Grace Alone

The gospel can be threatened. The Good News of how a person can be saved can be threatened by persecution or obscured by false teaching. False teaching changes the good news, adding to or subtracting from God’s clear message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Acts 15 is the story of how the early church answered a threat to the clear message of the gospel and applied the truth of salvation by grace through faith to their lives together as believers in the church.

This passage answers some key questions for us:
What is the gospel?
What must a person do to be saved?
Who is included in the “people of God”?
How should we go about defending the truth of the gospel?
How does the gospel influence the way we show love for other believers?

Scripture: Acts 15:1-16:5; Amos 9:11-12; Leviticus 17-18; Galatians 2

Missions – The Work of the Spirit, Part 2

Today, “missions” has become any work a local church does outside of its community to improve the lives of people living in other places. But in Acts 13-14, the clear work of missions is the proclamation of the gospel. In these two chapters we see Paul and Barnabas proclaim the gospel and persevere by the Spirit, in trouble and for the church.

But is missions necessary? Why go? Why disrupt the lives of people who otherwise seem happy or satisfied with their faith or lack of faith by sharing Christ with them? Because eternal life for everyone is at stake, and because doing the work of missions is an expression of our identity as followers of Jesus.

Scripture: Acts 13-14

Missions – The Work of the Spirit, Part 1

When a Christian shares the gospel with someone, we typically call that “evangelism.” People who are not Christians typically call that “proselytizing,” and it usually has a negative connotation. Christian missions is seen by many as a negative thing as well. “Why not do your clinics and water projects, but keep Jesus out of it? Why do you have to do a sports camp and disrupt the lives of people who already have a faith, by explaining Christianity to them, or sharing Jesus with them?” It’s a perceptive question, a common question, and sometimes a provocative one.

Acts 13-14 is the story of the first missionary journey of the early church. The Spirit initiates it, and sends representatives of the church in Antioch north into lands that were thoroughly Gentile. The majority of the people there had no knowledge of the Bible’s storyline, or of Jesus. As we study these two chapters we’ll answer three questions: what was the mission – particularly, how did they carry it out, and why was it necessary.

Scripture: Acts 13-14

Tale of Two Kings

Acts 12 is like a door that closes the first half of the book, focused on the Apostle Peter and the gospel going to the Jews, and opening to the second half of the book, focused on the Apostle Paul and the gospel going to the Gentiles.

Acts 12 shows us how once again, conflict threatens to hinder the gospel, but only serves, in God’s good and wise sovereignty, to cause the work of the gospel and the word of God to “increase and multiply.”

In between, of course, are the people of God, living the experience. In Acts 12, Luke longs for us to come away with a vision of our glorious God, working out His good purposes in the world and in our lives – a vision that will shape the way we live and pray every single day.

Scripture: Acts 12:1-24

A Model Missionary Church

At it’s best, a model is a pattern of something to be made, a design to be followed. You use a model when you want to sew a dress, construct a freeway, or build a new car. So, before you can put on that first tire, or move any earth, or cut that first length of fabric, you start with a model.

Amazon is loaded with books providing churches and pastors with one model after another for starting or building a church. And there’s some helpful information in some of those books.

But as we look at Acts 11:19-30, and 12:25-13:3, we’re introduced to a model church, the church in Antioch. Why is it a model church? What is it about this early church that makes it a model for us today? What aspects of this church are things we should aspire to imitate at Foothills? What aspects of this church should you look for if you are ever relocated to a new city?

Scripture: Acts 11:19-30, 12:25-13:3

Grace Enough for Everyone

This text is about how the gospel penetrates a new people – the Gentiles. It shows us the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and his household. But it also shows us the conversion of Peter, the Apostle, and the Church.

First, God converts Peter through a vision that His grace is enough for everyone. And when the Spirit falls on the Gentiles and Peter gives an account of how it happened to the antagonistic Jewish believers in Jerusalem, God converts them as well. So that they all begin to understand and grasp that the gospel is for everyone!

There are many points of application for us, but primarily it’s an issue of our hearts. It’s sinful human nature to discriminate against others for all sorts of reasons. This text challenges us to identify and repent of our prejudices and calls us to not only be grateful recipients of God’s grace, but gracious sharers of His grace is enough for everyone!

Scripture: Acts 9:31-11:18; Galatians 3:28

God Can Save Anyone

Most commentators say that Peter and Paul are the two most pivotal people in the book. This passage, Acts 9:1-31, is the story of Saul’s (soon to be known as Paul) conversion. His lust for stamping out Christianity has him pursuing the Christians outside of Jerusalem. But on his way to Damascus, he’s confronted by the risen Christ, converted and commissioned to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.

This text encourages us in a couple ways. It reminds us of the sovereign authority of Jesus to build His church and spread the gospel, no matter how strong the opposition might be.

It also shows us that no one anywhere, under any circumstances is beyond the reach of the gospel!

Scripture: Acts 9:1-31

Philip and the Ethiopian

God is working in your life, in the foreground and background, to bring about His will for you.

Scripture: Acts 8:26-40

Scattered with the Gospel for the Joy of the City

At this point in Acts, the church has experienced significant growth. Thousands of people have come to faith. At the same time, the Apostles have faced significant trouble: arrests, imprisonment, questioned before the authorities, threatened, and beaten.

Chapters 6-8 begin a transition of people and places. The ministry of the gospel begins to spread through the lives of everyday disciples of Jesus, not only the Apostles. And the gospel spills out of the city of Jerusalem and into the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria, in fulfillment of what Jesus said in 1:8.

In this text we see four “people,” two who went out preaching the gospel and two who respond to the gospel. Philip is an everyday disciple; Simon is a would-be disciple. The Samaritans are joyful receivers of the gospel, and Peter and John extend the mission of the gospel.

The big idea? God uses everyday disciples sharing the word of Christ and showing the love of Christ in their community to bring great joy to all people, for God’s glory!

Scripture: Acts 8:4-25; John 4:1-42

The Seed of a Faithful Church

Jesus promised His disciples that we would be hated as He was hated. We would be mocked, misrepresented, shamed, even killed for following Him. The persecution of Christians began within days of the birth of the church, and it will continue until Jesus comes.

In this text, we read about the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Not an Apostle or church leader, but an ordinary member of the church, serving Christ, and being used by Christ in amazing ways.

His story can teach us how persecuted Christians around the world – those who suffer much more than we in America – persevere with grace. But it can also show us how, in the face of cultural shifts that challenge us and cause us to hesitate to be Acts 1:8 witnesses for Christ, how to also persevere with grace for God’s glory and the spread of the gospel.

Scripture: Acts 6:8-8:3