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Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of May 5th, 2019

"What You'll Get is the Holy Spirit"


Ryan Jackson

key text / Act 1: 1-11 (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


“The book of Acts provides a bridge for the writings of the NT. As a second volume to Luke’s Gospel, it joins what Jesus “began to do and to teach” (1:1; see note there) as told in the Gospels with what he continued to do and teach through the apostles’ preaching and the establishment of the church. Besides linking the Gospel narratives on the one hand and the apostolic letters on the other, it supplies an account of the life of Paul from which we can learn the setting for his letters. Geographically its story spans the lands between Jerusalem, where the church began, and Rome, the political center of the empire. Historically it recounts the first 30 years of the church. It is also a bridge that ties the church in its beginning with each succeeding age. This book may be studied to gain an understanding of the principles that ought to govern the church of any age.” For more background click here


In this text that introduces us to the book of Acts, Jesus tells us that his followers will be his witnesses in Jerusalem (their present location), Judea (the area that that Jerusalem was in), Samaria (the broader region that included the lower class minority), and the ends of the Earth.

See here for a map of the places that Paul traveled as outlined in the rest of Acts.


How are we to encounter the Spirit when it comes to understanding Scripture and being witnesses to Jesus here, there and everywhere?


Us asking Acts: How was the resurrected Jesus different from before?


Acts asking us: Where do you see the Holy Spirit at work in Grace Church?


What other questions you would ask the disciples in this text?

What other questions would they ask us?


This week take time to consider each of the criterion we will be using to engage the text. Keep this handy as a reference for your own study and our as a guide for how we approach Scripture as a church.


An “Active Gospel Imagination” is built by listening to the Holy Spirit, giving unique authority to Scripture, and submitting to Jesus and each other. The practices that facilitate this obedience are reading Scripture Christologically, Redemptively, Communally, Sacrificially, Imaginatively & Prayerfully.


Christologically: What is Jesus position on the matter? What does Jesus do and say in relevant situations? In all things, Jesus’ words, approach and ethos are to be given primacy.

Redemptively: Which way is the scripture “moving”, what is it pointing us towards, what is the goal it is proclaiming, the ethos it is establishing?

Communally: We’re not designed or intended to walk this out alone. Power and revelation come when we wait, wrestle and walk together. This community includes the Church specific and local, historic, & global. It starts with those closest to us, expands out to include those of other cultures and perspective and deepens by engaging the historic church; the record and witness of those who’ve walked before us in different times and cultures. We’re to be always in dialog with as broad a community of sisters and brothers in Christ as possible while understanding our application is primarily based in our specific and current context.

Sacrificially: God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Scripture and the Church are not things or people to be used selfishly or casually. They’re not things or people to be experienced or consumed for our own ends. While we all are desperate for and dependent on the gifts, promises and provision of these things and people, the ultimate reason for them is the glory of God and the redemption of everyone and everything. In the end, we offer ourselves sacrificially to the text.

Imaginatively: We’re all always learning, and there’s always more to learn, to experience, to practice and understand. We need to always be asking for more and greater revelation, not for information that puffs up, but for wisdom that facilitates obedience, humility, understanding and love.

Prayerfully: We understand that ultimately any true understanding is revealed by the Spirit in conjunction with, but not bound by, the above practices. We pray as an act of humility, submission, love, need, obedience, and posture. The wisdom we seek is not from ourselves but from God. The enlightenment and transformation that we seek likewise comes, ultimately from God. So we pray, in all things we pray.




Books we are reading (and suggest you pick up and read along with us):

The Acts of the Apostles by James D.G. Dunn

Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit by Justo Gonzalez

Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel by Matthew L Skinner  

Thirty Years that Changed the World by Michael Green

World Upside Down by Kavin Rowe


Two new commentaries available at 2828:

Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Acts by Beverly Gaventa

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Acts by Dean Pinter


Bonus Book

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


In our text this week, Jesus gives his followers one final message, and then leaves them. Next week, we’ll look at the first couple of things the followers do in the wake of Jesus’ absence. Read about it in Acts 1:12-26.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of May 12th, 2019

What Now?


Matt Covington

key text / Act 1: 12-26 (The Message)





For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


In this week’s passage we find the disciples at an in-between time. Jesus is no longer present in person, and the Holy Spirit has not yet arrived. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes. We find them in this waiting time, which lasted 10 days. Context suggests that the disciples may still think they are awaiting a political revolution (Acts 1:6), but God has much bigger plans ahead. They wrestle with what must have been one of the most troubling problems for them - the betrayal of Judas. How is it that one of Jesus’ chosen could have betrayed him? Ultimately, they decide that Judas should be replaced, restoring the number of disciples to twelve, which mirrors the twelve tribes of Israel. They cast lots to make their final decision, and the lot lands on Matthias. Casting lots was a common approach under the Old Covenant (see e.g. Proverbs 16:33). However, once the Spirit arrives, we never see the disciples employ this method again, and we also never hear of Matthias again.


Though the scripture is ambiguous, many suggest that the apostles’ actions were somewhat misguided, and that God Himself ultimately chose the twelfth apostle - Paul. While it may be easy to find fault with the disciples during this time, we also can see that they were prepared to receive the Spirit. They put themselves into the correct posture to receive the Spirit by being: 1) obedient, 2) unified in community, and 3) steeped in prayer. God would use this posture when the Holy Spirit arrived, turning this colloquial, homogeneous, and inward-looking group of Galileans into an outwardly expanding explosion that would carry God’s message to all people and nations.


The disciples start out on the Mount of Olives, a short distance outside the wall of Jerusalem. Then they return to Jerusalem and wait, as Jesus told them to do. During this time, they meet in “an upper room.” According to tradition, this is the same place where the disciples shared the Last Supper with Jesus.


In this week’s passage, the disciples endure a dark time of waiting and uncertainty, separated from God’s direct guidance. How do they react? How do they prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit?


Us asking Acts: In what ways was life within the community of disciples different before and after the Holy Spirit came? Why was this waiting time necessary? How might it have benefited the growth of the church, moving forward?


Acts asking us: How are you imposing your own preconceptions and desires onto your view of God’s plan?


What other questions would you ask the disciples in this text?

  • In hindsight, would you do anything differently regarding the events in Acts 1:12-26? If so, what, and why?

What other questions would they ask us?

  • The disciples prayed saying “You, O God, know every one of us inside and out”--Do we pray as if this is our reality? If so, how does that affect our prayer? If not, how could it affect our prayer?



  • How do you contextualize the Gospel and make it relevant for others in your own culture?  Read more here and consider how making your faith your own helps you impact others with the Good News.  

  • Have you ever lost a significant leader who captured and carried the mission of your work, and found yourself floundering on direction?  After Jesus ascended, the apostles experienced the first faith crisis of the early church.  In this commentary on this week’s scripture, Jacob Myers writes about the breaking of the circle and its impact on the kingdom of God.  

  • Look up Acts 2:17.  How is a good follower of Jesus supposed to make important decisions?  Read more here about the examples of divine direction and decision making in the book of Acts.  

  • Check out the weekly Spotify playlist here with commentary here from Amy Buff.


This week, we examined how the disciples wrestled with their mission during the waiting period between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Next week we see what happens when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon them. It’s a striking contrast.

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of May 19th, 2019

The Hero of the Story


John Ray

key text / Act 2: 1-47 (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


The Feast of Pentecost followed the Feast of Passover and celebrated two things:   the wheat harvest and the giving of the Torah to Moses and the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. It was one of three festivals that involved a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  



The Disciples are all still in Jerusalem.


God the Holy Spirit is the hero of the book of Acts, but we encounter and understand God the Holy Spirit differently than we do as God the Father in the Old Testament and God Jesus in the gospels.


Us asking Acts: What in the world? Tongues of fire? Speaking different languages? How crazy was all that?


Acts asking us: How tuned in to God the Holy Spirit are you? Who and what is directing your choices?





Next week we’re on to Acts 3 and miracles and messages on the Temple steps.



Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of May 26th, 2019

What'cha Got?


John Ray

key text / Act 3: 1-26 (The Message)


For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.


In Acts so far, we’ve seen Jesus tell the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Spirit activates in their lives. While they wait, they replace Judas, the betraying disciple who hung himself in guilt for selling Jesus to the authorities that had him killed.


And then the spirit does come, on the day they are celebrating God’s provision of food and scripture to them. And in that moment, they are activated to do what Jesus said they would do: be his witnesses of the good news of Grace starting in Jerusalem, and then Judea, and after that, all over the world. And that brings us to our text this week.



Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is by most accounts, a strange place to put a monumental city. One Israeli tour guide says four things make a strong city: access to water, land that can be cultivated, can be readily defended from attack, and can be accessed through main roads for commerce within the region. Of those four, Jerusalem has natural spring water, and that’s about it. And yet, this is the place where God’s presence was manifested, in the temple built by Solomon 1,000 years before Christ.  


Because the temple was built here, Jerusalem is the epicenter of Jewish life and culture. Jesus previously told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them, and then they would be witnesses to the world, but that it would start in Jerusalem.


The early Church starts to rock Jerusalem with what they had to offer and who they proclaimed was making it all possible.


Us asking Acts: How did y’all  know y’all had this power?

Acts asking us: What power are y’all operating from?


Us asking Acts: What motivated y’all to stay together in Jerusalem?

Acts asking us: What motivates y’all in your major decisions?


Us asking Acts: What is it, ultimately, that y’all were offering?

Acts asking us: What is it we have to offer?



  • Debie Thomas ponders the apt question that Jesus asked a man during his life and one that is certainly relevant to this week’s text: “Do you want to be made well?”




  • Check out this Brian Zahnd primer on Acts 3 & 4 about praying and dreaming the work of God through the Spirit.

  • Maybe helping someone learn to walk in a new life takes a bit more time and a long relationship, as related in this story of ministry to former inmates.  Who needs you to walk with them and remind them of true healing power from Jesus?  




With the activity of the spirit, the message of Jesus begins to be a movement. And the establishment never likes a movement that can’t be controlled. And so in our text next week, the disciples find themselves in a showdown with the establishment of their day. Read about it in Acts 4:1-37.

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