Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
This passage contains Luke’s account of the birth of the Church. Peter’s audience was made up of Jews from all around the known world. The first obstacle he had to overcome was the Jewish belief that any person who was hung was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). So to an Orthodox Jew it was impossible for Jesus to be the Messiah. Peter’s sermon to this point had explained that Jesus is God, and he summed his message up by saying it was God who had been crucified when they crucified Jesus. As Peter preached the Gospel, the Holy Spirit was at work, convicting people of the truth of Peter’s message.
Peter used the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – to deliver his message and his audience was devastated. They asked what they should do. In response to their question, Peter invited them to repent. Repentance involves a change of mind and a change in the way people behave. To repent is to turn away from the things that are against God and to turn towards God. Three thousand people responded to this invitation and repented that day! Many who were there were visiting Jerusalem for Pentecost and would eventually return home, taking the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. The baptism that followed repentance was an act of affirming their belief and trust in God. It was not a normal practice for Jews to be baptized. It was an act taken by Gentiles who became Jews. The fact that three thousand Jews gladly accepted Peter’s invitation on that day demonstrated that they realised the truth of his message. It showed the strength of their need for Jesus. Peter assured those who were baptized that the blessings they would receive were available to any who believed – their children and those who were ‘afar off’ too. In other words even people in the 21st century.
In the following verses there Luke wrote a brief description of the early Church and how people ‘did’ church at that time.
- Learned from the apostles (who had, after all, known Jesus personally) and the people grew in their faith;
- Gathered and grew in their sense of community. They enjoyed being together.
- They ate together and would have followed Jesus’ command to celebrate and remember the Last Supper; Prayed and depended on God to help them in all the situations they faced;
- Honoured God as their Creator and King;
- Was a place where things happened. People expected and experienced miracles;
- Shared whatever they had with one another. The Jews offered hospitality during their feasts and many who had responded to the message would have been staying in the homes of local families. Their stay would have extended beyond the feast days and so there was a need to help one another to provide for the needs of the believers;
- Worshipped together every day. God’s Spirit moved amongst them. Many of those who were in Jerusalem temporarily would have gone to the Temple to learn more from Peter and the other apostles whilst they had the chance;
- Was happy and was made up of people whom others liked. William Barclay described it as having ‘a winsome attractiveness’. Other people were drawn to join them.
- Flourished and expanded, growing in number every day.
When you have been travelling where did you find a church which welcomed you whole- heartedly and made you feel at home? What did they do and how did you respond?
- ‘The local church ought to be a family’. We have been separated in the last months by conditions beyond our control. How has Gracepoint (and maybe this group) been a family to you during this time? Where could you have been helped but did not tell the church/group? Why did you hold back from sharing your need?
- How have you been ‘family’ to other Gracepoint members in the last few months?
- What would you say to a friend who asks you why you are so convinced about Jesus and the salvation He offers? How would you make your answer personal by including your own experience of Jesus?
- How would you explain the conversion process to your friend – repentance, confession, receiving the message of the Gospel? When did you first hear this message yourself and how did you hear it? What did it mean to you then? Have you ever told the person who explained it to you what it meant to you? Why/why not
- Living as a Christian is not a once-off conversion event but an on-going way of life. How do demonstrate to your family, friends and colleagues that you are a Christian by the way you live? Where do you think you need to work on your witness of actions?
- How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.
How can you be family to Gracepoint this week? Brainstorm some ideas for you to use as individuals or as a group.
Adeyomo, Tokunhoh, et al. Africa Bible Commentary. WordAlive Publishers, Nairoi, Kenya, 2006
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Acts of the Apostles. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh,1987