Study Guide

Acts of the Apostles Themes

  • Community

    Can't we all just get along? No, sadly we cannot. Though communities often start out small with everyone agreeing and holding hands, divisions can come up pretty quickly. The early Christians found this out the hard way. From its humble beginnings gathering in an upper room, the church expands throughout the world, and with its expansion come problems and arguments. Acts is filled with growing pains.

    Questions About Community

    1. Why is community important? Why did the early Christians need each other's support and comfort?
    2. Do you think the way the apostles ran the Christian community worked? Can you think of a better way?
    3. What kinds of things do Christian communities fight about today?
  • Injustice

    No one likes to see a miscarriage of justice. That's why the disciples of Jesus get lots of sympathy in Acts. They keep getting arrested on trumped up charges and accused of saying things they never said and breaking Roman and Jewish law. Luke wants us to know that they're totally innocent (just like Jesus), but that everyone has it out for them anyway. In the end, lots of Christians die. They fought the unjust law and the unjust law won… for a few hundred years anyway.

    Questions About Injustice

    1. Luke always portrays the followers of Jesus as totally innocent, but do you think their accusers saw things differently? Did they honestly believe Christians were breaking the law?
    2. How do jealousy and anger play roles in the disciples's arrests and trials?
    3. Why do the Roman authorities keep refusing to put Christians to death when the angry mobs want them to? Compare this to the way Pilate caved to the whims of an angry mob.
  • Suffering

    No one likes to suffer. If we could, we'd all walk through life skipping and eating ice cream cones. Every day can't be all good times and delicious desserts, though, and the early Christians knew this first hand (and how). Throughout Acts, they are attacked, beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for saying (really loudly) that Jesus is Lord. It sucked, but it also got people thinking. This Jesus guy must be pretty darn awesome if people are willing to die for him, right?

    Questions About Suffering

    1. Who is the source of suffering in the story? Does God will all this to happen? Or are humans just big meanies who make others suffer?
    2. Do you think the disciples had to suffer to convince people that Jesus was awesome? Were there other ways that might have worked just as well?
    3. Is suffering ever a good thing? Why do the disciples think it is?
    4. Why do you think some non-Christians were won over by the way the early Christians embraced suffering?
  • Tradition

    Religion is a powerful thing. Individual faiths build up traditions, customs, writings, and a history that people get pretty darn attached to. In Acts, the disciples are proud of their Jewish heritage, but also trying to get people to see those old traditions in a new way. They believe that scripture predicted that Jesus would come and be the Messiah. They also think that it's cool for Gentiles to get in on the action and (while they're at it) not follow the whole Torah. It's not a popular idea. Old traditions die hard.

    Questions About Tradition

    1. Why do the past and tradition have such a hold on people sometimes?
    2. In what ways do the followers of Jesus embrace tradition? How do they toss it aside or change it?
    3. What are some traditions we hold really dear today? How do we react to people we see as trying to change them?
  • Truth

    Truth isn't all about listing off facts and figures. When the disciples talk about truth in Acts, it means they know things about God that the rest of us don't. Jesus told them about a whole different spiritual reality ordered by God and unknowable by the ordinary world. Impressive, right? The disciples are pretty psyched about it—enough to die for what they think is true. But how do they know—really, truly know—what God wants? Good question. It's what the world has been debating for the last two thousand years.

    Questions About Truth

    1. Is truth relative? Or is there such a thing as one truth?
    2. How does Peter know what the truth is? How does Paul? How do we?
    3. Is it even possible for human beings to figure out God's truths? Should we just stop trying all together?