[Lesson 4] Acts 4:23-5:42
Persecution and Pretending
Before you begin the lesson, pray for insight. How does God want to use this passage to impact you?
After spending the night in jail and being released with strict instructions never to speak publicly about Jesus again, Peter and John returned to tell the believers all they had experienced.
Read Acts 4:23-31
1. A. What did the Christians do in response to persecution? Why is this a wise response? What do you think would be your first response to persecution?
B. Have you experienced any kind of persecution? If so, please share. What did you learn?
C. How did they begin their prayer? (4:24b)
D. (Summit) Studying the attributes of God helps us know His character. Look up passages that teach us about God’s sovereignty. What do you learn?
E. What had David predicted about the world’s response to Jesus? How had recent events in Jerusalem fulfilled God’s plan? (4:25-28)
F. From verse 28, what were they acknowledging about God in their prayer? When world events are in chaos today, how might verse 28 help us?
G. What two requests did they make in 4:29 and 30?
H. How did the prayer meeting end? (4:31)
I. Analyze the prayer line by line. Label the different elements. What can you learn about how to pray, especially in times of crisis? If you encounter crisis this week, write out a prayer using this pattern and pray it to God. Did praying this way help? Discuss.
The church stood strong against intense external opposition, but now they faced a more deadly enemy: treachery from within!
Read Acts 4:32-5:16
2. A. Specifically, how had external persecution affected the church? (4:32a) What was the evidence? (4:32b-35)
B. Luke records both a positive and a negative model for us in 4:36-5:11. Who was the positive model? What did he do and what was he nicknamed as a result? (4:36, 37)
C. Have you ever given up anything to benefit someone in the church? If so, how did you feel? Describe the experience.
D. Although your group has only been together a few weeks, you should know some things about one another. From what you know, what would be some appropriate nicknames for group members? These names should change during the year as you come to know one another more intimately.
E. (Summit) Do a character study on Joseph, better known as Barnabas. What does his name mean? He is a key character in Acts. Follow his adventures.
F. Barnabas is the greatest human model of an encourager in the New Testament church. Who has been the greatest encourager in your life? What difference have they made? Why not tell them? Share with the group what part this person has played in your life.
3. A. In contrast, now Luke writes about a negative model. Who were they? What did they do? (5:1, 2) (Note: They were free to retain any portion of the money for themselves.)
B. What word would you use to label the sin described in 5:3 and 4?
C. Who motivated them? (5:3a)
D. Why do you think God dealt with this sin so severely in the early church?
E. How did the deaths of these two hypocrites effect the church? (5:11) those outside the church? (5:13, 14)
F. Do you think their sin is widespread today? If so, give examples. How does this sin impact those outside the church today?
G. Are you real? Is the person sitting in the group an accurate representation of who you are at home? alone? If you wear a mask, analyze why. What are the benefits of unmasking? How might the group or the church help you be yourself? Discuss.
H. Contrast Barnabas’ character and actions with Ananias and Sapphira. How did Barnabas build up the church? How did Ananias and Sapphira try to tear it down? Why is authenticity and truth the backbone of a healthy church?
4. A. From 5:12-16, what picture do you get of the activities and size of the church now? What did people think of Peter?
B. The Apostles’ sphere of influence is beginning to enlarge. What part of Acts 1:8 is being fulfilled now? (5:16)
Read Acts 5:17-42
The church is growing like wild fire, and the Jewish leaders are outraged and green with jealousy. The same group that arrested Peter and John for healing the crippled beggar (3:1-4:22) is on the prowl again.
5. A. What do the Jewish leaders do now? (5:17, 18)
B. (Digging Deeper) How many were arrested and jailed this time compared with last time?
C. How did God rescue the Apostles during the night? (5:19)
D. What surprise did the Jewish leaders receive in the morning? (5:20-25; see also 4:18-21)
E. How did the Apostles exhibit extreme courage that day? (5:26)
6. A. Again, the Apostles stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. What was the charge? (5:28) Contrast this charge with the charge before. (4:7)
B. How did the Apostles answer the charge? (5:29-32)
C. What was the reaction of the Jewish leaders? (5:33)
D. Who did God use to save the lives of the Apostles? Briefly, how did he advise the Jewish leaders? (5:34-39)
E. (Digging Deeper) What else can you learn about this man? (Acts 22:3)
F. However, what did they do before they released the Apostles? (5:40) Try to envision the scene. How would you feel if this happened to you or someone you love? (Note: flogging consisted of 39 lashes with a whip with bits of metal or bone often embedded in the straps. Occasionally people died from flogging.)
G. What was the incredible response of the Apostles to their beating? How was their courage manifested that day and in the days to come? (5:41, 42)
H. Has God ever enabled you to endure a trial joyously? If so, how? Please share. How is this kind of strength possible?
I. (Digging Deeper) Compare and contrast this jail experience (5:17-42) with the first jail experience? (4:1-22) What do you observe? What dangers were the first century Christians facing?
For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God.
For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.
I Peter 2:19-22