Acts - Lesson 1

Background and Acts 1

The Mission


  1. The student can provide the background and authorship of Acts.
  2. The student can tell what Jesus did after His resurrection.
  3. The student can quote Acts 1:8.
  4. The student can explain how and why Judas was replaced.
  5. The student can connect the "marching orders” Jesus gave the apostles with us today.


  1. Have a board available. (In most lessons a black board or marker board will be helpful.)
  2. Have copies of the Notes/Review sheet ready to hand out at the beginning of class.
  3. Have access to a map—on the wall or on a transparency. You may want to print out a map for students to have keep in a notebook with their notes and review sheets.
  4. Bibles and pens as needed.


In this first chapter of Acts, we see our five basic themes for Acts introduced: Spirit, Savior, Salvation, Sanctified, and Spread.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 12 minutes)

  1. Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Prayer and songs as desired. Try each week to connect the songs with the lesson. We Saw Thee Not and Hallelujah! What a Savior would fit well with this lesson.
  3. Preview the study of Acts by telling the students some of the potential values to them of this study. Write the five key words in Acts on the board (overhead or PowerPoint). (1) See the work of the Holy Spirit in the early church. (2) Watch as Jesus is proclaimed as Savior. (3) Study several cases of people receiving salvation. (4) See how the early church, the sanctified, functioned. And (5) watch the wonderful way the gospel story was spread around the world. (Tell the students to lock these key words in their minds because they will often be asked to use them.) From all of this we should not only improve our understanding of this key book of the Bible but learn how we in the church today can carry out the mission of the church.
  4. Hand out the Notes/Review sheets and tell the students you hope they will take notes, review them during the week, and be ready for a brief written review at the beginning of the next class period.
  5. Take about three minutes to let different members of the class tell things they know about Acts. Most will have some information already and this will be a good way to get them involved even from the first. Some of the things they will probably mention (and if they don't you should) are these: written by Luke as a follow-up to his gospel, Luke was a physician who traveled with Paul during many of his journeys, since the story ends rather abruptly with Paul in prison about 63 AD, this is likely the date of the writing, the book was written to Theophilus about whom we know very little, the book tells how the early Christians carried out Christ's command to preach the gospel throughout the world.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Background.
    1. Luke writes Acts (1) to give an accurate account of the events that happened following Christ's resurrection and (2) to provide a defense of Christianity. Then, as now, it was often misunderstood. John Stott summarizes Luke's defense of Christianity to the Roman mind by showing´1) that Roman officials were often friendly to Christianity and some were even converted; (2) that neither Herod or Pilate (end of Luke's gospel) could find anything wrong with Jesus, nor could Festus, Felix or Agrippa find any real charge against Paul; and (3) that since Christianity was a "fulfillment” of Judiasm, it was a lawful religion in the Roman Empire (Acts, 26).
    2. So as we study Acts, we should look for both the flow of historical events and the "apologetic” for Christianity to the Roman mind.
  2. After Jesus' Resurrection.
    1. Q: What does Luke say Jesus did following His resurrection (1:3)?
    2. As they are gathered on the Mt. of Olives (1:12), Q: What promise does Jesus make to the apostles? Q: Where do we read of this promise earlier? (John 16:13)
    3. The apostles ask, "Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” What shall we make of this question? We can't know for sure but our best way to understand it is to consider the context. Jesus has just spent 40 days telling them about the kingdom. Are they likely to misunderstand the nature of the kingdom after such teaching? And He answers their question as if it a question about the timing and not about the nature of the kingdom. These thoughts from the context would lead us to conclude that the question was whether Jesus was now going to oversee the transformation of the Old Testament kingdom into the New Testament kingdom. He chooses not to give a direct answer but implies they will soon get some help to know the answer.
    4. Q: In verses 5 and 8, what does Jesus promise will happen to the apostles and when? What will this baptism of the Holy Spirit empower them to do?
    5. Q: How challenging is the task Jesus gives the apostles? Q: What methods were available to help them carry out this task?
    6. Q: What happens next and what do we learn from this event? (Jesus is taken up on a cloud. He will come back in the same way. His work on earth is done. Angels appeared to speak to the apostles.
  3. Adding an Apostle.
    1. Q: How many followers of Jesus are now together? Q: How do they spend their time? Q: Who are some of those included in this group?
    2. Q: What does Peter call on this group to do and why? (Psalm 22, written by David, had said, "May another take his place of leadership.”
    3. Q: What qualifications does Peter set forth for one to be numbered among the twelve? (1:21-22).
    4. Q: Who makes the choice? Q: By what means? Q: Who is chosen?
    5. Q: Were the other apostles replaced as they died? (No. So it seems the plan was to start with the full complement of twelve but after that no replacements.

Application: (about 7 minutes)

  1. Q: Can you find something in the chapter that connects with each of our five key words? (Spirit—verses 5, 8, 16. Savior—verses 1-3 tell of Jesus teaching and His suffering. Salvation—verses 8 and 22 speak of the apostles being witnesses for Jesus and that would included telling people how to be saved as the story of Acts will show. Saved—Jesus speaks of the coming kingdom, and that kingdom is made up of the saved as Acts will show. Spread—verse 8 contains the challenge to them and to us.
  2. Q: What change can we see in the attitude of the apostles since the night of the betrayal? Q: How do you account for this? Q: What should we learn from their confidence?


  1. Include in your assignment for the class to memorize Acts 1:8.
  2. Indicate that when the students come to class next week, they will find a written review sheet at the door which they should take as they come in and complete prior to class. If they will study the Notes/Review sheet, they will be well prepared to do this.

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