Introduction to Acts
What an inspiring story! A group of twelve men, with the help of a few other followers of Jesus, in a period of about thirty years, stat the most widely known movement in the history of the world. As Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin, if this is of man, it will fall; if it is from God, you can’t stop it. During the years of the Acts story, the gospel is spread to such an extent Paul can write that “all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit” (Colossians 1:6).
As we study Acts, then, we will look at the history of the growth but we will also look at why the church grew so rapidly.
We will build our study around five themes that capsule the Acts story:
- Spirit – Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 and in Act 2 the spirit comes to lead the apostles and the church through this crucial time in the fulfillment of God’s plan.
- Savior – clearly the focal point of the early preaching was Jesus Christ, Savior and King.
- Saved – Acts contains story after story of those who accept Jesus as savior, obey His instruction and are forgiven of their sins.
- Sanctified – those who are saved by Christ’s blood are added to a body of the sanctified, the cleansed, and Acts reveals much about how these “sanctified” live.
- Spread – from the first proclamation of Christ as Lord on Pentecost until the book closes with Paul in prison in Rome, Acts tells the story of the incredible spread of the gospel.
These themes should resound in the minds of those who read and study this book and you as the teacher should keep these themes before your class.
Designing Your Class Plan
This set of lessons has been developed to allow you to make some choices as you design your course.
- Thirteen primary lessons are provided and, if you have only thirteen class sessions, you can teach those thirteen lessons and have a good package that will provide an overview of the book of Acts.
- In addition, however there are also thirteen supplementary lessons. If you have twenty-six sessions available to you, you can teach the first primary lesson and then the first supplementary lesson and follow this pattern through the twenty-six sessions. The supplementary lessons are often more in depth, allow for more discussion, and often have more time for application.
- If you have the option of more than twenty-six sessions, many of both the primary and supplementary lessons could easily be expanded into two lessons. In fact, if you use each lesson for one class period, you will have to decide in advance what you will include and what you will omit from each lesson. If you don’t do that, you will probably only study the first part of each lesson and some of the most important parts of the lesson may well come toward the end of it. Be sure to look over the lesson plan in advance and think through the points you want to be sure to cover. This means you will pass over some items quickly or skip them entirely so you can be sure to have time for the most important things. Be sure, also to include applications. It is easy to spend time on the content and never get to applications.
- Another option is that you can pick and choose among the twenty-six lessons to design your course as you think it will best fit the needs of your class and the number of session you have. You might, for example, decide to spend three lessons on Acts 2 instead of the two provided and skip supplemental lesson 1. You might have only thirteen periods but decide to use some of the primary and some of the supplemental lessons.
- Another element you can include is video clips. The Visual Bible has a very good video on the entire book of Acts. It uses only the words of the NIV and presents many of the scenes in excellent dramatic fashion. While it will mean either increasing your number of classes or leaving out other things, some video clips along the way can add a great deal of interest, particularly to younger people. These Acts videos are available through many religious bookstores. If you go to an internet search engine and type in Visual Bible, you will get several sources from which these may be obtained.
A look at the table of contents will show you all the topics of the lessons and from this list, you can design the course you want to teach. The point is that you have some important choices to make in planning your own course and you should give some very careful thought to this before you start the class.
Teaching the Class
The outline for each class period is detailed. Each lesson plan provides the information you need to teach that class. Most of it is in question format with a question to ask the class and, except where the answer is pretty obvious, the answer to the question is in parentheses after the question. This is to encourage you to ask as many questions as possible. Since the information is provided, you can use this to give more of a lecture if you wish, but most of us would stimulate more learning if we ask more questions, thus allowing the students more involvement in the course. For most class sessions you will provide a better learning experience if you write some things on the board as you go along. You may even want to put some key points on PowerPoint. You should have a map of Paul’s journeys in your classroom at will want to refer to this at the appropriate times.
For all twenty-six lessons a “Notes/Review” sheet is provided. You can make copies of these and hand them out to the class. This will encourage more note taking and this will create more learning. For each of the primary lessons, there is also a “Written Review” provided which you can use at the following class period to give the students an opportunity to show what they have learned. Because we usually don’t do much evaluation in our classes, not much learning takes place. If I am not going to be asked to show I have learned something, I tend to not make the effort to remember it. So, I encourage you to use these “Written Reviews” at the beginning of each class period as a way to encourage your students to study their “Notes/Review sheet after class and thus be ready to complete the written review sheet. You can make these available as students enter the room and they can complete them before the actual class begins. This will save class time. Then sometime near the beginning of class, you can provide the answers as students check their papers. Since it is good to do a review of the previous class period, this will provide review even for those who don’t choose to fill out the sheet.
I have not provided Written Review sheets for the supplementary lessons. Not knowing just which of these or in what order you will use them, I was afraid it might be confusing to put these in. It will not be difficult for you to develop a written review sheet for those supplemental lessons you use and to let the students know how these will be worked in. If you wish, you can just take some or all of the questions from the Notes/Review for each of those lessons.
You may wish to consult a commentary on Acts as you are preparing for these lessons. McGarvey’s commentary on Acts is an old standby. The two volumes in the Sweet Commentary, by Ash and Oster, will be helpful. John Scott also has a commentary on Acts that provides some useful insights. Gareth L. Reese has written A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Acts, published by the College Press in Joplin, Missouri. It is over a thousand pages in length and gives some very good historical information, particularly in the introduction.
The book of Acts is the most important book of history ever written. It tells how the apostles and early disciples began to carry out their commission to spread the gospel. It is the best document we have about how to become a Christian and is an exciting story of courage and commitment. I hope you will be able to excite your students about the book of Acts and from this study they will learn much about how to become a Christian, how to live as a Christian, and how to share as a Christian.
Back to Acts
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