Take time to catch up on the past week (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to discuss:
Over this term, we’re exploring the theme of moving. Many of us will have changes and moves ahead: this series allows us to look to God’s word for wisdom.
Ask for a volunteer to read Acts 13:1-5 to the group, praying a short prayer that, however much they’ve come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
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Suggested questions to help your discussion.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. The leadership of the church in Antioch clearly reflected the city’s own ethnic and cultural diversity (see verse 1).
Jesus’ desire is that his good news crosses boundaries (see Acts 1:8). To this end, he keeps stirring up Christians to move out of their comfort zones.
Luke simply says in verse 2, “the Holy Spirit said.” He doesn’t say how the Spirit spoke, only that the leaders of the church in Antioch were sure that they had heard his voice. Perhaps the contexts suggests that the Holy Spirit gave his message through one or more of the prophets in the church.
Virtually all Christians agree that the primary ways God speaks today is through his Spirit-authored Bible, and as we pray and receive the sacraments (baptism and communion). Hebrews 1:2 describes Jesus as God’s ultimate revelation; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that in the Bible we have everything we need from God. We hear from God in the exactly the same way faithful Christians have for nearly two thousand years.
Nevertheless, the New Testament paints a picture of a community where people also hear from God through prophecy, other languages, words of knowledge and so on.
Christians disagree as to whether (and how commonly) God uses these means today. Whilst prophesies and visions are common in some churches, others believe that opening the door to these kinds of revelations runs the risk of God’s people being taken in by messages that aren’t from him.
Andrew Wilson is one of those who believes that the Holy Spirit continues to speak in means alongside the Bible – but he cautions that we must test that what we’re hearing really is from God:
Though fasting is never commanded in the New Testament, Jesus clearly expected that his people would fast (see Matthew 6:16-18). In the centuries since, Christians have found that denying themselves food provides an opportunity to test their thoughts and desires against God’s. It also provides them with extra time to pray. Many find that prayer and fasting are particularly suitable in a time of decision-making or crisis.
Here in Acts 13, it’s noteworthy that fasting is associated with corporate worship, suggesting that the leaders in Antioch were particularly wanting to realign themselves with God. They are also well placed to make what will be a costly decision to them.
The article Fasting for Beginners offers advice for those wanting to think more about fasting.
Just like in the days of Acts 13, Jesus still stirs up his people to be on the move.
It’s not wrong for followers of Jesus to live and speak among those who are similar to them (such as those from their own country or ethnic background). But members of healthy CUs are also concerned to offer friendship and hope beyond their own cultural comfort zones.
You will have plenty to pray about as a result of today’s session. Pray together for what’s especially on your heart.
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