Relevant Verses: Acts 1-2, 4- 5
Leading Question: With reference to unity, how should one assess the NT evidence: Positively? Negatively? Or as a toss-up?
In light of what one finds in the New Testament and in the history of Adventism, I have found one line to be both truthful and helpful: “God’s people have never had their act together for more than a few minutes at a time.”
1. Question: If one considers just Acts 1 and 2, what adjectives might one think appropriate for describing what these chapters depict?
Comment: Words like tumultuous, intense, and marvelous, come to mind as being appropriate for Acts 1 and 2. One moves from the intense spiritual preparation leading up to the Pentecost experience, to the startling gift of tongues, to the conflict with the authorities, to the miracles of healing, to the heart-warming conversion experiences and the egalitarian unity of the community. The record of astonishing events continues through Acts 4, climaxing in a report of the body as “being of one heart and soul” and being “without a needy person among them.”
Bur then comes the cold shower of Acts 5 and the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
2. Question: How should one respond to the criticism that God was overly harsh in his judgment on Ananias and Sapphira?
Comment: Whatever uneasiness moderns might experience with the judgment on Ananias and Sapphira, the young Christian community was not deterred. Not only did the community grow, but miracles of healing multiplied. Acts 5 witnesses to the first of the New Testament prison deliverances. The Jewish authorities wanted to be much more severe with the disciples, but Gamaliel intervened. The disciples were flogged and released.
3. Question: After the selection of the deacons and their efforts to restore egalitarian sharing, what triggered the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem?
Comment: The strong reaction against the preaching of one of the deacons triggered a wave of persecution. “All except the apostles were scattered through the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Thus evangelism continued to nurture the growth of the community, but over a much broader geographical basis.
4. Question: Is it puzzling and/or encouraging to note that the Jew/Gentile tensions that arose over the ministry to the Hebrew and Greek widows as recorded in Acts 6, did not erupt into a full-blown division between the Jewish and Gentile believers?
Comment: The official study guide lists a series of passages that document how the churches in Macedonia and Achaia ministered to the poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem: Acts 11:27-30, Gal. 2:10, Rom. 15:26, 1 Cor. 16:1-4.
Summary: Despite apparent setbacks and what would seem like an inevitable division between the Jewish and Gentile believers, it was the Gentile churches who took the initiative to minister to their poor brethren in Jerusalem, a testimony to the leading and healing power of the Spirit in the early Christian community.