Upcoming Discipleship Groups

In the month of February I, along with Parris Payden and Derek Stone and several other men from Dublin Baptist Church will be starting up new discipleship groups focused on key areas of spiritual growth.  We wanted to post the information here on those groups, along with specific times and contact info should anyone want to be involved.

Details

Group 1: Derek Stone & Parris Payden
Begins February 18th 
6:00pm-8:00pm @Dublin Baptist Church, Room 135, every sunday evening weekly
Contact Parris: parrispayden@gmail.com or Derek: dstonedo@yahoo.com
 
Group 2: PJ Wenzel & Bo Dobbs
Begins February 9th 
6:30pm-8:30pm @Rod Kinsey’s Home (Dublin) every sunday evening weekly
Contact PJ: pjwenzel@gmail.com or Bo: bodobbs1@gmail.com
 
Group 3: Ben Frank & John Short
Begins February 11th 
8pm-10pm @Ben Frank’s home (Dublin) every Tuesday evening weekly
Contact John: john.short@hotmail.com or Ben: benfrank94@gmail.com

 

Areas of Study Include: 

  • Biblical Roles (parenting, marriage, leadership etc.)
  • Church History and Evangelism
  • The Doctrines of Grace and the Gospel
  • Everyday Living/Sanctification and Knowing God’s Character
  • First Things: How the Gospel/Cross Applies to Our Lives

Key Components of a Discipleship Group’s Activities

  1. Prayer – devote a significant period of time during the group’s meeting to corporate prayer, and continue to pray for each other throughout the week (Phil. 4:46; James 5:16, etc.)
  2. Accountability/Encouragement – lovingly encourage one another in our walk with Christ. As requests, praises and life is shared group members we must strive to lift each other up, be honest with each other, and exhort one another toward Christ-like behavior (Heb. 3:13, 10:24; James 5:16a; 1 Thess. 5:11, etc.).
  3. Scripture Memorization/Meditation – corporate recitation and encouragement of scripture memorization (Ps. 119:11; Rom. 12:1-2, etc.)
  4. Regular serving and outreach – participation as a group in outreach, evangelistic, and service opportunities such as GROW, Bill Glass Prison Ministries, helping elderly or widows in the church, preparing/delivering meals for the homebound and other opportunities for service (John 13:35; Gal. 2:10; James 1:27, 2:14-26 etc.).
  5. Doctrinal/Theological Growth – We are called to leave the elementary principles (Heb. 6:1) and press on toward maturity in Christ in order that our lives might be more conformed to His image (2 Cor. 3:18).  In order to do this we must spend more time learning about who God is, and what His Word says.

We have already had a great amount of interest in these groups, so much so that they’re filling up quickly.  If you’d like to be involved please contact us immediately and we’ll get you plugged in.

I have personally found a great deal of encouragement and experienced a lot of growth spiritually because of the men and the time I’ve spent in discipleship groups over the past few years.  The goal of these groups is simple: make disciples.  We want to press on toward maturity in Christ.  Once a group has been together a few years, we will (by the grace of God) split off and disciple more men who haven’t had the ability to be a part of any training.

PJ Wenzel

John 15:9-11 Study Notes – Getting Joy from Obedience

Here are my study notes from yesterday morning’s lesson.  We spent some time talking about joy in life, and how big of a deal it is that in this section of Scripture Jesus reveals His desire for us to have joy.  That’s a far cry from the stoic detached God we hear about from critics of Christianity!  I hope you enjoy these short notes, and that this week you are challenged to think especially on verse 11.

Blessings,

PJW

 

15:9-10 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

The Awesomeness Meter…Broken

I think there are basically 6 points to verses 9-14 that need examined.  But first, I can’t move on to look at these general themes without noting something in particular about verse nine – as I was looking at this verse and the whole section I just couldn’t get over Jesus saying that He loves us (note the past tense there as if he’s always loved us) “as the Father has loved me.”

What this ought to tell us is something about the relationship between the Father and the Son, and also something about how much Jesus loves us.  I’m not sure how much it would help to prattle on here about this, because every explanation or description I think of to describe it seems to make it seem trite in comparison with what I know Jesus is describing.

Think of it this way: when God does something, He does it in a BIG way.  Not size-wise, but in terms of awesomeness.  Think of the awesomeness meter being broken!  Okay, now that the picture is in your head, realize that the intensity and depth of His love for the Son is going to match that depth and intensity that the Son has for us.  If that doesn’t blow your mind I might as well quit teaching now!

Its this kind of truth we need to lay as a foundation stone for our understanding of Christian doctrine.  Let me give you an example of why….if someone asks you if you can loose your salvation, or if Jesus is really with you in a trial, or if God is really in control of all the details of your life, or if Jesus really died specifically for you, and so on…you can answer in the affirmative because you have a foundational understanding of how much Jesus loves you.

  • Jesus doesn’t loose any sheep – He’s too powerful and loves you too much
  • Jesus doesn’t abandon you – He loves you too much
  • God the Son is in control of all things and that includes all the details in your life – He loves you too much not to be involved
  • Jesus really did die for you – because He loves you as much as the Father loves Him

I think you probably get the picture!  Paul got the picture also, and that’s why he could write the following:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

The Mark of a Christian

So the first part of verse 9 is foundational, and as we examine verses 9-14 I want to look at the mark of discipleship and what enables us to obey.  Christ is primarily here concerned to show what life in the vine looks like, and to exhort His disciples toward that life which will reflect their relationship with Him.  Just as it was the purpose of ancient Israel to be a light to nations and show forth the glories and joy of living in true relationship with God, so too is it our privilege to be a light to the world and show others what true communion with God looks like.

I want to explore these truths under six headings:

    • Disciples Obey
    • Disciples Obey Because Jesus Obeyed First
    • Disciples Obey and get Joy as a Result
    • Disciples Obey because they love Jesus
    • Disciples Love Jesus Because He First Loved Them
    • Disciples Are Called to Radical Obedience and Love

Notice that there is a sort of ascending or building house of truth here…

Disciples Obey

Jesus says that the result of being united with Him is that we will bear fruit. If you are in the vine then you will bear fruit – so what does that look like? It looks like obedience.

The mark of a true disciple of Christ – a born again believer – is that they will bear the fruit of obedience to the commands of Jesus.

That is why Jesus can confidently assert, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”  Keeping the commands results from abiding in Christ.

If you are consistently not obeying Christ’s commands, then there is good reason to wonder if you are truly saved and numbered among His sheep. It is a simple fact that those who have been converted become a new creation, and that new creation behaves in ways that are different than those who are not “in” Christ.

Of course the sanctification process is slow – painfully slow sometimes! – but we know that what God began He will be faithful to complete (Phil. 1:6).

Disciples Obey Because Jesus Obeyed First

Note now from verse 10 that Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything that He didn’t first accomplish. He is the “righteous branch” (Jer. 23:5) and is not only our example, but also paved the way for us to be capable of obedience. That’s what Jesus is saying when He says, “Just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

These are the two truths we must internalize here:

  1. Jesus obeyed first and is our example of how to live in righteousness and truth
  2. Jesus’ obedience means that even when we fail we will still be righteous in the eyes of God

Jesus was just as human as we are, tempted as we are, and yet was without sin (Heb. 4:15; 2 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5), and Jesus’ obedience has been imputed to our account (Rom. 4:22-25) in order that we might become “the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The result of this obedience is not only the ability to obey through the power of the Holy Spirit, but the beautiful truth that when we fail (and we will) we can boldly come before the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness – with the confidence to know it will be forgiven (Hebrews 4).

Therefore, because Christ’s righteous life ransomed us from a life of sin and corruption, which would have resulted in eternal death, we give Him our lives as an offering. We serve, we teach, we follow Christ – we obey.

As Christians we now follow the example of Christ by the power of Christ.  Just as He obeyed through the power of the Spirit, so we too “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) and obedience to His commands.

Of Christ’s submission to the Spirit Bruce Ware comments:

Although Jesus was full God, as a man he chose to rely not on his own divine nature but on the power of the Spirit. In this way, he lived his life as an example for us (1 Peter 2:21-22), and fulfilled the perfect obedience that Adam had failed to accomplish…As a man, Jesus submitted fully to the Spirit, even though in terms of rank, within the Trinity, Jesus has authority over the Spirit.

Likewise we Christians are to submit to the power of the Spirit as we follow the example of Jesus. Romans 6:17-18 describes this beautifully:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18, ESV)

15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Disciples Obey and get Joy as a Result

Just as Christ is our example in obedience and walking in the power of the Spirit, so too is He in receiving joy as a result.  Look at what we read in Hebrews 12:

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, ESV)

I think this joy is not only something we experience in heaven, but also here on earth.  There is a joy in obeying your Lord – in serving Him with all of your heart.  This is proven by our own experience, is it not?  We obey Christ’s word and someone benefits by our kindness, or our generosity and it thrills our soul!  In this way the kingdom of heaven’s benefits are made manifest in our hearts even before we see that kingdom consummated upon Christ’s return.

This is what is meant, then, by the psalmist’s exhortation, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Ps. 34:8)

Obedience to God is not drudgery it is joy, and this is so because it is done in love.  That’s why Jesus said above, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”  Love is the overarching descriptor that Jesus uses to explain the nature of His obedience to the Father and our obedience to Him.  Without love your obedience is a “clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1) and is completely unprofitable.

As we’ve said previously, love for God and others is a mark of being a Christian. As was mentioned in chapter 13:

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Therefore all of this joy springs forth first from a heart that is loving toward others and toward God. Without this love there will be no joy. All of your “righteous” deeds will be like annoying sounds upon the ears of those whom you purport to serve.

A Last Word About This Joy…

There will be sometimes that we obey knowing that it is the right thing to do, and are empowered by God do obey, and yet we don’t experience that joy right away.  It seems like we’re doing something difficult and not something that excites us. But I can only attribute this to our sin nature.

For example, I once told Derek (Stone) that I really didn’t enjoy doing evangelism, but I would sign up to go because I knew it was the right thing to do.  Gradually, I asked for God’s help, and He changed my desires. Am I a gifted evangelist?  No! (I laugh just asking the question!) But boy o boy do I enjoy sharing the gospel when I’m given the opportunity.  What held me back from enjoying evangelism rather than just carrying out my “duty”?  My sin nature.

It is our sin nature that prevents us from being joyful all the time. It is our sin nature that brings millions of Christians to church every Sunday as if it were some perfunctory gathering and not a joyful time of worship.  It is our sin nature that mellows our worship as something mindless and heartless.  It is our sin nature when we think that showing up to church is something special when 90% of our friends are sleeping in.  It is our sin nature that cares more about the style of worship than learning out to worship properly in the first place. It is our sin nature talking after church when we nitpick about the sermon and yet haven’t lifted a finger to serve for months and months.

Don’t be fooled.  You are a sinner, and in this world you will have trouble – and much of that trouble will not be brought on by Satan (as if you’re that important), but by your own sinful self-centeredness.

You will never experience the joy of the Lord if you continue to live in the flesh instead of walking by the Spirit.  Forget yourself and your self-centered schedule and your self-centered dreams, and start reorienting your life around the Son of God. That is my prayer for you this year.

Acts Study Notes 10-25-12

Derek Stone’s notes on the first 11 verses of Acts chapter one are below – enjoy!

Acts 1:1-11

(Luke 24:45-Acts 1:1-11)

Can someone summarize what this section is about? It is the commission of the apostles to carry out Christ’s work in the power of the Spirit. McArthur would say that it is, Resources for carrying out Christ’s work on earth. (Message, Manifestation, Mystery, Might, Mission, and Motive)

Acts (praxeis in greek) was often used to describe the achievements of great people.

Acts of the Apostles or Acts of the Spirit- the work, or great achievement  that the Spirit did through the Apostles

Great practical information and gives us examples to follow. It is loaded with sermons, primarly from Peter and Paul that compose nearly 1/3 of the text.

Mostly chronicles the life of Peter and Paul, Acts 1:8 gives us a timeline/progression of the book, Jerusalem 1-7, Samaria/Judea 8-10, Ends of the Earth 11-28

Verse 1: Luke references his gospel and how he chronicled the life of Jesus, with his stated purpose being to write an orderly account to Theophilus, (a high ranking Roman official, lover of God) so that he may have certainty of what he had been taught.

If this is what Jesus began to do and teach, what is Acts probably about?

What was Jesus’ ministry, what was he primarily involved in?  He was teaching, preaching and healing. We see the same pattern with the apostles in Acts which is really cool!

Note that Jesus practiced what he preached, he was not just a theologian, he put it into practice. We are to follow the same pattern. We must not just listen to the word and so deceive ourselves, but be a doer, be the wise man that Jesus talked about.

Verse 2-3: Jesus was teaching the apostles for 3 years and then continued to teach them after the resurrection. He was concerned that they had the right message. If he was going to entrust His church to them, they had to have the right message.  This is the first resource that they needed! This is the same for us, we must know the truth. We must have a complete knowledge of the gospel and the truth in general. Jesus consistently called for his disciples to know the truth, Paul taught the same thing, urging his disciples to be commited to the truth, do you best to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the word of truth,  watch your life and your doctrine.

Note that Jesus worked in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is a great example for us to follow. We can only do God’s will as we are filled or controlled by the Spirit .

Describe the Holy Spirit?

-McArthur says,” the Holy Spirit is the divine agent who creates, sustains, and perserves spiritual life in those who place their trust in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not merely an influence or impersonal power emanating from God. He is a person, the third member of the Trinity, equal in every way to God the Father and God the Son. He is also called our Helper, Counselor, Advocate, Comforter, and the Spirit of Truth. He is the author of Scripture.  Among many characteristics of personhood that the Holy Spirit manifests are:  He functions with mind, emotion, and will. He loves the saints, He communicates with them, teaches, guides, comforts and chastises them. He can be grieved, quenched, lied to, tested, resisted, and blasphemed. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has indwelt all believers, illuminating their understanding and application of God’s Word. He fills them, seals them, communes with them, fellowships with them, intercedes for them, comforts them, admonishes them, sanctifies them and enables them to resist sin and serve God.

What is an apostle? One who is sent, a messenger, proxy, ambassador . A person acting with full authority for another.  Remember in Matthew 10, he says, I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves. They were sent out to represent him.

Why do you think Jesus showed himself to the apostles over 40 days?  They needed confidence to proclaim this message even if it cost them their lives.  They needed to know that he was alive and would fulfill his promise of the kingdom. We see Jesus eating with them, appearing to them and showing him his hands. Paul gives us the best description of his appearances in 1 Cor 15.

What is the kingdom of God?  Primarily refers to God’s sovereign rule in human life and the affairs of history. It is universal and includes all, in that sense, we are all in the kingdom of God no matter what. It has come with the King himself Jesus, but will not be consummated until Christ comes back. The kingdom also in one sense includes only believers, his special covenant community.

Verse 4-5: Jesus gave them this command, it was as if they were ready to go out and get to work, they had been given the Great Commission, right, so they were ready, but they forgot that they needed the Spirit, they had forgotten what he told them in John 14:16, 15:26.

What does the word baptize mean? To immerse a person in water or to deluge him with it, usually as a means of cleansing.

Notice that this is not a command to be baptized, but is something that will be done to them.  They are passive in the process and this is different from being filled with the Spirit. I will let PJ get more into that when we study Penecost.

Verse 6-7: What do we need to know and we don’t we need to know about the time of Jesus’s return? Jesus wants us to be ready, to be good and faithful servants. He gave the disciples some hints into when the times would be, but never a specific time. He wanted his followers to always be watchful and ready.

Verse 8: Here the mission is given. This is the theme of the whole book and of the section. It is the last words of our Lord. It involved a person, Christ, power, the Holy Spirit, and program, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth.

What is a witness? Has anyone ever been a witness before?

They are to be witnesses, one who tells the truth about what they have seen, heard and felt.  1 John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” They are to bear witness to Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done.

-“Dunamis”, translates in the English, power, from which we get dynamite.  If they were going to go out and proclaim the truth, they would need power.  This is what they were told to wait for, the power that will come from the Holy Spirit.  2 Tim 1:8, 2 Peter 1:3.  We all have been given this power, the same Holy Spirit that the apostles have, we have.

-As already mentioned, the verse here gives the outline of the whole book. The gospel was always presented to the Jew first and then to the Greek/Gentile. Jesus started with the Jews and had his apostles start there and branch out.

-Note that this is a command, we are all witnesses, the only question is how effective is our witness.  Witnesses is translated “martures”, which came to mean martyr, which because of the bloodshed that came on these witnesses, came to refer to one that died for his faith.

-Read Study Skill-application page 27.  Does Acts 1:8 apply to us? What is this calling us to change about how we live our life?

Verse 9-11: What conviction was going to sustain the apostles as they fulfilled their mission while Jesus was physically absent? Does 1:11 motivate you to be a witness for Christ, if so, in what way?

-This is the apostle’s motive for completing the mission. We all need motivation for doing the things we do. It is as if the angels are standing there saying, what are you doing staring into heaven, get to work!  All these men were of Galilee except Judas Iscariot.  The cloud symbolizes the shekinah, the visible manifestion of the divine presence and glory of God.  Such a cloud hovered above the tabernacle in the wilderness as a visible token of the glory of God that dwelt within the tabernacle. Jesus as the ascended Lord is enveloped by the shekinah cloud, the visible manifestation of God’s presence, glory, and approval.

Application: What is the main message here?  What is one verse or insight that we could meditate on this week to help put this into practice? Joshua 1:8

Introduction to Acts

This past Thursday our small group began a study on the book of Acts.  Derek Stone, Parris Payden, and myself (PJ Wenzel) will be teaching through the book verse by verse over the course of the next 10-12 months.  I’m thrilled to be starting this study, and look forward to many wonderful months of in-depth learning and growth for everyone.

In that spirit, I wanted to post my introductory notes for week one.  Enjoy!

Introduction to Acts

The Author

Very few people contend that Luke was not the author of this book.  His detailed account of things, and his reference to Theophilus early on in the both books are just two of the internal evidences that show he was the author Acts.

One of the internal evidences that Luke wrote this book and was actually a traveling companion of Paul can be found in the “we” passages of the book (16:10-17; 20:2-21:18; 27:1-28:16) where MacArthur notes that “the writer switches to the first person plural, showing he was present.”

In addition to being a follower of Christ, and one of Paul’s travel companions, Luke was also a doctor, and a man of education.  His Greek is some of the most eloquent that we find in the New Testament, and his precision when it comes to details has earned this book praise – even among critical secular scholars.

Both MacArthur and Sproul tell of the account of British Archeologist William Ramsay, who was a doubter of Christianity and decided to retrace the accounts of Luke step by step to show his inaccuracies.  What started as a de-bunking mission, ended up being a verification process of all that Luke had written.  Here’s what Ramsay said, “It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth” (cf. MacArthur’s commentary, pg. 5).

MacArthur notes further, “…he was a remarkably accurate historian. Acts shows familiarity with Roman law and the privileges of Roman citizens, gives the correct titles of various provincial rulers, and accurately describes various geographical locations.”

Luke also was very thorough in his research.  “According to tradition, Luke personally interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, to get her perspective on all the events surrounding the annunciation and the Nativity” (Sproul, pg. 20).

The Context

The first thing we must realize from a contextual perspective, is that Acts is really the second volume of a two-volume set written by Luke.

F.F. Bruce explains, “The Acts of the Apostles is the name given since the second century A.D. to the second volume of a History of Christian Origins composed by a first century Christian and dedicated to a certain Theophilus.  The earlier volume of this History is also extant as one of the 27 documents ultimately included in the New Testament canon: it is the work ordinarily known to us as the Gospel according to Luke.

Because of this, we need to realize that the introduction to the Gospel of Luke is really the introduction to both books (such was the custom in the ancient world).  John Stott comments, “it was the custom in antiquity, whenever it work was divided into more than one volume, to prefix to the first a preface for the whole.”  Therefore, it is important to first examine the beginning of Luke’s Gospel which states the following:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

Sproul and MacArthur say much the same thing.  Sproul comments, “In antiquity, that standard length of a book written in this manner (scrolls) was about 35 feet long. The scrolls were then rolled up and carefully preserved as they were read and passed from church to church. Initially Luke penned two volumes on separate scolls, on, the gospel account of Christ, and the second, which was carried along with the first, the book of Acts.

The Timeframe

There are basically two schools of thought on when this book was written.  Some say that it was written during the end of Paul’s lifetime, while others say that it was written after the fall of Jerusalem (70AD).  John MacArthur lays out some great reasons to believe this book was written before Paul died, and before 70AD:

  1. It best explains the abrupt ending for the book of acts.  The book ends by saying, “He lived there (Rome) two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Luke doesn’t talk about Paul’s death, something that I think would have been important to note.
  2. The Roman officials in Acts were friendly, if not favorable, to Christians.  This wasn’t the case later on.
  3. Luke doesn’t talk about the violent persecution of Christians during the reign of Nero.  Given the other persecution that Luke mentions (like the stoning of Stephen), it would not have made sense to leave such an important thing out.
  4. There’s not mention of the fall of Jerusalem.  Given all the disputes about Judaizers, and the way Luke documented the Council of Jerusalem, surely he would have written about a momentous event like the fall of the temple, and the city.  The temple was central in the life of Jews until 70AD, and Christ’s coming signaled the end of its physical significance.
  5. The subject mater of Acts is really more focused on early church disputes about the new covenant, and how to deal with the law, and the dietary elements of the law etc.  Whereas later in the first century, most of the debate turned to more theological matters.
  6. Acts doesn’t reflect any theological familiarity with Paul’s epistles.
  7. There’s not one mention of Paul’s travels after his second imprisonment, even though Luke was with him during this time.  If the book was written later, it would have made no sense to leave out those other great ministry stories from Paul’s travels.

The Purpose of the Book

I think we find this laid out in Luke’s preface to his gospel, which states, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”  So I think we see here that first of all, Luke wanted to put together an “orderly account” of what had happened.

The second, and more central purpose is what he says to Theophilus “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

MacArthur comments, “…Luke’s primary purpose is to show the spread of Christianity empowered and energized by the Holy Spirit, throughout the Roman world (1:8).”

Sproul comments, “Luke’s agenda was not only to verify that Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision but to remind his readers of the commandments that Jesus gave just before he ascended. What follows is the rest of Acts is a drama of the highest magnitude – the drama of the obedience of the early church to the mission that Christ had given to it.”

The Meta-Narrative – The Kingdom of God has “come upon you”

R.C. Sproul ends the first chapter of his commentary on Acts this way:

A whole new chapter of world history began with the ministry of Christ and with his ascension to the right hand of the father, where He is enthroned as the King. One of the worst distortions of theology that plagues the Evangelical world is the idea that the kingdom of God is something completely future. That view completely destroys the biblical testimony of the breakthrough of the kingdom of God in the ministry of Jesus, especially in his ascension. Yes, the consummation of the kingdom is still in the future, but the reality of the kingdom is now. The mission of the early church was to bear witness to the reality of that kingdom in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth.

The grand scope of redemptive history has seen an ushering in of a new chapter – an entirely new epic is birthed in the book of Acts.  This book was written to remind us to, and bear witness to itself, the fact that Jesus had ushered in the Kingdom of God.

For thousands of years mankind had been living in darkness.  We had gone astray, we had failed to keep the law of God.  We had failed to live in love toward each other, and we had failed to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and minds.

The time for a rescuer had come.  The long-appointed time for the recue plan had finally arrived, and Jesus had been victorious over even death itself.  Now, as He was wrapping up His earthly ministry, He wanted to ensure that we had closely understood all that He had come to teach us.  We were to be His witnesses to the entire world.  What were we bearing witness to?  Answer: To the reality of His kingdom.

Jesus is reigning in glory now, and has left us to carry on the work of expanding His kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We are to be obedient to that calling as Paul was – and the book of Acts tells us how this began.  That is why Acts is an important book.  It is showing us how the early church took on the mission that we carry out to this day.

In order to understand the importance of this book, we need to understand the historical importance of the time in which it was written.  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is like a mile marker that divides all of human history.  By His birth we even measure time to this day.  So when we read through the book of Acts, keep in mind that reality, and the fact that this was really the beginning of an entirely new epoch in history, as well as an entirely new spiritual reality in that Jesus had ushered in His spiritual kingdom.

Lastly, we need to remember as we read this book that so much of what is written in here emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit. Both Sproul and MacArthur rightly comment that the book of Acts could rightly be called “Acts of the Holy Spirit through His Apostles.”  The Spirit is mentioned over 50 times in this book, and its clear that the events in this book were guided by Him.  Also, since He is the writer of all sacred scripture, we must realize that as we study this book, what is included in these pages is not a comprehensive history, but rather what God wanted us to know about this time.  It is quite literally God’s own commentary on the events as they unfolded in the early days of the church.

Overview of Each Chapter

Chapter 1

Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, remains with the disciples for 40 days, and ascends into heaven.  Then the apostles chose Matthias to replace Judas as the 12th apostle.

Chapter 2

The Holy Spirit is given by God at the first Pentecost (there are four in the book of Acts), Peter gives a bold sermon that leads thousands to give their lives to Christ, and Luke details for us the harmony of the early church.

Chapter 3

Peter and John heal a lame man in the temple and give a rousing testament to the live and death of Jesus Christ, boldly sharing the gospel in the middle of the temple in Solomon’s Portico.

Chapter 4

Peter and John go before the council and speak with such bold clarity that the Sanhedrin are completely stumped and decided to chide them and release them.  Once released the church prayed for even more boldness and the entire building was shaken.  Luke tells us that they had “all things in common.”

Chapter 5

Ananias and Saphira die for lying to the Holy Spirit, Peter and John are arrested and speak before the council, but the council decides to let them go again because, under the Gamaliel, they thought it better to let the political situation play out…and they didn’t want to be “caught” on the wrong side of what God might be doing…they never thought about testing what the disciples of Christ were actually saying against what Scripture attested to.

Chapter 6

The apostles and early church members were getting overrun with work, and some were being neglected, so 7 men were chosen to lead a special service effort – similar to what our church deacons do today.  One of the seven men was a man named Stephen.  Stephen was especially bold in his preaching and was a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” Because of this, the Pharisees brought him before the council under arrest.

Chapter 7

Stephen details the historical meta-narrative of Scripture leading up to Jesus Christ.  The end of his testimony concludes with a stinging rebuke against the Pharisees for putting the “Lord of Glory” to death.  This is one of the richest historical narratives in Acts.  The chapter ends with Stephen being stoned to death and Saul standing by approving of the execution.

Chapter 8

Saul ravages the church and drags many to jail. Meanwhile, Phillip is evangelizing from city to city and having great success.  Here we learn about a false convert named Simon, and the end of the chapter details how Phillip shared the gospel with an important officer from Ethiopia. So the gospel is now going to go south to Africa!

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 details the dramatic Damascus road conversion of Paul where he is struck blind from a light from heaven.  Later we learn that Paul immediately proclaims the name of Jesus and is baptized, and even has to escape from Damascus in a basket. After a period of about 3 years, Luke tells us that Paul went back to Jerusalem to meet up with the apostles.  Meanwhile, amazing miracles were still going on. Peter healed a blind man and even raised a lady, Dorcus, to life again.  Amazing stuff.

Chapter 10

Then Luke goes back to focusing on Peter and details how Peter was given a vision from God that related to the kinds of food that Jews were used to eating – specifically God was explaining the end of the ceremonial law to Peter. The famous line from this section is that “what God has made clean, do not call common.”  At the end of this important chapter, the Holy Spirit falls on the gentiles in an amazing show of grace from God to those outside of the physical Jewish heritage.

Chapter 11

Peter describes everything that happened in chapter ten to the Christians in Jerusalem, and Luke details how the church has been spreading abroad because of the persecution and martyrdom of Stephen.  Luke also tells us of a thriving early church in Antioch where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.”

Chapter 12

Then Luke turns to the dramatic rescue of Peter, and the death of James.  Peter was imprisoned and freed by an angel.  God is glorified by this amazing rescue, and counter to what most would think Peter would do after this, he obeys God and goes right back to the temple the next day and begins to preach the gospel. At the end of the chapter we learn of the death of Herod.  So time is moving right along here.

Chapter 13

A major shift occurs in chapter 13.  Luke is now going to focus mostly on the mission of Paul, who, along with Barnabas, is sent off on his first missionary journey by the Holy Spirit.  This chapter also details for us Paul’s first preaching in public, and like Stephen, he makes an appeal to history, and to Scripture and shares the gospel with boldness.

Chapter 14

Paul then moves on to Iconium and Lystra and ends up facing many hurdles – the end of the chapter concludes with Paul nearly dying by getting stoned by the people in Lystra! After that they returned to Antioch and shared about how God had opened a door to the gentile world for the gospel.

Chapter 15

This chapter is details the first ecumenical council in Jerusalem where the issue of the Judaizers needed to be dealt with – men who said that the gentile believers needed to adhere to the dietary restrictions of the OT and also be circumcised.  The council finds this to be incorrect, and sends a letter of clarification to the gentile churches.  Unfortunately the chapter also ends with a dispute between Barnabas and Paul, which leads them to separate and go different paths.

Chapter 16

In chapter 16 Timothy joins Paul and Paul receives the call to the people in Macedonia.  Whereupon he sails immediately to that region and begins to preach the gospel.  But they encounter resistance and are jailed.  During their stay in jail they began singing hymns and songs of praise to God and the entire jail is shaken by an earthquake that unleashes their bonds.  But they don’t leave, instead witnessing to the Jailer in charge of their protection.  This man is saved and the leaders of the city let them go (once they learn of Paul’s roman citizenship).

Chapter 17

Next Paul goes to Thessalonica and his teaching persuades some but other form a mob against them uttering the famous words, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” They escape to Berea, and find a lot more willingness among these people to learn and seach out what the Scriptures have to say about the Christ. Then they go to Athens where Paul addresses the city in the Areopagus and gives his gospel message using the reasoning style and citations of the Greeks.

Chapter 18

Next Paul went to Corinth and where we meet Pricilla and Aquila who were Jews scattered by the Diaspora (the Jewish dispersion). The local Jews in Corinth were so reviling in their reception of Paul that he said “from now on I will go to the Gentiles”, signifying a significant shift in his strategy for sharing the gospel.  The local Jews are so violent that they bring Paul before the roman proconsul who dismisses their charges out of pettiness.  So Paul returns to Antioch and Luke concludes the chapter by introducing us to a man named Apollos who was a great speaker and a great witness for Christ.

Chapter 19

Paul then goes to Ephesus and finds disciples who have not yet received the Spirit, and Luke details yet another Pentecost for these god fearing men and women who received the Spirit and were believers. Luke also takes time to tell us of the amazing miracles that Paul was working – even allowing people to take his handkerchief to the sick to be cured.  The amazing chapter ends with Luke telling of a riot in Ephesus over the preaching of the gospel.  The entire town – led by the silversmiths who made gods for a living – was in an uproar and a mob formed to deal with these Christians.  Fortunately, the town leaders dismissed the gathering and no one was hurt ad Paul was able to leave in safety.

Chapter 20

Paul then leaves Ephesus for Macedonia again, but the Jews plot his demise, so he sailed to Troas and preached there for 7 days during which he raised a young man from the dead who had fallen out of a window during his preaching.  Then Luke tells us that Paul sent for the Ephesian church elders and had them meet him so he could give them some last instructions before he went down to Jerusalem again.

Chapter 21-22

Luke details Paul’s trip to Jerusalem and his meeting with James where he gave a report of all that had been accomplished among the gentiles.  Then Paul went to the temple but was mobbed and for his own safety was detained by the roman tribune who allowed him to give his defense to the people – which they rejected.  The Tribune wasn’t going to keep a roman citizen bound in detention so he called for the Jewish Sanhedrin council to meet and hear Paul’s matter from there.

Chapter 23

Paul gives his testimony before the Jewish council and because of their dissension the Romans keep him in custody for his own safety.  During this time some Jews hatch a plot to kill Paul but its found out and they end up moving him to the care and protection of Felix the Governor of the area until a safe court date can be set with Paul’s Jewish accusers coming before Felix as well.

Chapter 24

Paul’s accusers arrive and lay their case before Felix who Luke tells us has a “Rather accurate knowledge/understanding of the Way” – probably because his wife was Jewish – and so Felix put them off and said he’d decide the case later.  But eventually two years passed and he did nothing until Festus succeeded him.  Festus left Paul in prison for the meantime to do the Jews a political favor.

Chapter 25

In chapter 25 we see more court maneuvering by the Romans.  Now Paul is sent to Caesarea and appears before Festus and the Jewish leaders as well as before Agrippa the king and his wife Bernice. They heart initial statements and concluded that Paul couldn’t have done anything to deserve death.  But Paul had made an appeal to the Caesar – which he was lawfully allowed to do due to his Roman citizenship, so the leadership locally couldn’t simply dismiss him now.

Chapter 26

In chapter 26 Paul gives his defense and testimony before Agrippa and it’s an amazing recounting of what we heard about in Acts 9.  Paul’s testimony is so powerful that Agrippa asked Paul if “in such a short time” he would have him become a Christian.  Paul’s answer is great: “And Paul said, ‘Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.’” At the end of the defense all the authorities agreed that Paul seemed innocent enough to them, but they were forced to send him to Rome.

Chapter 27-28

So Paul is put with a bunch of other prisoners and sets sail for Rome.  In the middle of the trip they encounter a storm at sea and are shipwrecked but swim to safety on the Island of Malta where Paul is bitten by a snake with no affect on him, and then goes on to heal many of sickness and disease.

After three months of sailing and being shipwrecked, they finally arrive in Rome where Paul is greeted by other believers and placed under house arrest.  Paul preached the gospel to the Jewish leaders in Rome right after he arrived.  Luke ends the book by saying that “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

Study Notes from Derek’s Lesson 7-29-12

This past Sunday, Derek shared with us the Biblical model of Evangelism.  He took most of his material straight from the book of Acts, and below are the cliff notes for those interested in reading further.  I’m really appreciative of Derek’s ministry, and for his filling in for me while I was away.

The Biblical Model of Evangelism

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

2 Tim 3:16- The Word of God is our textbook on evangelism

Mathew 4:19- Christ calls us to follow him and he will make us evangelists

1 Corinthians 11:1-Paul calls us to imitate him as he imitated Christ

2 Timothy 1:13-“Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:10-“You however (in contrast to false teachers) have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness…

-Therefore, based off this passage of Scripture, we are going to look at the Message, Method, and Motive of Paul as it related to Evangelism

-Background of the church in Thessalonica-Acts 17:1-5-founded by Paul and Silas after they had been imprisoned in Phillipi. This letter was written as a response to Timothy’s report of what was going on in the church.  The most significant of these included 1, encouraging words as to the spiritual stamina of the Thessalonian converts in the face of opposition, 2, an alarming report of efforts to undermine Paul’s reputation and question his sincerity, 3,confusion about the Lord’s second coming and 4, areas of individual and community life that needed improvement. In response to this report, Paul wrote the letter to express thanks for the healthy spiritual condition of the church, to make a strong case against the false accusations against himself and his associates and to give specific ways in which their already strong Christian behavior could be improved.

-Here in chapter 2, Paul is defending his reputation by reminding the believers of his ministry which includes his method and message.  He continually writes, you “know” as a remembrance of how he lived and ministered to them and for us gives a great example of how we are to do evangelistic ministry

Verse 1-Read Acts 17:1-5. This was a fruitful or effective ministry. Vain, or kenos,  means without content, without result.  Paul preached and gospel and they were saved! The method used by Paul was effective and thus a good one to follow and imitate

Verse 2-As we discussed earlier, Paul and Silas had ministered in Phillip and because of their driving out a demon from a girl, they were beaten and thrown into prison, however, Paul here is saying that in-spite of this persecution they continued to proclaim the message with great boldness. Paul was bold because he trusted in his God not himself. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Paul was bold because he was motived by his calling, the gospel itself and he knew that it was powerful (Rom 1:16-18) Conflict is a term used to refer to an athletic contest, demanding dedication and energy.

-Gospel of God, …Jesus, ….Grace….

What is the Gospel of God?  Can anyone give it succinctly? What are the key components of the Gospel?

-The power is in the seed. In Mark, Jesus indicates that this seed is the gospel and has power, so one of the most important parts of evangelism, or the most important is that we are throwing the right seed

-As I have studied the NT and how Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel in the Gospels and Acts, I believe the Gospel can be broken down into four key components:

God- Creator, Holy, Loving, Just-Acts 17:24-25

Man-Sinful, separated from God, deserving wrath, law frequently used-Acts 17:29, Acts 24:25

Christ- Christ and him crucified, person and work-1 Corinthian 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:21

Response- Repentance and faith-Acts 20:21

-So this is the message that brought about the elect in Thessalonica, this is the message we are going to proclaim, these are the key components that need to be taught and preached, now what is to be our motive and method in evangelism?

What should be our motive for evangelism?

-Verses 3-6 really make clear what Paul’s motive was and was not

Verse 3-Paul here is countering his false accusers, his message is truth from a pure motive, and he was not trying to trick the Thessalonians in any way. The impurity here refers to sexual purity and at the time of this writing, it was typical for religious charlatans to enter a locale and seek women for personal sexual satisfaction under the pretext of offering them an intimate religious experience. We see this mentioned as well in 2 Corinthians 4:2.

Verse 4- Paul here gives us one of his primary motives, to please God who has called him to this mission. Read Acts 20:24.  We have all been given this mission, for some it is a gift and the prime occupation, but in a very real sense, this is the mission of the church and thus of us! Paul was so confident in his message, that he could focus on sharing the gospel and by doing that he would please God. He was not focused on pleasing men but God alone!

Verse 5-Paul here again is defending himself, this time from those saying he is doing it for money, an impure motive. We see Paul continuously discussing this, 1 Corinthians 9 is all about that!  It is very clear today, with the televangelists, that greed is a big motivator.

– I believe that our primary motive is to be the Gospel that saved us! 2 Corinthians 5:14

-Other motives are that there are “elect” out there how will respond, another one of course is the reality of hell

What is to be our method? What has been your experience in doing evangelism? Door to Door? Mall? Bible Studies? Across the fence? Do we use scripture?

Boldness                                     Holiness/Integrity of character

Humility                                      Using Scripture

Gentleness                                 Many places-house, public, churches

Whole counsel of God               Prayer

-In verses 7-12, Paul gives us his perspective from the example of a mother and father in how he specifically ministered to the Thessalonians

Why do you think Paul choose to speak of his ministry in terms of a mother and father? Many metaphors are used in scripture, farmer, shepherd, etc.

-Verse 7-He was gentle among them just as a mother nurses her baby. Gentle here is to be kind to someone and encompasses a host of other virtues, acceptance, respect, compassion, tolerance of imperfections, patience, tenderheartedness and loyalty.  Just visual a mother nursing her baby and how gentle she is, we are to be the same way when we ministry to unbelievers.  1 Peter 3:15

-Verse 8-Here Paul is speaking of the self sacrificial nature of his ministry. Just as a mother seeks not her own well-being but that of her child, we are to do the very same. This verse is the one that most stands out to me in the section. The love, he is not just there to share the Gospel but to give of his life. This is love, through not only words but action. 1 John 3:18 tells us, let us not love in words and tongue but in actions and truth.  Are we loving people into the kingdom? Jesus looked at the rich young ruler with love.  Example of Lisa to our neighbors.

Verse 9-Paul here is speaking of the character of his ministry, he was not going to burden them as he came to them to share the gospel.  Labor and toil speak to the difficulty and toil of the task. Again, we can think of the hard work it is in being amother. Sleepless nights, changing diapers, runny noses, etc and she works without expecting anything in return. We are to do the same, to work with all are might for the sake of the gospel.

Can anyone give an example of their labor and toil in the ministry from an evangelism perspective? Prayer? Bridge building?

-Verses 10-12 describes the ministry from the Father’s perspective. He is to be the model, teacher, motivator and producer.

-Verse 10-Paul here defends their character. They lived a righteous and holy life.  They were men of integrity. I think of Paul’s instruction to Timothy, multiple times he called him to a holy life, especially since he was the pastor. How can we expect people to hear and respond to our message if we lead an unholy life? Are we striving for Holiness? Are we forsaking the respectable sins? Example of our neighbors with their friends, the husband is always talking down to the wife.

-Verse 11-12-A good father will exhort, which means, come alongside his children and teach, encourage, challenge their children. We are to be patient as we teach and share but also are to be challenging.  So many times in the sermons in Acts we see the apostles exhorting their hearers to respond to the message. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God”

-Now, a few final thoughts on Paul’s method of evangelism

Read Acts 20:18-27

Paul taught in public and in private

-Paul proclaimed the whole counsel of God, not just “God loves you”. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

-Paul used the Scripture-Romans 10:17” Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ”. Acts 17:2 “as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days, he reasoned with them from the Scriptures”

-Paul humbled himself and became all things to all men-1 Corinthians 9:19

-Paul was a man of prayer-Romans 10:1

-The Message, Motive and Method of Biblical Evangelism. What is God saying to you today? Are we sharing not only the Gospel of God but also our lives? A sin to confess, a promise to claim, a stumbling block to avoid, an example to study. I challenge you to study the encounters Jesus had and the book of Acts to learn  how they did evangelism.