Understanding How to Be Led By the Spirit of God! How the Holy Spirit Led the Early Church in Acts 1 – 4! Part 8
(ver 1.2) This is now Part 8 in a series of very important basic Christian Bible lessons on the subject of Being Led by the Spirit of God. We have covered a lot of information that will not be repeated so if you have not read this from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 1” first. In this series I have been attempting to teach that God still speaks in the modern world to His children the same as He did in recorded Bible days. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not change nor does He show any favoritism, what He did for others in the past is what He will do for those that wish to participate with Him today. Today’s lesson will emphasize this reality by beginning to focus directly on how God led the early church in the book of Acts. In today’s lesson we will explore the first 4 chapters and the major scriptures found in those chapters that deal with the documented methods that the Spirit of God provides for evidence for His involvement in guiding everything positive that occurred in this book. By studying the book of Acts we should quickly come to understand that God was heavily involved in everything that takes place that causes men and women to be added to the church, for safety of the church, for deliverance from evil, the preservation of the Body of Christ and the spread of the Gospel. God accomplished all of this by leading His people by His Spirit. Many people today in error call the book of Acts the “Acts of the Apostles”, but this is a classic misnomer and the direct misapplication of the key importance of God working through man to accomplish His will and purpose on the earth. The Apostles did not do anything in this book independent from God. Nor could they have done anything without His guidance. So we will begin to go through the book of Acts to discover how God accomplished these great feats through such ordinary men and women and we will learn in doing this how God will do the same with us today before Jesus returns. I will probably warn you that this is going to be a long Bible lesson since I’m covering selective information from 4 chapters.
Let me tell you what I will be attempting to cover today in this lesson. I hope by telling you what to expect you will learn how to study the book of Acts and the Bible for that matter with greater accuracy. We will be reading the book of Acts looking for the leading of the Holy Spirit. This sounds very simple, but if you read the whole book of Acts you will never see God say “Peter was led by the Spirit” or anyone else. Therefore we are going to have to dig a little deeper to learn the truth other than looking for the obvious. Many truths in the Bible are not obviously presented and this is certainly one of them. Nevertheless we will be searching for explicit leadings of the Holy Spirit and implied leadings of the Holy Spirit. What else can we learn about this subject? Why does the Holy Spirit lead anyone? What are the benefits of being led by the Spirit of God? In order to answer these questions we are going to have to find examples that teach us the answers. Therefore we are going to look for why the Spirit of God led the early church and what resulted from these leadings. Here is my list of things to look for as you read the book of Acts with me:
- Explicit or Implied Leadings of the Holy Spirit.
- The Methods of God Leading Used.
- Reasons for the Leadings.
- Results of the Leadings.
Hopefully by studying these subjects and answering these questions we will learn how God will lead us and for what purpose.
ACTS CHAPTER 1
The Book of Acts begins with the brief description of the time period after the resurrection of Jesus prior to His ascension back into heaven where He now remains awaiting the time of His return to catch away the church. In chapter 1 we are told that Jesus has met personally and physically with the disciples for 40 days teaching them. This was the resurrected God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form and He could speak to each of them directly. Jesus during this time must have taught them many things and no doubt He must have given them instructions like those recorded in this chapter when He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Acts 1:8). However, Jesus was taken up into heaven in verse 9 to await the soon coming end of the church age which will run for a time of approximately 2000 years. In chapter 1 of Acts after Jesus is taken up into the clouds, two men appear to the disciples with a message, asking them “Why stand ye here gazing into heaven, this same Jesus that went up will return in like manner” (Acts 1:11). These two men were dressed in all white and they were no doubt angels sent from God with a message to the early church. This is the first recorded occurrence of divine direction being given to the church without the personal involvement of a physical Jesus being present. Also, what these angels said to the apostles applies to us directly especially in these last days. Understanding that any words spoken to the early church are still words that were spoken to us today is essential to learning that we are all the same growing Body of Christ. Angels throughout the Bible have always been used by God as messengers for the people on the earth. As we continue through the book of Acts we will see that angels will be used by God repeatedly when dealing with the church, so you can conclude that angels will also be used by God before Jesus returns. It is further identified in Chapter 1 that Peter quotes David’s writings in Psalms concerning Judas (Acts 1:16, Psalms 109:8). Peter uses the words of the Holy Ghost written in the Old Testament to justify the election of a new disciple to replace the traitor Judas. Therefore we can further conclude that the early church was directly led by the written Word of God in what they did the same as we are to be led by our knowledge of the Bible today. From reading chapter 1 of Acts we can see that it contains two directly named methods of my 12 methods previously listed that I taught from in this series.
Therefore just in chapter 1 of Acts, God has used three different directly mentioned methods to communicate with the early church to provide spiritual guidance. There was God in the flesh, the angels and the written Word of God all specified as valid communication methods, but I would not expect Jesus to appear in the flesh to you today until you are raptured away from this earth. You see there are other Bible verses that God is awaiting to be fulfilled before Jesus comes back to the earth in a physical form. I know many people would disagree with that last statement, because of what they call the doctrine of eminence. This church doctrine reports that there is nothing left to be fulfilled for the Lord Jesus Christ to return. I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Bible and have seen what it says? I have a lesson about this subject, so I will not repeat that here. If you want to read about it, you can go and study the lesson called “What in the World is God Waiting For”. I also want to point out that these three manifestations of guidance were all physical sense realm leadings as I have already tried to teach as being the primary methods used by God in the Old Testament. The more carnal the Christian the more God has to come down to the human level to communicate with us. What we will begin to see after chapter 2 is a transition into greater spiritual realm guidance methods as they become the primary methods of guidance from God. However we will still see angels potentially at work at any time.
What have we learned from Chapter 1?
- Jesus taught the disciples for 40 days in the flesh to give them understanding.
- The angels appeared to the disciples to give them a message from God proving God is involved in the Book of Act leading His people.
- Peter used the Word of God to direct their actions to replace Judas, therefore God’s Word offers guidance in our everyday life as well as specific actions to take in specific situations.
ACTS CHAPTER 2
Chapter 2 of Acts begins with the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church and this was technically the beginning of God’s use of purer new spiritual communication methods to guide the church. In this chapter the church started and consisted of the 120 believers in the upper room that were anxiously waiting the fulfillment of the promise made by Jesus of the outpouring of the Spirit of God. This event occurred on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. You can read this chapter carefully and see that when the Spirit of God was given, He was described as coming like a rushing mighty wind (Acts 2:2) from heaven. As He fell on all that were present in the room in Jerusalem they began to speak with other tongues as they were each filled with the Spirit of God. It is very interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “wind” can mean “breath”. I personally believe that this wind was God breathing on them from Heaven. When you speak words, do you breathe? You bet people breathe when they speak. This breath of God implies the beginning of a new spiritual ability and a way for God to lead His people. To breathe on the church in this chapter is an amazing fact to consider, since Jesus had already personally breathed on every disciple that was present in the room and had already told each of them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). You can read this very clearly in the book of John if you like, but realize that this occurs over 40 days prior to Acts 2. Is God confused or are people confused to what this means? We must conclude from this information that the Holy Spirit that they had previously received from Jesus directly could not have been the same manifestation or work of the Acts 2 Holy Spirit that they were now being filled with. Uh oh? Yes they were both from the same Holy Spirit from God, but in two different manifestations and demonstrations of the Spirit of God. This fact obviously boggles the mind of many people in the church today who do not understand that the same God can do different things to the same people. These Christians usually mistakenly believe that they were filled with the Spirit of God when they were born again and that this was the only spiritual experience that is required. It is funny that God did not think that was all for the early church, so why have men changed today to believe differently? What some Christians do today is to settle for less of what they could have had in this life and miss out on God’s fullness. I’ll tell you very plainly, if you have never spoken in tongues, you have never been filled with the Spirit of God and you are missing out on the best of what Jesus commanded the church to receive. You can ignore this command and still go to heaven potentially, but I would not want to be you in trying to explain why you thought it was important not to be obedient to God. I am a firm believer that in John 20:22 the disciples were born of the Spirit of God when Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit, but in Acts 2 they were filled with the Spirit of God and that these were two separate spiritual experiences. I believe this primarily because that is what the Bible says and it is also what I have experienced personally, so that is two witnesses that you can choose to believe or ignore.
Act 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
After the church was filled with the Holy Ghost, Peter stands up to preach to those that have gathered in amazement at what was happening. Read this chapter closely and remember that this is the same Peter that we can see in the Gospels who denied Jesus 3 times approximately 50 days earlier. It is funny that this same man now has something boldly to say publically about His Lord Jesus. Therefore, something obviously occurred to change him from a man who was a mess to a man with a message. This transformation occurred when he was baptized and filled with the Spirit of God in this chapter, because Jesus said that you will receive power to be a witnesses (Acts 1:8) and that was what Peter demonstrated to us in this chapter. Peter suddenly had the power to become this great witness for Jesus and when Peter denied Jesus, he lacked this power. If you have trouble witnessing to people, then you probably need this same power today. Here in chapter 2 Peter again quotes the Old Testament speaking of the words recorded by the prophet Joel. Peter says “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28). This verse also informs us that God will use visions and dreams so these are two more relevant New Testament methods of God to guide His people. What is happening in this chapter? How did Peter suddenly having not prepared a sermon have a sermon to preach? I think that is an excellent question which Jesus answered in the Gospels:
Luk 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Luk 12:12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
Do you see what Jesus said? Do you see how this applies to what Peter did? Peter suddenly quotes scriptures out of nowhere without having a Bible in front of him, no notes or anything prepared ahead of time and he knows exactly what to say to get those standing around saved. I would call this a miracle if I did not understand what Jesus was teaching us in Luke. You see the Holy Spirit was inside of these men speaking through them. Technically Peter was doing the speaking, but the Holy Spirit was giving the words to speak. What is the lesson that we need to learn? We need to learn to trust the Holy Spirit in us to give us the right words to speak when we run into people we have never seen before. What God does in this chapter with Peter, He will do for you if you get filled with the Holy Spirit. As we continue through the book of Acts, notice this is a repeated pattern that occurs many times for many different men of God.
Peter after being filled with the Spirit of God still hangs all of his beliefs and what was happening to them upon the written Word of God, further establishing and confirming the importance of the Bible to the modern believer. Peter was justifying what they were doing and what God had done based upon what God had written about many hundreds of years before. Make sure what you believe is only based upon God’s Word. So far we have looked at two chapters and discovered God using 5 different methods of communication to lead His people being stated. These are all very important so do not let them go or ignore them. What were the methods of leading revealed in this chapter and what resulted from this chapter?
- God says people will be led by visions and dreams in the last days.
- The Holy Spirit gave Peter utterance and taught Him what to preach to get others saved.
- Peter declares that what was happening was prophesied by God through the prophet Joel thus confirming the importance of the written Word of God.
- Therefore God led those that were listening in the crowd by what was spoken by Peter so that they could believe. This was a God’s use of a preaher a man with a message from God that was believed on and resulted in their salvation.
- The church was expanded greatly from 120 to over 3000 this day and so God was at work through the early church to save many others.
ACTS CHAPTER 3
Act 3:1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
If you read the Bible in isolation you will be very confused to try to understand what is happening. You see God does not tell you everything that happens in every verse or you would never be able to finish reading the Bible because it would be so huge that no library could contain it. God writes the Bible using a technique of very incomplete information with random clues spread throughout the text to what is occurring. All of the information given to you in any single verse is very important, but it is never all-inclusive. This just means that it is the truth, but not the entire truth. I try to teach that in every Bible lesson that I do to some degree either by stated rule or by example. The name of my Bible study is “Using the Bible to Understand the Bible” and that is how I interpret the Word of God. You are going to have to read and study the entire rest of the Bible to figure out what is going on and how things are working in what you are reading in this chapter because God is just not going to tell you everything in one verse that would be impossible to do. If you read this verse and ignored the rest of the Bible you would be forced to conclude that Peter and John just randomly decide to go up to the temple by chance or by accident. However, I do not believe that there are any random chances or accidents written about in the book of Acts. If you read the Gospels closely you will discover that Jesus was always in the right place at the right time for a very specific given purpose and plan of God. I believe that Jesus was the ultimate example of being led by the Spirit of God and perhaps I’ll do a lesson just on Jesus later. But understand what the Bible says:
Rom 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
I have already used this verse in this lesson series, but I want to re-emphasize it again for clarity on its application to what the disciples are doing in this chapter. Are these disciples the sons of God? If you do not know it, they are definitely the foundations of the church and the New Jerusalem that all the other stones are built upon. This is critical information then to apply to what Peter and John are doing. If you read down in chapter 3 you will see that they come to the gate and see a lame man. Was this an accident? There is no way that this was accidental. Peter grabs the lame man by the hand and says to him in the name of Jesus walk. Did Peter heal the man or was it the Spirit of God working through Peter that healed the lame man? That was not a trick question. Peter could not heal a fly, so the Spirit of God was directly working through Peter to bring a miracle of healing and deliverance to a man in need. Therefore I have concluded that Peter and John were being led by the Spirit of God even though we are not told directly how they were being led. There are vast numbers of implied works of guidance in this chapter displayed in the recorded actions of the disciples. However, nowhere does it say directly that God was involved. Do you understand the challenge being presented? We are told the external actions of the disciples, but we are not told the internal spiritual action s of God. Peter and John could have been led by any of the 12 methods that I listed in this series, but since we are not told which one it was, I will not try to assume I know and I will just say based upon scripture, they were being led by the Spirit of God to be at the temple that very day, hour and minute.
- Peter and John were led by the Spirit of God to be at the right place and time where a lame man was sitting.
- The Spirit of God heals the lame man and this resulted in great attention being drawn to the church and God as well as the lame man could now walk about and testify for them.
ACTS CHAPTER 4
Act 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
In chapter 4 we are again told that Peter was filled with the Spirit of God and this implies that this is the reason for his new found boldness to declare Jesus Christ before those that he previously feared. Being full of the Holy Ghost appears to be a key factor for being led by the Spirit of God for Peter at least in the first 4 chapters of Acts. If you read chapter 4, you will see the disciples standing before the Jewish rulers being questioned. These men of Israel obviously thought they were right and all others were wrong, but they were missing the greatest manifestation of a new work of God and did not realize it. Peter is again directed by the Holy Ghost what to preach to these men. Just as Peter and God had done in Acts 2 is being repeated in Acts 4. If you read verse 4 you will see that the Church grows by another 5000 new believers. Therefore God is at work causing the church to grow greatly even though some disciples spent the night in prison. Let’s skip down to verse 24:
Act 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
In the latter part of chapter 4 we can see that the disciples and the early church were gathered together and that they prayed to God all in one accord. Therefore, prayer as you may recall was one of my observable triggered methods that will get God to respond to give people guidance. What we will observe as we continue to go through the book of Acts is that prayer always gets God to respond. Therefore, prayer is still a valid trigger method for the modern church to communicate with God and to get God to give us guidance and direction. The Bible says in James “You have not because you ask not”. Informing us that guidance and direction is not a foregone conclusion. If you want God to guide you today then you get up in the morning and you ask for His guidance. Do not assume that He will guide you without you asking, or you might also totally miss out on the greatest display of God that you could have never imagined. I do want you to notice that the church is stated more than once to be in total agreement. I personally believe this is a sign of those that are being led by the Spirit of God.
Joh 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
Being one is what Jesus prayed and asked God for in this chapter of John. If you do not remember this prayer then go and reread it because it applies to our study of being led in the book of Acts extensively. As we continue through this lesson I will try to point out how many times we encounter the term “one accord”. This is clearly a sign of being led by the Spirit of God. Why is the Christian church today not in one accord? It is primarily because they are not all being led by the Spirit of God. We have many people who think they are Christians who are going to be very surprised when the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and they are left outside trying to get in. Do you remember the parable of the 10 virgins? Weren’t the 5 virgins that went in with Christ all in one accord? Weren’t the 5 virgins that were left out also in one accord but just not with those that went in? Uh oh? I’ll talk more about this as we continue through the lesson on Acts and being led by the Spirit of God.
Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Here in this verse is God’s response to their prayer; proving prayer gets God to respond. The place where they were gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Spirit of God again. Wow, this is really getting good. You see in this prayer they asked for the ability to speak the Word of God with boldness and this is what they received. Let’s list the lessons learned from chapter 4:
- Being filled with the Spirit of God is a stated reason for what was happening in this chapter.
- Peter was again led by God what to say in the midst of the crowd and the leaders of Israel.
- Many new believers were added and the church again grew by great numbers.
- The church prayed and asked God for a specific request and God responded and granted the request.
- Therefore, prayer caused God to respond.
I think I have gone long enough in this lesson for today. I was originally going to go through many more chapters, but I think the lessons are getting too long for some people. So I’ll try not to write such long lessons in the future or at least to break them down into smaller chunks. Hopefully you can see what is happening in just the first four chapters of the book of Acts. God is causing the church to grow by leaps and bounds and adding many new people through the disciples who were being led by the Spirit of God to be in the right places at the right times. There are several different methods of leading that God has used or referenced in these first four chapters of Acts and these are a follows:
- Angels sent by God with a message.
- The Written Word of God used to Direct Men.
- Inward Witness (Spirit of God shows Peter what to Preach).
- Prayer of the Church.
- Visions and Dreams (Not yet demonstrated but referenced by Peter in Acts 2).
- God’s use of preachers to bring a message from God to the people.
Believe it or not we have just gone through the first 4 chapters in Acts and found 7 of my 12 methods of communication listed or demonstrated by the words or the actions of the people recorded. That is pretty significant if you ask me. You can clearly understand based upon this information that God is intimately involved in guiding His people to cause them to be successful. Of course success is a relative term that is highly subjective. Too many people view success as monetary gain or wealth accumulation or even fame. That is not what I am talking about. God’s success may not be your success but many times the eternal rewards will far outweigh what you could have earned in this life. If you get on God’s side He will cause you to be successful and He will reward you and that is all I should have to say about that. Thanks for reading and studying the Bible with me and if you have any questions or comments please be as BOLD as the disciples were and share them, but also be led by the Spirit of God in you. God Bless!
If you like to coninue to study in this series you may go to “Part 9“.
Posted on October 8, 2011, in Bible Basics, Bible Study, Understanding and tagged Being Led, Christianity, Church, God, Holy Spirit, Knowledge, Religion, Revelation, Truth. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.