For the next four weeks, our youth ministry will be doing a study of the book of Acts.
We will be studying the book in four parts as follows:
Week 1 – Acts 1 – 7
8 But 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.”
The book introduces us to Jesus continuing on his ministry after his Resurrection. We learn that God will send us the Spirit of Truth, as our advocate, to help us to go to different regions from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and all the way to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel and bring the people to follow Jesus. The holy spirit is introduced to us during the time of Pentecost, an ancient Israelite festival, where thousands of Israelites gather. The houses of the apostles are suddenly filled with fire and wind which splinters off to tongues of fire above their head. We learn that this represents the new temple in which God promised to provide. In the old testament, God’s glory came in a pillar of fire and filled the tabernacle to live among his people. Luke, the author of Acts, makes a point here. The holy spirit has come to take up presidents in the New Temple of Jesus’ body, that is, his people. They become mobile temples where God now dwells. However, conflict quickly arises between God’s new temple, his apostles, and the existing one that Herod built, which brings us to the first wave of persecution. Our youth class ended today’s section with the first wave of persecution. The first persecution that happened to Stephen. As we may think that this tragedy may bring us to a closure, we realize that in fact it does not. This persecution brings us seeds of hope and hence we are next introduced to Philip and the conversion of Saul, who we discuss in next weeks study!
Week 2 – Acts 8 – 12
In this section, we explored further the movement of Jesus’ followers sharing the gospel and how it quickly spread from Jerusalem to Samaria and Judea. As we discussed in previous week, the tragedy that we ended with in the first part of Acts brought us to a movement that spread outside of Jerusalem. Through the holy spirit, we read about how even the unexpected people become to accept God and His words, and ultimately become followers. One example was of a sorcerer from Samaria, who realizes and learns that the way of Jesus is by giving up power to serve others rather than chasing life to gain power. In another example, we learn of the Roman centurion, a gentile, who himself and his entire household comes to believe Jesus Christ. A well known story is also learnt of Saul of Tarsus, a religious elite who opposed the great movement, and his conversion through his encounter with Jesus on his journey to Damascus in search for more apostles and followers of Jesus. Through these series of movements, we are reminded again of how the Holy Spirit works and the power of it. Although the persecution of Stephen was a tragedy, we learn that, even through dark moments of hardship and sadness, God’s purpose and will remains. He sheds us light and guides us into an unimaginable, much greater and stronger movement leading to the establishment of the first Church in Antioch. We pray that we can learn to become stronger Christian leaders of tomorrow and to be reminded daily of how God has gifted us with the Holy Spirit to be our guide in our journey as followers.
Week 3 – Acts 13 – 20
In the previous sections, we learned of how the persecution of the early Christians became the means by which the Jewish communities were segregated outside of Jerusalem to an international movement. Through this movement, the first Church of Antioch was established. We continuously witness the work of the Holy Spirit in the background as it prompts the church to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey around the Roman Empire to announce the good news that Jesus is King, the Messiah. Throughout this journey, Luke writes about the continuous conflicts that the apostles face. First within the Jewish Christians in Antioch and their claim on how unless people become Jewish and adopt an ethnically Jewish identity, practicing the laws in the Torah and following the Jewish traditions, they cannot be saved. This tension leads to an important council in Jerusalem where Peter, Paul and James, show from the Scriptures that God’s plan was and is always to include the nations within His covenant people. Salvation does not come from the performance of good deeds and abiding by the laws in the Torah. It only comes by faith. With faith, follows good deeds. Therefore, our ethnicity or Torah observation does not determine membership in Jesus’ people. Next, we see how there is a clash of cultures between the Christians and the Greek and the Roman world. We quickly noticed how Jesus’ communities did not fit well into any culture boxes known to the Roman people which leads them to face accusations of rebellion. However, through the help of the Holy Spirit, despite the many accusations that are faced, the apostles are dismissed with no evidence of military threat and are able to continue on with their mission of sharing the gospel and turning upside down the core values of roman culture. As learned in previous week, although the journey for the apostles were filled with hardships and mistreatments, the Holy Spirit continuously guides them through it, not around it, to ultimately bring us to yet again, an outcome that is only for the best and for the greater.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Week 4 – Acts 21 – 28
In the last week, we closed the Acts series learning of how ultimately God’s kingdom came on earth as in heaven through Jesus, His spirit, and His church. In the book of Acts, we learn that examples of being faithful to King Jesus include, but are not limited to, the following: Sharing the Good News in Word & Action. As Jesus’ apostles did, we should continuously seek God’s words, to learn & grow, and to ultimately share with others who have yet to meet Jesus Christ. When doing so, we should intrust everything in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit that God has gifted us. The book of Acts ends with an open ending, without having to share the story of the words spreading to the ends of the earth. We are encouraged to pick up the quil and mark it with our stories of how we continue on the work of the apostles, sharing the gospel in our community and in all places that God leads us until the very day His words have reached to the ends of the earth.