The Expanding Church. AG Sunday School Adult Manual

 

Memory Verse: Romans 8:14

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (KJV).

Central Truth
The Holy Spirit gives power and direction for ministry.

The Lesson Outline

1. Philip the Evangelist’s Ministry
A. Joy in the City
Acts 8:4-13
B. Joy in the Desert
Acts 8:26-40

2. The Apostle Peter’s Ministry
A. Healed as a Witness
Acts 9:32-35
B. Raised as a Witness
Acts 9:36-43

3. Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
A. Accepted from All Nations
Acts 10:1-2,19-20,30-38
B. Spirit-Filled-With Evidence
Acts 10:3948

Learning Objectives
At the end of this lesson, students s will be able to:

1. Examine how God Supernaturally extended the witness of the early church.

2. Recognise their need for God’s power and direction as they share the gospel today.

3. Be encouraged to seek God’s assistance in everything they do in their witnessing for Christ.

Introducing the Lesson

The witness of the Church was off to a powerful start in the city of Jerusalem. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost had brought three thousand to salvation, joined later by thousands more. Yet this was only the beginning. God’s plan included those who would come to Christ from outside of Israel and Judaism. Philip and Peter were privileged to be the first to bring the gospel to Samaritans and Gentiles.

The Holy Scriptures

Acts 8:5-6,26,29,35
[5]Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
[6]And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
[26]And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
[29]Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
[35]Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Acts 9:32-34,36-37,40
[32]And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
[33]And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
[34]And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
[36]Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
[37]And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
[40]But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

Acts 10:19-20,34,44,46-47

[19]While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
[20]Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
[34]Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
[44]While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
[46]For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
[47]Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Commentary and Application

1. Philip the Evangelist’s Ministry
A. Joy in the City- Acts 8:4-13
Those who stoned Stephen and began persecuting the Church did not anticipate that the scattered believers would extend the message of Jesus Christ wherever they went (Acts 8:4).

 

In Acts 1:8, Jesus specifically told His followers to witness for Him in Samaria, among people who for centuries had been rejected by mainstream Jews because of their mixed race and their deviation from proper Judaism. Jesus himself had reached out to the Samaritans (John 4:1-42); here, Philip would share with them the full message of Christ (Acts 8:5).

 

As Philip told the Samaritans about the coming Kingdom of God,
and how they could enter a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, God blessed Philip’s preaching with miraculous signs (verses 6,12).

 

The experience
of many-as they were healed of lameness, paralysis, and demon possession-brought great joy to the city (verses 7-8). Also, the miracles reinforced the words of Philip, as the crowds fixed their attention on him.

 

Philip’s message-and the miracles that accompanied it-drew the people’s attention away from Simon, a sorcerer who “for a long time had astounded them with his magic (verses 9-11, NLT).

 

Verse 10 suggests that the Samaritans believed Simon’s power came from God himself. However, Satan’s lie was broken as the Samaritans believed the gospel. Simon himself became a believer (verse 13), although he would later be reprimanded by the apostle Peter for attempting to purchase God’s power for his own purposes (verses 18-24).

 

Questions for Application
In what ways can you reach out with the gospel to those who have been rejected by others?

How should a Christian respond to a friend or family member involved in a cult or in the occult?

B. Joy in the Desert- Acts 8:26 40

In the midst of a powerful spiritual awakening in Samaria, God had another assignment for Philip.

He sent an angel to direct him to a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza (Acts 8:26). There, he met a court official, the treasurer, of the queen of Ethiopia (verse 27). This Gentile, from what is now called the Sudan, worshipped the God of Israel; he was now returning home from Jerugalem, reading aloud from Isaiah, using an expensive, hand- copied scroll (verse 28).

 

At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Philip approached the chariot, and was invited by the man to ride with him (verses 29-31). God had prepared the Ethiopian to be ready for Philip’s witness. Having read lsaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’ humble, willing sacrifice, the eunuch was unsure whom the passage referred to (verses 32-34).

 

 

Philip gladly shared “the Good News about Jesus” and how to become His follower (verse 35, NLT).

Seeing some water possibly a fountain or a pond-the eunuch immediately wanted to show his commitment to Christ through water baptism (verse 36). Philip had obviously included the command to be baptised in his witness, as he had at Samaria. Upon the eunuch’s confession of faith, “1 believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (verse 37, KJV), Philip baptised him (verses 37-38).

God then supernaturally
“snatched Philip away” (verse 39, NLT). This Greek verb is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to refer to the rapture of the Church. Philip later appeared at Azotus, and preached all the way to Caesarea (Acts 8:40; see 21:8). The eunuch went back to his native land, rejoicing in the same great salvation that the Samaritans had received.

 

Questions for Application
Why is it important to listen for God’s guidance daily?

 

 

What would you tell a professing believer who refuses water baptism?

2. The Apostle Peter’s Ministry
A. Healed as a Witness– Acts 9:32-35
Peter’s itinerant ministry brought him on a mission to visit Christian disciples in Lydda (Acts 9:32). Near the seacoast and about 12 miles from Joppa, Lydda’s only New
Testament mention is ín this passage.

 

In Lydda, Peter found Aeneas, suffering from a long-term paralysis that had confined him to bed for eight years (verse 33). Luke did not record whether it was illness or injury that had caused Aeneas’ paralysis; however, after this length of time, he would have been quite weak and his muscles would likely have atrophied.

 

Peter’s action toward Aeneas reflected both his experience of walking with Jesus during His earthly ministry, and his ongoing relationship with Him after His return to heaven. He was there when Jesus ordered a paralytic to rise, pick up his mat, and go home (Matthew 9:18), Mere, Peter announced Jesus’ healing action to Aeneas, and ordered him to rise (Acts 9:34).

 

 

The Book of Acts records the salvation of individuals, of families, and of massive groups of people. God used Aeneas’s healing to bring the entire population of the city of Lydda, as well as Sharon (a fertile plain about 55 miles long on the Mediterranean coast) to a relationship with Him (verse 35).

Questions for Application
Read Hebrews 13:8. How does the fact Jesus is unchanging give us faith for healing ?

How can we maintain high expectations for God to work in Our evangelism efforts today?

 

B. Raised as a Witness- Acts 9:36-43
Word of Peter’s ministry at Lydda had reached the believers in Joppa. Faced with a serious need, they begged him to come quickly (Acts 9:38). Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), a believer living in Joppa, had a lifestyle of good works and helping those in need (verse 36). When an illness took her life, the believers prepared her body for burial-but believed that God could do the impossible (verse 37).

 

On arriving, Peter was met by some of those touched by Tabitha’s kindness —widows showing him the coats and other clothing she had made for them (verse 39). Similar to Jesus’ actions at the home of Jairus, whose daughter had just died, Peter sent those who had gathered out of the room (verse 40; see Matthew 9:24-25). Faced with the reality of death and the despair of those who loved Tabitha, Peter knelt down and prayed. He then told the still-dead disciple to get up. She opened her eyes, saw him, and sat up. Peter helped her up, then blessed the widows who had gathered by giving them back the one they so loved (Acts 9:41).

 

The story of raising Tabitha was told beyond the community of believers and brought many unbelievers to the Lord (verse 42). The gifts of the Holy Spirit can cause such wonder among God’s people that the report reaches unbelievers as well. These gifts can also be used by God directly in unbelievers’ lives (Hebrews 2:4).

 

After raising Tabitha from the dead, Peter stayed in Joppa. There he lodged with a tanner named Simon, whose occupation was considered unclean by Jews (Acts 9:43, Leviticus 11:24-31). Scholars believe Simon tanned unclean as well as clean animals, possibly because of Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-16. This vision will further Peter’s openness to bring Christ to those outside of Judaism.

Questions for Application

Why do you suppose Peter (and Jesus, on one occasion) sent others out of the room before raising a dead person?

Explain why prayer is the best response to a seemingly hopeless situation.

3. Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
A. Accepted from All Nations—Acts 10:1-2,19-20,30-38

 

About 30 miles north of Joppa was Caesarea, named in honour of Augustus Caesar. It was the headquarters of the Roman forces then occupying Israel, including a centurion named Cornelius (Acts 10:1). Verse 2 describes Cornelius and his household as “God-fearing” (NLT). In the New Testament, this refers to Gentiles who believed in one God, and respected the moral and ethical teachings of the Jews. They had not become full converts, however, by becoming circumcised and following Jewish dietary laws.

 

God was preparing Peter with a vision. God commanded him to kill and eat ritually unclean animals (see Acts 10:9-16). Peter would understand this vision two days later, when he walked into a Gentile’s house and found a divinely prepared audience waiting to hear the message of Christ. For now, he needed to obey the Spirit’s command and go with Cornelius’ servants (verses 19-20).

 

At the centurion’s home, Peter learned how God had brought him there (verses 30-33). Through an angelic vision, God had given Cornelius specific, directions for finding Peter. Cornelius recognised God’s hand in bringing Peter to speak to his household.

 

This same knowledge gripped Peter, who realised that God does not treat people with favouritism nor partiality because of nationality (verses 34-35). Rather, God sent a message to Israel: peace with God would come through Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of every person from every nation (verse 36). This peace became accessible to all nations through Jesus’ death and resurrection (see Ephesians 2:14-18).

 

This peace was demonstrated when Jesus, anointed by His Father with the Holy Spirit and power, released people from the evils of sickness and demon possession (Acts 10:37-38).

 

Questions for Application

Since Jesus told the apostles to preach to all nations (Luke 24:46-48), why did Peter hesitate to do so before experiencing this Vision?
How does Jesus’ sacrificial work bring us peace with God?

B. Spirit-Filled -With Evidence- Acts 10:39-48
Peter testified firsthand to having witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry. Then, following a frequent pattern preaching in Acts, he proclaimed these facts about Christ: He was crucified. God raised Him from the dead. There was proof in this case, eyewitnesses–of His resurrection (Acts 10:39-41; see 3:14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:3–9).

 

 

Jesus, who is Lord of all, will also judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). Faith in Him and in His sacrificial death and resurrection frees us from the fear of death and judgement. Every person who commits himself or herself to Christ can rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven and the guarantee of eternal life (verse 43; see John 3:16).

 

 

Peter’s sermon was interrupted when the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the good news about Jesus (Acts. 10:44). The Jewish Christians who accompanied Peter Were ‘amazed” (verse 45, NLT) or “astonished” (KJV) that God would pour out His promise-the Holy Spirit on Gentiles.

 

They were convinced by the evidence of hearing them “speaking in other tongues and praising God” (verse 46, NLŤ).

 

This evidence satisfied Peter himself as well. He asked if anyone could object to Cornelius’ household being baptised in water, and did not expect-nor receive-any such objection (verse 47). These Gentiles who had received forgiveness through faith in Christ and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit were now publicly baptised in water as a witness to their new faith in Christ (verse 48). Peter, at Cornelius’ request, stayed there several more days, likely sharing with them further teaching about life in Jesus Christ.

 

 

Questions for Application

In what ways can we keep our witnessing simple, yet effective?

What proof can we offer today of Jesus’ resurrection ?

Why were the Jewish believers surprised that Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit?

Call to Discipleship

God worked through Philip by witnessing to an individual on a remote road as surely as He had worked through him to touch the crowds in Samaria. He worked through Peter as he brought healing and life to individuals in Lydda and Joppa, and as he brought the gospel to an entire Gentile household in Caesarea.

 

God’s priority of bringing grace into people’s lives remains the same, whether to one person or to a crowd. He used the apostle Peter, the deacon Philip, and He will use every believer who opens herself or himself to His power and direction.

 

 

Ministry in Action

Look for ways to spend time with family and friends who have never heard the gospel.

Make time daily to listen for the voice of God and to open yourself to His
specific direction.

Examine your heart for any prejudice that may keep you from sharing the gospel.
THIS PUBLICATION IS A PRODUCT OF GENERAL COUNCIL SUNDAY SCHOOL DEPARTMENT ASSEMBLIES OF GOD NIGERIA.

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