Father in heaven, in order to live and work in the power of the Holy Spirit, we desperately need Jesus. Fill us with your Spirit who provides fellowship with You and gives us power to live as Jesus’ followers. As we read Acts, show us again how much we need the Spirit’s help. We ask that we might know the fellowship with You as you grant us the boldness to declare Christ, today and every day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- The Church at Brook Hills - Acts in 3 Minutes
© 2014 The Church at Brook Hills. http://www.brookhills.org. Used by permission.
Read Acts 1-4
In Acts, we repeatedly see followers of Jesus as they meet together and pray together. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they boldly evangelize—again and again. The Holy Spirit guided Luke to write a second volume to follow his self-titled Gospel. In this follow-up, we get the book of Acts, as Luke describes the steady progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria—all the way to the capitol of the Roman Empire.
In these first few chapters of Acts, followers of Jesus multiply in spite of persecution. Acts 1 begins where the Gospel of Luke ended: Jesus is teaching His disciples during the 40-day period between His resurrection and ascension to heaven. Jesus stressed the critical importance of the Holy Spirit, commanding His disciples not to attempt the mission without the Spirit (1:4). Acts emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, as well as the spiritual lives of Christians (1:8; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55; 13:1–4, 52). In short, Jesus warned his followers: Don’t try to do anything without the Holy Spirit’s help!
Consider how much of Peter’s Pentecost message (2:14–36) is right from the Old Testament, specifically texts about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This fits perfectly with what He said in Luke 24, when He explained how the Old Testament “testifies about me.”
What’s more, examine the description of the church in Acts 2:41–47. Notice how the disciples devote themselves to five things: the ministry of the Word, fellowship, worship, service, and evangelism. Luke is careful to outline these features of the early church. Throughout the book of Acts, Luke describes eight more church plants and most of these characteristics are found in them. Acts 4 in particular closes with a powerful description of service ministries in the church as believers meet the needs of others in the body.
In Acts 2, conversion to Christ brings people into God’s Story and into His community
Don’t miss the persecution that occurred in response to the miracles of Acts 3 and 4. Peter heals in Jesus’ name and receives the same mixed response Jesus received when He healed the sick and lame. Ultimately, Jesus’ opponents toss some believers in jail.
At this point, it’s clear the world opposed both Jesus and His followers, especially when they act in His name. In more than half of the chapters of Acts, we find disciples in prison. If we’re reading Scripture rightly, then we see it’s often costly to follow Jesus.
- David Platt - Why The Holy Spirit Is Crucial (3 min)
By David Platt. © 2015 Verge Network. http://www.vergenetwork.org. Used by permission.
- Phillip Jensen - Can Those Who've Never Heard be Saved?
© 2016 phillipjensen.com. Used by permission.
- Observe how the disciples pray as they both wait for the Holy Spirit and respond to persecution. In Acts, we regularly read of the Holy Spirit empowering disciples and the church with evangelistic boldness. He enables Jesus’ disciples to overcome fear of man and opposition. Do you see how these early Christians asked the Lord to work among them? Do you see how they prayed in Jesus’ name? The church’s mission will only be effective as Christians depend on Jesus and pray for the life-giving and empowering work of the Holy Spirit.
- Throughout history, the people of God have been in conflict with the cultures around them. As we go about our lives and speak with our “oikos”—family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers—we must declare the name of Jesus in spite of opposition and hostility. That’s not always easy, and it wasn’t easy for Peter and the early church. But that’s why they prayed in community and asked for God’s help, that they might be bold and continue in faithfulness.
- Don’t miss how Peter spoke to his surrounding culture, a culture that didn’t want to hear Jesus’ name. Peter states, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12, ESV). The good news of Jesus Christ must be announced for people to be saved. This news is good because it contains the “name” given to all peoples. It’s not exclusive to Israel or the Jews but is for all who turn from their sin and believe. But who must turn and believe? All of us, because all have sinned; all are in need of salvation. There is no other way. This is how God’s story works.
(Summary of Tom Wolff’s ideas on Oikos Evangelism and Outreach)
An oikos is a social system composed of those who relate to each other through common ties and tasks. The New Testament oikos included members of the nuclear family, but extended to dependents, slaves, and employees. Oikos members often lived together, but always sensed a close association with each other. And note this carefully, the oikos constituted the basic social unity by which the early church grew. Sometimes people today also talk about tribes as any group connected to one another through an idea or a leader—kind of a voluntary oikos, if you will.
As Michael Green reminds us, an oikos for the New Testament church consisted of “blood relations, slaves, clients, and friends. Christian missionaries made a deliberate point of gaining whatever (oikos) households they could as lighthouses, so to speak, from which the gospel could illuminate the surrounding darkness.”
OIKOS EVANGELISM, then, is one God-given and God-ordained means for naturally sharing our supernatural message. The early church spread through oikos evangelism. It’s about evangelizing family members who saw the old sinner become the new saint; it’s about sharing with the neighbor who questioned how such a difference had come over his old friend or reaching the guys in the local trade union or the oikos that played tennis together.
An oikos corresponds to what contemporary anthropologists define as the three universal social systems of common kinship (extended family, though in urban settings the extended family might live far away); common community (might be neighborhoods, not in urban settings); and common interests (also referred to as a “clan” below, these are affinity groups with mutual interests and usually networks of relationships where trust is expressed).
These three natural social groupings include:
The (urban) clan has developed into social units which are basically extensions of the local group—voluntary associations based on common interests ranging from trade unions and medical associations to bridge clubs and parent-teacher associations. Each of these groupings is held together by a common interest, an interest arising from mutual participation in the same trades, the mutual enjoyment of a game, or mutual problems in relation to a set of children.
ADJUSTING OUR TACTICS FOR THE URBAN SETTING
If you expect neighborliness or extended family in urban settings, you’ll probably be disappointed. In looking for persons or households (oikos/oikoi) or peace, in urban settings you will want to aim for clans or affinity groups or clubs or societies rather than your apartment neighbors. You will need to “insert” yourself into some clans or urban social groupings. Urban outreach is different.
Check out Meetup.com below to find ways to find oikos groups in urban and not-so-urban areas.
Consider these questions:
- What am I doing to learn about the variety of urban social groupings in my city? (Examples: Cooking club, hiking, kite flying, poetry reciting, soccer, sewing, walking, exercise, yoga, retirees, urban tea houses, false religion groups, etc.)
- When do these groups get together? Where? Are they mostly men, women, young, old, mixed?
- Are they free, or is there a charge? Is there an orientation? How does one “enter” the club/group? Do I need a sponsor?
- How can I learn more about them?
- How can I (and my family) get involved in one or more of these clans (urban social groupings)?
- What can I do to intentionally approach one or more of these groupings and try to get involved?
- How can being a part of a clan help me find a person/oikos of peace?
- Thank God for the Holy Spirit who, if you’re a Christian, lives inside of you (Acts 2:38). God’s purpose at Pentecost was to equip His church with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we would be His witnesses to the nations, all to the eternal glory of God. As you think about this, discuss these questions with a fellow Christian:
- As I live my life as Jesus’ follower, am I focused on God’s glory?
- Do I have a passion for the nations to glorify God by believing the gospel
- How is my daily life a demonstration of my dependence on the Holy Spirit?
- How could I do better at leaning on the Holy Spirit rather than leaning on my own understanding?
- How can I develop the desire to bear witness daily to Christ to those who are lost and perishing?
- Followers of Jesus pray alone and with others. In addition to praying alone (Luke 5:16), pray with one or two others this week (Matt 18:20).
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
- In conversations this week, listen to what’s being said and note what topics, concerns, and needs could easily transition to spiritual topics (Acts 2:14; 3:12). This article can help you think about How to Turn a Conversation to Spiritual Things. Notice this approach treats others with respect and makes vulnerability a part of ordinary conversations. [Making Disciples]