Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

God is gracious
Acts 4:23-37 

warm up
   1. Some seem to find it difficult to see the gracious hand of God at work in their lives yet others can see his hand in every little thing. What might be the reason for this difference?
wise up

Physically when we sit around and do very little we become lazy and weak. But when we are forced to "stretch and strain a little" our muscles become stronger. Often the same is true spiritually. In times of peace or very little challenge to our faith, we can become weak in our resolve. But opposition and perhaps even persecution can often strengthen our faith and challenge us to become a little more bold in standing up for what is right. When religious leaders are timid and cowardly in the face of opposition, the members often become the same. But when our leaders are bold in standing up for Christ, members are encouraged. (Cf., Phil 1:14) So, it was for the apostles. In Acts 4:1-22, the joyous peace and favor they had with the people was suddenly squashed by "the powers that be." After being legally admonished and threatened not to speak at all in the name of Jesus Peter and John returned to their own and began to invoked God in prayer. As a result the apostles were graciously empowered by God, bolder in their teaching, and the multitude of believers were encouraged. Often persecution plus prayer equals a stronger faith.

Invocation: Vs. 23-30 
   1. If you were put in jail, told not to preach about Jesus, and then threatened, what would you do? If ever there was a time for prayer, would such be the time? Their own company (Vs. 23) appears to be a reference to the other apostles and not the multitude of brethren. The apostles in unison lifted up their voices to God to petition His help.
   2. Look at their prayer and notice that the God who created all things (Vs. 24) also prophesied thru David about their day (Vs. 25-29). If God is powerful enough to create the world (Vs. 24) and his providence is powerful enough to use the ignorance and foolishness of wicked men to achieve his will (Vs. 27-28 Cf., Acts 2:17-18), isn't he powerful enough to help us when we petition him for help in times of spiritual weakness or fear? When we face trouble in our lives and we fail to pray, what may that be saying about our faith? Can we pray too much? Notice in verse 29, that they called God's attention to their problem. God is aware of our needs before we ask but we are to ask any way. When a congregation is facing specific challenges, shouldn't our public prayers be more specific in the requests we make? Discuss.
   3. What specifically did the apostles request of the Lord God? (Vs. 29). Was that request granted? (see Vs 31.) What did they ask for in order to confirm that God was with them as they spoke his word? (Vs. 30). Was that request granted? (See verse 33.) 

Inspiration: Vs. 31
   1. What happened when they completed their prayer? (Vs 31). In Acts 2, when they were filled with the holy Spirit, there was an audible and visible sign. In this situation the building was physically shaken. 
   2. In both situations the apostles were miraculously empowered in order to witness the resurrection of Christ. (The word was accompanied with miracles.) 

Involvement: Vs. 32-37
Verse 32 seems to start a new paragraph. (The thought picks up where verse 4 left off. The multitude you may remember was now numbering 5000 men.) In what ways were these brethren united according to verse 32? Discuss the unselfishness that existed among them. Why were they not more materialistic? Is it possible that such unity and unselfishness can exist among Christians today? If a need were to arise that required the kind of unselfishness that is seen in this text, do you think that you would do what they did in verses 34-35?
   2. Notice that verse 33 says that "great grace was upon them all." That seems like an odd thing to say since they were being threatened by government officials. Is it possible that when we compare our blessings to our problems we too may discover that God's graciousness toward us is "great" even today? Some Christians had physical needs and were being provided for by the generosity of others like Barnabas. (Vs. 36.) But notice the perspective that Luke gives us when he mentions these material things under the heading of  "great grace." Evidently, they did not look upon this provision as just a hand out from others. They saw it as God's great grace at work among them. God had blessed some with an abundance. And thru their willingness to share their bounty from God, others were helped. Do we look upon the material blessings of our lives as God's "great grace?"  (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, and 8:19, where the financial gift of the congregations to help needy brethren is referred to by Paul as "the grace of God." ) God's graciousness is made even greater when it is seen in the lives of his people.

wrap up

   1. Notice also that there was joy in giving. These people prayed in times of trial, preached with boldness the word of God, and they generously gave to help those in need. Prayer is powerful, Preaching is powerful, but Providing for those in need is powerful also!


  Please read Acts 5:1-16 for next week   copyright 2001