SCRIPTURE

Read and study Acts 5:12-26.

INTRODUCTION

Joe was a newish Christian. He’d come to faith after finally succumbing to a work colleague’s badgering to attend an Alpha Course. At the course the amount of evidence there was for the historical Jesus and His Resurrection had surprised him. It persuaded him to read the Bible for himself and in doing so he fell in love with Jesus and has sought to follow him wholeheartedly ever since. However, he struggles with all the talk of miracles in Scripture but especially in church. He finds it very hard not to be skeptical when someone claims to have been healed. His secular scientific education is constantly telling him that miracles aren’t genuine, there’s always another explanation beyond the supernatural, and miracles are by definition rare occurrences, aren’t they, at least that’s what some Christians say? So why should we seek them so often, as church leaders seem to be encouraging me to do by praying for miraculous healings and breakthroughs?

Jane, a committed Christian had a job in an establishment that identified itself as Christian but which over time as a result of employing non-Christian managers had departed from its Divine mission. In the performance of her responsibilities, she was required to collect and submit client data to government agencies. However, as the data out-put was not in favor of the organization, her managers instructed her to start altering the statistics in favor of the organization. She refused and continued to submit the accurate statistics because she wanted to honor Jesus. As a result, she faced great pressure from her bosses and even ridicule from staff members in the organization. Even though she had no support from anyone in the organization, she knew God would expect her to act with integrity and so she opted not to comply with their demands but kept submitting the accurate statistics to the government. She endured great ridicule and hardship until her contract with the organization came to an end.

QUESTIONS

1. How did you get on acting out your faith in the last week following the study we had? Do you have a radical generosity testimony that would encourage the group?

2. Have you ever witnessed a miracle? What was it? Why was it miraculous?

3. Imagine you were asked to defend a belief in miracles, what would you say?

4. What was the impact of the “many miraculous signs and wonders” done among the people? What types of signs and wonders are emphasised in verses 12-16? How can miraculous healing be a sign pointing to God? Why might healings point all the more to God in a secular society like ours? Do we believe signs and wonders can add multitudes to our church?

5. Looking back to Acts 1:1-11 by whose power were the apostles able to perform these signs and wonders? Why is it important to remember this? What is the relationship between the coming of the “kingdom of God” and, for example, healing? See Revelation 21:1-4. How does this relate to our church’s mission to ‘bring the kingdom of God to the heart of the nation’?

BIBLE STUDY TIP: Context (again)

This is such an important tool that we decided to cover it again. Each passage you study has a context. In other words, we must look carefully at the verses that precede and that follow the passage that we are studying. When we take a passage “out of context” we are in danger of misinterpreting it. A passage can often be taken more than one way until we look closely at the larger picture, perhaps the entire chapter or even the entire book. Let’s put this tool into practice.

6. In 4:1-31 we see an account of strong opposition by the Jewish authorities. How do the disciples respond (verses 23-31)? What do they pray for specifically in verses 29-30? Given what had just happened, what do you think they expected the signs and wonders to accomplish (in light of what happened to the crippled beggar (3:1-10)?

7. One of the outcomes of these healings was persecution. Have you ever faced opposition as you lived for Jesus or witnessed to Jesus? What kind of opposition was it? Did this opposition hinder your witness?

8. What is the source of Christian opposition? What is its ultimate aim? Whom are they opposing? See also Acts 9:5.

9. What do we know of the Sadducees in the Bible? (See 4:1-2). How does your understanding of the Sadducees help us in our understanding of the intent of Christian opposition?

10. Who rescues the disciples from prison? Does this show who really is behind the progress of the gospel? Have you experienced divine release or protection from persecution in any way?

11. Upon release, the disciples are given an instruction. Who issues this instruction? What is the meaning of “new life” in the instruction?

12. How does this instruction clarify the focus of the divine mandate given to all Christians? Why is this instruction surprising given what the disciples were doing in verses 12-16? How can this help us better understanding the relationship between verbal proclamation of the gospel and physical demonstration of the gospel?

13. How do we respond to persecution? Does the fear for our well-being prevent us from fulfilling our Christian Mandate e.g. are we afraid to be ridiculed by our work colleagues or persecuted?

14. Jumping ahead to verses 29-32, how did the first disciples respond to persecution? What encouraged and enabled them to be so bold? Have we been recently filled with the Spirit? Have we recognised that God is behind Christian mission, ensuring that it happens and is not hindered? Do we now have confidence that even in opposition God’s power remains undisputed, and further opportunities for the gospel are presented (like that in verses 29-32)?

15. In what ways will you continue to act out your faith, as this series of studies concludes?

MISSIONARY STORIES to inspire you from our church

This year we prayed for a man with significant pain in his lower back, hips, knees and coccyx, following an unpleasant assault that left him walking rather slowly with a stick. He was more or less instantly healed, and impressively so, so much so that he came running up through the church into our back hall telling people “I’m healed…Look at what I can do now” swaying this way and that, his face beaming. The next Sunday he came without his stick and shared what had happened in the service. It ignited faith. We started calling out particular conditions God had put on our hearts (Greg especially) and sure enough they were in the congregation, people responded, came forward for prayer, and a good number got healed. At least five knees, for example, have been healed so far, in the church and on the streets of Westminster. There’s perhaps nothing better (save witnessing someone coming to faith for the first time, tears of joy streaming down their face) than seeing someone’s surprised, shocked face as they take a knee brace off and walk around in awe at having been healed by God. Praise the Lord. He’s more eager to heal than we realise. Maybe we should try praying more often and exercise the faith that is spelled R.I.S.K…?”

And as we conclude this series, Martin Lloyd Jones, the former minister at Westminster Chapel says, to encourage us:

“…It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions. Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere.” (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31–32)

“We can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that. The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and sending forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church.” (Joy Unspeakable, p. 278)

“…What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen . . . That is why I am urging you to pray for this.” (Revival, pp. 121–122)

PRAY TOGETHER

  • Thank God for His Divine Mission Mandate and His Sovereign Power and Authority to accomplish this even in the face of opposition.
  • Thank God for his supernatural intervention to back the apostles message, and ours which gives us certainty that this is Jesus’ work.
  • Ask God to fill each one of you with Holy Spirit Power to go and accomplish His instructions in your daily lives with boldness in spite of opposition.
  • Ask God to work through you and Westminster Chapel (+ the global Church) to perform signs and wonders that confirm His word spoken through us and draw many to Jesus and new life in Him.

OTHER THINGS to plug and pray for

  • Alpha Course | 19 Oct – 21 Dec, 7pm
  • Terry Virgo | 6 Dec, 11am and 530pm service
  • Carol Service | 13 Dec, 530pm service
  • Christmas Celebration Service (families) | 20 Dec, 11am service