Lesson 11

Let the Church Know

(Acts 4 & 21, Numbers 3)
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Introduction: When I was a very young adult, the Sabbath School would start with reports. Reports on how many articles of clothing had been given away, how many Bible studies given, how many studied the Bible lesson each day, and how much money had been raised for various causes. Then someone read a "mission report" about a mission project. It was all deadly dull. The reporting never inspired much in me, except guilt, if I was unable to raise my hand that I had studied every day. Most members decided to skip the reporting and sleep in a little longer. When the church gave me authority in the matter, reports ended and the Sabbath School was devoted exclusively to study and discussion of the Bible. My experience as a youth gave me a bias against reports. What role did reports play in the early church? What role should they play today? Does the nature of the report matter? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and find out!

  1. Reports and Praises


    1. Read Acts 4:1-4. How successful is the evangelism of Peter and John? ("Many believed!")


      1. Why do you think the text specifically mentions the Sadducees? (Read Acts 23:8. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. The disciples were not only teaching heresy, but they were saying specifically that Jesus had been resurrected!)


    2. Read Acts 4:5-7. Had Annas or Caiaphas gone to law school? (Apparently not! You ask only leading questions of hostile witnesses. A good leading question suggests the answer and is susceptible to a yes or no answer. If you want to get hurt in a trial, ask a question like they did of a hostile witness!)


      1. How would you have asked the question if you were a Sadducee? ("Have you been teaching the resurrection heresy?" Followed by, "Is Satan the author of heresy?")


      2. I enjoy poking fun at the incompetence of the religious leaders, but how serious a matter was this hearing? (Peter and John know that Jesus got killed in a very similar situation. I would have been sweating, not smirking had I been there.)


    3. Read Acts 4:8-10. Who is the best legal coach in the universe? (The Holy Spirit! This answer (which is really two leading questions followed by the answer) gives me great pleasure: "Are we on trial for being kind? Was our healing of a disabled person the reason for our arrest?)


      1. What evidence of Jesus' resurrection did the disciples give? (They reported that the power of the resurrected Jesus healed this fellow. This fellow is evidence of the healing, and the healing is evidence of the resurrection. Perfect.)


      2. Have Peter and John give a report to the Sanhedrin? (Yes!)


        1. What does this teach us about reports? (It is composed by the inspiration of God, it is a report about the activities of God, and it is very carefully crafted.)


    4. Read Acts 4:13-16. The Sadducees got "out-lawyered" by uneducated men! What does this teach about the power of the Holy Spirit in our life? (He changes the odds. Never feel that you are unable to witness (or report) to those more educated than you.)


    5. Read Acts 4:21-22. How can you tell who lost this encounter? (Those who lose an argument resort to threats. Violence is the result of an inability to persuade.)


    6. Read Acts 4:23. This is quite a report! On what were the disciples reporting?


      1. Other than the level of excitement, how does this differ from the Sabbath School reports of my youth? (Those were reports on what humans had done. This is a report of what God has done.)


      2. We have a praise and worship period in our church. You probably have one too. What kind of reports do you hear? Reports of what God has done or reports of what humans have done?


    7. Read Acts 4:24. How did the people respond to the report? (They praised God! Notice the link. When people report what they have done, they are looking for praise. I think this is inappropriate in church. But, when you report what God has done, then the people praise God.)


    8. Read Acts 4:25-26. What point are the people making in response to this report? (The Great God in Heaven will frustrate all of the evil and feeble efforts of humans. Reports of human activity is a waste of time because we "plot in vain." We need reports of what God is doing through His people.)


  2. Reports and Ministry


    1. Read Acts 21:17-18. What doe James and "all the elders present" represent? (This is the leadership of the Jerusalem church. These are the leaders at "headquarters.")


    2. Read Acts 21:19. Notice a variation here. Paul reports "what God had done," but he also included "his ministry." Is that acceptable? (Every report needs a context. Paul is still reporting on what God has done.)


    3. Read Acts 21:20. How do the leaders react? (They praised God. This gives us further proof of the focus of Paul's report.)


  3. Reporting Strategies


    1. Read Acts 21:20-21. Are these reports true? (Read Galatians 5:1-6. It is certainly true Paul taught Christians that they did not need to be circumcised! Whether he also taught the Jews this is not clear to me - although the breadth of his argument ("every man who lets himself be circumcised")makes me believe he did. Of course, Paul himself is a Jew.)


    2. Read Acts 21:22. How about saying, "Yes, Paul is here and, yes, he has been preaching against circumcision?"


    3. Read Acts 21:23-26. How can Paul create "report" that seems misleading? How can Paul suggest there is "no truth" to the reports about turning away from Moses?


      1. Why is Paul suggesting that anything connected with the temple (post Jesus' resurrection) can "purify" a person?


    4. Read Acts 16:1-3, Romans 14:19-22 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. What does this suggest that Paul is doing? (Notice two things. First, Acts 21:25 acknowledges the limits on what is required of the Gentiles. So, there is no misrepresentation about that critical issue. As to what Paul does, his goal is to avoid offending others. He wants to minimize conflicts within the body of believers.)


      1. What additional lesson does this teach us about reports? (That we don't need to tell everything that we know.)


      2. Should we can "slant" a report if we know that some aspects of it will cause distress among some of the believers?


    5. Read Numbers 13:17-20. Moses and God's people are at the border of Canaan - the land promised to them by God. What do you think was Moses' intention in sending out the spies? (To get back an encouraging report! To excite the people about what lay ahead of them.)


    6. Read Numbers 13:26-29. If these guys were guided by Paul (or at least the leaders in Jerusalem), how would the report have been different? (They would have glossed over the "giants" part.)


    7. Read Numbers 13:30. How does Caleb approach reporting? (He gives the positive, faith-affirming report.)


    8. Read Numbers 13:31-33. What is missing from their prior report? (The positive aspects of what they saw!)


    9. Would Paul and Caleb have disagreed on how the report should be given? (Paul clearly believed in minimizing conflict. Thus, Caleb would have written the "Let's go get them, God is with us part of the report. Paul would have made sure that the report was crafted to maximize the number who would want to follow God.)


    10. Read Numbers 14:1-3. What is the result of the negative report? (A negative reaction of the people.)


      1. I'm reading a book entitled "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, and it discusses "priming." Something that we see or hear "primes" (meaning influences) our decision-making without us even consciously thinking about it. What does this suggest to report writers? (That we have a great ability to influence the decision-making of those who read our reports. That creates a very big responsibility to write positive, uplifting, God-centered reports.)


    11. Friend, you make formal and informal reports all the time. Will you commit today to give God the praise, to try to make a positive impact, and to avoid unnecessary conflict?


  4. Next week: Evaluating Witnessing and Evangelism.

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