(5) Three types of sin
Last week we saw people coming together in faith, praying together, facing adversity together, and feeling the power of the Holy Spirit as they prayed. How do you suppose that made the apostles feel?
Have you ever felt like things, especially spiritual things, were finally working out, as if God had finally got you onto the right track and you knew just where you were going? How do you react when that certainty fades away? If things start going wrong again, do you feel angry, guilty, scared, betrayed...? How do you think the apostles must have felt when their perfect church began falling apart?
1. Read Acts 4:32-35 Why am I calling this a “perfect church”? Does it sound perfect to you?
a. What did this perfect church mean in practice? Read Acts 4:36-37
b. What might a church of this nature look like today? Have you ever known a Barnabas? Or an apostle?
c. Before you read on, do you think Barnabas’ action is normal or special? Do you think others might be expected to emulate him?
d. Is he the same Barnabas as appears later in Acts, traveling with Paul? Would this change what you think of him? And did you know tradition says he founded the Cypriot orthodox church?
2. Read Acts 5:1-6 At first reading, does this seem harsh?
a. What was Ananias’ sin? Read the end of Acts 5:4
b. Why do you think Luke doesn’t make the sin clearer in the text?
3. Read Acts 5:7-11 The passage ends with “great fear” descending on people. How might you respond if someone were criticized publicly in church and promptly collapsed?
a. What is Sapphira’s sin?
b. “Great fear” might be an appropriate response. But is Christianity a religion of fear?
c. My Mum grew up in a culture that claimed Catholicism was a religion of fear. Do we label any religions, cults or denominations that way today? Do you think it’s useful to apply this kind of label?
4. Read Acts 5:12-16 Where is Solomon’s Porch?
a. Which “none of the rest” do you think didn’t dare join them?
b. Who did join them?
c. Why might this upset the authorities?
d. Some churches consider speaking in tongues do be seriously disruptive and probably a sign of something other that the Holy Spirit. How do you think churches should react to this sort of disruption?
e. Have you seen churches cope well with seemingly disruptive influences?
5. Read Acts 5:17-21 Do you believe in angels?
a. The authorities were filled with “indignation.” Was it righteous indignation? How do we tell the difference?
b. What were the apostles filled with?
6. Read Acts 5:22-32 What makes this sound like a contemporary account? (Read verse 26)
a. Why were the officers afraid? What does that tell you about the spread of the faith?
b. Peter’s sermons are getting shorter. What would your sermon be if your faith was challenged?
7. Read Acts 5:33-43 Who were Theudas and Judas? Josephus mentions Judas in 6AD and Theudas in 44AD, which would be after Gamaliel’s speech. Why shouldn’t this be a problem?
a. Is Gamaliel wise? Can you think of times when his wisdom would be useful to churches?
b. Are they ignoring Gamaliel when they beat the apostles?
8. Read Acts 6:1 What’s going wrong now?
a. Do you think the problem was real or fabricated? Do you think it even matters?
b. Read Acts 6:2-7 Does this mean all churches should have deacons, and all deacons should serve food?
I headed this section, three types of sin. What types of sin do you see in the section? What do you think I meant?