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Acts Excursis: Miracles

By Acts, Studies

Many of the Community Groups are doing something social this week, but if you’re looking to reflect on the talk last Sunday night on Miracles, here’s a starting point.

Getting Started

Galatians 3:5
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

1 Corinthians 12:10, 28
A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: … to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another, the performing of miracles…

And God has placed these in the church: …miracles, then gifts of healing…

Why are these verses significant for our understanding of the miraculous happening today?
Read More

Acts 5 – Community Group Study Notes

By Acts, Studies

Big Idea:

The passage we’ll look at next week stretches from 4:32 to 5:42.

If the Gospel is from men, it’ll falter. If it’s from God, it’s unstoppable.

Key Verses:

5:14 – In spite of obstacles, God is calling people to himself.
5:29-32 – We must obey God, rather than men.
5:38-39 – If it’s from men, it’ll fail. If it’s from God, it’s unstoppable.
5:41-42 – The world is seen not through the eyes of men, but of God.


4:32-36 – The people of God: of one heart and mind.
5:1-11 – Internal Problems: Trying to fool God.
5:12-16 – The people of God: Curiously attractive.
5:17-40 – External Problems: Trying to oppose God.
5:41-42 – But this is God at work, so there’s no stopping it.


[ut_togglegroup] [ut_toggle title=”4:32-36″] 4:36 – “He was the encourager, the advocate par excellence of all the characters in Acts. When the Christians in Jerusalem shied away from Paul after his conversion, Barnabas interceded and introduced him to them (9:26f.). When Paul refused to take Mark on his second missionary journey, Barnabas took up for Mark (15:36-39). When the Christians of Jerusalem became concerned over the orthodoxy of the Antiochene Christians in their witness to Greeks, Barnabas again served as intercessor, saw the gracious work of the Antiochene Christians, and encouraged them (11:20-23). Indeed, 11:24 well sums up the portrait of this “Son of Encouragement”: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”” Polhill
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”5:1-11″] In his Gospel, Luke gave the most warnings (from Jesus) about Money. It ensnared Judas (Luke 22:5; Acts 1:18), the rich young man (Luke 18:18-23), and the rich fool (Luke 12:15-21).

5:3 – While the community of believers is described elsewhere (4:32) as being one in heart & mind, Ananias can not be described like that. He is a man divided – one foot in the God’s kingdom, one foot in the worlds kingdom.

5:4 – Ananias’ sin is not in keeping back part of the money, but in pretending that he had given it all.

5:4 – The parallelism of Verses 3 & 4 indicate something about the Holy Spirit, that He is God.

5:11 – This is the first use of the word “church” (Gathering) in Acts).
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”5:12-16″] Notice in this section the mix of both curiosity from people of the gathering of the believers and the miracles of the apostles, and their stand-offish-ness. Even through this mixed response God was calling people to himself.

5:12 – As mentioned in last weeks passaged, Solomon’s Colonnade in the wider temple area, was where the early Christians used to meet.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”5:17-40″] 5:17-18 – The Sadducees didn’t believe in angels, or the resurrection. But the very thing they didn’t believe in rescued the apostles, and the was declared in the temple.

5:26 – The captain feared the people because of what was happening. Wrong person to fear.

5:28 – And the high priest can’t even bring himself to say Jesus’ name.

5:29-32 – Peter’s programmatic statement once again. He’s very clear what the pecking order is, and what it is that’s motivating him.

5:34-39 – Gamaliel was a teach of Saul (acts 22:3), a celebrated teacher of the law. This may be how Luke knew what happened here, because there’s a good chance Paul was present.

5:37 – Theudas was probably someone written about by Josephus the historian, who opposed the census carried out by Quirinius in AD 6. He was killed, but it gave rise to the Zealots, a splinter group.

5:39 – We don’t want to be utilitarian, “Because it works, it’s from God.” But we must affirm that if God is behind it, it will achieve what God wants it to achieve.

5:40 – The flogging they received was probably the same as Paul refers to himself in 1 Corinthians 11:24. The 39 lashes was meant to be a sign of mercy, rather than severity, in case of a miscount. But it was bad enough that people had died from these lashes.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”5:41-42″] The disciples response is anything but sensible. They rejoice not because they were let off, but because they were associated (visibly) with Jesus, and then they went off and did exactly what they’d been told not to do and what they received the lashes for.
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Three questions for reflection this week:

1 – Who works for whom?

The disciples don’t question their circumstances, and the realise the pecking order in the world (5:29).

They don’t use God to justify their own ends like Gamaliel does (5:38-39) in some sort of faux spirituality.

The disciples know they don’t always know how God is working, but they trust that he is. And they can do this because they know what God is like towards them.

Do we trust God in the same way – in the good and in the hard?

Who defines what triumph is?

There’s an attraction to the miraculous, and the dramatic, and the obvious. But the work of God in our lives and our hearts is often less noticeable, sometimes more painful, but no less (arguable more) important.

The miracles are important in Acts, but the thing that it keeps coming back to is the message of the Resurrection (5:20, 29-32, 42). This is the message that brings forgiveness and gives people the chance to have God’s Spirit in them.

And triumph for the disciples is not conquering all, it’s remaining faithful (5:41).

What do we see as the wins in our own lives?

What does Growth look like?

Do we assume that just because it’s obvious and appreciated by all it’s growth? Can’t God (and doesn’t God) use the hard times in our lives to grow us just as much – if not more – than the easy times?

And just because growth in the church isn’t obvious in Australia, it doesn’t mean God isn’t working.

Take China for example:

– In 1949 there were around 1 million protestants.
– In 2010 there were around 58 million protestants compared to 40 in Brazil, 36 in South Africa.
– Experts think by 2025 there will be around 160 million protestants. More than the US.
– When we add in those from the Catholic church, by 2030 the number is estimated at 247 million.

Much of this growth has been born out of persecution & struggle. God is at work. We just need to know what to look for and where.

Acts 3-4 – Community Group Study Notes

By Acts, Studies

Big Idea:

In the talk on Sunday, because this is such a big passage, the focus is going to be on Acts 4.

Because there’s no one else through whom God is restoring the world, it’d crazy not to talk about him.

Key Verses:

3:15 – You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
4:12 – Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
4:22 – For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.


3:1-10 – A cripple from birth is healed.
3:11-26 – But the truly amazing thing is that God sent Jesus to wipe out things and bring restoration.
4:1-22 – So how could we not speak about it?
4:23-30 – It’s the culmination of where God was taking history.
4:31-35 – Community Summary


[ut_togglegroup] [ut_toggle title=”3:1-10″] 3:1 – 3pm is the time for afternoon sacrifices.

3:2 – This was as close as the beggar could get to God. Being cripple he wasn’t allowed in the inner courts (Lev. 21:17-20; 2 Sam 5:8).

3:8 – As a cripple he would not have been permitted to enter the inner courts. Now, for the first time he could enter and he entered leaping and praising.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”3:11-26″] 3:11 – Solomon’s colonnade ran the whole length of the eastern side of the Outer Court. This is the place Jesus walked at the feast of the Dedication, perhaps less than a year previously (John 10:23). It became the regular meeting place of the Jerusalem Christians (v.12).

3:21 – This promise of restoration at the return of the Saviour encompasses the whole of creation (see Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:19-23; 2 Peter 3:13)

3:25 – The quotation is from Genesis 12:3 (See also Gen 18:18; 22:18). The “seed/offspring” here is Jesus, as in the similar quotation in Galatians 3:8. In fact, for a fuller argument of this just read Galatians!
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”4:1-22″] 4:1 – The Saduccees claimed to represent “the ancient standpoint in religion and morals, and emphasised the priestly point of view. The priestly families belonged for the most part to this party, and as the continued enjoyment of the priestly prerogatives and, indeed, the peace of the land and political existence of the people depended on Roman goodwill, they tried to cooperate as far as possible with the Roman authorities, and set their face sternly against religious or nationalistic aspirations which might incur the wrath of the ruling power. They rejected as innovations belief in the world of spirit-beings … and in individual immortality or at least resurrection.” Bruce

4:4 – This is an increase on the 3,000 in 2:14. Throughout the first half of the book of Acts, Luke records the continued dramatic spread of the Gospel.

4:6 – Here’s some fun historical facts for you:

Annas was appointed High Priest by Quirinius in AD 6 and held office until AD 15. “Even after his deposition Annas enjoyed great privilege, and by the time we are dealing with he was the senior ex-High Priest… His prestige is reflected in the NT by his being coupled with Caiaphas in Lk 3:2 as High Priest, and by Jesus’ appearance before him for a private examination before He was led before the Sanhedrin in the place of Caiaphas.”

Caiaphas “was appointed to the High Priesthood by the procurator Valerius Gratus in AD 18, and held it for eighteen years, a longer period than any other High Priest in NT times. The fact that Pilate left him in office during his ten years’ procuratorship suggests that the two had an understanding. As High Priest he would be President of the Sanhedrin, though he may have deferred to the seniority of Annas when the latter was present.”

4:8 – Worth noting that the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is contrasted with special moments of inspiration such as this one (also see 4:31) which is a fulfilment of what Jesus said in Mark 13:11.

4:14 – Note that, as with Jesus, there’s not a denial that this is miraculous, or even that it’s not necessarily from God. They have the proof, but it does nothing to change their mindset.

4:19-20 – In contrast to 4:14, here are unschooled, unlearned men (4:13) who feel they have no choice but to be witnesses to what they have seen. No matter how ridiculous it might sound, or how much they might suffer because of it.

4:22 – Worth noting that 40 isn’t that old. It’s the new 27.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”4:23-31″] 4:25 – The quotation is from Psalm 2:1. This psalm is interpreted of Jesus in 13:33 and in Hebrews 1:5; 5:5; Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15.

4:31 – The Apostles desire was not to avoid notice, and not to avoid trouble, but to more boldly declare what they had seen and knew to be true. And God granted them that through His Spirit.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”4:32-35″] This section serves as both a summary (as in Acts 2:42-47) of the character of the early church, but also as a segue to the next section, which highlights that it wasn’t all smiles and cheers in the early church.
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Three propositions to consider:

First – No matter the response, we can’t change the message.
If it’s God’s message, we have no right to change it. No matter how culturally unpopular or personally uncomfortable. Discuss!

Second – Know who’s really doing the work.
If it’s God’s message, and God’s mission, then he is able to bring about results independently of me. That doesn’t alleviate me of all responsibility, but it does put “results” out of my hands. Discuss!

Third – The messenger should reflect the message.
Sharing the Gospel with others should be an overflow of the gratitude we have because of what God has done, and a desire for others to know and experience what we have. We want our delivery to reflect the nature of the Gospel – for broken people, who’ve been forgiven & adopted, by a loving & gracious God.

Acts 2 – Community Group Study Notes

By Acts, Studies

Big Idea:

The hope of God, the promise of Israel, is found in Jesus: God’s King & Saviour.


v.1-13 – The arrival of the Holy Spirit and the declaration of the Gospel.
v.14-36 – Peter’s story of Salvation History:
v.14-21 – God’s Spirit is being poured out on His people. (Joel prediction)
v.22-35 – Because God’s Messiah has come, died & been resurrected. (David’s prediction)
v.36 – Therefore Israel needs to understand: the crucified and resurrected Jesus is God’s King & Saviour.
v.37-41 – The hope of Jesus, and the gift of the HS, is for all those who repent.
v.42-47 – A picture of the New Covenant Community, which God is building through His Spirit.


[ut_togglegroup] [ut_toggle title=”Verses 1-13″] This event, although involving mainly Jews, is nevertheless symbolically a reversal of Babel, and is a telling picture of what will be accomplished in the following centuries through the spread of the Gospel.

v.1 – Pentecost (properly, the fiftieth day after the Passover), the second of the three great Jewish festivals; celebrated at Jerusalem yearly, the seventh week after the Passover, in grateful recognition of the completed harvest (Exo. 23:16; Lev. 23:15f; Deut. 16:9): Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8

v.3 – For the association of the Holy Spirit with fire, see Matt 3:2; Lk 3:16. In the OT, fire symbolises the presence of God, Ex 3:2ff

v.4 – While there is some confusion in parts of the New Testament (particularly 1 Corinthians) about what speaking in tongues is, it’s pretty clear here – they were speaking different languages.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”Verses 14-36″] Note Peter’s constant reinforcement that “God did…”. He wants Israel to know that this is God’s doing, God’s fulfilment.

v.17-21 – The quotation is from Joel 2:28-32. In Joel it occurs after a locust plague had ravaged the land, creating a severe famine. Joel calls the people to repentance with the promise of forgiveness and the advent of the Day of the Lord and the Messianic Age.

v.25-28 – The quotation here is from Psalm 16:8-11 (LXX 15). Cf. Paul’s argument from the same Psalm in 13:34-37.

v.33 – The outpoured Spirit is the visible proof of the exaltation of Christ. “Just as the apostles were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, so the Jewish crowd itself was witness to the exaltation of Christ as they had witnessed the gift of the outpoured Spirit at Pentecost.” John Polhill

v.34 – See Mt 22:42ff; Mk 12:35ff; Lk 20:41ff for Jesus’ use of Psalm Ps 110. It was generally recognised as Messianic. See also 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:13; 5:6ff, also Heb 10:13; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20,22; Col 3:1; 1 Peter 3:22. David did not really ascend into heaven to take his seat at God’s right hand, but Christ did. See Lk 22:69 for Jesus’ words.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”Verses 37-41″] v.38 – Repentance was an essential aspect of Gospel preaching from the days of its first announcement. It still is.

v.38 – Baptism as an outward sign of repentance and remission of sins was not a new idea to those who heard Peter. In particular, they would have known of John’s baptism. The new feature of Christian baptism is that it is ‘in the name of Jesus’ and is associated with ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’.

v.40 – By rejecting the Messiah (Lk 17:25) this ‘generation’ had come under the judgement of God (Mt 23:36; Lk 11:54). The only way of escape was to accept the good news, and with it, accept the Messiah.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”Verses 42-47″] v.42 – “For NT testimony to the authority of the apostolic teaching cf 1 Cor 12:28; 14:37; Eph 2:20; 3:5. The apostles’ teaching was authoritative because it was delivered as the teaching of the Lord through the apostles.” F.F. Bruce

v.42 – “Its basic meaning is “association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.” In secular Greek it could involve the sharing of goods, and Paul seems to have used it this way in 2 Cor 9:13. It was also used of communion with a god, especially in the context of a sacred meal; and Paul used it in that sense in 1 Cor 10:16. Since it appears in a list in Acts 2:42, it is not easy to determine its exact nuance in this context. The key may be to see the the terms “breaking of bread” and “prayer” in apposition to “fellowship.” The meaning would then be that they devoted themselves to a fellowship that was expressed in their mutual meals and in their prayer life together.” John Polhill

v.42 – The breaking of bread is in all probability, a reference to the Lord’s Supper, but probably also in the context of more general eating together – an agape meal.

v.43 -The signs and wonders performed by the apostles are illustrated in the following chapters. “The apostles’ miracles, like those of their Lord, were ‘signs’ of the advent of the Messianic Age.” F.F. Bruce

v.44-45 – (Also see 4:32ff) Philip Hughes, reflecting on Acts 2:44,45, writes in his commentary on 2 Corinthians, “From its earliest days the Christian community at Jerusalem was extremely poor. The preaching of the apostles at Pentecost and in subsequent days led to the conversion of thousands of Jews. The material cost to these people of becoming Christians must have been immense. “Coming as they did from the background of Jewish fervour and exclusivism, in view of their conversion to Christianity they became victims of social and economic ostracism, ecclesiastical excommunication and national disinheritance. Their business enterprises must in most cases have collapsed in ruins and family bonds been heart-breakingly severed. “The situation to which this led was met by the touching and spontaneous manner in which the members of this young fellowship demonstrated their oneness of heart and soul by sharing their possessions and resources with each other.

v.46-47 – “The subsequent narrative of Acts will show that it did not always remain so [harmonious]. Sincerity sometimes gave way to dishonesty, joy was blotched by rifts in the fellowship, and the favour of the people was overshadowed by persecutions from Jewish officials. Luke’s summaries present an ideal for the Christian community which it must always strive for, constantly return to, and discover anew if it is to have that unity of spirit and purpose esential for an effective witness.” John Polhill
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What difference has the resurrection made in my own life, how I see my relationship with God?

  • Am I conscious of the role of God’s Spirit in my own life?
  • Am I open to being shaped by God’s Spirit, or resistant to it? (Examples?)


What difference has the resurrection made to my understanding & engagement with God’s people?

  • What does it look like to encourage the work of the Spirit in others at Village?
  • As someone who is being restored (i.e. not the finished product) by God’s Spirit, how do I forgive and encourage others who are going through the same process?
  • Given that our unity is in Jesus, and it’s about Jesus, how does that change how we see the purpose of God’s community and our engagement with it?


What changes can we (as a Community Group / Church) encourage so that when people look at us, they see the one whom God has made Lord & Saviour?

  • Do we use what we have for the good of those around us? What is that good?
  • Does what we speak about reflect what has made us who we are?
  • How does the hope of the resurrection free us in our decision making about life and the future?