By Luke Johnson | May 19, 2015
What’s the best gift someone has ever given you? What made it so great?
(Think about Christmases, birthdays, that time you broke your leg, etc…)
Read Acts 2:1-24, 32-33
The disciples have a crazy experience in an upper room. What’s going on?
What crazy thing happens when the disciples start to speak to the crowd?
Everyone can understand what the disciples are saying in their own languages! Galileans probably spoke a dialect of Hebrew or Aramaic -- they likely wouldn’t have known Greek or Latin or Babylonian or Ethiopian or all the other languages of the people at the Pentecost festival.
When people make fun of the disciples, how does Peter answer them? What reason does he give for this language miracle?
According to the prophet Joel whom Peter quotes, what will God send “on all people”? (v. 17)
According to Joel, when is this supposed to happen? (At what time in the history of the world?)
(“last days,” v. 17; “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord,” v. 20)
So… what does this say about what’s happening at the Pentecost festival?
(The ‘last days’ have already started! If ‘History’ is a big game of tug-of-war between rebellious humans and God, God has decided to end the game and to pull rebellious humanity over to himself.)
Read Ephesians 1:11-23
Does anything in Ephesians remind you of anything in Acts?
In verse 11, Paul says that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” What do you think Paul is getting at? How would you say this in normal English?
Peter said something similar in our Acts reading. Look at Acts 2:23. According to Peter, why was Jesus handed over to his enemies? (“by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge”)
God wasn’t surprised by what happened to Jesus. He planned it! God used the people who hated Jesus to get his work done: God’s plan was accomplished “with the help of wicked men” (Acts 2:23).
Describe in your own words: What is God’s plan? What was the purpose of sending Jesus into our world?
What ‘gift’ does God give to those who follow after Jesus?
Compare Ephesians 1:13-14 with Acts 2:32-33. (Both Peter and Paul name it: “the promised Holy Spirit”)
What does Paul call the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13-14? (“a seal”, “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”)
Have you ever received an inheritance before? Who was is from? What did you get? Did you get it all at once, or did you have to wait for part of it?
If the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee” of the inheritance God is going to give us, what’s the full inheritance? Look at Ephesians 1:17-23.
- God himself: ”knowing him better” (1:17)
- membership in “his holy people” (1:18)
- resurrection (1:20-21)
- being under Jesus’ perfect and universal rule (1:22)
The crazy thing about prayer
Paul talks a lot about prayer in Ephesians 1. Look at 1:15-17. Why do you think the Ephesians’ faith in Jesus and love for God’s people cause Paul to constantly thank God for them?
It’s evidence that God’s plan is being completed! Paul gives thanks because of what comes in v. 14: the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession”. So, our inheritance won’t be fully granted until all who will come to God have come to God. Paul celebrates when he hears about the faith of the Ephesians because this means that some more of this work has been completed -- the Ephesians now belong to God! Here’s another pocket of people who follow him, and who have received the sign of God’s work in the world -- the Holy Spirit!
Think about ‘prayer’ for a moment. When you hear Paul talk about God’s work in the world, how do you think prayer fits into this? (Why should we pray? What does prayer ‘do’?)
Prayer is our connection to the mission Jesus is on. Because we belong to Jesus, his mission is our mission. God gives us his Spirit in order to enliven us. We’re not running on human steam. God’s mission is totally God-soaked: God’s own Spirit directs us as we join in God’s own work. God does everything! He made us; he came into his own creation and died to draw his creation back to himself; and now he’s the one animating us by his own Spirit to complete his own work. So, because this whole thing is so God-saturated, we can’t be God’s people without connecting with God himself. We can’t join in with God unless we are aware of what he is doing. Prayer is the first thing. Prayer is the whole thing.