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colored light shining on receiving hands November 11 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 1-2

New Birth

There are few things that change people’s lives like babies. When a woman is pregnant, there is excited anticipation of what the baby will be like. We pray for the baby and the health of the mother. Parents make extensive preparations for the little bundle of joy. They fix up a room with cute colors and designs. Then they furnish it with a bassinet or crib, changing table, dresser, rocker, and anything else needed for the baby. The expectant mother, her relatives, and friends have a baby shower and buy cute little clothes and everything else in preparation for the little boy or girl. The pregnant mom makes endless trips to the doctor to monitor the progress of her child. Then they wait, and wait, and wait. Finally, that day arrives, and it changes their lives forever. In a general sense, what happens when a baby is born is similar to the birth of the first church.

Today we begin our Bible reading in the book of Acts. Similar to expecting a child, Jesus leaves his disciples in anticipation. He tells his apostles before he ascends to heaven: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5, NIV). Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He will come with life-changing power! The Holy Spirit is part of the triune nature of God, sent from his holy presence in heaven to this earth (more...).

While waiting, there is preparation. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem in a large upstairs room of a house, praying as Jesus instructed. While they are together, Simon Peter makes a suggestion. In effect, he says, “Let’s choose someone to replace Judas Iscariot” (Acts 1:15-22). Why does Peter do that? Some might argue Peter was impulsive, and he should have waited for God to choose another apostle (later God added Paul to their number). Since Judas betrayed Jesus, however, Peter believes they need another witness to take his place, and the writings of Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 seem to confirm it. The decision is Providential; for he has no idea that God will save 3,000 people on the day of Pentecost (a Jewish feast similar to our Thanksgiving feast). He has no idea that God will save more than 5,000 after one week. Peter is simply making preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit as a farmer prepares his fields for life-giving rain. The apostles need another witness to help them share the message of Christ.

Then the exciting day of the birth comes for the assembly of believers (the first church)!

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)

The work of the Holy Spirit is evident—the apostles can now speak foreign languages. Parents, relatives, and friends babble baby talk to an infant, but these apostles are not babbling; they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in other tongues. Some think they are drunk, but their words are coherent. Peter explains this experience as the empowering of the Holy Spirit, as partially fulfilled in Joel 2:28-32.

Why does God enable the disciples to speak other languages? The answer is part of God's ingenious plan to spread saving grace throughout the world—to make the good news about Jesus Christ (the gospel) understandable to all nations. People need to hear it in their own tongues both then and now. Jews from every nation, language, and culture gather in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The gospel is for Jews everywhere, not just those in Israel. After the Feast of Pentecost, they will go back to their own countries and spread the good news. Soon, God will also extend saving grace to Gentiles (non-Jews). Has God called any of us to learn a new language and spread the good news of Jesus Christ to foreign lands?

Just as we get all excited at the birth of a new child, the disciples get excited to share the news of the new birth with the people in Jerusalem. We should also get excited at the spiritual birth we receive or others receive when we (or they) trust Christ to forgive us and make us one of his children. We should share the joy of God's grace with others.

When a child is born, it causes many of us to be sober-minded, to think seriously about what this birth means. A man may suddenly come to grips with being a father, and he must act responsibly. A woman may suddenly buy baby books learning how to be the best mother she can be for her little one. Grandparents may plan how they can spend time with their adult children and be a positive influence on their new grandchildren (actually, we all know their primary motive is to see their grandchildren). Spiritual birth is also sobering to us, for it is not only our responsibility to share the joy of God's grace, which brings new life, but to disciple new believers to help them grow spiritually (Matthew 28:19-20).

The sign of the new birth is significant for the Jewish people. Peter explains to the Jews that the apostles’ sudden ability to speak in other languages is not drunkenness but a sign that God is fulfilling prophecies. Jesus was put to death on the cross. The Jews falsely accused him of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a King. The Romans put Jesus to death. All this happened according to the foreknowledge and predetermined will of God. But, Jesus was raised to life! The Apostle Peter proclaims,

Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,”

When the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39, NIV).

Although we may not be Jews, the promise of the Holy Spirit to give spiritual birth is for us, too, if we turn from our own evil thoughts and ways (repent) and believe in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection for us (more...). After we believe, we should be baptized as a testimony of our identification with Jesus. Have we received the new birth? Have we been born again? Have we been baptized to show the world we belong to Jesus?

Lessons to Live By

  • Let us anticipate the working of the Holy Spirit.
  • We can prepare for the work of the Holy Spirit in our prayers and in cooperation with other believers.
  • If we believe in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for us, we can be born again (more...)
  • Let us be a witness of the spiritual birth within us and his saving grace so that others can be saved. Then, we can disciple them.
  • When we are baptized, we show others that we belong to Christ.

Focus Verses

Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)…“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Watch a video of the book of Acts. Today's lesson goes up to the 16:45 mark

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

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A Look Ahead: What's in a Name? Discover the power of praying and doing things in Jesus name for his sake and for God's glory.

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