salvation

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.

 

Converted - Acts 9:1-25

1.      How would you define the word “convert”? (Cause to change in form, character or function.”)

2.      What is the difference between “reform” and “transform”? (Reform—Make changes in something or someone in order to improve it. Transform—make a through or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.)

When we come to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our lives are transformed, our old nature dies and our new nature is a transformed nature to be like Jesus. Everything is changed! We aren’t simply reforming our old nature; we have a new nature brought about by the indwelling Holy Spirit!

3.      Who would you be most surprised to see accept Jesus as Lord?

In today’s Scripture passage we see Saul’s personal conversion from perhaps the most zealous opponent of Christianity to the most passionate follower of Jesus in the early church. The Christian community was shocked and a little leery of him, and for good reason.

4.      What other dramatic conversions can you recall from Scripture? (Matthew, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus.)

The Confrontation! Read Acts 9:1-6

 

Note that Saul recognized the power of what was happening, but he was unsure about with whom he was speaking.

Damascus lays claim to being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. Christians evidently had fled there when the persecution began in Jerusalem, just as they had to Samaria.

 

1.      How did Jesus literally stop Saul in his tracks? (Saul saw a brilliant light in the middle of the day, a light brighter than the sun. Acts 26:13 Paul testifies before Agrippa.)

2.      How did Saul respond? (With reverence and respect.)

3.      Twice Jesus indicated Saul was persecuting Him. Do you think this shocked Saul?

4.      What does Jesus telling Saul that He was the One he was persecuting indicate about Jesus’ relationship with His followers? (This shows the close personal connection Jesus has with His bride, the church. He takes any persecution as a personal attack against Himself. How do you feel when your children or grandchildren are hurting?)

5.      How would you characterize the confrontation between Jesus and Saul?

6.      Why do you think Jesus chose such a dramatic way to confront Saul? (Notice we don’t find any two encounters with Jesus being the same. He speaks to each of us individually and personally. Jesus knows exactly what we need individually.)

Reflect on your personal encounter with Jesus. Some people may feel that they have to be in a place like Saul, far away from God, before they truly “understand” grace. This can lessen the influence of those who have experienced a godly home built upon biblical principles. Any salvation experience is a testimony of the power of God; all lost people, regardless of circumstance, are in need of salvation. (Maddox Perkins, for example. It takes the same amount of grace for him as it did for Saul.)

 

The Companions! Read Acts 9:7-9

 

1.      Why do you think Jesus appeared to Saul when he was traveling with companions, rather than when he was alone? (Saul’s companions, aware of a sound but not of what was said, led him to Damascus since he was unable to see. It appears the audible voice was intended for Saul alone. Saul’s companions were eyewitnesses to an encounter of some type. The fact that they shared the experience helped to authenticate it historically.)

2.      How was Saul changed by his encounter with God? (There was a certain amount of humility now that didn’t exist before. He had to rely on others to get him to Damascus. In an instant, Saul had changed from a powerful man on his way to arrest others, to a helpless individual who had to be led by his companions.)

 

3.      How do you think his companions might have responded to the change?

Before meeting Jesus, Saul was spiritually blind but physically sighted. Now he was physically blind but spiritually sighted!

 

Read Acts 9:10-14

 

The Commission! Read Acts 9:15-20

 

1.      Do you think you might have been hesitant like Ananias?

2.      Jesus called Saul His “chosen instrument”, what does it mean to be chosen by God as His instrument? (God chose Saul to carry the gospel to gentiles, kings, and Israelites. His commissioning message included suffering. God uses all kinds of people in His kingdom work and does so in different ways. Notice how He used Saul’s traveling companions, Ananias and Saul, himself.)

3.      Is there anyone you know whom you would call a “chosen instrument” for God? (All Christians are God’s “chosen instruments”. Each of us has a specific Spiritual Gift and a mission to complete. Your calling is no less significant than that of Saul’s. His may be more visible to the world but as he was obedient so we are to be obedient to God’s call in our lives.)

4.      Saul’s conversion experience is recounted twice more in the book of Acts. If Saul were to share his testimony with our class, what points do you think he would include?

Not all testimonies are as dramatic as Saul’s, but a dramatic change occurs any time Jesus moves in a life!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Could Saul still have chosen to stubbornly reject Jesus? (Yes! But God knew Saul’s heart and, I believe Saul was doing what he thought was God’s will as he persecuted Christians. When he realized Jesus was God’s Son and had died for the sins of the world Saul had no problem being totally committed to follow Jesus from then on.)

2.      Saul and his traveling companions experienced an unforgettable road trip on the way to Damascus. How can you make sure you’re being God’s messenger as you travel the road of life? (If you’ve accepted Christ as your personal Savior, the next step is to share Jesus with others. All believers can share Jesus with others based on their personal experiences with Him. All testimonies are based on personal experience and all are valid. Think about how your life was before Christ, how you came to Christ, and how you’re continuing to serve Him.)

 

We simply need to proclaim the truth of Acts 4:12—“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people and we must be saved by it.”

 

3.      How is your conversion different from Saul’s conversion?

4.      In what ways was your conversion similar to Saul’s?

 

We are all saved by grace through faith!

 

Pray for someone with whom you can share your own personal testimony this week!

 

 

Obedient - Acts 8:26-40

1.      How do you respond when you are interrupted?

2.      Do we ever run such a tight schedule that we miss opportunities to share the gospel with those around us?

3.      How willing are you to stop what you are doing, which is successful, to do something else?

Today’s Scripture passage reveals how an interruption provided an opportunity for Philip to share Jesus. Philip was obedient in following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Last week we studied Acts chapter seven and the stoning of Stephen. Let’s see what transpired immediately after the stoning of Stephen.

Read Acts 8:1-3

It would seem that the Jewish authorities got away with stoning Stephen so they decided they would persecute all the Christians.

Read Acts 8:4-8

4.      What was the result of the persecution of the Christians? (The fulfillment of the Great Commission Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20—make disciples of all nations, and Acts 1:8—you shall be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judah, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.)

Acts 8:9-25 tells about the Samaritans accepting the gospel. Then Peter and John came to Samaria where the Holy Spirit confirmed to them that indeed the Samaritans had been saved. They also encountered a man named Simon who wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from Peter but he repented of his sin and was himself saved.

In the midst of this great revival taking place in Samaria an angel came to Philip and told him to leave there to witness to one man.

We will see how God used the obedience of Philip to lead an Ethiopian to saving knowledge of the Lord. This chapter is a microcosm of the fulfillment of Acts 1:8!

 

 

Compelled to Seek! Read Acts 8:26-29

 

God used an angel in this experience to be the messenger to give the direction Philip needed, yet it was Philip’s dynamic obedience to God’s direction that would make an impact!

 

1.      How do you think you would have responded to the angel’s message, considering that you were having great success sharing the gospel in Samaria?

2.      How was Philip’s response in verse 27 to the call to “go” in verse 26 a sign of commitment to God? (Philip was responding in faith with urgency to share. God may also take us from one place to another in order to accomplish His purposes; we simply have to place our trust in His plan.)

3.      What are some reasons Philip could have given for not obeying the angel’s directions? (We are having success here. I don’t want to leave my family. I’m not prepared. I don’t want to witness to an Ethiopian, I don’t speak his language.)

4.      Where had the eunuch been and why would that be strange? (First he would have been a proselyte, but second, if he was a eunuch physically he could not enter the temple.)

5.      What barrier is overcome with Philip being told to go share the gospel with a eunuch? (The gospel is for all people, even those previously considered outcast.)

6.      How do you think you would have responded to the angel’s directions?

There must come a time and a place when we embrace the call of God to be obedient. For Philip, this was demonstrated by his obedience to share the gospel, just as believers have been called to this work today. Our actions can be used by God, but faith in Jesus comes from hearing the gospel and responding freely.

 

Prepared to Share! Read Acts 8:30-35

 

We really don’t know if there were several travelers or if this was the only group traveling at this time.

1.      If there were several traveling, how did Philip know who he was to share the gospel with?

The Eunuch was most likely reading from the Greek translation of Isaiah. It also indicates a certain amount of wealth because transcripts of the Scriptures were rather expensive.

2.      How did Philip strike up a conversation with the Eunuch?

3.      How does this passage convey Philip’s initiative and eagerness to share the gospel? (Because he was obedient to God’s direction, Philip ran up to the chariot and asked the Ethiopian a specific question.)

4.      How does it reveal the way the Holy Spirit had laid the groundwork for the encounter? (The Ethiopian was receptive and asked for his help in understanding the Scripture.)

Of all the passages in the Old Testament, the eunuch was reading Scripture that provided a natural transition into the gospel. He was reading from Isaiah 53, which describes the Suffering Servant (Jesus). Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy is a major theme of Acts.

5.      Notice that Philip was prepared to share the gospel. What can we learn from his example? (Philip had obviously studied the Scriptures. He addressed the eunuch’s questions, explaining how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies.)

Philip most likely used other Scripture as well, based on the phrase “beginning from that Scripture”.

6.      All believers have the Holy Spirit living within them. Does that mean we don’t need to study Scripture because the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say at the right time? (No! We must study Scripture for our own growth and so we can share with others as God gives us opportunity!)

We must recognize opportunities to share Jesus with others as the Holy Spirit directs us. We gain confidence to share as we grow in our understanding of the Scriptures.

There are people whom God has placed in our path so that we can share the good news with them. This doesn’t just mean through our actions—we must also engage in conversation and lead them to personal faith in Jesus that will then lead them to demonstrate their faith through obedience.

 

 

 

Focused on Salvation! Read Acts 8:36-40

 

1.      What does this passage say about the connection between salvation and baptism? (Philip baptized the eunuch as a declaration of the man’s faith in Jesus. It is a picture for the world to see that a transformation had taken place inside a person. We are buried with Jesus in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life with Him.)

2.      How do you understand baptism?

The eunuch coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior demonstrates that salvation is available to all who are willing to receive Jesus.

Baptism by immersion is a symbolic act of obedience for the believer. Water baptism has no saving power. Only Christ can provide salvation!

3.      How did the Ethiopian eunuch evidence his life change? (He went on his way rejoicing. Jesus changes lives—forever!)

4.      What did Philip do after this experience?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Just as Philip had to be obedient in the direction that the Lord was leading him to share the gospel, so also the Ethiopian had demonstrated obedience by being baptized. Now he could share with people in Ethiopia the Good News about Jesus!

 

We are not saved simply to be rescued from hell but to help rescue others from hell as well.

 

1.      What barriers do we have to overcome to better recognize opportunities to share Jesus with others?

2.      What steps can we take to overcome those barriers?

3.      Are you equipped to share the Gospel like Philip?

 

Pray that the Holy Spirit would direct us as He did Philip in this passage and may we be willing to be obedient!