Big Idea: From the beginning, the gospel has been a threat to those in positions of power. The authorities in the time of the early church tried to shut down the Jesus movement with threats and then violence. But how can you threaten people who don’t fear death? The early church continues to be an example for us today in their boldness, and in their nonviolent endurance of persecution.
Passage: Acts 4:1-31
- What meaning is there behind your name? Were you named after someone or something? When other people hear your name, what sorts of things do you think come to mind?
- Read Acts 4:1-12. What was it specifically about Peter’s and John’s preaching that upset the Jewish authorities (see esp. verse 2)? Why do you think that idea was so threatening?
- The issue of what “name” that Peter and John were operating under is prominent in this passage (see verses 7 and 12). What "names" do people call on today in hopes that they will be rescued from their problems? How can we respond constructively to these viewpoints?
- Read Acts 4:13-22. In what situations, for you or others, have you known of tensions between listening to God and listening to human authorities? Describe them and what happened. How are Christians to show respect both for human authorities and God's authority?
- Read Acts 4:23-31. The church did not pray "Lord, let this persecution stop," or "Lord, smite the people who oppose us." Rather, they prayed "Now, Lord, look on their threats; let us go on speaking boldly; and please continue to work powerfully." How do you typically pray in the face of trials? Who or what is currently opposing your witness or the church's witness for Christ? How have you been praying so far about the opposition, and how might your prayers now change?
- What is the one thing you need to take away from this study?
- What will help you remember it?
- Is there anything that needs to change in your thinking, actions, or relationships as a result?