4.      How can we encourage our congregation to be open to people who are different from the majority of our members? (Welcome new believers into the fellowship of the church. We can take the first step in accepting them and helping them feel like part of the local body of believers.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

God used Peter and Cornelius to bring about the broader vision and purpose of the plan for His church. Peter needed Cornelius to see how salvation is truly offered to all. Cornelius needed Peter’s obedience and preaching to respond in faith.

 

1.      What are some of the words you wrote on your filter at the beginning of our study?

2.      How does our church represent diversity in race, heritage, social structure and the makeup of our community?

3.      Are there areas we need to improve on?

4.      Do we knowingly or unknowingly place barriers to prevent certain groups of people in our community from coming to our church?

 

Pray for the fellowship of believers around the world who are studying this passage today. Ask God to speak to our hearts as well as theirs.

 

Integrity - Acts 4:36-4:11

(Make an acrostic on the whiteboard using the letters for the phrase “Imperfect People”. Have members add words or phrases that describe qualities of people who make up the body of Christ—the church.)

 

1.      Should actions that damage the integrity of a congregation be addressed?

2.      What motivates people to give to organizations or causes?

3.      What differentiates gifts to the church from these causes? (Believers give to the church to support its mission to tell everyone about Christ. The early church experienced challenges soon after its founding. Churches are made up of people, and people are not perfect.)

God holds believers accountable for their actions and motives. Believers are to take sin within the church seriously.

4.      Do you think people who claim to be Christians but poorly reflect Christ should be confronted? Explain.

(Pause and pray for wisdom and understanding as we examine our Scripture passage from Acts 4-5 today.)

 

Exhibit A: Barnabas! Read Acts 4:36-37

 

The early church had experienced phenomenal growth since the day of Pentecost; however, these examples of Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira underscore God’s expectations of truthfulness and integrity within His church.

 

1.      What do we know from Scripture about Barnabas? (Given name was Joseph; of the tribe of Levi—all priests are Levites but not all Levites are priests, only Levites who were descendants of Aaron are priests; from Cyprus; key leader in the early church; prominent companion of Paul; cousin of Mark; nick-named “Son of encouragement”; stood up for Paul after his conversion; defended John Mark and stood by him when Paul refused to take him on a missionary journey.)

2.      What characteristic of Barnabas stands out more to you: his generosity, his devotion to the church, or his willingness to encourage and care for others? Why?

3.      How would you describe the relationship between generosity and encouragement?

4.      Can one be done without the other? (Encouragement can come in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is by our indirect actions and at other times it is our direct interaction with an individual that gives them encouragement.)

5.      How did Barnabas support the early church’s ministry? (The gift Barnabas gave was voluntary. The early church did not have any form of communal ownership of property and possessions. Participation and giving were voluntary.)

6.      When have you witnessed the actions of a modern-day Barnabas? (Some might see Barnabas’s actions as a way to get attention or personal acclaim. However, his generosity also can serve as a source of encouragement to others and is therefore worthy of being shared.)

If we were privy to only this incident in the life of Barnabas we might think it might be to gain attention but when we see his life as a whole we see it was a sincere offering to the Lord through his local church! It was meant only to help others and the motivation was pure.

7.      How were you encouraged by his or her example?

Luke highlighted Barnabas as an example to demonstrate the unity and generosity of believers in the early church.

 

Exhibit B: Ananias! Read Acts 5:1-6

 

1.      What do we know from Scripture about Ananias? (He was married; he sold a piece of property; he plotted with his wife to deceive the church about the selling price; he was given an opportunity to explain; he dropped dead; he was buried.)

2.      What factors do you think led to Ananias’ actions?

3.      What did Peter mean when he said Ananias did not lie to men but to God?

4.      How did Ananias’ and Sapphira’s actions compare with that of Barnabas? (They sold a field and gave part of the proceeds to the apostles, but claimed they gave all the proceeds just as Barnabas had done. However, Ananias kept back part of the money, or put it aside for himself.)

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was their deception in the pursuit of personal praise—for acting as though they were being generous while being stingy instead.

We must examine our motives for giving, realizing that not all motives are honorable.

5.      What happened when Peter revealed Ananias’ action?

6.      How would you explain the reason for Ananias’ sudden death?

7.      How did others respond?

8.      How might this have affected the credibility of the early church? (The credibility of the early church was compromised because of Ananias’ deception. Yet, most of all, he lied to the Holy Spirit. Sinful and selfish actions affect other people. They also harm the witness of the church as a whole.)

9.      What are some other ways Satan leads Christians to commit acts that can harm the local church?

10.  How should the church respond to the conduct of willfully disobedient believers?

 

Exhibit C: Sapphira! Read Acts 5:7-11

 

1.      What do we know about Sapphira? (Married to Ananias; together they plotted to deceive the church about the selling price of their property; she lied to Peter; she died and was buried next to her husband.)

2.      Why was Sapphira held to the same standard as her husband?

3.      What does it mean to test the Lord? (Peter based his confrontation on what Sapphira had done to the Lord—not specifically to the church. When we sin within the church, we sin unto the Lord.)

4.      What would happen if a leader in our church confronted one of our members in a similar manner? (Believers are to take sin within the church seriously. It is not something that can be brushed under the congregational rug.)

Read Acts 5:11 again.

5.      What was the result of what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira?

We must realize God takes sin seriously. Sin is visible to God even if it is invisible to man. Sin requires accountability. God expects those who are a part of His church to live holy lives.

6.      What are some reasons God expects Christians to live holy lives? (We are to be holy as He is holy. We are to set a good example for others inside the church AND outside the church. Our lives are to be different from the world so others can see the transformation that comes when the Holy Spirit indwells our hearts!)

7.      How do you think non-Christians in Jerusalem viewed the early church?

8.      Do you think the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira helped or hurt the early church in their community?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Barnabas demonstrated obedience, sacrifice, and encouragement through his actions.

Ananias demonstrated pride, greed, and manipulation through his actions.

Sapphira demonstrated a lack of courage and a willingness to deceive through her actions.

 

Self examination:

1.      Are my motives honorable?

2.      Am I being obedient?

3.      Are there areas of my Christian life where I try to deceive others by appearing more “spiritual” than I really am?

4.      To whom am I accountable?

 

Invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and point out characteristics that are unholy and unpleasing to the Lord.

Ask Him for strength and courage to live a life of integrity!

 

Courageous - Acts 3:1-4:13

1.      How would you define bravery? (Some synonyms are—courage, daring, dauntlessness, fearlessness, fortitude, gallantry, grit, guts, hardiness, heroism, indomitability, intrepidity, mettle, spirit, spunk, valor.)

2.      Not including people in the Bible, who is the bravest person you know? (For me it is Dr. Robert Jeffress. He is one of the bravest, most outspoken religious leaders of our day. Dr. Fannin also falls into this category.)

3.      What motivates a person to demonstrate bravery? (Love, sense of duty, conviction, concern, selfishness, character—it is just who they are.)

For a Christian it is being willing to take a stand for what is right regardless of what others say, think or do.

4.      When was the last time someone challenged your beliefs or your lifestyle?

5.      How did you respond?

Living for Christ is contrary to the world in many ways. We can expect to be challenged by others who do not accept Jesus as Lord and His teachings.

Taking a stand for Christ requires courage. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to provide the courage we need and the words to say when we are challenged.

We know that Jesus demonstrated unparalleled bravery as He faced His accusers and willingly surrendered His life on the cross. Scripture and history records numerous accounts of brave men and women in both the Old and New Testaments. Today we will examine one example of bravery that involved the early church leaders, Peter and John.

(Consider having some of your members do a Dramatic Reading of Acts 3:1-4:22 from a modern translation to give a full background for the focal passage.)

 

The Challenge! Read Acts 4:1-7

 

1.      What is your typical response to confrontation?

2.      Notice the word “provoked” in verse 2; why were the skeptics provoked, and what exactly does that mean?

3.      What modern-day comparisons could be made to what Peter and John faced?

4.      What role do you think intimidation played in this inquiry?

5.      What might happen in our world today if believers’ words and actions were considered a threat?

There are believers in all parts of the world who are facing persecution at some level for their faith.

Peter and John were taken before the Jewish ruling body—the Sanhedrin. This body consisted of 71 men headed by the High Priest—the same body that condemned Jesus to death. They were officially responsible for interpreting the Scriptures—which is what Peter and John were doing!

            The time between the healing of the lame man and Peter and John’s arrest must have been several hours—long enough for thousands to respond to the gospel message.

Notice the question in verse 7. It is posed in an attempt to trap Peter and John, not to invite honest dialogue. As we will see, Peter and John welcomed the question—“well let me tell you by what power this lame man was healed.”

6.      When have you faced intimidation for following Jesus?

7.      What examples in the news have you heard recently that are an obvious attempt to put Christians “in the hot seat” for their beliefs?

Paul says in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” Regardless of the audience or their attitude, when the Gospel is proclaimed the power of God is unleashed and there is opportunity for someone to come to know Jesus as Savior.

8.      What power is most influential in your life?

 

The Answer! Read Acts 4:8-12

 

1.      Consider Peter’s words, his surroundings and the religious leader’s attitude toward him and John. What are some words you might use to describe Peter’s actions here? (Astounding, courageous, bold, undeterred, articulate, convincing, uncompromising, or fearless.)

Peter’s boldness and eloquence in speaking the truth left little room for argument or accusation. He simply told the truth!

            Remember, Peter was simply a fisherman and unaccustomed to public speaking. Peter didn’t speak in his own power.

2.      What words or phrases in these verses indicate that Peter and John were not intimidated by the Sanhedrin?

3.      What was the substance of Peter’s message?  (Peter connected with his audience by identifying with the Old Testament, referring to Psalm 118:22 in verse 11. When speaking to others about Christ, we should begin with where people are.)

4.      Which phrases in Peter’s defense do you think carried the most weight?

5.      Do you believe that same phrase is as persuasive today as it was in the first century?

 

The Recognition! Read Acts 4:13

 

1.      What did the religious leaders conclude after hearing Peter and John’s response? (The religious leaders recognized that even though His disciples had no rabbinical training, Peter and John’s response was indicative of having spent time with Jesus, the Master Teacher. In three and a half years the Disciples had received their college education and graduated with honors!)

2.      If the religious leaders realized all of this, why did they still not believe? (Their little kingdom of power they had built would crumble. They saw in Peter and John the same threat that they had seen in Jesus. They had killed Jesus, but they had not killed the power of His message. It lives on through believers who proclaim the truth.)

3.      Peter and John’s response evidenced that they had been with Jesus. If we were challenged for our faith, what would our response reveal about those with whom we’ve been? (Being with others influences us in a positive or negative way. We should choose our companions wisely and be a positive influence to others. When people say they can tell someone has been spending time with you is it a positive thing or a negative thing?)

The Sanhedrin ultimately let Peter and John go in order to avoid an uprising and because they had no concrete charges to bring against them.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Of the words we came up with to describe Peter’s actions before the Sanhedrin, how many of those same words could describe our witness and willingness to share Christ with others?

Peter and John were not responsible for the healing of the crippled man, and they did not take credit for it or become prideful in their actions. Christians can certainly count on the Holy Spirit to equip them to speak with boldness and power, but all honor and glory for anything that is accomplished goes to Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s examine our lives in light of this week’s study.

2.      Do we willingly share Jesus Christ when given an opportunity?

3.      Are we depending on the Holy Spirit to equip us with the courage we need to witness?

4.      How can we develop a greater boldness in sharing the Gospel?

 

As we close in prayer let’s ask the Holy Spirit for supernatural courage to proclaim the name of Jesus, for total dependence on Him to accomplish His work, and for opportunities to share Jesus Christ with others.

 

 

Unified - Acts 2:41-47

  For those of you who have been gone a Sunday or two, we started a new study in the book of Acts, the first Sunday of March.  On that first Sunday we saw the instructions of Jesus in Acts 1:8 as he told the disciples, “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.”  This is the same Great Commission we studied in Matthew. Last Sunday we saw and heard that power, described as wind and fire from heaven, as “it filled the whole house where they were staying with the Holy Spirit.” This was the beginning of the first Church and was witnessed by a large number of people from many different countries.

 

  Last Sunday’s lesson ended at Acts 2:15 with Peter stepping up to get the crowd’s attention and explain what was and was not happening. Today’s lesson begins in Acts 2:41-47 and essentially skips verses 16-40 in which the newly empowered Peter explains the meaning of the events the crowd had just witnessed.  He cited Scripture from the Old Testament prophet Joel as evidence these happenings were a fulfillment of prophecy, and he identified Jesus, whom they had crucified, as the resurrected Lord and Messiah who had poured out the Spirit upon His followers. Many in the crowd fell under deep conviction and asked what response they needed to make to Peter’s message. I think Peter offered them the first altar call. He instructed them to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38. Another thought he stressed to the huge crowd is in 2:40 where he tells them to “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Isn’t it fascinating how the words of the bible apply to our world today!

 

Read Acts 2:41-42

   How did people respond to Peter’s sermon? About 3,000 were saved, baptized and became involved in the community of believers (Church).

   What is the logistical reality of verse 41? A large area was needed to hold thousands of people. Peter did not have a snazzy sound system. God allowed everyone to hear, and as we studied last Sunday, they could hear in their own language.

   Can you imagine any Church growing from 120 to over 3,000 in one day? Our Pastor Todd and the Fusion Church will have baptisms several times a year to baptize 20 or 30 people. Don’t you know he would love to baptize 3,000 people in one day? I have no doubt he could figure out how to do it.

   What might an outpouring of God’s miraculous grace with an outcome like this mean to our church today? Blessings on our church and community.

   Verse 41 says “those who accepted his message were baptized”. Is baptism required for salvation? No. “The Baptist Faith and Message” (online at www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp) describes baptism as an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith.

   What are the four activities to which the early church was devoted? Teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

   Which of these activities are a priority for our church today? Could priority be:  1. Eating, 2. Visiting, 3. Prayer, 4. Teaching?  

 

Read Acts 2:43-47

   What does “fear came over everyone” mean? Could be fright, but here, as we have studied before, the meaning is reverence or respect.

   What are the “many wonders and signs” Luke refers to in verse 43? I plan to ask four class members to read: Acts 4:30, Acts 5:12, Acts 6:8, and Acts 15:12. Perhaps you read these yourself. The discussion should make the point that God was still doing miracles through the disciples and the people were seeing them performed.

   What does verse 44 not mean? The church members were not required to surrender all their personal property and live as part of a Christian commune.

   Then what does verse 44 really mean? Various individuals did give of their means generously and did host church meetings in their homes. The concept of the family of God and the importance of their shared mission as believers seem to have inspired a remarkable generosity in the church.

   What happens when believers are not united in purpose? Members can get sidetracked and lose sight of the church’s primary purpose. Personal agendas can overshadow reaching people for Christ.

   When and where does verse 46 say the believers met? Everyday, in the temple and in different houses.

   What is the importance of large group gatherings vs small group gatherings? Large groups can build fellowship and excitement through corporate worship.  Small groups enable people to become better acquainted and meet each other’s needs.

   Does God prefer the large group or small group meeting? Both, God is present wherever His people gather. Remember Matt. 18:20.

   What were the people doing in verse 47? Praising God and having favor with all the people.

   What was the Lord doing in verse 47? God’s blessing was evident. The church was growing with believers being added daily. 

 

Conclusion

   As Jesus’ followers, we should be connected and contributing to the health of a local group of believers. For us, we should not let ourselves be limited to our Sunday School Class.

   We should worship together and look for opportunities to assist other believers as they have needs.

   Close in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to show us how we can contribute to the unity and health of our church. Pray, too, for all the believers around the world who are studying Acts alongside us.