Having had four months of James Philip’s readings from 1 Timothy, I am now back writing my own Bible readings. We are going to begin this month a series of readings in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts we see the beginnings of the Christian church and, as we look at this early church, we can see afresh what it means to be a missionary church, a church focussed on outreach and evangelism. We might also find that many of the things we do as a church are different from the things to which those early Christians devoted their time and energy. Every Christian church in the 21st century has to ask the question, ‘Do we have the same passion for Christ, the same enthusiasm for the gospel, the same concern for the lost as did those first Christians?’
Wednesday 1st October
The Book of Acts stands between the four Gospels and the New Testament Epistles. In many ways it is a bridge from the one to the other. It tells us the story of the expansion of Christianity, through the missionary work of Paul particularly, and so it provides the background against which Paul’s Letters make sense. The Book of Acts was written by Luke, who also wrote the Gospel, and both books are dedicated right at the beginning to someone called Theophilus, although we don’t know anything about him. The first chapter of Acts provides us with a brief introduction to the story of what happened on the day of Pentecost, and it deals with two main topics. First, the conversation Jesus had with his disciples just before the Ascension and then second, the choosing of another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot.
Thursday 2nd October
Having read the whole chapter yesterday, today we focus in on verses 1-3. The most striking thing at the beginning of the chapter is where Luke tells Theophilus that in his previous Book (Luke’s Gospel) he had described all the things that Jesus began to do, until he was taken up to heaven. Now isn’t that a strange way of putting it? That surely suggests that what he is going to describe now in the Book of Acts, is all the Jesus continued to do after the Ascension. But how could Jesus continue to work here on earth after he had gone? Luke is clearly leading up to telling us about the Holy Spirit. Many people have suggested that this book should not be called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’ but rather ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’, because what we find as we read these stories is that God was powerfully at work among his people in the ministry of the Holy Spirit
Friday 3rd October
The second theme I want to draw out of this passage is the theme of the Kingdom of God. This passage teaches us that between his Resurrection & Ascension, Jesus’ central theme was the Kingdom of God. Listen again to Acts 1:3: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.’ Does that surprise us? Of all the topics Jesus could have spoken about to his disciples, why did he choose this topic? The fact is that a major focus of the preaching and proclamation of Jesus and of the early disciples was ‘The Kingdom of God’ and I ask myself why that is a somewhat understated theme in preaching today. Do you understand what it means to be in the kingdom of God and to share the message of the kingdom?
Saturday 4th October
Continuing yesterday’s theme, we should note that to preach the kingdom of God means to emphasise the Lordship of Christ over everything and to see that the kingdom of God is not simply about individual salvation but rather involves a cosmic engagement with the forces of evil, leading to the ultimate triumph of Christ. Jesus focussed on the big picture, on the kingdom of God. Have you ever found yourself uncomfortable with the teaching of Jesus? Have you ever struggled to fit what he says into your idea of the ‘simple gospel’? Have you ever read the teaching of Jesus and thought ‘Why doesn’t he just preach the gospel?’ Have you ever listened to his teaching and thought, ‘Why does he concentrate so much on that social gospel stuff?’ We must read carefully the teaching of Jesus.
Sunday 5th October
Today we move on to verses 4-11. Jesus speaks his last few words to his disciples and then ascends back to heaven, before their very eyes. Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we are told that they obeyed Jesus in this and met together with other disciples for prayer in the upper room. Here we have a picture of a waiting church, expectant that God was going to fulfil his promise and do a great work amongst them. The Church in Jerusalem was a waiting Church, but what were they waiting for? We find the answer in the words of Jesus recorded in verses 4-5. He told them not to leave Jerusalem because in a few days they were to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Do you see the point? The work which Jesus was giving them to do could only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was impossible for them to do this work in their own strength and by their own wisdom. It is the same for us today.
Monday 6th October
Jesus is very specific concerning what was about to happen to the disciples. In verse 8 is recorded these great words of Jesus: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ There are probably two questions we should ask ourselves. First, do we have that power of which Jesus spoke? And second, are we truly living and serving as witnesses to Jesus Christ? In other words, is the Holy Spirit indwelling us and driving us out in mission and evangelism? Or do we feel our Christianity to be devoid of any real spiritual power? The disciples were to receive power, and as a direct result of that they were to become witnesses to Jesus. Our task today is to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, beginning here in the city of Inverness, just as those first disciples began in the city of Jerusalem.
Tuesday 7th October
In this passage we have described an event which is at the heart of the Christian Faith, the Ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God the Father on high. We bear witness to this truth every time we say together the Apostles’ Creed. In a good modern translation the Creed says, ‘He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.’ In Acts 1:9 we read this, ‘After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.’ This took place 40 days after the resurrection. For the disciples this was the parting of the ways. It is inconceivable that the resurrection appearances would just get fewer and fewer and then peter out. There had to be a real severance and this took the form of the Ascension. The time of Christ’s humiliation (as it is called) was over, and he returned to be with the Father.
Wednesday 8th October
One more day on these verses because the passage does not finish with the Ascension. In verses 10-11 we read this, ‘They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”‘ This is the wonderful promise of the Second Coming. Jesus Christ will return to this earth, not as a baby in a manger but in triumph, in power and glory, to judge the world. What a glorious prospect! Christ has left us, the Holy Spirit has been given, and we await the return of Christ to judge the world. This Second Coming is the hope of the Church, that great day when all the glory and power of God will be revealed.
Thursday 9th October
The disciples had been told to wait until the power of God came upon them. The Apostles were there. The women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, were there. Even his brothers were there, despite the fact that earlier in his ministry they thought he was mad. Notice, they were praying (verse 14). Prayer was a mark of the early Church. If we glance through some passages in the Acts of the Apostles we can see that prayer was at the very heart of the life of the Church. Prayer was one of the things to which they devoted themselves (2:42); they continued to follow the regular Jewish pattern of prayer (3:1); they prayed for boldness when it was needed (4:23-24); they prayed in times of trouble (12:5); they prayed even in difficult circumstances (16:25); at times of parting they prayed together (20:36 and 21:5). Do you see the point? They prayed in every circumstance of life. They prayed when they were in trouble but also when they were happy. They prayed about major things but also about ordinary things. Prayer was simply woven into the fabric of their lives and the life of their fellowship. Is it so with us?
Friday 10th October
The second theme of this passage is guidance. In one sense we might say that guidance is really the theme of the whole passage because when they prayed they were seeking God’s guidance. More specifically, however, it is when they came to choose a replacement for Judas, that we see them seeking God’s guidance. Peter made it clear that it was necessary to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot to be one of the twelve apostles. He makes a point of saying that Judas’ betrayal had been prophesied in Scripture and was a necessary part of all that had happened to Jesus. In this regard he quotes the prophecy from Psalm 69:25. He is making the point that Judas’ betrayal was not a dreadful mistake which God had not forseen! God was able to use even Judas’ greed and betrayal to further his purposes. Nevertheless, a successor had to be appointed. Peter also quotes from another passage of Scripture (Psalm 109:8) to this effect. It was clear to them that the one to replace Judas should be either Joseph or Matthias but they were not sure which one it should be. So first of all they pray, then they cast lots and Matthias was chosen. Should we cast lots whenever we have to make a difficult decision? Well, I don’t think so. You see, this was before the day of Pentecost, before the coming of the Holy Spirit. There is no example of this casting of lots after Pentecost. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes, one of the things he does when he indwells the believer, is to lead and guide. Instead of casting lots, we seek the guidance of the Spirit.
Saturday 11th October
The third and final theme of these verses is the Resurrection. When Peter was speaking about the need to appoint a successor to Judas Iscariot, he said in verses 21-22, ‘Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’ The key point to notice here is what these verses tell us about the function of an Apostle. An apostle was to be a witness to the resurrection. You see, the resurrection is critical. Without it there is no Christian faith. This cannot be emphasised strongly enough. (Read 1 Corinthians 15). We too in our day must speak of the resurrection because it is the evidence that Jesus was the one he claimed to be.
Sunday 12th October
There were three great Jewish Festivals to which every male Jew living within travelling distance of Jerusalem was obliged to attend: The Passover, The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths. ‘Pentecost’ is another name for the Feast of Weeks. It means ‘The Fiftieth’ and it took place on the fiftieth day after the Passover. It was also called the Feast of Weeks because there was a week of weeks (7×7 days = 49 days) between Passover and Pentecost. Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai, but it also had an agricultural significance in so far as it took place at the end of the harvest, and an offering was made. The Law laid down that no work was to be done on this day and so it was a popular holiday. The crowds on the streets were huge and people from many lands and speaking many languages would be gathered together. That is the context and background for understanding the passage before us.
Monday 13th October
On this particular Pentecost, described in Acts 2, something special happened, the Holy Spirit came to the Church in a special way. Now we mustn’t imagine that the Holy Spirit was absent before this event. The Holy Spirit is God, one of the Persons of the Trinity and has always existed. From the very beginning of time has been working amongst the people of God. This Book of Acts itself, which we are studying, tells us that the Holy Spirit was speaking in David (1:16); that the Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah (28:25); as we shall see later in the book, Stephen accused the Jews of having all through their history opposed the Spirit (7:51). This having been said, something special happened at Pentecost. We often think of the Christian era as beginning with the birth of Jesus, and there are good reasons for saying that, but properly speaking, the Christian Church began on the Day of Pentecost. Before that day, men and women had their sins forgiven by looking forward to the Messiah who was to come. Until Jesus paid the penalty for sin on Calvary, no-one could truly have their sins taken away, instead God covered them, he hid them from his eyes until, through his Son, he wiped them away for ever.
Tuesday 14th October
The baptism in the Holy Spirit which John the Baptist spoke of, and which Jesus promised to his disciples, took place at Pentecost. From then until now, that baptism takes place each time someone becomes a believer. We are told in the first four verses of our chapter that the disciples were all together in one place when suddenly a strong wind began to blow and filled the whole house. At the same time, what appeared to be tongues of fire came to rest upon each one of them. We have read this so often that perhaps we have lost some of the drama of the situation. The disciples must have been astonished and not a little scared. In the Bible, ‘wind’ often represents the Spirit of God. In Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, you remember, they came to life when the breath of God came into them. In John 3:8 we are told that the Spirit of God is like the wind, no-one knows where he comes from or where he is going but we feel his power. Whatever we might make of these comparisons, the important thing is that the Spirit of God came upon these disciples in power. When God comes into a situation or into a life, remarkable things happen.
Wednesday 15th October
Before we consider Peter’s sermon here, however, I want to say something about Peter himself. You see, in one sense it is a miracle that Peter was preaching this sermon at all. All during Jesus’ ministry, Peter was one of the chosen twelve. Indeed, he was one of the inner circle, one of the three who were with him at crucial events, including the Transfiguration and the garden of Gethsemane. On one occasion, recoded in Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, ‘You are Peter (which means ‘rock’) and on this rock I will build my church.’ Despite this, Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny him. Peter himself refused to believe that he would deny his Lord. After all, he was a brave and strong man. Yet, he denied Jesus three times (Mark 14:66ff.). Peter was devastated by his own betrayal. When he heard the cock crow and he knew that Jesus prophecy had come true, we’re told that he ‘went out and wept bitterly…’ (Luke 22:62). Jesus, however, had not abandoned Peter. Indeed, after the resurrection, when the women met the risen Lord, they were told, ‘Go tell his disciples and Peter…’ (Mark 16:7). There was a special word for the man who needed it most. The Scriptures also tell us that Jesus appeared privately to Peter (Luke 24:34). Then there is the famous account given in John 21:15-25, where three times Peter was asked to affirm his love for Jesus – to match the three times he had denied the Lord. After this he was bold for Christ. There is a message here for all of us. Even if and when we mess things up, God does not let go.
Thursday 16th October
In this first sermon after the establishment of the Christian Church, Peter makes it clear that everything which had happened to Jesus was part of God’s plan. He does this by showing that everything which had happened to Jesus had been prophesied in the Scriptures. This achieved two purposes. First, it emphasised God’s providential control over events; and second, it helped these Jews to see that their own Scriptures spoke of Jesus. Peter begins by telling his listeners that the coming of the Holy Spirit was in God’s plan. The disciples weren’t drunk at all, as some people were saying. After all, he says, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. He then goes on to tell what had really happened, explaining that the prophecy found in Joel 2:28-32 had come true. A new era had dawned. The Old Covenant had made way for the new. God was pouring out his Spirit upon men and women and great things were to happen. It had been prophesied, which means that it had been planned. It was in God’s plan. Paul then goes on in verses 22-23 to speak about the death of Jesus on the Cross and he says that this too was in God’s plan. In other words, although Jesus was put to death by wicked men but it was all planned by God. It was in God’s plan.
Friday 17th October
We saw yesterday that the death of Jesus was in God’s plan. Next, Peter says that the resurrection was in God’s plan. His evidence here is that it had been prophesied by David. It was prophesied, which means that it was planned. It was in God’s plan. Then Peter says that the Ascension was in God’s plan. Christ had ascended to the right hand of the Father and had been exalted above all things. Once again Peter quotes a prophecy, this time from Psalm 110:1. Once again, it was prophesied, so it was planned. It was in God’s plan. Having explained that everything which had happened was in God’s plan, we then hear about the response to Peter’s sermon. As we read in Acts 2:37-40: ‘When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”‘ You see, the Gospel has an impact on those who hear it. It brings people to repentance and faith.
Saturday 18th October
This passage is about the church. The Greek word which is rendered as ‘church’ in our English translations of the Bible is the word ‘ecclesia’. The literal translation of the word ‘ecclesia’ means ‘called out’ and so we can say that the church is made up of people ‘called out’ by God. God effectually calls, by his Spirit, a people for himself, bringing us out of darkness into his light. In other words, the church is a spiritual and supernatural community. We cannot choose to join the church in the way that we do a voluntary society. It is the Lord who adds people to the church (2:47). It is also important to say that God does not simply bring people into the church and then leave them. Rather he gives each believer some part to play in the life and witness of the church. The church is a body of which Christ is the head and every part of the body must play its part.
Sunday 19th October
If we now ask what the church should be doing, the answer is here in the passage. The church is to be engaged in evangelism, seeking to persuade men and women to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit they no longer remained huddled together in an upper room for fear of the Jews, instead they spilled out on to the streets of Jerusalem with the gospel message. It is God who brings people into the kingdom. It is God who regenerates. It is God who adds to the church daily those who are being saved. But he issues the call of the gospel through his church. That is clear from the words of Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Evangelism, then, is a primary function of the Church. We see something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where Paul writes, ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.’ Are we engaged in evangelism?
Monday 20th October
We saw yesterday that the church should be engaged in evangelism. The passage goes on to describe the other matters to which the church should be devoted. We read in verse 42 that they devoted themselves to ‘the apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer’. It seems to me that these are the fundamental things to which the church in our day must give renewed attention. These things are all familiar to us but sometimes it does us good to be reminded of the fundamentals, especially in a day when many people in the church are confused and uncertain. We must devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. That is to say, we must be men and women who give attention to the Word of God. It is important that we value Christian fellowship, namely, seeking to encourage one another, support one another, and build one another up in the Lord. Every time we share together in the Lord’s Supper (the breaking of bread) we are reminding ourselves of the central affirmations of the faith concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. Finally, we are to engage in prayer. In a day when prayer is so neglected within the church, we need to emphasise this with particular force. Prayer is the crying need of the church today. May God help us to give prayer a central place in our own lives and in the life of the church.
Tuesday 21st October
The passage tells of how Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. This is referring to the evening sacrifice which all Jews had to offer at the temple, and since the first Christians were Jews, these men were following the custom. Many people today tell us that they don’t have the time to go to Church even once a Sunday, but the Jews had to go to the temple every day, morning and evening to offer sacrifices. This was because God had commanded it in Exodus 29:41. That evening, however, as Peter and John went up to the temple, things happened which were out of the ordinary. Instead of just going up to the temple and offering the sacrifice, they were stopped by the sound of a beggar asking for alms, and from this point on things were far from normal. From then on God was in control, and as always, when we allow God to take control (of our lives) wonderful things happen. When God is in complete control, life takes an amazing turn.
Wednesday 22nd October
Because he thought that his disease was incurable, the man asked only for sustenance, but God by his grace, gave the man what he would never had dared to ask for. In other words, the man wanted nothing but alms, but God knew what he really needed, and by his grace, he gave it. We must not think however that this applies only to that man at that time. In Romans 8:28 we read this, ‘In everything God works together for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.’ This is a very difficult verse to accept because so often we feel that God has deserted us and everything is going against us. Isn’t it really comforting to know that whatever happens is for our good, so long as we love God? We might never understand until years after why something happened, indeed there are some things that we will never understand, but understanding is not essential, only trust. If we have this assurance and trust then we will find it very easy to put into practise what we are taught in Philippians 4:6 (Living Bible): ‘Worry about nothing, instead pray about everything.’
Thursday 23rd October
When Peter said to the man, ‘look at us’, he knew that it was God’s will and he knew that something miraculous was going to happen. This is our first lesson. We must never do anything without being sure that it’s God’s will, and when we are sure, we must expect things to happen. Do we pray without expectancy? When Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit was leading him and I think that if the church today depended more on God’s Holy Spirit, and less on its own power, then it would be revived, and people would stop telling us that the church is dying. Another important thing to notice from this passage is that Peter and John didn’t do this miracle by their own strength, but in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. By using this title, Peter wanted to convey that this Jesus, who was despised and had been crucified, was nevertheless the Messiah promised by God. As Peter used Christ’s name, so we must do everything in Christ’s name. People are watching us if we say we are Christians and any mistakes we make, or sins we commit may destroy our witness to them. Do everything as to the Lord.
Friday 24th October
After God, through Peter and John, had cured this man, we read that the man leapt up and walked, and then went into the temple, ‘walking and leaping and praising God.’ Isn’t that tremendous? God had done a mighty work and the man responded by praising him. How many times has God answered our prayers, and indeed given us things that we haven’t prayed for, and we have not thanked or praised him? In some Churches, you can see all the people with long faces, struggling to sing a hymn and there’s no joy. We meet each Sunday to praise God for what he’s done for us, so let’s always bear in mind his goodness and thank and praise him for everything. Peter and John were sure of God’s will as they raised the man. Every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, ‘Thy will be done’, and yet sometimes this comes automatically without thinking about it. It might be God’s will that we should go on the mission field and so, whatever we do, when we say ‘Thy will be done’, don’t let’s forget that we’re signing our lives away to God. But it’s not an unhappy life. In Psalm 40:8 we read ‘I delight to do thy will O God’, and this should be our attitude. No matter how difficult it may be, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are doing God’s will and so we must persevere, always knowing that there’s someone right beside us to help.
Saturday 25th October
Today we pick up the story of the aftermath of the healing of the man outside the Temple gate. We’re told that all the people were astonished by the healing and came running to meet Peter and John. Peter uses this situation to make an evangelistic appeal. What is striking about his appeal is the way in which he connects the healing with Jesus, and then connects Jesus with the prophecies found in the Old Testament. In other words, he wants these Jews to realise that Christianity is not some strange new religion but is the continuation of their own Jewish religion. Peter does not spare them in this sermon. He points out faithfully and clearly their many sins. In particular, Peter reminds them of three things they had done. They had handed Jesus over to be killed, they had disowned Jesus before Pilate and they had killed the author of life. Having pointed out these sins, however, Peter then becomes more gentle. He tells them that he knows they acted in ignorance, not knowing who it was they were killing. This, you remember, was also the attitude of Jesus himself when he cried out, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Nevertheless, now that the truth has been made known to them they must repent. Peter even goes so far as to explain what repentance is. He tells them that they must turn to God and they must turn from their wicked ways. Repentance, you see, has these two parts: it is a turning away from sin and a turning towards God. This is his great evangelical appeal to them.
Sunday 26th October
Having spoken to them about their sin, Peter speaks to them about their God. He begins by insisting that they had not healed the crippled beggar by their own power or godliness, rather the healing was a supernatural act of God. More particularly, it was their God! Notice verse 13, where he identifies God as ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our Fathers’. Do you see the point here? Peter is telling these Jews that the God who healed the man was their God. Peter wants to make the connection between the Jewish religion and faith in Jesus Christ. He wants to show continuity. He wants to insist that this is not some new religion but it is their religion. He then makes the connection even sharper by pointing out two things which their God had done. First, he had raised Jesus from the dead and second, he had glorified Jesus. These people, who had all rushed to meet Peter and John because a crippled beggar had been miraculously healed, were now being shown the connection between that healing and everything that had happened in Jerusalem in relation to Jesus of Nazareth. Peter was saying quite clearly that this man had been healed through faith in Jesus and this Jesus had been raised from the dead and glorified by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The people who had heard about the miracle wanted to give the credit to Peter and John but Peter directs them firmly towards their God and gives him all the credit and all the glory.
Monday 27th October
The miracle of healing having taken place, we find that Jewish ruling authorities now step into the situation and Peter and John are arrested. This then gives Peter the opportunity to preach another sermon. The final outcome is that Peter and John are banned from speaking about Jesus. Their response is that they must keep speaking about Jesus and that obedience to God is more important than obedience to the Jewish authorities. We must also be very careful that we do not pass over verse 4 too quickly. It would be very easy to miss it. We are told that, ‘many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.’ Despite opposition, the gospel was making progress. From 3,000 on the day of Pentecost to 5,000 on this occasion. This is wonderful news and it teaches us three things. First, opposition to the Gospel will always arise when the message is faithfully proclaimed; second, this opposition often comes from religious people; and third, despite opposition the gospel ultimately triumphs.
Tuesday 28th October
The Sanhedrin want to know ‘by what power or name’ the man had been healed. Peter tells the Sanhedrin that it was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth the man was healed. The most vital words of Peter’s statement, however, are to be found in v.12: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’ The uniqueness of Jesus, and the truth that salvation is only to be found in him is, of course, echoed elsewhere in the New Testament, such as in John 14:16 and 1 Timothy 2:5. Despite this constant repetition, however, there are many today who would tell us that there are many ways to God and that Christianity is but one way amongst others. No! There is only one way to receive forgiveness, only one road to salvation and it is through Jesus Christ.
Wednesday 29th October
Peter and John have just been released from jail and they report back to their fellow believers, telling them everything that had happened to them and what the elders and chief priests had said to them. The believers then pray to God. These Christians were faced with a serious problem: the hostility of the Jewish leaders. Their response was to pray. This ought always to be the response of God’s people, in every situation but especially in times of trouble. Prayer involves a recognition of the sovereignty of God. In other words, we pray because we believe that God is in control of the world and that he is able to do whatever he pleases. We see this in verse 24, where the believers begin their prayer by addressing God in this way: ‘“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”‘ They prayed to God because they knew that he could make a difference. He was able to answer their prayers. These Christians believed that God was sovereign and so they prayed. Do we pray in the same faith?
Thursday 30th October
The last verse of the passage (verse 31) demonstrates that prayer brings results and the results were quite remarkable. We are told that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God boldly. Both of these comments are highly significant. First, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They had experienced this filling before, on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:4). On both occasions the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them was accompanied by remarkable signs and events. Here in our passage we’re told that ‘the place where they were meeting was shaken’. Reading the stories of revivals which have taken place over the centuries confirms that God often acts in dramatic and unexpected ways, when he comes in the power of the Holy Spirit. Second, they preached the Word of God boldly. It is no coincidence that the filling of the Spirit is followed by the bold preaching of the Word. God did not fill them with his Spirit to give them a nice experience, or to improve their spiritual lives. They were being empowered for service. Are we full of the Holy Spirit? Are we speaking God’s Word boldly?
Friday 31st October
This morning we have read just six verses of Scripture. Although this is a very short passage, these verses give us a vivid snapshot of the life of the early church. In particular, these verses show how much the Christians loved one another. This love is demonstrated by the sheer generosity of some of the wealthier Christians, in caring for their brothers and sisters in Christ who were poor. There are five things that this passage tells us about these early Christian believers. First, they were one in heart (v.32); second, they were one in mind (v.32); third, they shared everything (vv.32, 34-36); fourth, they demonstrated great power (v.33); and fifth, they experienced much grace (v.33). Here we see a picture of a sharing church, a church which was concerned with its people and a church which cared for its people. I think today we often lack this caring spirit. We also tend to forget that people have physical as well as spiritual needs. The church at that time however was a caring church, but it was also a dynamic, powerful and extremely Godly church. These people didn’t sell their property because they had to; they sold it because God had shown such love towards them, as manifested in the death of Jesus Christ, that they in turn wanted to show love towards others. May God help us to be like them.