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We’re about to begin studying the book of Acts together

Posted by on Apr 15, 2011 in community, discipleship, scripture | 10 comments

We’re about to begin studying the book of Acts together

Last October, we finished a long study of the book of Genesis. For the last five months or so, we’ve been doing some topical studies and shorter studies of the books of James and Colossians.

For the next two weeks, we’re going to study Luke 24 concerning the resurrection. We picked Luke for the study because beginning in May we are going to start a study of Acts. Each week, we will read and discussion one or two chapters of Acts (depending on the text, not necessarily the chapter divisions).

Believe it or not, even though we have had many discussions about the church as a community, we have never studied Acts together. This should be a very exciting time for us.

There are several topics that I’m looking forward to investigating: 1) The continuing work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit; 2) the service of several individuals and groups of believers; 3) the interactions between the churches in different areas; 4) the faith of those early Christians particularly in the area of proclaiming, going, sending, and serving; 5) the reactions of nonbelievers to the message of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit through his children.

Of course, as we study together, I also expect to find even more interesting topics and themes in this book.

However, I’m not only interested in studying Acts from a historical perspective. Yes, Acts is descriptive, but I do not believe that Luke wrote Acts only so that we have a good description of the 30 or so years following Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. In the same way, I don’t think Luke (or Matthew, or Mark, or John) wrote their Gospels as narrative just so we we would have an historical account of Jesus’ life.

No, instead, I believe that while these books are descriptive, they are also intended to be normative. Luke wants us to know how those early Christians lived, evangelized, shared, served, suffered, went, discipled, gathered, sent, and died so that we could learn from their examples.

What are we going to learn? What will we do based on what we learn? Well, if I knew that, then there would be no reason to study the book of Acts.

I think that we will find some examples in Acts that we are following faithfully. I expect that we will find other examples in the narratives of Acts where we fall short.

The question we will be forced to answer is this: Will we continue in our customs and traditions, or will we be willing to change our way of living in order to follow the examples that Luke provides?

What about you? Have you ever studied the book of Acts? Have you ever studied it in community with other believers? Were surprised at anything you discovered? Did the study cause you to change any aspects of the way you were living?


10 Comments

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  1. 4-15-2011

    Will you be posting your findings as you did with Colossians?

  2. 4-15-2011

    A few things I’ve found helpful:

    – at the points where various new testament letters were written, read what was being written/said/understood at that point in Acts.

    – note how long after visiting an area and bringing the gospel to it. that letters were sent back or people were sent back.

    – note the time passing between events (for example, how long before the first gentile is saved… how long before elders are recognized after being reached with the gospel, etc.)

    – I started an interactive map of the expansion of the church, that largely tracks Acts. *sigh* maybe I’ll work on that and get it done. http://churchtaskforce.org/graphics/ntchurchexpansion

  3. 4-15-2011

    I just finished reading Neil Cole’s latest book “Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul”, and I recommend it as a companion book to those doing a study through the book of Acts. In this book Neil Cole does a good job of taking the reader along with Paul on his journeys through the book of Acts and the other letters in the New Testament. I agree with Ross Rohde, who posted on his blog, The Jesus Virus (http://bit.ly/h2IkoX), after he finished the book, “You’ll probably never read Acts the same way again.”

  4. 4-15-2011

    Jeremy,

    I had not planned to write through my study of Acts the way I did Colossians. For one thing, it would take much too long to write everything out. But, I will probably write snippets here and there.

    Art,

    I knew that I could count on your for a good chart. :)

    I think you’re right that the relationship between Acts and the epistles is very important. It’s also important to try to tack time and location as much as possible.

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I haven’t read that book, so I’ll have to look into it.

    -Alan

  5. 4-15-2011

    BSF, the bible study I’m apart of, is starting it in the fall! can’t wait

  6. 4-15-2011

    Alan,
    I agree with you that Acts is both descriptive and normative (or prescriptive). I have recently been taken by the prayers/prayer life of the believers as recorded in Acts…powerful stuff :)
    Blessings,
    Chris

  7. 4-15-2011

    Randi,

    Interesting. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about Acts while you’re studying it.

    Chris,

    Most people believe (or at least live as if) some parts of of Acts are normative. I think this will be an interesting study for us.

    -Alan

  8. 4-15-2011

    Alan,

    Acts means whatever we want it to mean.

  9. 4-16-2011

    Alan,

    Not really of course. But too often we act this way.

  10. 4-16-2011

    Eric,

    Oh, I agree completely. If we want something to be normative, then it is. If we don’t want something to be normative, then it’s only descriptive.

    -Alan

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