Author Topic: SDA Sabbath School Lesson 3--3rd Quarter 2018--Life in the Early Church  (Read 897 times)

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Wally

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Lesson 3 July 14-20








Life in the Early Church






Commentary in Navy                  Inspiration in Maroon








So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:  we have done that which was our duty to do.  Luke 17:10

Richard Myers

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Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 2:42-46; Acts 4:34, 35; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-18; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 5:34-39.

Memory Text: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:46, 47

The early church’s sense of urgency could not have been stronger. The way that Jesus had answered the question concerning the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, leaving the issue of time open (Acts 1:6-8), could be understood to mean that everything depended on the coming of the Spirit and the completion of the apostolic mission. So, when Pentecost came, early believers thought that everything was fulfilled: they had received the Spirit and shared the gospel with the whole world. Not that the apostles had left Jerusalem and had gone out to the world, but the world had come to them (Acts 2:5-11).

What happened next was the church’s detachment from material goods. Sensing that the time was short, they sold all they had and devoted themselves to learning and to fellowship while continuing to witness about Jesus, but only in Jerusalem. The communal life they developed, though effective in helping the poor, soon became a problem, and God had to intervene to keep the church united. This was also the time when they began to find themselves facing opposition. Yet amid it all, their faith remained unshakeable.

Amen! That opposition (persecution) kept the church relatively pure and holy. Why do we not face opposition and persecution today?


Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 21.



Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Sunday          July 15

Teaching and Fellowship


After Pentecost, Luke shifts the narrative to a general description of the inner life of the church in Jerusalem. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42, NKJV). The four items noted appear to be basically teaching and fellowship. According to verse 46, the teaching was carried out in the temple, while the fellowship was in private homes.

The temple court was surrounded by roofed porches that were frequently used for rabbinic instruction. That the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching shows that the gift of the Spirit did not lead them to a contemplative religion but to an intense learning process under the apostles, whose authoritative teaching was authenticated by wonders and signs (Acts 2:43).

Spiritual fellowship was another distinctive mark of early Christian piety. The believers were constantly together, not only in the temple but also in their homes, where they shared meals, celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and prayed (Acts 2:42, 46). By having such daily celebrations, the early Christians expressed their hope in Jesus’ soon return, when His fellowship with them would be restored in the Messianic kingdom (Matt. 26:29).

Private homes played a key role in the early church’s life. The believers still attended the temple’s daily ceremonies (Acts 3:1), and on Sabbaths they presumably were in the synagogues with their fellow Jews (James 2:2), but the distinctive elements of Christian devotion were performed in homes.

Read Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35.

 2:44   And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 
 2:45   And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. 
 4:34   Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 
 4:35   And laid [them] down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 


What was an important aspect of early Christian fellowship?

Believing that the end was near, they decided that their material possessions, “private property” (to use a more up-to-date term), were not that important anymore. A common use of their material resources, therefore, seemed appropriate. There was no reason to worry about tomorrow, as the Messiah Himself would provide for their needs in the Messianic kingdom (Luke 22:29, 30). This sharing allowed them to experience a deeper sense of unity, besides becoming an extraordinary example of Christian generosity.

Today, do we have to "worry" about tomorrow? Jesus has promised to provide for all of our "needs."  Do we believe Him with the whole heart? Do we trust Him fully? Will He indeed care for our us and our needs? If we will give Him the whole heart, my testimony is that He will provide for us in the very best way. But, He wants the whole heart, not 98% of it.


How generous are you with what you have been given from the Lord?

Before my conversion, I thought that I could not be like Jesus. He was a rock unto Himself, He was God and did not have to worry about being cold or hungry. I was ignorant of God and His plan of salvation. I now know that Christ depended upon His Father for His needs. He worked no miracle for Himself. So we must depend upon Him for our needs in the same manner. Christ was not a rock unto Himself. And, we have most precious promises if we will trust Jesus with all we have and all we are. He has promised He will provide for all of our needs, if we will love Him supremely. He is indeed worthy of such love, is He not?
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Monday          July 16

The Healing of a Lame Man

In Acts 3:1, Peter and John went to the temple for the three o’clock prayer service. This indicates the essentially Jewish character of the church’s faith at this early period. That is, the apostles did not go to the temple only to instruct or make new converts but because Peter and John were still Jews and, as such, were still committed to Jewish religious traditions (Acts 20:16, 21:17-26), at least up to this point. There they performed an astounding miracle (Acts 3:1-10), which gave Peter the opportunity to preach another sermon.

Read Acts 3:12-26.

 3:12   And when Peter saw [it], he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? 
 3:13   The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let [him] go. 
 3:14   But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 
 3:15   And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. 
 3:16   And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 
 3:17   And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did [it], as [did] also your rulers. 
 3:18   But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 
 3:19   Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 
 3:20   And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 
 3:21   Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 
 3:22   For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 
 3:23   And it shall come to pass, [that] every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. 
 3:24   Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 
 3:25   Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 
 3:26   Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. 


What are some of Peter’s main emphases in his sermon?

There is so much, not the least of which is that the ones he is speaking to murdered the Son of God when Pilot wanted to set Him free. Even so, God brought His Son up from the grave to bless those who persecuted and killed Him. This is the grace by which they and we are to be saved, transformed into His image (character).


Five main points characterized early Christian preaching: Jesus was the suffering Messiah (Acts 3:18); God resurrected Him (Acts 3:15); Jesus was exalted in heaven (Acts 3:13); He will come again (Acts 3:20); and repentance is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19).

In many ways, this is the same message we are taking to the world, even if the context has changed. The apostles were still in a Jewish setting, when instead of changing religions the people basically just had to “migrate” from the old covenant to the new one. As part of God’s people, they had to accept the Messiah and experience the new birth that follows a true acceptance of Jesus.

Now, though the situation is different, the message is still essentially the same: Christ died for our sins, was resurrected, and He will return again. This means, then, that we can find salvation in Him. Even in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ risen, and Jesus Christ returning must be the center of how we proclaim those messages.

Yes, the three angels' message begins with the proclamation of the gospel of grace.


“Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel’s message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. It is at the cross of Christ that mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other. The sinner must be led to look to Calvary; with the simple faith of a little child he must trust in the merits of the Saviour, accepting His righteousness, believing in His mercy.”—Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 156, 157.

Amen! Before giving the third angel's message, we must present the first then the second angel's message. The gospel is at the foundation of all truth. It does little good to tell the world about the perversion of the Sabbath if we do not present the gospel message.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Tuesday         July 17

The Rise of Opposition


It was not long until the church’s success aroused opposition from some Jerusalem leaders. The Jerusalem temple was run by the high priest and his associates, most of whom were Sadducees. The high priest was also the president of the Sanhedrin council, which in those days was comprised mostly of Sadducees and Pharisees. Because the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, they were greatly disturbed that Peter and John were teaching that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Arrested by the temple guards, the apostles were put in custody until the following day, when they were brought before the council (Acts 4:1-7).

Read Acts 4:1-18. When asked about by what authority they had been acting, how did Peter reply? What was an underlying message in what Peter said that the leaders would have found so threatening?

The challenge about authority posed by the Jewish leaders suggests a concern for power. Peter, however, declared not only that the miracle had been performed in the name of Jesus but also that salvation comes from Him only. The apostles were before the highest Jewish body; yet, they were in the service of a much higher authority. These men were simple, unschooled Galilean fishermen; thus, their courage and eloquence struck those who were there. Although the leaders did not realize it, the point was that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, exactly as Jesus had foretold (Matt. 10:16-20).

Amen! And all who are abiding in Christ have Christ abiding in them because they too are filled with the Holy Spirit. I am not saying all have the same powers, but all who are fully surrendered (converted) have the Holy Spirit in their hearts.


Without being able to deny the miracle—the healed man was also present so that all could see him—the Sanhedrin commanded the apostles to stop preaching. They feared the message as much as the increasing popularity of the movement. Failing to evaluate the evidence properly, they allowed prejudice and desire for self-protection to dictate their actions.

Peter’s final words are among the most precious gems of the book of Acts: “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19, 20.

Think about the desire for power and how potentially dangerous it can be, at any level and in any context. As Christians called to be servants, why must we be careful about the lure of power?

There are some leaders who have authority who are found misusing their power in the church. If unconverted, they are doing Satan's work. The same holds true for those who are not leaders in the church. But, who has the greater influence?
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Wednesday          July 18

Ananias and Sapphira


The pooling of goods in the early church was not compulsory; that is, it was not a formal condition of membership. Yet, there certainly were several examples of voluntary generosity that inspired the whole community. One such example was Barnabas (Acts 4:36, 37), who will play an important role later in the book.

However, there were also negative examples that threatened the unity of the church from within, right at a time when attacks from without had just begun.

Read Acts 5:1-11. What are the lessons of this story?

Though Luke has not given us all the details, there is no question that the fundamental problem of Ananias and Sapphira was not the attempt to keep the money but the practice of deceit within the community. Their sin was not the result of an impulsive act but of a carefully laid plan, a deliberate attempt “to test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9, ESV). They were not under the obligation to sell their property and give the money to the church. Thus, when they committed themselves to doing so, perhaps they were acting in their own interest only, maybe even trying to gain influence among the brethren with what appeared to be a commendable act of charity.

This possibility may help to explain why God punished them so severely. Even if the church’s communal life resulted from the conviction that Jesus was just about to come, an act like that of Ananias and Sapphira at such an early stage could disparage the importance of loyalty to God and become a bad influence among the believers. The fact that there is no mention of Ananias’s being given the chance to repent, as in the case of Sapphira (Acts 5:8 ), may be due only to the shortness of the account.

We have an example of another who was not given a chance to repent, Uzza who reached out to save the ark when it was about to fall from the cart. Why are some not given a chance to repent? God gives to all a period of probation in which we can be transformed in character. When we are not longer able to be transformed, and the heart is fixed (hardened) so one can no longer hear God speaking, then why give more time to repent when one cannot? This was the case with Sapphira and Ananias and Uzza.


The bottom line is that, from the beginning to the end, they had acted sinfully, and sin is a serious matter in God’s eyes (Ezek. 18:20, Rom. 6:23), even if He does not always punish it immediately. In fact, that punishment is often deferred should constantly remind us of how gracious God is (2 Pet. 3:9).

Why must we be careful about pushing the limits of grace, as these two early members of the church did?

It hurts Jesus, others, and ourselves as does all sin.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Thursday          July 19

The Second Arrest


If the apostles could be used to bring God’s judgment on sin, as in Ananias and Sapphira’s case, they could also be used to bring God’s grace on sinners. Their powerful healing ministry (Acts 5:12-16) was tangible evidence that God’s Spirit was working through them. That even Peter’s shadow, it was believed, could heal people is striking. The closest parallel in the Gospels is that of a woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment (Luke 8:43, 44). Luke, however, does not say that Peter’s shadow actually had healing power but that the people thought so. Yet, even if popular superstition was involved, God would still dispense His grace.

Notwithstanding, the more the apostles were filled with the Spirit, and signs and wonders multiplied, the more the religious leaders were filled with jealousy. This led them to arrest the apostles a second time (Acts 5:17, 18). It was only after their miraculous escape (Acts 5:19-24) and another bold speech by Peter, stressing that they should “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), that some of the authorities began to consider the possibility that supernatural influences could be at work.

Read Acts 5:34-39.

 5:34   Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 
 5:35   And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 
 5:36   For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 
 5:37   After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, [even] as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 
 5:38   And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 
 5:39   But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 


How did Gamaliel try to dissuade the Sanhedrin from killing the apostles?

The Sanhedrin was controlled by the Sadducees, with the Pharisees forming an influential minority. Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a doctor of the law. He was so highly regarded among the Jews that he became known as “Rabban” (“our teacher”), rather than simply “Rabbi” (“my teacher”). Paul was one of his disciples (Acts 22:3).

Gamaliel recalled two other rebel movements in Israel’s recent history that had also attracted followers and caused turmoil. The leaders, however, were killed and their followers were completely dispersed. The lesson he drew was that if the Christian movement was of human origin, it would soon disappear. On the other hand, if it was a divine movement, as claimed by the apostles, how could they hope to withstand it? Gamaliel’s advice prevailed. The apostles were flogged and once again commanded not to speak in Jesus’ name.

What does this story tell us about how needful and helpful good counsel can often be? How can we learn to be more open to getting counsel even when it may consist of what we don’t necessarily want to hear?

If one does not want to hear truth, then what does this reveal? And, if one knows the truth and is fearful to reveal the truth because they may be imprisoned, or worse murdered, what this reveal? When we believe with the whole heart, then we leave matters with God no matter what.

Are you of a similar mind as was Gamaliel? Do you believe that if God be for us, who can be against us?
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Friday ↥         July 20

Further Study: “We are stewards, entrusted by our absent Lord with the care of His household and His interests, which He came to this world to serve. He has returned to heaven, leaving us in charge, and He expects us to watch and wait for His appearing. Let us be faithful to our trust, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 37.

Amen! What does it mean to be faithful to our trust? What have we been entrusted with? Are we living the gospel truth? Are we His faithful witnesses of the power of grace to transform the life when converted?


“The people need to be impressed with the sacredness of their vows and pledges to the cause of God. Such pledges are not generally held to be as obligatory as a promissory note from man to man. But is a promise less sacred and binding because it is made to God? Because it lacks some technical terms, and cannot be enforced by law, will the Christian disregard the obligation to which he has given his word? No legal note or bond is more obligatory than a pledge made to the cause of God.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1056.

Amen! What does baptism represent? Did we make a vow to God before we were baptized?  I did, and I had need of a second baptism. How about you?


Discussion Questions:

    Among many other things, Jesus left two immediate legacies to the disciples: the expectation of His soon return and a worldwide mission. How should these two factors impact our sense of mission and the call to preach the gospel to the world?

Our mission is to take the gospel and the three angels' message to the world. We cannot take what we do not understand. We cannot take to the world a gospel we do not live? Many want nothing to do with Christianity because of the witness of so many false "Christians." What an important mission we have been entrusted with!!


    Someone once said: “We should be ready as if Jesus would come today but continue working [in the mission of the church] as if He would take another hundred years to come.” What wisdom is found in this sentiment, and how can we apply it to our calling in life?

    Why must the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus be central to all that we preach? Or look at it like this: What good is anything we preach without these events?

    What should the story of Ananias and Sapphira teach about just how difficult it is for us to know the hearts of others, either for good or for evil?

Can we know the heart of another? No, we cannot know what one may do the next minute. We may know one is not converted, but we do not know that he will not become converted.


    Who are some modern-day Gamaliels whom you know? Or, perhaps, are you in a position to play that role for others? Either way, in class talk about times and share examples about how the giving or the receiving of wise counsel did some good. What lessons can we learn from these accounts?

We are either a witness for life or for death? Which do we want to be? What must I do in order to be a faithful witness today?
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.