The Early Days of the Church
September 15, 2021
The Early Days of the Church
-Acts is the only book in the history division of the New Testament. The Gospels record a special portion of history, but Acts is a formal history of the early days of the church.
OVERVIEW OF ACTS
• Author: Luke
• Recipient: Theophilus
• Time: When Jesus leaves His disciples to ascend to heaven
-To set the stage, Acts tells how Jesus gave final instructions to His disciples and left them. Jesus left the ministry of the Gospel in the hands of His disciples, who would lead the church by the power of the Spirit.
-Jesus’ Instructions (1:4): wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit
-Jesus’ promises (1:5–8):
• They would be baptized with the Holy Spirit
• They were to be His witnesses to the world in 3 stages (1:8):
2. Judea & Samaria
3. Uttermost part of earth
Choosing Another Apostle (Acts 1:15-26)
-After betraying Jesus, Judas took his own life. The disciples decided that they should fill his position with someone else. They decided on two basic requirements (1:21-22):
1. to have been with Jesus from His baptism to ascension
2. to have been a witness of His resurrection (seen Him after resurrection)
-They selected 2 men who fit the requirements (Matthias & Joseph), and then prayed and cast lots (i.e. drawing straws)–selecting Matthias. (1:23-26)
*At this point, Jesus’ disciples are no longer called disciples but apostles. Instead of following, they are sent out to preach, teach, and lead.
The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)
-3 miracles that occurred on the Day of Pentecost:
- A sound like the blowing of a mighty wind (2:2)
- Appearance of tongues of fire resting on the apostles (2:3)
- Apostles speaking in other languages (2:4)
-In 2:36, Peter declared that the Jesus they crucified is both Lord and Christ.
-They realized Jesus was the promised Messiah. Afraid God would punish them for killing Jesus (“What shall we do?”), Peter tells them to (2:38):
1. Repent 2. be baptized
-About 3,000 people accepted Christ and were baptized (2:41).
Ingredients for Worship in the Early Church (2:42)
1. The apostles’ teaching 2. Fellowship 3. Lord’s Supper/Communion 4. Prayer
Church Growth: Collective & Individual
-After the shameful desertion of Jesus at the cross, Peter grew in faith and gospel-based courage.
- Under threats, he vowed to obey God and preach His Word (4:18-20)
- Confronted sin in other believers (5:1-11)
- Openly led the church and ministered while threatened (5:12-16)
- Continued preaching after arrest/imprisonment/threats (5:17-32)
The 3-stage witness process in action:
- Stephen was falsely accused and stoned in Jerusalem for preaching the Gospel (6:5, 8-14; 7:54-60)
- This persecution led to the spread of the Gospel to other cities in Judea and Samaria (8:1,4).
- Philip met and discipled an Ethiopian royal servant who went back to his country “rejoicing” (8:26-40).
Paul: From Christian-Hater to Christian-Maker
-Who was Paul?
-Original Hebrew name: Saul (Acts 8:1; 9:1)
-Changed to Greek name: Paul (Acts 13:9)
-Birthplace: Tarsus (Acts 9:11)
-Race: Jewish (Phil. 3:5)
-Tribe: Benjamin (Phil. 3:5)
-Occupation: tentmaker (Acts 18:3)
-Religious group: Pharisee (Phil. 3:5)
-Passion: persecuting Christians (Acts 9:1)
-Then Something Happened (9:1-22)…
1 Saul persecutes the church.
2 Saul’s sets out for Damascus.
3 Saul sees a light and hears a voice.
4 Jesus asks Paul why he is persecuting Him.
5 Saul discovers he is blind.
6 God sends Ananias to Saul.
7 God says that Saul will carry the gospel to Gentiles.
8 Saul’s blindness is healed.
9 Saul is baptized.
10 Saul testifies for Jesus.
-Saul changed his Jewish name to the Greek name “Paul.” He wanted to reach the Romans and Greeks with the gospel. God appointed him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Essentially everyone in the Roman Empire spoke Greek. Gentiles would be more open to listen to him if he had a Greek name.
-The church at Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries (13:1–5).
How did people respond to their preaching?
• 13:12: believed
• 13:42–43: curious; wanted to hear more
• 13:48: were glad; glorified God’s Word, and believed
• 14:1–7: many Jews and Gentiles believed, but some were angry and tried to stop Paul
-On Paul’s second missionary journey, he took Silas and Timothy with him (15:36–16:3). While visiting the churches that he had started, Paul had a vision about a man from Macedonia who pleaded for help (16:9–10).
-In the Macedonian city of Philippi, many families came to the Lord. Luke mentions two families among the converts: Lydia’s family and the jailer’s family (16:13–15, 25–34).
Application for today: Jesus sent out the apostles to preach and teach His Word. The church sends out missionaries (disciple-makers) to preach and teach Christ’s Word today. Just as the church at Antioch sent out Paul and others, churches today are the sending agency for disciple-makers locally and all over the world.
*Study from Route 66: Travel Through the Bible by Mark Reed, Positive Action for Christ, Inc.