Grace Notes

Acts Chapters 3-5

Q:  What can we expect to happen when the Holy Spirit begins to transplant the character of Jesus into people?

A) Look for Satan to also become more active against that work–if the Holy Spirit was the main character in Act 1 & 2–chapters 3-5 describe the workings of another character seeking to be “main”–that is Satan.

Acts 3:1-11   The Lame Man Leaps

Q:  Why did Peter and John stop to heal this lame beggar?

  • prompted by the Holy Spirit to pour power out on another
    • this healing displays that Spirit indwelt people become “other-centered”– compassionate toward the “least of these”.
    • this healing alerted the people that the work that Jesus began when on earth was continuing.
    • this healing was a vivid demonstration of the apostle’s message of the power Jesus holds to save us from disabling sin.
    • this healing was an outstanding fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy: “Then the lame leap like a deer” (Isaiah 35:6)

Acts 3:12-41 Peter’s Sermon 

Q:  Does that mean that we are to conclude that the main focus of Jesus’ continuing minstry was to be faith healing? 

A) No, Luke’s pattern is to describe a miraculous event and immediately follow it with a sermon.  This emphasis on the word that explained the miracle let’s us know that Peter understood the miracle as a “sign” pointing to a greater reality.  He interprets the event as the launch pad for focusing on Jesus.

  • Peter moves the crowd’s attention away from the healed man to the Lord Jesus who was responsible for the healing.
  • Peter masterfully assured the hearers that the Jesus who was killed was the Messiah that they had been anticipating.
  • He used Old Testament “God Names” to apply to Jesus exalting Him as being completely congruent with God.

Key Point:  Peter is in effect saying, “If you are impressed with the power that this Jesus displayed, realize that it means He is God and run to Him and ask for forgiveness for disowning Him.”

Outcome: Satan’s pride was wounded–He alone wants to be exalted so he stirs up the jealousy of the religious leaders and they begin to threaten and harass the apostles.

  • Sanhedrin were greatly disturbed by a message–a teaching that there was such a thing as life after death–that there was resurrection in Christ.
  • This teaching exposed as a lie what many of them believed–death has the ultimate power over life.

Q: What is your personal belief about death–does it have ultimate power or is there a truth that opposes what the Sadducees (an much of our world) believe?

Acts 4:23-37  Believer’s Battle Satan’s Attacks with Prayer and Care

  • This prayer is mostly a recounting of who God is–that recounting of who has ultimate power emboldens the apostles to ask for “bold” speech.
  • This recounting of God’s power emboldens them to ask for that power to be manifest in healings so that others would witness the truth and flee to Jesus.
  • Key Point:  The scene described in verse 31 echoes the event of Pentecost.  This is a fresh empowerment–another filling for what lies ahead–the new need brought forth the power that the Holy Spirit infused. 
  • Believers are being cast out of the Temple now as blasphemers so they became committed to each other — they filled the gap left by losing community–no needy people among them.
  • Barnabas prompted to encourage the body of believers made a generous gift to this budding minstry of spreading the good news of Jesus.

Q:  What do you think accounts for there being so many needy people within the church today?  Emotional, financial, spiritual need seems to abound?

Key Point:  The Gospel cannot be arrested!  Satan can disrupt and temporarily discourage but the Holy Spirit is more than a match for him and He is the Spirit of Encouragement!

Outcome: Satan counter attacks

Acts 5:1-11  Ananias & Sapphira

  • story emphasizes Luke’s honesty as a historian–he did not censor this sordid tale.
  • it reveals that the history of the church is a history of “wheat and weeds” growing together.  (See Matthew 13:24-29)
  • it illustrates Satan’s method of deceit which he uses to interrupt the progress of Jesus’ continuing ministry.
  • Peter identifies this as Satan’s work and pinpoints the sin as Hypocrisy.
  • This couple sought glory for themselves through their lying “gift”.
  • Note: Peter assumes the deity of the Holy Spirit as he says first that the lie was against the Holy Spirit and then that it was against God.
  • God causes a judicial death in this instance rather than to allow Satan to infect and pollute His infant church.  
  • it confirms that church discipline is approved by God for the protection and the purity of Body of Christ.
  • It points up the importance of living a transparent life before God–for man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart..

Spiritual Applications:

  • it is dangerous for us to feign spirituality
  • when we lie to other believer’s we are lying to God!
  • we need to be aware that Satan works to attack the church from without and from within.

Outcome:

  • fear seized the whole church (first time this word is used) (vs.11)
  • the church was highly regarded by others (vs. 13)
  • more missionary success–God is both alarming and appealing!
  • KEY:  “Crowds gathered from the towns around Jerusalem” (vs. 16) is Luke’s way of signaling that Acts 1:8 is being accomplished despite opposition.

Acts 5:17-42  Another Wave of Opposition

  • Apostles are arrested by jealous men–Luke provides a little comic relief by testifying that they were set free by angels–the Sadducees did not believe in angels.
  • The angel set them free so that they could continue to fill the city of Jerusalem with the “message of life“.
    • those who put Jesus to death were selling a message that death is the ultimate power.
    • they are seeking to kill again–their pursuits have the aroma of death. (vs. 33)
    • their act was crucifixion–God’s trump to that was resurrection.

Turning Point: Gamaliel used by God to thwart the death threat to the apostles.

  • He offered a very practical solution.  By his own estimation–if this movement was of God it could not be stopped–if it was of human origin it would die out.

Q:  Using Gamaliel’s own test, is the message of life that Jesus offers of God or man–has it been stopped?

Personal Applications for this lesson:

  1. Am I living consistently in view of what I know about Christ?
  2. Am I living a life that is in accord with what I am learning in the Scriptures?
  3. Do I believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that He did the miraculous works that are recorded in the Gospels?
  4. Am I refusing to do anything that I know God wants me to do?
  5. Am I reluctant to share my faith for fear of rejection or of appearing unintellectual or uncultured or some other reason?
  6. What is it in me which has blighted the boldness with blandness of expecting little of God and then settling for it?

(Questions from Lloyd Ogilvie and R. Kent Hughes)

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