We’re progressing through the New Testament quickly, moving from Acts to Romans this week. Let’s pause and take a look at the early church and what they were all about. Were they doing the same things we are doing?
Before we get started, let’s catch up on just a couple of things…
As you know, we are committed to serving our communities here in North Georgia, and we are doing that in a couple of simultaneous ways right now…
We all got baby bottles on Sunday. How is your baby bottle filling up?
There is still one more week… If you didn’t get your bottle on Sunday, you can get one this coming weekend. Start putting your spare dollars aside now!
We also need A LOT of candy! We will get the chance to talk with many, many families on Halloween, and our access to them is CANDY! We’re really out to connect with families and help parents be better parents. Will you help us? You can drop candy off in the lobby.
Also, Dianne tells me we still need some help on the event itself. Why don’t you jump in and serve?Put Me In!
Growing up, what did you think about church? How does this thinking influence you now?
Go around your circle and describe church in one word.
Do you think someone outside the church would agree or disagree with your word choice? Explain.
Based on what you know about the Book of Acts, in what ways is our church accurately reflecting what God’s Word says it should be?
Acts 11:1–18 (NLT)
Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. 2 But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him.
“You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.
Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’
“ ‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’
“But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.
“Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’
“As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts 11 flows directly out of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius in the previous chapter. Look at the criticism Peter took for that:
Acts 11:2–3 (NLT)
But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.
Why do you think Peter’s people responded the way they did?
How did Peter defend himself? How did Peter respond to their concerns while also holding up the truth he had received from the Lord?
Acts 11:19–21 (NLT)
Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
Why were these believers traveling to such remote locations?
There were two groups who scattered, and two groups they shared the gospel with. Why is this significant?
What do you think about this phrase, “The power of the Lord was with them?” What do you think this means?
Acts 11:22–24 (NLT)
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
Why do you think the Jerusalem church, the “headquarters” church of it’s day, sent Barnabas to investigate what was happening in Antioch?
What was it about Barnabas that made him the right guy to go?
Acts 11:25–26 (NLT)
Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
Why did Barnabas go get Saul?
Jesus’ “Great Commission” was to “go and make disciples…” not just converts. Describe that process here.
Acts 11:27–30 (NLT)
During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.
A significant need presented itself to the new church at Antioch… How did they respond?
How does this show they were maturing spiritually? What is the connection between discipleship and giving?
Acts 11 shows believers using natural connections with people around them to share the gospel. Who do you have a natural connection with that needs to hear the gospel?
What can we learn from the generosity of the church of Antioch? Have you had the experience of receiving a generous gift given in the name of God? What was your response?
Barnabas was an encourager. Do you know any new believers you could encourage in their faith this week?