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Session 7: The Acts of the Apostles

Aims

By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • give an overview of the themes and structure of the book of Acts

  • be able to state approximately when the book was written and who the author may have been

  • give an account of how the main themes of the book relate to your faith journey and ministry as well as that of the church as a whole.

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Prayer

Father of Lights,

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet

and a light unto my path.

Guide me in my voyage

towards knowing Your Words of Life.

Heal and restore me.

Amen

Introduction

This session introduces us to the main themes of the book of Acts and the early church.  It is structured in the same way as previous sessions.

Part 1 Questions for Reflection

Did you ever realise that Saul's name was not actually changed, he is known as Saul and Paul?

Had you noticed that the word 'Christian' has not been used until Acts 11? Do you know what the followers of Jesus had been called until then?

How difficult do you think it would have been for Paul to have come to terms with the fact that God wanted him to take the gospel to the Gentiles as well as the Jews?

Part 2 and Questions for Reflection

0:00 - 1.55 - Heaven and Earth

What do you think about Tom's statement that heaven and earth have already come together? Have you ever thought of it in those terms?  What do you think about 'heaven' and where do you think your images and beliefs came from?

 

1.56 - end The Kingdom of God

I once heard the brilliant theologian and wise man of God John Hull say that escaping hell was a really rubbish reason for becoming a Christian and didn't say much about the loving God we serve. He argued that it's not all about, or even primarily about, what happens after we die. Tom's statements in this video lend some weight to that idea.  What do you think about it and what does 'the kingdom of God' mean to you?

0:00 - 5.48 You will be My Witnesses

What do you think about Tom's statement that the whole task of the church is summed up in verse 8?

A well known saying (which is ascribed to St Francis) is 'Go and preach the gospel.  If necessary use words'.  How do we 'tell people who Jesus is?'  Do you think words are always necessary? Write down your your responses in your journal for discussion at the next Study Day.

5:49 - end The Ascension

What do you think about the bodily ascension of Jesus?  The Church still doesn't agree on this issue - are you closer to Tom's view or Marcus Borg's?  It's OK to not know - none of us does, we can only theorise while we are on this side of heaven! More importantly, what does the ascension mean to you?

If you would like to see some of the other videos in this series (there are 26 in total) you can find them at the link in the Resources section below.

Spotlight on Doctrine

In the Nicene creed (which is the version usually used in services of Holy Communion) we affirm that Jesus rose from the dead and 'ascended into heaven'.  What effect has your study in this session had on your thinking about that proclamation? We also affirm, at the end of the Nicene creed, our belief in the 'Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life'.  What effect has your study in this session had on your thinking about the Holy Spirit and the gifts given through the Spirit to the Church (the people of God) and their purpose?

Spotlight on Spirituality

In the late 19th Century, William Seymour, the son of former slaves, initiated what is now known as the Pentecostal movement from among the urban black poor. Seeking freedom, the worship in this new spirituality became increasingly 'spontaneous, emotional and bodily involving and marked by powerful signs of the Spirit such as speaking in tongues. The early Pentecostals believed they were at the heart of God's plan to reawaken world Christianity to the gifts of the Spirit' (Thompson, Ross, 2008, SCM Studyguide: Christian Spirituality). This spirituality is clearly rooted in the coming of the spirit at Pentecost in Chapter 2 of Acts.  How do you feel about this yourself?  Have you experienced this kind of worship and how did it make you feel?  If you haven't, how do you feel about that?  Note your thoughts in your journal.

Reflection & Prayer

What has particularly struck you in this session?

 

Is there anything you found difficult and why do think that was?

 

What has particularly challenged you for your own faith journey, and what has comforted you?

Pray about what you have learned, thanking God for any new insights into the book of Acts and lifting to God anyone who has come into your thoughts as you have studied.

To Do in Church this Week

What evidence can you see in the life of your church of the call to be witnesses to all people? Do you think there could be more and if so what things might be added?

Share some of what you have found on the discussion board in the discussion Forum.

Resources

Structure of the Book of Acts

Chronological

Outline of Acts