Shaping Theme in Acts: Scripture.
Imagine that you were one of Jesus’ early disciples – you devoted your entire self to Him and had followed Him sometime during His three years of earthly ministry. Then He was arrested, publicly mocked, and crucified and buried in a tomb. But now, you’re hearing reports that people have seen Jesus and He’s actually alive.
Now imagine that you and a fellow follower of Jesus are walking to a nearby town, just discussing these things. This was the case for Cleopas and a friend. They were walking along discussing what had happened to Jesus and trying to hang onto some hope because they were very sad. And then Jesus Himself walks up beside them and joins them, only they are kept from recognizing Him, and He asks them what they’re talking about. So they tell Him all that happened, and He answers them in Luke 24:25 and shows them “beginning with Moses . . . in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27). Later on, after they discovered it was Jesus, they say:
“Did not our hearts burn within us . . . while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32)
So these Jewish people, familiar with the Scriptures who had even followed Jesus for part of His three-year ministry – in some way, the Scriptures were closed to them until Jesus opened it. Jesus opened the Scriptures to the two on the road, and then He appeared to the other disciples and “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (v. 45).
Somehow, the Scriptures had up until this point been closed to those who had been with Jesus, and they had been closed to the Scriptures. And then Jesus opened the Scriptures up to them and opened them up to the Scriptures. That’s what we need – this two-part opening, and we need God to do that for us.
All of Scripture Points to Jesus
It’s no good to have the Scripture open to you, but you not open to the Scripture. That’s how you get an academic Christianity: you know a lot and can quote a lot of Scripture, yet it hasn’t made any real difference in your life. And it’s no good to be open to the Scripture without the Scripture being open to you. That’s how you get a gullible Christianity where you believe everything as long as it has a verse attached to it without any discernment for what is true.
So how do we know that the Scripture has been opened to us and we have been opened to the Scripture? The one important key that unlocked the apostles’ use of Scripture in Acts is this: All of Scripture points to Jesus Christ. Our biggest temptation is to come to Scripture and make it about ourselves – but because that’s not the point of it, we will always be confused. We need God to do this twofold opening, revealing that all of Scripture points to Christ.
This view and use of the Scripture shaped the early church and it needs to shape us as well. Scripture shaped the early church in two ways: thoughts and ministry.
How Scripture Shaped the Apostles’ Thoughts
There are three instances in which Scripture shaped the apostles’ thoughts:
- Deciding whether or not to fill Judas’ position as the twelfth disciple (Acts 1:15-22);
- Processing and praying together after experiencing persecution (Acts 4:23-28);
- Deciding if non-Jewish Christians needed to become like Jewish Christians (Acts 15:13-18).
The early church used Scripture to think together. Now we think, but do we use Scripture in this opened-up, pointing-to-Jesus way? We need to bring our Bibles with us into our decision-making. We’ve got to let God’s Word – opened up to us supernaturally, revealing Jesus as the point – guide us.
How Scripture Shaped the Apostles’ Ministry
Scripture also shaped the apostles’ ministry. There are five examples of this:
- Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:14-36).
- Stephen’s speech (Acts 7:1-53).
- Philip and the eunuch (Acts 8:26-39).
- Paul at the synagogue (Acts 13:16-41 ).
- Paul and the Jews (Acts 28:23).
How can we know if our ministry is built on God’s Word? Do we use Scripture, and do we use Scripture to point to Jesus and not to ourselves? The core problem is that we are detached from God because of our sin. But God sent Jesus Christ to die for us and remove the certificate of our sins so that we can be in a right relationship with Him. Everything starts here. We must never step away from this.
As we are opened up to Scripture and Scripture is opened up to us, we can find guidance and wisdom to think well as Christians, and we can find power to minister well in Jesus’ name.
From the sermon series: Shaping Themes in Acts.
- How can the Scriptures be opened to you, but you not open to the Scriptures?
- How can you be opened to the Scriptures, but the Scriptures not be open to you?
- Are you open to Scripture, and is Scripture open to you?
- Why does it matter that all of Scripture points to Jesus Christ?
- Read and discuss Acts 1:15-22, 4:23-28, and 15:13-18.
- How did Scripture guide the apostles’ thoughts, based on these passages?
- Do you use the Bible to guide your thoughts and decision-making?
- Read and discuss Acts 2:14-36, 7:1-53, 8:26-39, 13:16-41, and 28:23.
- How did Scripture guide the apostles’ ministry, based on these passages?
- Are our ministries and lives built on Scripture?