Study the entire Book of Acts in this comprehensive 13-session study, beginning with the mission to the world and ending with Paul's journey to Rome. Some of the major ideas explored are: a Gospel that cannot be contained, divine initiative and human responsibility, the subtle work of the Holy Spirit, what holds us together, and the plight of theology in a cynical world.
More than 3.5 million copies of the series have been sold.
This revision of the Abingdon classic Genesis to Revelation Series is a comprehensive, verse-by-verse, book-by-book study of the Bible based on the NIV. These studies help readers strengthen their understanding and appreciation of the Bible by enabling them to engage the Scripture on three levels:
- What does the Bible say? Questions to consider while reading the passage for each session.
- What does the passage mean? Unpacks key verses in the selected passage.
- How does the Scripture relate to my life? Provides three major ideas that have meaning for our lives today. The meaning of the selected passages are made clear by considering such aspects as ancient customs, locations of places, and the meanings of words.
The meaning of the selected passages are made clear by considering such aspects as ancient customs, locations of places, and the meanings of words. The simple format makes the study easy to use. Includes maps and glossary with key pronunciation helps.
Updates will include:
- New cover designs.
- New interior designs.
- Leader Guide per matching Participant Book (rather than multiple volumes in one book).
- Updated to 2011 revision of the New International Version Translation (NIV).
- Updated references to New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible.
- Include biblical chapters on the contents page beside session lesson titles for at-a-glance overview of biblical structure.
- Include larger divisions within the contents page to reflect macro-structure of each biblical book. Ex: Genesis 1-11; Genesis 12-50; Exodus 1-15; Exodus 16-40; Isaiah 1-39; Isaiah 40-66.
The simple format makes the study easy to use. Each volume is 13 sessions and has a separate leader guide.
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THE MISSION TO THE WORLD AND PENTECOST
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading Acts 1
1. To whom is this book written? (1:1)
2. For how many days did Jesus appear to the apostles? (1:3)
3. What are Jesus' instructions to the apostles? (1:4-5)
4. Who are the apostles, according to the list in Acts 1:13?
5. Who is the first preacher? (1:15)
6. How many people are numbered as believers? (1:15)
7. What are the requirements to be an apostle? (1:21-22)
8. Who is selected as the twelfth apostle? (1:26)
Answer these questions by reading Acts 2
9. When are the apostles "all together in one place"? (2:1)
10. What charge is leveled against the apostles? (2:13)
11. Which Old Testament prophet does Peter quote? (2:17-21)
12. What does Peter recall from the life of Jesus? (2:22-24)
13. How do the apostles know of the Resurrection? (2:32)
14. What is the result of Peter's preaching? (2:37)
15. To whom is the promise of forgiveness available? (2:39)
16. How many are baptized that first Pentecost? (2:41)
17. To what do believers devote themselves? (2:42)
18. How does the writer of Acts characterize the Christian community? (2:44-46)
19. How are Christians viewed by outsiders? (2:47)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
* Acts 1:1-5. Acts is not a single work. Acts is the second part of a larger work. Here the writer gathers up the tradition of the earlier work by referring to "all that Jesus began to do and to teach." Now Jesus continues the work. "After his suffering, he presented himself to [the apostles] and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." The fact of Jesus' resurrection and subsequent appearances is central to the early Christian movement.
Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God and tells the apostles to await the coming of the Spirit in Jerusalem. Jesus gives a great promise to the apostles: Whereas John baptized with water, Jesus' followers will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (verses 3-5).
* Acts 1:6-11.The Ascension. As the disciples gather they are vitally concerned with two burning issues. How soon will the Kingdom come? And to whom will the promise of the Kingdom be given? They hope for a swift coming and for national restoration.
Jesus confronts the apostles' attitude by telling them that God's timing is not for them to know. Then Jesus gives the apostles a word of encouragement — "you will receive power" — and of indefinite challenge — "you will be my witnesses."
As soon as Jesus' last words are spoken, Jesus is lifted up and he disappears in a cloud. In an unguarded moment, the apostles continue "looking intently up into the sky."
* Acts 1:12-14. With the promise of Jesus' return fresh in their minds, the apostles return the short distance to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem they gather in an upper room where they pray.
* Acts 1:15-26. The first preaching in Acts is done by the apostle Peter. As he stands, the company is noted to be of about one hundred and twenty persons. Peter's preaching is a reflection of what the earliest Christian community believes. One of the major elements of this belief must be the fulfillment of Scripture, for Peter cites passages from Psalms 69 and 109 in his sermon.
In his sermon Peter contends that the events that brought about the arrest, conviction, and crucifixion of Jesus were not merely mistakes of history that got out of control and that eventually overwhelmed an innocent man. To the contrary, Peter sees the events as part of something that had been in the mind of God and that is contained in the Scriptures: "Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled" (1:16).
Peter gives an explanation for what happened to Judas after his treachery. The tradition in Matthew tells of Judas hanging himself (Matthew 27:3-10). In this tradition Peter concludes that Judas bought a small farm. An accident of some kind occurred there that killed Judas. The field then became known by the Hebrew name Akeldama.
Anyone who would be an apostle had to meet certain requirements. (1) He would have been with Jesus during his entire ministry from the baptism to the Ascension. This would mean that (2) he would be an eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus. (3) An apostle had to be chosen by God as well. Two men meet these requirements, Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias.
The apostles pray. Characteristic to the entire movement is the prayer that is shared by not only the apostles but by all Christians. In this instance the community prays for the one whom God has chosen to fill the vacancy. The central event of choosing rests with God.
The first chapter of Acts concludes with the selection of a twelfth apostle. Once again there are twelve who will be the major eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection. They already have been promised the Spirit.
* Acts 2:1-13. Jews for centuries had gathered for a celebration of the harvest. This celebration took place on the fiftieth day following the morning of the Passover sabbath. On this day the first fruits of the grain harvest were offered in the temple as a thank-offering to the Lord. Acts 2 opens with the new Christian element of the Jewish tradition gathered for the Feast of Pentecost (fiftieth day). The first of a great harvest of converts were gathered in, giving promise of a remarkable number yet to come.
Suddenly, without any warning, something like the rush of a violent wind swept over them. Every corner of the house felt the in-rushing. As to precisely what occurred, of course, we can do no more than wish to know more. The images of rushing wind and tongues of fire were readily available images to a Jewish tradition. The tongues of fire resting atop each of the gathered persons would have reminded them of the element of divinity. Something of extraordinary dimension and power happened that day. The writer concludes that "all of them were filled with the [promised] Holy Spirit."
At the same moment Jews from many nations, who therefore spoke different languages, heard the commotion and outburst. These devout folks were bewildered, for never before in their Holy City had they been able to understand more than a word or two picked up in the marketplace (verses 6-8). Many wonder exactly what this phenomenon means. Others can only scoff at the event by charging the apostles with drunkenness. The gospel becomes life and power with the followers of Jesus. Jesus as an external presence becomes indwelling Spirit.
* Acts 2:14-36.Peter's Pentecost sermon. To the charge of drunkenness, Peter contends that at only nine o'clock in the morning these men are not drunk. More to the point, an ancient Scripture has been fulfilled, Joel 2:28-32. Here Peter gives the Christian interpretation of this Scripture, interpreting the ancient Scripture in light of Jesus of Nazareth. God had worked through Jesus' signs and wonders. This same Jesus, Peter says, was delivered up not by some terrible mistake. Rather, the intention of God was being worked out, just as the Scriptures said it would be. Jesus was delivered up and crucified (verses 23-24). But Jesus did not remain dead; God raised Jesus from the grave. For the Christian, the single fact of the Resurrection is the central fact in the faith.
The sermon continues with another reference to the Scriptures. Here Psalm 16:8-11 is cited. Especially in verse 10 is the Resurrection seen.
Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. (Acts 2:27)
Clearly it was not David's body that did not know corruption. This psalm is seen as a promise for the Davidic Messiah.
Peter continues with his interpretation of Jesus' life in light of the ancient Psalms. In verse 30, Peter refers to Psalm 132:11, which tells of the ancient Jewish hope of a descendant of David on the throne. God's faithfulness through the establishment of such a descendant fulfills Jewish hopes. The fulfillment, Peter says, is not through the triumphant political military messiah for which the majority of Jews had hoped. Instead, this hoped-for Messiah is the crucified and resurrected One.
Jesus is also now the exalted One at the right hand of God (verse 33).
Once more, Peter returns to his interpretation of the Scriptures. Psalm 110:1 is cited, thus giving scriptural authority to the Ascension and exaltation of the crucified and resurrected Jesus.
* Acts 2:37-43. The sermon has an immediate impact. The listeners are "cut to the heart" and can only ask what they can do. Peter's response captures the basic rhythm of Christian tradition: "Repent and be baptized." The gift of the Holy Spirit is clearly the result of repentance and forgiveness.
The promise of the forgiveness of sins and the blessing of the Holy Spirit is for all. Throughout the Book of Acts we see the struggle for a widespread, universal gospel. The previously small sect within Judaism gives evidence of becoming a phenomenally growing movement. As a result of Peter's preaching, about three thousand are baptized.
Once baptized, the converts devote themselves to the disciplines of early Christianity. Teaching or instruction by the apostles is central, as is the gathering together. The special fellowship centered around Jesus' forgiveness and presence with and within the Christian community is called koinonia. The koinonia shares a special life. The sharing of meals generally and the sharing of the Lord's Supper especially is part of the fellowship.
* Acts 2:44-47. Through the exemplary living, preaching, and wondrous works of the Christians, many others are awe-struck. Luke then describes the koinonia. All those who believe show unity not merely in belief but in their living. All things are held in common. Goods, perhaps parcels of land, are sold in order to raise sufficient funds to help all in the community who are in need. This is a special quality of caring and sharing that emerges from the unique work of the Holy Spirit.
The chapter ends with the Lord adding regularly to the movement. A significant note is that once again the writer and presumably the Christian community assert that it is the Lord who adds to the number. It is the Lord who works through the common life, exemplary living, and wondrous work of Christians that others may be saved.
DIMENSION THREE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN TO ME?
Pentecost and the Coming of the Spirit
The meaning of Pentecost has been variously interpreted by Christians ever since the event itself. What do you think best captures the significance of the event?
1. The apostles are overwhelmed by a mysterious power giving them the ability of ecstatic speaking.
2. The coming of the Spirit is the birthday of the church.
3. The coming of the Spirit inaugurated the long hoped-for new age.
Why do you think so? In what way would you suggest that with the presence of the Holy Spirit we live in a new age? How many Christians of our day experience a personal Pentecost?
The Christian and the Future
The word eschatology refers to the end time. Do you suppose the majority of people you know anticipate the inevitability of God's grace and goodness? Or do people expect the inevitability of evil? How would people act if they anticipated the triumph of God? What would behavior be if people anticipated evil?
The Old Testament and the Christian
A question that often challenges Christians is how to use the Old Testament. The problem is not a new one; it has its origins as early as the first generation of Christians. As you read the various Old Testament quotations in Peter's sermon (Psalms 69:26; 109:8; Joel 2:28-32; Psalms 16:8-11; 132:11; 16:10; 110:1), what occurs to you? How do you see today's Christian using the Old Testament? As a means by which to recover our Jewish roots? As a means by which to predict the coming of Jesus? As proof of who Jesus was and what he was to do? How do you see the writer of Acts using the Old Testament?
After they prayed ... they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (4:31).
THE SIGNS AND WONDERS OF THE APOSTLES
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading Acts 3
1. Who goes to the temple to pray? (3:1)
2. In whose name is the man who was lame from birth healed? (3:6)
3. Peter declares that neither personal power nor piety healed the lame man. Whom does Peter claim healed the man? (3:13, 16)
4. What must the man have in order to be healed? (3:16)
5. What does Peter ask of the people at the conclusion of his preaching? (3:19, 26)
Answer these questions by reading Acts 4
6. Which group of Jewish leaders is disturbed by Peter's preaching? (4:1-2)
7. Why are the leaders disturbed? (4:2)
8. What are the leaders' names? (4:6)
9. What is the appearance of Peter and John? (4:13)
10. What do the authorities decide to tell the apostles? (4:18)
11. What is the apostles' response to the charge to remain silent? (4:1920)
12. What occurs in the place where the apostles and their friends pray? (4:31)
13. Who sells a field in order to share with the apostles? (4:36-37)
Answer these questions by reading Acts 5
14. Which two people sell a field and keep some of the proceeds for themselves? (5:1-2)
15. What happens to the husband when Peter challenges him? (5:5)
16. What happens to the wife when she is confronted about the same matter? (5:10)
17. Which Jewish group responds negatively against the apostles? (5:17)
18. Who is the Pharisee in the Sanhedrin who speaks regarding the threat of the apostles? (5:34)
19. What is Gamaliel's counsel? (5:38-39)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
* Acts 3:1-10. The remarkable power of the Spirit now works through Peter and John. A man "over forty years old" (4:22) who had been lame since birth is miraculously healed at the temple gate. The man begs as he had for years. But on this day the two Christian men, Peter and John, offer him more than money could buy. The effect is quite predictable: The man begins "walking and jumping, and praising God." The crowds are thoroughly amazed.
* Acts 3:11-26. As the healed man grasps Peter and John, a large crowd rushes to see the miracle. Peter uses the opportunity for preaching. The sermon contains many of the elements of the kerygma (the proclamation that Jesus is the Christ and that people are saved by faith in him) that are found in all the sermons in Acts, and indeed, all the early Christian proclamations. First of all, the power of healing does not come because of personal piety, nor is it within the apostles themselves. The power is from God. This God is the one who revealed himself in Jesus. Both the name of Jesus and the faith of the lame man are responsible for the healing (verses 12-16).
Peter begins his sermon by being the bridge from a former to a current reality. He joins himself to them, calling them "fellow Israelites" and invokes the name of their revered patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had "glorified [God's] servant Jesus." He then testifies to the history of rejection by his countrymen of this glorified son by handing him over to the religious authorities. They "disowned him," the one sent and approved by God.
After further indicting his fellow Israelites, he shifts his approach, giving them an out. "Now ... I know that you acted in ignorance. ... Repent, then, and turn to God." He invites and welcomes them to join him in the new fellowship of believers in "the Holy and Righteous One."
Within Peter's sermon, in all likelihood a composite of many elements of early preaching, are the central truths to which the kerygma gives witness.
* Acts 4:1-22. The miraculous healing not only stirred awe within the crowd, it provoked one specific segment of the Jews — the Sadducees. Sadducees, who were wealthy, educated men, supported a conservative interpretation of the Law. One of their doctrinal differences with the more moderate Pharisees was over the notion of the resurrection from the dead.
Quite a number of Sadducean officials gather: Annas the high priest, Caiaphas who is in fact the reigning high priest, John, and Alexander, as well as others of the ruling aristocracy. This body presents itself up against two common men. The apostles, surrounded by antagonists, are asked to explain themselves: "By what power or what name did you do this?"
This confrontation once again gives Peter the opportunity for preaching. Luke describes Peter as "filled with the Holy Spirit," thus giving him immense power of courage and of expression. Peter gains the upper hand by calling the proceedings a trial. The reason for the trial is not by any means clear. Is the healing itself cause for interrogation? Or is the manner or authority by which the healing took place the real issue? Peter assumes the latter. He says in effect, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the name by which the healing has been accomplished. This man, whom you see before you healed, was healed by the same Jesus whom you rejected." Peter then continues, almost tripping over the words, until finally in an outburst of enthusiasm and confidence he declares there is no salvation in anyone else other than Jesus (verse 12).
Excerpted from "Genesis to Revelation: Acts Participant Book"
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Table of Contents
1. The Mission to the World and Pentecost (Acts 1–2),
2. The Signs and Wonders of the Apostles (Acts 3–5),
3. Stephen and Philip (Acts 6–8),
4. The Conversion of Paul and Cornelius (Acts 9–10),
5. The Mission to the Gentiles (Acts 11–12),
6. The First Missionary Journey (Acts 13–14),
7. The Jerusalem Council to the Gentiles (Acts 15:1–16:5),
8. The Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:6–18:22),
9. The Third Missionary Journey (Acts 18:23–20:38),
10. The Arrest of Paul (Acts 21:1–22:29),
11. Paul on Trial (Acts 22:30–24:27),
12. Paul's Defense (Acts 25–26),
13. Paul's Journey to Rome (Acts 27–28),
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (1:8).,