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Sermon Study - Acts 1:12-26

“Apostasy and Apostleship: Understanding the Unstoppable Plan of God” from Acts 1:12-26. You can listen to the sermon here.

Sermon Review

As you look over these verses, you might notice that this text feels a little out of place compared to what is around it. Our text is bracketed by two extremely significant events in the history of the church. Prior to our text, we have the Ascension of Christ, where he is enthroned in heaven as King. After our text, we have Pentecost, where the Spirit of God is poured on the church. Both of those are climactic, history-shaping moments. But in between those two events, we have this passage, where we find the believers praying and deliberating about replacing Judas. Those things seem, well…mundane compared to the Ascension and Pentecost. And that can lead us to think that maybe these verses are out of place.

But if we slow down and think about it, those events that bracket our passage should cause us to realize that this passage is also significant. There is more going on in these verses than what we might see at first. Its placement between the Ascension and Pentecost is an indicator that we should pay close attention to what is happening.

So, what is happening in these verses? Yes, the believers pray and deliberate about Judas, but behind those actions, we find a deeper discussion, a discussion about the eternal purposes of God and how those purposes play out in the lives of God’s people. Remember we saw last week with the Ascension that God’s purposes cannot be stopped because Christ is presently reigning as King. This week’s passage causes us to think more deeply about those same unstoppable purposes. These verses help us answer questions like, “If God’s purposes are unstoppable, should we just sit back passively, waiting till God finishes everything up?” Or even questions like this, “Are his purposes actually unstoppable? If God’s purposes are played out in history, isn’t it possible that human wickedness and sin might derail those purposes?” Behind all the prayer and even the discussion about Judas, there are questions circulating, questions about God’s purpose and plan for his people.

There are three scenes in this passage:

  1. Jesus’ followers pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled
  2. Jesus’ followers address the problem of Judas’ apostasy
  3. Jesus’ followers replace Judas in preparation for Pentecost

Study Question #1

In the message, we said that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are complementary rather than competing truths. Read through the following passages. How are both truths present in these passages? What practical difference might this make in the life of a believer?

  1. Genesis 50:15-21
  2. Acts 2:22-24
  3. Philippians 2:12-13

Personal Reflection #1

Is the doctrine of God’s providence comforting to you? Why or why not? If not, have you considered the alternative – a world that moves according to fate or chance?

Personal Reflection #2

How often do you pray for God’s purposes to be fulfilled? In your own life? In the church? In the world? Take some time this week to pray for God’s certain purposes to be fulfilled. Pick a passage from Scripture where God’s purposes are certainly expressed (e.g., Philippians 1:6), and pray for that purpose in your life.

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