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Monday, October 13, 2014

Words and Wonders in Acts

We went to London while we were visiting family in England. There's a wonderful living sculpture being created there, a sea of poppies flowing out from and around the Tower of London, different every day as more are added, designed to remind us of all the soldiers lost in the First World War. It's hard to look at that view and not feel impressed, and not wonder about the sea of blood that flowed on Flanders' fields, and not regret those lives lost to us all.

In a world where lives are still being lost in war, where man's cruelty to man continues to revel in horror and death, where Satan still imagines he holds sway, it's good to remember, God wins in the end. And here, in the second chapter of Acts, we'll see how God's new soldiers started their task.





Words and Wonders
We’re all familiar with the phrase “Signs and Wonders,” describing miraculous actions of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit’s first public action, in the book of Acts, involves words more than signs. We’re going to look at Acts chapter 2 today, but before you start reading...

1.       How do you imagine the scene at Pentecost? Where do you think it takes place? Who is there? What are they doing? Are they happy, sad, scared, expectant...?

2.       You probably thought of tongues of fire as you imagined the scene. What do you think they looked like? Do you think the disciples were scared, seeing flames everywhere?

3.       Did you remember when the disciples started speaking in tongues? Was it before or after Peter began to preach?

Okay, time to get our Bibles out now. And here are some more specific questions:

1.       What is Pentecost. Was there a day of Pentecost, prior to the one we celebrate? (Read Leviticus 23:10,15,16)

2.       Does the Bible tell us where the apostles were when the Holy Spirit came on them? Does it tell us what they were doing? (Read Acts 1:12-13 to give you an idea.)

3.       Who were filled with the Holy Spirit – just the twelve disciples, or could more people have been included? (Read Acts 1:13-15, 2:1-4)

4.       What do you think the atmosphere in that upper room might have been like now?

Meanwhile, out in the streets...

1.       Read Acts 2:5-6. Do we know why so many people were around in the streets? Could that be why God chose this time to send the Holy Spirit?

2.       Lots of place names are mentioned. Is it just a random list or might it have some significance?

3.       The people were celebrating the end of 50 days since Passover. What’s the significance of the number 50? Could that be important in God’s choice of this day too? (Read Leviticus 25:8-13)

4.       Read Acts 2:7-15. When you hear someone speak, say, Cantonese, do you immediately assume they are drunk? Why do you think the people assumed the disciples were drunk? Why were they even aware of what was happening.

Then Peter goes out to preach

1.       What would you do if you were publically, falsely accused?

2.       What would you do if you were scared the authorities might come for you because of that accusation?

3.       Do you know where the familiar “Signs and Wonders” phrase comes from? (Read Acts 2:16-21, Joel 2:28-32)

4.       Is Peter/Joel prophesying the end of the world? (What’s the big difference between what Peter says and what Joel said?)

5.       How did Peter’s listeners view prophesy and the end-times anyway? Remember, there are no book of prophecy in the Bible during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. When might the Jews have expected prophecy to be restored. (Read Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29, Acts 2:17)

6.       Read Acts 2:22-28, Psalm 16:8-11. Peter is quoting a familiar Psalm. (Note, he doesn’t give references; is that just because everyone knows all the words, or because the words will speak for themselves?) Remembering there’s a crowd listening to this, what do you think they might say as they hear this?

7.       Read Acts 2:29-35, Psalm 110:1. How does Peter/the Holy Spirit answer them?

8.       And, okay, why did I say Peter/the Holy Spirit?

9.       Read Acts 2:30.  This verse has been used in historical times to justify cruelty to the Jews. Why shouldn’t it be used that way? (Read Acts 2:31-39)

And people get baptized:

1.       Read Acts 2:40-41. The first baptisms in Acts! Does this tell us how to conduct baptisms, or who to baptize?

2.       Read Acts 2:42. The first communion celebrations! Does this tell us how, or how often to celebrate?

3.       Read Acts 2:43. The first signs and wonders! Some use this verse to say signs and wonders died out with the last of the original apostles. Others say only those with apostolic gifts can perform miracles. And others say you can’t have a real Christian church without visible miracles. Can this verse really be used that way?

4.       Read Acts 2:44-45. The first signs of communal living in the Christianity! Can this tell us how to conduct our politics?

5.       Read Acts 2:46-47. Can you sum up what we do, as Christians meeting here, as succinctly as this?

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