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Lesson 10

Chart 1

The New Testament Church

                                                                                                                                     

  The New Testament Church

Luke, in about 63 A.D. wrote the book of the Bible called the Acts of the Apostles. This was an appropriate name for a book in which is found the birth, inauguration and phenomenal advancement of the New Testament church. The church became an aggressive organism, and the heart of the "feeble, but faithful" followers were transformed into a vigorous spiritual force for righteousness. This has been called the "Speaking Period" of publishing the Great Gospel. They vocally proclaimed with anointed lips the purpose of God, manifested through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. They drew out of their own vibrant encounter and knowledge, for they had been privileged to be eyewitnesses of His majesty (II Peter 1:16).

2 Peter 1:16

16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

The Speaking period was from 30-50 A.D. The Writing period (years during which the New Testament was penned) was from 50-100 A.D. The collecting of these sacred writings involved the 50 years between 100 and 150 A.D.

1. Fellowship

a. Apostles Teaching (Matthew 28:20, Acts 2:42)

Matt 28:20

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Acts 2:42

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

There was a desire on the part of the new believers to be taught the Word of God by the apostles. Everyone who has committed his life to Jesus Christ must make every effort to hear the Word of God. The Word of God will give a person the foundation he needs to stand upon. A person who will not stand for something, will fall for anything. Man needs the Word of God to live by

(Matthew 4:4).

Matt 4:4

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Every believer needs faith which will come by "the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).

Rom 10:17

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

b. Fellowship with the Church (Acts 2:42)

Acts 2:42

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

A phrase taken out of the early moments of the life of the early church was "all that believed were together" (Acts 2:22).

Acts 2:22

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

 

The Christian has a word for this togetherness: It is called "fellowship." The first commitment to fellowship is with Jesus Christ (I John 1:3). "And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ." John then tells us in verse 7 ". . .we have fellowship one with another."

c. Breaking Bread-House to House (Acts 2:42)

 

Acts 2:42

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

 Witnesses were telling everyone about what God was doing in their day. They took the Gospel from house to house with a lay ministry. Witnessing and preparing the way of the Lord is still a very important and a vital aspect in the believer's life today.

d. Prayers (Acts 2:42)

Acts 2:42

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

After the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the Church kept praying. Prayer is an essential weapon in the life of a Christian. Because of their prayers and praise, God gave the Church favor with all the people and added to it daily.

2. The First Miracle in the Church (Acts 3:1-11)

Acts 3:1-11

1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

 

2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

 

3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.

 

4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

 

5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

 

7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength.

 

8 And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

 

9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God:

 

10 And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

 

11 And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.

 

The first miracle performed after the ascension of Jesus and the inauguration of the Church was the healing of the lame man at the Gate called Beautiful. This miracle produced evidence that the power of Jesus Christ was upon His followers. Jesus was present to heal through the believing of His disciples.

(See Matthew 10:1-8, Mark 6:7-13).

Matt 10:1-8

1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

 

3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;

 

4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

 

5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

 

6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

 

7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

 

8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Mark 6:7-13

7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

 

8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:

 

9 But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

 

10 And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.

 

11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

 

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

 

13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

 

 

The Lord has not changed. He is still healing today. When unbelief, lack of obedience, and worldliness, are cast aside, the Lord will perform miracles just as He did in the early church. As a result of the lame man's healing, people gathered and Peter preached his second sermon and many believed. The number of men believing were about five thousand (Acts 4:4).

Acts 4:4

4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

 

When the Holy Ghost first fell there were about one hundred twenty present. After that initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost, there were three thousand more souls added. When these converts came together to fellowship in the apostles' doctrine, the Lord added to the Church daily.

After this miracle of healing, many more believed. The number of men was about five thousand. This made a total of about ten thousand souls that had been converted since the Day of Pentecost.

 

3. The Giving Spirit of the Church - It is easy to see that fellowship and miracles were important factors in the expansion of the young Church. Along with this, there was a singleness of devotion and dedication depicted by their selflessness and God-centered attitudes toward each other's needs. In its infancy the Church had a purity and innocence about it that was disarming. As many converts come together, there are various material needs among them. In any group numbering into the thousands there will be widows, the homeless, the poor, and the not-so-well-off folks who struggle to eke out a bare existance. These new believers were taken up with the expectation of a better inheritance in another world, and so, "neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own" (Acts 4:32).

Acts 4:32

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

 

They had grasped the fact that they were simply stewards, not owners, of God's gifts and goodness.

a. The Lord's Stewards (Acts 4:34-35)

Acts 4:34-35

34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

 

35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

 

As stewards of the Lord's blessings, those who had materially prospered were anxious to distribute their blessings to their brothers and sisters in need. Houses and real estate were sold, and the proceeds were laid at the apostles feet. This symbolized their lack of love for the wealth of this transient world. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, gives a little more insight into the setting of this poignant scene: "Dr. Lightfoot computes that this (Pentecost) was the year of jubilee in the Jewish nation; the fiftieth year, (the twenty-eighth since they settled in Canaan fourteen hundred years ago), so that what was sold that year, being not to return till the next jubilee, lands then took a good price, and so the sale of those lands would raise the more money." (Vol. 2, Pg. 747)

 

b. Barnabas Shows the Way (Acts 4:36-37)

Acts 4:36-37

36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

 

37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

 

 

Barnabas was a Levite. Perhaps, he remembered that God, hundreds of years prior, promised to be his portion and his inheritance, (Deuteronomy 10:9).

Deut 10:9

9 Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.

 

He disentangled himself with the things of this world                   (II Timothy 2:4).

2 Tim 2:4

4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

 

He honored God and God honored him. He is numbered among the apostles, especially selected by the Spirit of the Lord. He exhibited great-hearted giving. He had an apostle's reward. It was Barnabas, whose name signifies the, "Son of Consolation." His was a ministry of encouragement and consolation. He uplifted and inspired many of the churches in his later ministry (Acts 11:22-24).

Acts 11:22-24

22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

He encouraged the apostolic circle to receive Paul as a fellow preacher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 10

Chart 2

Persecution of the Church

                                                                                                                                       

Persecution of the Church

1. Stephen Chosen - In Chapter 6, the church was increasing so rapidly that the disciples recognized the value of sharing responsibilities. They could not do the relief work and still spend time in prayer and preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Seven men were chosen to lighten the load of the apostles. One of these men was Stephen. (Chapter 4:35-36)

Acts 4:35-36

35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

a.) Stephen's Qualifications (Acts 6:8)

Acts 6:8

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

 

Stephen's "full of faith and power," was one of the table servers. He was a man who not only did the specific job God had given him, but looked for other opportunities to serve.

God can always use someone who has this kind of outlook. Stephen's work was so outstanding that he was picked as a target by the enemies of the rapidly growing church.

b.) Stephen On Trial (Acts 6:10)

Acts 6:10

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

 

Stephen's opponents were no match for his wisdom and spirit. They tried by physical force to get rid of him. They hired men to bear false witness against Stephen. Stephen was placed on trial before the Sanhedrin. Stephen was put on trial on the basis of a series of false statements.

 

c.) Stephen Preached and Died (Acts 6:12-13).

Acts 6:12-13

12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,

 

13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

 

The synogogue had men to testify falsely against Stephen's conduct but they could not change his character. Great alarm was registered when they beheld his face shining as an angel as he preached to them with a holy boldness. He delivered his sermon to them about the way God had dealt with man through the Old Testament. He preached truths they could not contradict, finishing up with a dreadful accusation against his listeners for having betrayed and slain the Son of God. In anger they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. With the martyrdom of Stephen the persecutors of the church shed the first blood of Christian martyrs. One of the leading men of this persecution was Saul of Tarsus, who was a witness and gave consent to Stephen's death. A wise man has appropriately said, "They tried to stamp the fire of God out in Jerusalem, but they spread the embers all over the world." This is exactly what happened. The truth spread into the regions of Judea and Samaria and into all the world.

 

2. Saul's Conversion - Chapter 9 of Acts introduced Saul who became Paul. He is a key figure in much of the New Testament. Saul was a bigoted Pharisee, persecutor of the church. By the power of God, he became Paul, the devoted apostle, preacher to the Gentiles. The conversion of Saul was so unlikely that a British agnostic of the last century thought it would not be difficult to disprove. In so doing he could show the rest of the New Testament to be unworthy of any credibility.

 

George Lyttleton wanted to show how impossible it would have been for a man like Saul to change so drastically. He put the results of his studies in a book entitled Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of Saint Paul. His amazing conclusion? "Paul's conversion and apostleship alone duly considered, is a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine relation."

 

a.) Saul the Persecutor - When the Sanhedrin had Stephen stoned, Saul was in agreement with their actions. He used that happening to launch an all out persecution of the church (Acts 8:3).

Acts 8:3

3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

 

He got letters of extradition from the high priest against the Christians in Damascus.

b.) Saul on the Damascus Road - On the way to the city of Damascus, a bright light from heaven shined round about him. Then he heard a voice asking, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" All sorts of inadequate explanations have been given to explain away what really happened. But the conversion of Paul cannot be accounted for except by Paul's own interpretation of the change it made in him. He saw Jesus and was fully persuaded to surrender. He had a personal encounter with God. Paul answered Jesus by saying, "Who art thou Lord?" When Jesus answered, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. . ." Paul was convicted. His reply was, "What wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:5, 6).

 

 

Acts 9:5-6

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

 

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

 

It is important to ask God, What will you have me do? It will save a person from many unproductive, failing years. Saul asks this question immediately upon contact with God. His life was never the same after the encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.

a.)   Saul Receives His Sight (Acts 9:18)

Acts 9:18

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

 

 Saul was blinded by what he saw in the heavens. He was led to Damascus where the Lord told him help would be found. After three days of prayer and fasting and blindness, the Lord had a man with a message for him. A disciple by the name of Ananias visited Saul and laid hands on him and prayed. Immediately Saul received his sight and was filled with the Holy Ghost.

Then Ananias baptized him. Saul received physical and spiritual sight that day (Acts 9:18).

Acts 9:18

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

 

Paul wasted no time in getting busy with the Lord's work. He began witnessing immediately. A conversion like that of Paul's makes for an exciting and dramatic testimony. They still happen today though most people come to God without a vision or any dramatic spectacular ordeal. The experience of the new birth involves water and spirit and is in itself a glorious transforming miracle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 10

Chart 3

The Gospels to the Gentiles/Peter

The Gospels to the Gentiles/Peter

1. Cornelius and the Angel (Acts 10) - The gospel then spread from Jerusalem and judaea and Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth. Chapter 10 gives a new and remarkable turn in the Book of Acts. Before Chapter 10 the apostles only preached to the Jews, now, the door of faith opened to the Gentiles as well. Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman Army, was a moral man, generous to the poor, who feared God and was faithful in prayer. His prayer life brought Peter to him. God will give guidance through prayer. Cornelius saw a vision and an angel of God told him what to do. He did it willingly and immediately. The angel told him to send to Joppa and call for one called Peter and he would tell him what to do.

 

"Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do"

(Acts 10:-6).

 

2. Peter on the Roof Top - While Cornelius' men were on the road, Peter was in Joppa at Simon the tanner's house. While Peter was on the roof top, he had a vision, in which he saw a sheet descend out of heaven containing unclean animals. The Lord told him to "rise, slay, and eat." Peter, with all of his Jewish pride, would not eat lest he partake of that which was unclean, but God was preparing Peter for a ministry to the Gentiles who the Jewish apostles thought were unclean. It was at this time that the messengers sent from Cornelius arrived. Peter journeyed with them to Caesarea. There he learned that God was no respecter of persons and that the Holy Ghost was "for whosoever will" (Acts 10:34-35).

Acts 10:34-35

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

 

35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

 

3. Gentiles Receive the Holy Ghost - As Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, the Holy Ghost fell upon them just as it had fallen upon the Jews in Jerusalem. Peter then commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:48).

Acts 10:48

48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

 

The power talked about in Acts 1:8 was starting to propel the Church to witness into all the parts of the earth.

Acts 1:8

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 10

Chart 4

The Gospel to the Gentiles/Paul

                                                                                                                                      

 

The Gospel to the Gentiles/Paul

Paul was a chosen vessel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).

Acts 9:15

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

 

His ministry was to bear the Name of the Lord before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.

 

1. Paul on Mar's Hill - Paul was not like the candle upon a table which gives light to one room but he was like the sun that goes in its circuit to give light to many. In Chapter 17, Paul was on another of his missionary journeys. He preached at Thessalonica and Berea and then at Athens. He was appalled at the idolatry he found in the latter city. Athens was full of temples, idols, statues, and pagan altars.

Discussions with the philosophers of Athens led to Paul's being taken to the Areopagus (Mar's Hill), a court that Dake's Annotated Reference Bible says was the most sacred and reputable in the Gentile world. Four centuries earlier, this same court had condemned Socrates.

Paul preached to the Athenians about their altar with the dedication to the unknown god. He proclaimed the message of one God who is self-existing; the giver and supporter of life                        (Isaiah 46:9-10; Mark 12:32).

Isa 46:9-10

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

 

10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

 

Mark 12:32

32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

 

He stated that all men could find the Lord (Acts 17:27; Jeremiah 29:13).

 

Acts 17:27

27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

 

Jer 29:13

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

 

Paul declared that God had tolerated the foolishness of man for awhile but judgment would come. Judgment would come in the form of Jesus Christ who is deemed worthy by His resurrection from the dead. At this saying, some mocked, but others believed. One of those who believed was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, the court of Mar's Hill. Later a fruitful church was established at Athens.

 

2. Paul in Prison Writing Epistles - J. Sidlow Baxter said, "Acts is not one of the epistles, yet it introduces them. Acts is a liaison between the Gospels and the Epistles." Paul wrote most of his Epistles while he was in prison awaiting trial. The letters were written to different churches established in the world by Paul and other followers of Christ. While he was imprisoned, Paul witnessed to and won many of his guards and visitors. Onesimus (Philemon) was one of the converts from his prison ministry. Some scholars think that he was released for awhile but when a renewed persecution began and he was taken captive again. Finally, after many years of frustration in prison, Paul was tried, condemned, and put to death. His last words were, ". . .I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. . ."             (II Timothy 4:7). What an accomplishment, to die full of faith, hope and victory as Paul did. 

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