What is one way this video encourages or expands your understanding of the book of Acts?
In the Hebrew Bible, God is repeatedly depicted as a fire. Why is this significant in the book of Acts?
In your own words, summarize the way Luke speaks of the two different temples (review 2:44-4:23 in the video)
Luke begins Acts by telling readers about a meeting between the disciples and the risen Jesus. For weeks, Jesus continues to teach them about his upside-down Kingdom and the new creation that began with his death and resurrection. The disciples want to share his teachings, but Jesus tells them to wait until they receive a new kind of power, so they can have all they need to be faithful witnesses to Jesus’ Kingdom. He says their mission will begin in Jerusalem, move out to Judea and Samaria, and from there out into all the nations. The main theme of the book of Acts flows out of this opening scene. This is a story about Jesus leading his people by his Spirit to invite all nations to live in the ways of his Kingdom. The first seven chapters show how the invitation will begin to spread in Jerusalem. The next four chapters map out how the message spreads to the non-Jewish neighboring regions of Judea and Samaria. And from Acts 13 on, Luke tells us how the good news of Jesus’ Kingdom begins to reach all the nations of the world.
Read: Acts 1:1-8, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:38-39
Compare Jesus’ words in Acts 1:4-8 with John the Baptizer’s words in Luke 3:16-18—remember that biblical authors often use chaff as an analogy for sin. According to John the Baptizer in this text, what is the purpose of fire? How is the purpose at work when the disciples receive God’s Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4, 2:38-39)?
Review Acts 1:6-8. What do the disciples want Jesus to do for their people in Israel? How does Jesus reply? What does he want them to receive and do while they wait for God’s timing?
In the Hebrew Bible, God’s temple is the place where God dwells, and his presence is often depicted as fire. Notice the similarities and differences in Exodus 19:17-18, Numbers 9:15, and Acts 2:1-4. What is the significance of God’s presence dwelling in many people instead of a single mountain or building?
Take some time to pray. Express your gratitude to Jesus. Tell him where you want to see his restoration in your life and community. Ask him for the courage to receive the refining power of his Spirit, so you can join in his restoration plans and spread his good news.
Tim: One of the earliest accounts about Jesus of Nazareth, his life, death, and resurrection, was written by a man named Luke.
Jon: We know it as the Gospel of Luke, but Luke continued the story in a second volume.
Tim: Called the book of Acts, and it’s all about what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection.
Jon: Acts begins with the disciples, who are hanging out with Jesus, who’s just come back to life. Which is mind-blowing to imagine!
Tim: And then for weeks, the risen Jesus kept teaching them about his upside-down Kingdom, the new creation that he launched through his death and resurrection.
Jon: This is exciting stuff! And the disciples are ready to go tell the world.
Tim: But Jesus tells them to wait and to stay in Jerusalem until they receive a new kind of power, so they can be faithful witnesses to Jesus and his Kingdom. Then he says that their mission is going to begin in Jerusalem, then move out to Judea and Samaria, and then from there out into the nations.1 It’s like a roadmap for the whole book of Acts. Then the disciples saw Jesus enthroned as King of all creation.2
Jon: So the disciples wait, wondering when this power is going to come, and then comes the time of Pentecost.
Tim: So this is an ancient Israelite festival––it’s during the early summer. And thousands and thousands of Jewish pilgrims would come back to Jerusalem from all over the world, all these different languages and cultures colliding in the city.
Jon: And the disciples are together in a house, which is suddenly filled with rushing wind, along with fire. The fire splinters off into “tongues of fire” hovering over people’s heads. What’s this all about?3
Tim: Yeah, so Luke’s tapping into a repeated Old Testament theme. When God’s presence showed up similarly at Mount Sinai, he made a covenant with Israel and gave them the ten commandments. Then later, when God’s glory came in a pillar of fire, it filled the tabernacle when he came to live among them.4
Jon: But that was just one pillar of fire. Not many.
Tim: Exactly. Luke is making an important point here. This is God’s personal temple presence, God’s Spirit, that was foretold by Israel’s prophets. And now it’s come to take up residence in the new temple of Jesus’ body, that is, his people. They’ve become little mobile temples where God now dwells.
Jon: And they start to tell stories about Jesus, but they’re speaking in languages that they didn’t know before, yet all the visitors can understand them. What’s this all about?
Tim: Well, Peter gets up to explain that this is the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes based on the Scriptures. God’s plan was always to use the unified family of Abraham to bring peace and justice to the world5. But the tribes of Israel had been scattered because of the exile. Now here at Pentecost, representatives from all of the tribes come back together, and they’re introduced to their Messiah, the crucified and risen Jesus, so they can now become the restored people of Israel.
Jon: And thousands of them start following the way of Jesus.
The New Temple [02:44-04:06]
Tim: Which brings us to Luke’s tale of two temples. So you’ve got the temple that Herod built in Jerusalem, where Jesus’ disciples worship like the rest of the Israelites. But now there’s also Jesus' temple, which consists of people. And this temple is meeting together in homes all over Jerusalem. And they were approaching life in a radical new way.
Jon: Right. Think about it. Many of these pilgrims aren't even from Jerusalem, so they formed these new families, and they’re all depending on each other.
Tim: Yeah. People would sell their stuff, provide for the poor among them. They ate their meals together. They said their daily prayers together.6
Jon: They were learning from the apostles what it meant to live as if Jesus is the true King of the world. And it must have been exhilarating.
Tim: But it wasn’t all fun and games. Being God’s temple is serious business, just like in the Old Testament. So you might know about that strange story in the book of Leviticus about two priests who disrespect God in the temple and then suddenly die.7 Well Luke includes here a similar story of two disciples who dishonor God’s Spirit in this new temple, and they suffer a similar fate.8
Jon: So there is corruption in the community, but the bigger problem is coming from the outside.
Tim: Yeah, from the other temple. Its leaders are threatened by this new messianic movement, and so they arrest the apostles. They try and stop them. And this brings us to the final story in the Jerusalem section of Acts. We’re introduced to a new disciple, Stephen.9
The Martyrdom of Stephen [04:07-05:45]
Jon: Oh yeah, Stephen! He’s on fire! He steps up as a leader among the disciples to serve the poor. And he would go to the temple courts to teach people about the way of Jesus.
Tim: So the temple leaders arrest Stephen, and they find false witnesses to accuse him of dishonoring Moses and of being a terrorist who’s threatening the temple.10
Jon: In response, Stephen gives this powerful speech about how predictable this whole situation was.
Tim: Yeah. He retells the whole Old Testament story, highlighting characters like Joseph, Moses, and the prophets, people who were consistently rejected and persecuted by their own people. Israel has been resisting God’s representatives for centuries, and so their rejection of Jesus and now of his followers is a rejection of God himself.11
Jon: They get angry, and they start to execute him by picking up rocks and smashing him to death.
Tim: And as he’s dying, he commits himself to the way of Jesus, to suffer because of the sins of others. He even cries out, “Lord! Don’t hold this sin against them!”12
Jon: This is basically what Jesus said at his death!13
Tim: Exactly. Stephen becomes the first martyr of the Jesus movement, with many more to come. But this persecution contains seeds of hope, which is why Luke introduces us to a new character here, a religious leader named Saul. He stands over Stephen’s dead body and even approves of the whole thing.14
Jon: Wait. Saul? You mean the man who becomes the apostle Paul?!
Tim: Yes! Luke is showing how even this tragic murder can’t stop Jesus’ Kingdom. And so many persecuted disciples scatter out of Jerusalem. And just as Jesus said, they head into Judea and Samaria. Now the story of what happens there, that’s what the next section of Acts is all about.