Grace and Hope IN THE BIBLe
THE BOOK OF ACTS: peter and paul
Anne Oâ€™BrieN Bible Studies on Grace and Hope in The Book of Acts
Grace and Hope in the Book of Acts Part 1 - PETER The Book of Acts is literally about the acts of the early apostles. The two significant men who helped grow the early church were Peter and then Paul. The growth of the church under Peter is documented in the first 11 chapters of Acts, and is the focus of our study today. The key verse is in Acts 4v33: “GREAT GRACE WAS UPON THEM ALL” PETER: The fisherman: tough, brave, overconfident, a coward, a failure – but forgiven. The Evangelist: strong, reliant on the Holy Spirit, persecuted, steadfast What changed Peter from a failure to someone who was used mightily by God? Read Acts 2v1-14: The Work of the Holy Spirit It was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that changed everything for Peter, for the other followers, and ultimately for 3,000 people in the crowd that day. Living by God’s Grace and Walking in the Spirit are two independent characteristics, but we cannot say we are filled with the Spirit of God if we do not show his grace to others. Neither can we say we are sharing God’s grace unless it comes from the Spirit working within us. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is more than just an enjoyable experience. It is God’s way of filling us with the presence and attributes of Christ so that: · We can become powerful witnesses · We can know the closeness of the presence of Jesus · We become more like him, showing kindness, forgiveness, and mercy God requires us to show his grace to others, and it works best when we allow him to do it through us, by his Holy Spirit. Read chapter 4v31-37: How should we interpret these verses in the light of our circumstances today? Do you feel you need more of God’s grace to deal with difficult circumstances or people? His grace is free – we only have to ask! Chapter 10 – God has no favourites – his grace is for all Christ’s death and resurrection bought salvation for all – not just the Jewish nation, but for whoever would come to him in repentance and faith. In this account we see a Roman Centurion, a God-fearer (a non-Jewish believer in God) seeking God. As he prays, he has a vision of an angel who tells him to send for Peter. God knew Peter would be reluctant to go, so he gave Peter a vision that challenged him to embrace the notion that salvation and baptism in the Holy Spirit were for all people, Jews and gentiles alike. Three times (what is it with Peter and the number 3!) Peter saw a sheet before him containing all kinds of animals, pure and unpure. God was wanting him to understand that no-one should be excluded from his love and grace. Verse 15: Do not call anything impure that God has made clean. Peter knew this was God’s will, because immediately afterwards the messenger came from Cornelius asking for him to go there. At the home of Cornelius, all who were gathered there were ready to hear from God (v24) and Peter was able to explain why God had led him to them (v28,29). He said: I now realise how true it is that God not not show favouritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. While Peter was still explaining the gospel to them the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard (believed) the gospel (v44-46). In this life-changing experience, Peter was growing in Grace and understanding of God’s ways. He had to learn to leave behind the restrictive laws of separation and embrace the new Age of Grace and all that it meant.
How does this have significance for us? How often do we fall back on rules and regulations? How much do we rely on Church and Prayer meetings, and other people, rather than on the Holy Spirit? During the Covoid-19 “Lockdown” are we the same Christians as we were before? Peter’s experience should help us to realise that our guidance, our help, our strength, and our well-being is found in our relationship with Christ and his Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The presence of Christ, that should also be the means of us being able to bless others by sharing his gospel of grace with them. My key verse in Acts 4:33 is my prayer for us today – Great power to testify of Jesus, and great grace to be upon us all
Grace and Hope in the Book of Acts Part 2 - PAUL Paul is a character with whom we are very familiar – a mighty man of God. And yet, in 1 Timothy 1v15 we see that he calls himself the ‘chief of sinners’. Paul was a very learned Jew, and a hater of Christians. But God met with him in an amazing way. Read Acts 9v1-19. This meeting with God impacted him so much that he could do no other than obey God’s command. Significantly, as Paul believed and was prayed for, the scales fell from Paul’s eyes, and he was baptised in the Holy Spirit (9v17,18). His dramatic encounter with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit now caused him to be in the place of those he had been persecuting! Paul wasn’t just clever, he was also wise, and realised he needed to back up his experience with the Scriptures. Galatians 1v17&18 explain how Paul separated himself for nearly three years (we infer it was to consult the Lord and to study the Scriptures), his preparation for ministry. When Paul was sure of what he knew and believed, he returned to make his first missionary journey with Barnabas. The crux of his message is written in Acts 13v38&39: Therefore my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin – a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. This was the truth revealed to Paul: The Law of Moses can only teach us how to behave right. But, the grace of God can make us right – or righteous, in Him, Jew and Gentile alike. To the religious people who showed interest in Paul’s sermon, his message was: ‘Continue in the grace of God’ (Acts 13v43) This was a most important instruction to those who based their lives on obedience to the Law – but just as important to us. Q. Are there areas of your life where you fall back on works rather than grace: perhaps doing God’s work or going to church out of duty rather than out of a heart of grace? It’s always good to question our motives and to remember the great grace that God has shown to us, through Jesus Christ. What is the source of grace? Paul knew that the grace of God was the power of God, administered by his Holy Spirit to operate within us. Sometimes we call this the anointing of God, but we often think it is only for special people. But all Christians have the Holy Spirit living within them, and can be continually filled with the Spirit as they wait on God – and therefore they can have his grace and anointing to do the things he wants them to do. Grace is God’s means of making us like Jesus. Grace is not a means of escape, but a way through our problems Sometimes, life is hard, and at those times we can draw on God’s grace. Paul knew this from first-hand experience. In 2 Corinthians 11 v23-28 he shares some of the things he endured – and which we read about in Acts: Imprisonment, floggings with the whip and with rods, pelted with stones, left for dead, shipwrecks and dangerous rivers, attacks from bandits and jealous Jews, sleeplessness, hunger and thirst, etc. etc. How was it possible for Paul to carry on when life was this difficult? How is it possible for Christians around the world today to carry on with similar torment and persecution? Page 3
It is the grace of God that enables them to endure and to forgive, that helps them to see that suffering is part of being a disciple of Jesus and part of their witness for him. Paul’s Legacy From chapter 23 onwards we read how that Paul was on trial in Jerusalem, then in Caesarea, before various governors and eventually King Agrippa. But Paul, as a Roman Citizen, claims his right to plead his case in the highest court in Rome. Many would say he was mad to do that as Nero was on the throne, but we will see how this move resulted in the gospel reaching far and wide. Rome: In prison, Paul wrote many of his letters – perhaps to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. He also wrote private letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The opening words of his epistles are significant. In all of them he adds the word grace to the usual greeting of peace. Grace underpinned everything he was to write. Every phrase would be God’s guidance to those who read them. Every verse is about God’s grace rather than the Law. It’s a revelation of how much God’s grace had changed Paul’s life. And so, by his grace, God was able to use Paul through letter writing to strengthen and encourage the church. At the end of his letters, Paul mentions those he is praying for. By prayer he is able to pray God’s grace into the situations of those in need. Q. How can we, in turn, have an impact by sharing God’s grace? It’s not hard to write a letter or a notelet with a word of encouragement, is it? It’s not hard to pray for those in need. It’s not hard to let people know that God cares and loves them. Paul was in “lockdown” for two years in Rome, before he was sentenced to death. It did not stop him from sharing the wonderful grace that God had poured out on his life. May we be inspired by Paul’s example.
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ€™s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)
Bible Study on the book of Acts