Bible Study (Adult)
United in peace, for the world, we are called to serve globally
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus surrender our lives to his love, grace, and forgiveness. We are called to be witnesses of God’s kingdom like the first disciples. The church receives the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite us around the purposes of God, to carry out Jesus’s mandate to build the kingdom of God throughout the world.
Read Acts 1:1-8.
Luke, the writer of this sequel to his first letter to Theophilus, picks up where he left off in the Gospel that bears his name. These opening verses highlight what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a brief summary. As many witnesses interacted with Jesus, it seemed to be common knowledge that the resurrection was true. Luke turns his focus to what was of utmost importance for Jesus before he left earth—the mission of the kingdom of God, the powerful filling of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has to remind his followers, once again, that the kingdom God is establishing is greater than any earthly entity. This kingdom is for eternity and reaches to all people on the planet. The work he is calling them to is beyond their imagination.
Jesus knows his followers cannot do the spiritual work of the kingdom solely out of their own resources. This work he is calling them to is through their skills, gifts, experience—and also beyond their abilities. The filling of the Holy Spirit is foundational to accomplishing this mission.
Questions for discussion
- How would you describe the kingdom of God? What does it look like in our context?
- In what ways have you participated in kingdom work? What skills, gifts, and experiences do you offer to Jesus in building his kingdom?
Acts 1:8 offers us another version of the Great Commission from that found in Matthew 28:18-20. This verse in Acts gives a summary of what is going to unfold in the rest of Luke’s letter.
Just as these first followers of Jesus spent three years listening, learning, and responding to Jesus’s lead, they will soon listen, learn, and respond to the Holy Spirit’s lead. As Jesus united a diverse group of disciples, the Holy Spirit will draw them together to continue God’s purposes in the world.
Questions for discussion
- Describe an experience you’ve had with the Holy Spirit where you have been filled or led by the Spirit.
- What are the challenges and opportunities in our context around the Holy Spirit leading us to unity in diversity?
Jesus has his eye on the world—all nations are loved by God. The diversity of Jesus’s followers grows as this mission is carried out—it begins with the Twelve, then there’s 120 (Acts 1:15), and then 3,000 are added on Pentecost (Acts 2:41). The Holy Spirit brings unity while at the same time valuing the uniqueness of diverse populations. And the Holy Spirit keeps Jesus’s followers on mission as the kingdom of God unfolds among all people on earth.
And, so today, as the Evangelical Covenant Church, we seek to participate in this world-changing movement—more disciples among more populations in a more caring and just world. The call for us to serve globally is a direct response to this most important mission of Jesus.
Questions for discussion
- How does our church participate in this mission of God for the sake of the world? Where do we see opportunities and lives changed?
- Where do you feel led to participate in this Acts 1:8 kind of life?
Personal Reflection: Lectio Divina Exercise (15 minutes)
Lectio divina (or sacred reading) is an approach to interacting with Scripture that helps us to listen. It is a rhythm of speaking and listening, word and silence. Through this slower reading of a short passage, we become aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence (adapted from Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms).
Begin with quiet. Allow the busyness and chaos within you to settle down.
First move—read Acts 1:1-8, listening for a word or phrase that stands out to you.
Silence—sit with the word, not to evaluate or figure it out. Just sit with it.
Second move—reflect. Read Acts 1:8 again, reflecting on the way your life is touched by the word that stood out to you. Ask, where am I in the text? Why do I need to hear this word today?
Silence—sit with the word as it connects to your life.
Third move—respond. Pray about the invitation or challenge you receive from what you’ve heard. Talk to Jesus about what you understand.
Fourth move—rest. Read the Acts 1:1-8 one last time. Enjoy God’s presence. Resolve to carry the word with you and live it out.
- What will our community do next as a result of our study of this passage?
- Discuss the lectio divina exercise—in what ways has the Holy Spirit spoken to individuals in the group?
- Are there common threads among the individual responses?
- What global initiatives is our church already connected to? Is there some tangible way this group can meet a need, connect in mission, pray regularly, encourage or participate in what is going on?
Great Commission, Great Compassion: Following Jesus and Loving the World, by Paul Borthwick and Christopher H.J. Wright
Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People, by Lance Ford and Alan Hirsch
Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn the World Upside Down, by Reggie McNeal