Acts – Week 1

Week 1, Acts 1:1–11 Hook

Main Point: The Spirit empowers us to continue the work of Jesus.

Current Event: On January 9, 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the world to a revolutionary device: the iPhone. Jobs promised the crowd that day that Apple had reinvented the phone. The claim proved true. Listed below are five ways in which Apple’s phone altered the way we live.

  1. Gum sales have decreased 15 percent since the introduction of the iPhone.Supermarket checkout lines are a huge point of sale for impulse buys such as gum. Since smartphones have become so prominent, shoppers are looking at their phones instead of the impulse items while waiting in line to check out.1
  2. Photography has transformed from a hobby to a part of everyday life. The iPhone equipped the customer with a camera phone, software to edit pictures and access to social media sites to post those pictures.
  3. Texting became easier while calling has become almost obsolete. The iPhone changed texting into a continuous chat conversation with no character limits. According to a Neilson report, texting increased 450 percent from 2006 to 2008.

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  1. Wondering and guessing about facts became a thing of the past. With such easy access to web browsers, answers to questions are just a few swipes away.
  2. Getting lost is no longer inevitable. When was the last time you stopped at a gas station and asked for directions? GPS on the iPhone has made everyone a directional whiz.2

In what other ways has the iPhone changed lives on a daily basis? How did the iPhone change your life?

Describe a person or idea who revolutionized the world.
In what ways has the Gospel revolutionized the world and your life?

Transition: Today’s lesson will see the continuation of the ministry of Christ through the Church. The book of Acts demonstrates the radical power of the Gospel and a worldwide revolution that has never and will never be matched.


Week 1, Acts 1:1–11 Book

Main point: The Spirit empowers us to continue the work of Jesus.

Text Summary: Acts 1:1–11 These verses introduce the book of Acts, an incredible history of Christ’s victory being activated within the Church as His disciples share the Gospel and multiply across all divisions and barriers. The volume flows out of its prequel, the gospel of Luke, and continues what Jesus began during His time on earth. This week’s study will provide us with the foundation for understanding the key themes of Acts and its place within salvation history.

Acts 1:1–5 [Read]
Sub-Point: The Church carries out the Spirit-led work of the kingdom here and now.

The first two verses of Acts provide the reader with a prologue.3 In it, the author (Luke, the physician) provides a look back on the gospel of Luke. The first verse informs the reader of three facts:

  • Acts is a sequel to the gospel of Luke. The book of Acts is the second volume of a two- volume work—the gospel of Luke (v. 1: “my former book”) and Acts.4
  • Acts is written to a friend. The book of Acts has a dedication of sorts to Theophilus, a follower of Christ and likely a financial backer of Luke’s ministry. The gospel of Luke is also dedicated to Theophilus (Luke 1:3).5
  • The work and teaching of Jesus will continue through the apostles. The first book in Luke’s series dealt with “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (v. 1). The word “began” implies that the work and teaching that Jesus started will continue in the acts of the apostles. Further, it continues in the ministry of the Church today.Verse 2 reminds the reader of the gospel of Luke’s closing scene: the Ascension of Jesus into heaven after His Resurrection. Before He ascended, Jesus gave two commands to the apostles:

    1) Remain in Jerusalem and wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. 2) Go into the world as witnesses. 6

    3 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 78.
    4 Expositor’s, 232
    5 Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 353.

Q: If someone asked you to summarize “all that Jesus began to do and teach” mentioned in verse 1, how would you tell that person about the physical and spiritual aspects of His ministry?

Q: How involved are you in continuing “all that he began to do and teach”?

Q: Why does Jesus tell His followers to wait before they go? Do believers have the same command today?

Q: What role does the Holy Spirit play in the ministry of the believer?

Verses 3–5 provide some detail concerning the commands referenced in verse 2. Jesus had tasked the disciples with a major responsibility—namely reaching the world for Him. To bolster their faith and the legitimacy of their message, the Lord provides the disciples with equipping; this is what He gives them:

  • Evidence (“proofs”) of His Resurrection (v. 3). It was vital that the apostles be firsthand witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection if they were to be witnesses to the legitimacy of the Gospel. Jesus presented Himself “during” a 40-day period. This was not a continuous fellowship with Jesus; the language implies a coming and going.7
  • Instruction on the kingdom of God (v. 3). What is the kingdom of God? Longenecker describes the kingdom of God: “primarily it refers to God’s sovereign rule in human life and the affairs of history, and secondarily to the realm where that rule reigns.”8 Jesus spent much time teaching on the kingdom of God during His earthly ministry. The theme of the kingdom of God bookends Acts (Acts 28:31).
  • A command to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit (vv. 4–5). Jesus had already given the instruction in Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”Q: What privileges accompany being a member of the kingdom of God? What responsibilities?

    Q: Jesus lived by the Spirit. Verses 4–5 say His disciples would most definitely need the Spirit to work in their lives. What importance do you personally give to the Spirit’s work in your life?

    Q: How does someone ensure that he or she is “clothed” with the Holy Spirit?

    6 Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 353.
    7 Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary ed., Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI, 1981), 254.
    8 Ibid, 254.

Verse 5 In verse 5, Jesus provides a distinction between the baptism of John the Baptist and the spiritual baptism that followers of Christ will experience. John’s baptism was solely with water, was an outward sign of a repentance that took place within the heart, and identified the person being baptized as a pupil of John. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by John the Baptist (Luke 3:16 – the “fire” is a reference to the Day of Pentecost), would indwell the recipient with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.9 The church would “continue to use the outward form of his water baptism as a confession of the name of Jesus on entry into the community of believers (Acts 2:38a).10

Q: Why is baptism a significant step for a Christian to take? What does baptism accomplish in the life of a believer?

Acts 1:6–11 [Read]
Sub-Point: The Church serves others in anticipation of Jesus’ glorious return.

Verses 6–8 Throughout the Gospels, the disciples need to have their perspectives adjusted. While they do display faith, they often succumb to their sinful nature (pride, impatience, arrogance, disbelief). Jesus patiently rebukes and re-teaches them so that they can view God’s work through the lens of His will (Matthew 26:51–56; Luke 9:46–48, 22:24–27; Mark 8:31–33).

In verse 6, the disciples need to have their perspective corrected once more before Jesus ascends into Heaven and the Great Commission of the Church is put into action. The disciples still nurture a faint hope that Jesus will build a physical kingdom that frees them from the grip of Rome and re-establishes Israel as a unified nation of political, cultural and economic prosperity. But God’s course of action is different. Jesus reminds them of their mission to bear witness throughout the earth.11

Rather than serve Him by striving to achieve great cultural and military strength, the disciples’ mission is to continue the work of the kingdom breaking into earth by being sent out into the earth bearing the Gospel message of repentance and salvation (Mark 6:12; Luke 9:6). Jesus calls them to engage in the ministry of reconciliation to God that will ultimately bear greater fruit for heaven than if they simply set out to bring about great change in their society’s structures.

9 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 83.
10 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 83.

11 “These verses thus spell out God’s purpose and the place of the church in it” (Marshall 63).

It’s also important to notice that Jesus doesn’t allow room for empty speculation about His return. He repeats what he said in the gospels about the beautiful secrecy that surrounds God’s timing (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). He commissions His disciples to get to work immediately and bring the words and deeds of the Gospel to all corners of the world—local, nearby and distant. Jesus does promise a glorious homecoming in which His final reign will bring a glorious renewal to all of creation and a victorious reign over all powers and principalities. But the hope of His return is to fuel the disciples’ Spirit-led work, not cause them to grow anxious or complacent.12

Q: In verse 6, the disciples still desire a kingdom, but it’s not the right one. What does it mean for the kingdom of God, not man, to break into our world?

Q: In verse 7, Jesus’ disciples are told not to speculate about His return. Why do you think end- time speculation is still so popular today? How does it detract from the Church’s mission?

Verses 9-11 Jesus finishes His last words to the disciples, then ascends to heaven beyond where their sight can perceive Him. While they stand there processing, angels appear to prompt them to action. With a mild rebuke, the heavenly messengers encourage the disciples to get moving and obey Jesus’ Great Commission. What’s beautiful about these verses is that the command to go is backed by the promise that Jesus will return. The disciples have been promised the power of God’s Spirit, and now they are prompted to join a mission that culminates in the glorious return of their Savior. There is tension in knowing we are sent to sow Heaven on Earth but we also run toward a finish line we can’t fully see. The Bible describes this in 2 Corinthians 4 and Hebrews 11.13

Q: What gives us confidence to continue running toward that finish line even when it hurts, even when we can’t quite see Christ’s victorious return that awaits us at the end?

Q: What does it look like to be a faithful disciple of Jesus and sow seeds of Heaven’s victory so they spring up on earth? What examples do you see the Spirit bringing to life today?

These verses teach us to look forward to the final reign of Jesus Christ, when we are perfectly reconciled to God and fully resurrected from the effects of sin and death. But the disciples’

12 “Since this is God’s secret, there is no place for human speculation…. Instead of indulging in wishful thinking or apocalyptic speculation, the disciples must accomplish their task of being witnesses to Jesus…. Thus the promise of the parousia forms the background of hope against which the disciples are to act as the witnesses to Jesus” (Marshall 65).

13 “… the missionary activity of the early church rested not only on Jesus’ mandate but also on his living presence in heaven and the sure promise of his return…. The missionary work of the Church is the eschatological foretaste of the Kingdom of God” (Longman, 720).

mission, and ours, is also to sow the coming kingdom into existence now. As the power of the Spirit accompanies their witness and ours, we begin to glimpse all things being made new.

Week 1, Acts 1:1–11 Took

Main Point: The Spirit empowers us to continue the work of Jesus.

Current Event: On January 9, 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone and made history. Since then, more than 1.2 billion iPhones have been sold. After the introduction of the iPhone, companies like Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Xiaomi produced their own devices and soon enough, smartphones spread across the globe.14 In 2011, roughly 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone.15 Today, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, with 92 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 owning one.16

Why do you think smartphone ownership increased so quickly?
Why does the Gospel spread with such ferocity, even during inhospitable times?
How can you and your class become more involved with the expansion of the Church?

Lesson Conclusion: As disciples of Jesus commissioned to sow the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, we seek to understand our place in history so that we join Jesus’ mission with the right perspective and goals. Our efforts are not our own; they are a continuation of the kingdom works He has already begun, and they are empowered by God’s Spirit. We hope in the future of His glorious return while we also rejoice to know that heaven is already coming to life amidst earth’s decay. Jesus’ Resurrection confirms God’s promise that He is “making all things new.”


Seek God’s will for ministry – Don’t automatically take up the humanitarian or political causes of our times without praying through what God wants to do on earth. Don’t remain comfortable with your culture’s attitude (or apathy) toward restoration and reconciliation. Ask God’s Spirit to give you the boldness to speak and act on mission for God in ways that agree with and continue the Gospel mission your Savior began.

Rely more on the Spirit – It’s easy to accept the mantra that we have the power within us to achieve progress and affect change, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. Spend time in prayer asking God to remind you of your dependency on Him to sow seeds of the kingdom that actually bear everlasting fruit. It’s easy to become exhausted while trying to live on mission in your own strength. But God’s reserves of wisdom, patience, endurance, power, compassion, and forgiveness are limitless, and they’re all yours.

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Practice hope – Even when you do your best to trust God to help you obey the Great Commission, you will encounter disappointments and what seem to be failures. Have a collection of Bible verses on hand to read or memorize that remind you of what our ultimate victory looks like. Jesus has already ascended to His throne in heaven and is working through you right now to bring His kingdom to earth. No matter how dark or broken your experiences are, remind yourself that God is with you. Pray you would remember that He has already begun breaking heaven into your life and into this world.