Lesson 81

Acts 1:1–8

“Lesson 81: Acts 1:1–8,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ ministered to His Apostles for 40 days. He prepared them to be witnesses of Him throughout the earth.

Suggestions for Teaching

Acts 1:1–8

Jesus ministers to His disciples for 40 days

Invite students to imagine that a friend of another faith approaches them with a desire to know more about our Church and asks, “Who leads your church?”

Ask students to write how they would respond to this question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

Invite students to look for a truth as they study Acts 1:1–8 that can help answer the question of who leads the Church.

Invite students to turn to the book of Acts and identify the full title of this book. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Based on the full title, what do you think we can learn about in this book?

Explain that the book of Acts marks a significant transition in the New Testament. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John provide accounts of the Savior’s mortal ministry, including His Atonement and Resurrection. The book of Acts relates the Apostles’ ministry following the Savior’s Ascension into heaven.

Invite a student to read Acts 1:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whom this book was written to.

  • To whom was the book of Acts written?

Explain that Luke is the author of the book of Acts and that the “former treatise” referred to in verse 1 is the book of Luke, which was also written to Theophilus. Luke’s purpose in writing was to help Theophilus obtain his own testimony of Jesus Christ (see Luke 1:1–4).

Invite a student to read Acts 1:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how long Jesus Christ personally ministered to His Apostles following His Resurrection. (You may want to explain that in verse 3, “passion” refers to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, and “infallible proofs” refers to the undeniable evidence Jesus provided that He was resurrected.)

  • How long did Jesus Christ spend with His Apostles after He was resurrected?

  • What did Jesus teach them during these 40 days? (Things pertaining to the kingdom of God.)

Begin sketching a simple line drawing of a house on the board. (Or you could build a small model of a house using blocks or clay.)

line drawing, front and side of house

When you are halfway finished, invite a student to come to the board and finish the drawing for you. Give the student very specific instructions on how to finish the house. You might ask him or her to add a roof, some windows, and landscaping. After a short time of working together, move to the other side of the classroom and continue to give the student instructions. When the house is finished, thank the student, and ask him or her to sit down.

Ask students to imagine that the drawing of the house represents the kingdom of God on earth, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.

  • How might our method of drawing this house illustrate how Jesus Christ established His Church during His mortal ministry and after His Resurrection? (During His mortal ministry, the Savior began establishing His Church. He called others to help Him establish it, and after His Resurrection, He directed their efforts even though He was no longer physically with them.)

  • According to verse 2, how does Jesus Christ direct His Church? (Using students’ words, write the following truth on the board: Jesus Christ directs His Church by revealing His will to His Apostles through the Holy Ghost.)

Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“From the first verse [of the book of Acts], the declaration is that the Church will continue to be divinely led, not mortally led. … Indeed, a more complete title for the book of Acts could appropriately be something like ‘The Acts of the Resurrected Christ Working through the Holy Spirit in the Lives and Ministries of His Ordained Apostles.’ …

“The direction of the Church is the same. The location of the Savior has been altered, but the direction and leadership of the Church is exactly the same” (“Therefore, What?” [Church Educational System conference on the New Testament, Aug. 8, 2000], 6, si.lds.org).

  • Why is it important to know that Jesus Christ continues to direct His Church by revelation today?

Invite students to ponder experiences that have strengthened their testimony that Jesus Christ directs His Church today through revelation. Invite several students to share their experiences. You may also want to share an experience.

Ask several students to take turns reading aloud from Acts 1:4–8. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus commanded the Apostles to do.

  • According to verse 4, what did Jesus command the Apostles to do?

  • According to verse 5, what did the Savior promise the Apostles that they would receive if they remained in Jerusalem?

  • According to verse 8, what would the Holy Ghost give the Apostles power to do?

  • What can we learn about Apostles from what the Savior taught in verse 8? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Apostles are witnesses of Jesus Christ and testify of Him throughout the earth.)

To help students understand this truth, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“In our day the Lord has called 15 special witnesses to testify of His divinity before all the world. Theirs is a unique calling; they are Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, chosen and commissioned by Him. They have been commanded to bear witness of His living reality by the power and authority of the holy apostleship in them vested” (“Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 4).

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: The Apostles of our day testify that Jesus Christ …

The Living Christ

If possible, provide a copy of “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” (Ensign, Apr. 2000, 2) for each student in your class. You may also consider taking one copy, cutting it into smaller sections, and dividing the sections among students. Ask students to read the document or section silently, looking for how they could finish the statement on the board. When students have finished reading, ask a student to come to the board and act as a scribe. Invite students to report what they found, and ask the student at the board to list their responses on the board.

  • Which of these declarations are most significant to you?

  • How does the witness of modern-day Apostles influence your personal witness or testimony of Jesus Christ?

Explain that even though Acts 1:8 refers specifically to the Apostles’ role as special witnesses of the Savior, it also teaches us about what can help us be witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

  • Based on the Lord’s promise to the Apostles in Acts 1:8, what makes it possible for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Through the power of the Holy Ghost, we can become witnesses of Jesus Christ.)

  • In what ways does the Holy Ghost help us become witnesses of the Savior?

Invite students to ponder times they have felt the Holy Ghost as others have shared their testimony of Jesus Christ. After a few minutes, invite students to share their experiences. Remind students that they should not share experiences that are too sacred or private.

  • When have you felt the Holy Ghost help you testify of Jesus Christ to others?

Encourage students to seek opportunities to share their testimony with others and trust that the Holy Ghost will confirm the truth of what they witness.

Acts–Revelation

Overview of the second half of the New Testament

Explain that Acts 1:8 not only teaches truths but also provides an overview of the latter half of the New Testament.

  • According to Acts 1:8, where did the Savior prophesy that His disciples would witness of Him?

Write the following on the board: Acts 1–5 = Jerusalem; Acts 6–9 = Judea and Samaria; Acts 10–28 = Uttermost part of the earth (see Bible Dictionary, “Acts of the Apostles”).

Explain that the disciples began to witness of Jesus Christ as directed. First, the Apostles preached in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the earth.

Ask students to turn to the Bible’s table of contents. Invite students to look at the New Testament books that follow the book of Acts. Explain that the books of Romans through Hebrews are epistles (letters) written by the Apostle Paul. Students will learn about Paul’s conversion and ministry as they study Acts 9, 13–28.

Ask students to locate 1 Thessalonians. Explain that the Thessalonians were people who lived in the city Thessalonica. Invite students to turn to Bible Maps, no. 13, “The Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Paul,” and locate Thessalonica on the map. Explain that many of the epistles in the New Testament were written to congregations of the Church in different cities to address their specific needs. You may also want to explain that these epistles are not arranged chronologically in the New Testament. The book of 1 Thessalonians is believed to be the first epistle Paul wrote.

Ask students to look at the table of contents and identify some other books that are written as epistles to congregations of Saints.

Explain that in addition to writing to congregations of Saints, Paul wrote to individuals such as Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

Ask students to look for what books follow Hebrews in the table of contents.

Explain that in addition to Paul, other Apostles and Church leaders wrote to members of the Church. We still have some of these epistles, which are the books of James through Jude. The book of Revelation records a vision seen by the Apostle John.

Invite students to continue reading the second half of the New Testament on their own. Encourage them to pray as they study so that the Holy Ghost can enlighten them and help them gain greater understanding as they study the teachings of the New Testament Apostles.

Commentary and Background Information

Acts of the Apostles. An overview

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following about the book of Acts:

“Acts shows forth the operation of the Holy Spirit in the true Church.

“Among Biblical books it ranks first in telling how the Church and kingdom of God on earth operates when Jesus the King is not personally resident on planet earth. …

“Acts tells how the spiritual gifts multiplied until they were enjoyed by the apostles and by whole congregations of the faithful. …

“… Acts recounts the facts relative to church organization, missionary journeys, and the general spread of truth in a pagan world. It tells of the persecutions, stonings, trials, and impositions heaped upon those who center their hearts on Christ and strive to overcome the world. …

“But Acts is more than a book of spiritual superlatives; it is also an account of righteous men and their weaknesses and bickerings, their jealousies and foibles, their failures and successes.

“The meridian saints are not perfect. Paul contends with Silas, corrects Peter, and rejects Mark as a missionary companion. …

“Thus Acts is a book for weak mortals. It shows the spiritual heights they can ascend – imperfect, jealous, and stubborn though they may be. …

“Acts does in reality record how the Holy Spirit operates in the true Church; it is indeed the book which tells how God directs his earthly kingdom” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:19–20).

Acts 1:2. Jesus Christ directs His Church

President Gordon B. Hinckley testified that the Lord directs His Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

“Let it be understood by all that Jesus Christ stands at the head of this church which bears His sacred name. He is watching over it. He is guiding it. Standing at the right hand of His Father, He directs this work” (“God Is at the Helm,” Ensign, May 1994, 59).

Acts 1:4–8. Waiting for the promise of the Holy Ghost

The promise of the Holy Ghost that the Lord extended to the Apostles as recorded in Acts 1:4–8 may seem confusing in light of John 20:22, which says that Jesus “breathed on [the Apostles], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that “Jesus ‘breathed on them,’ which probably means that he laid his hands upon them as he uttered the decree: ‘Receive … the Holy Ghost’” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:857).

Elder McConkie used the Apostles’ experience to illustrate that there is a difference between the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost and actually enjoying that gift:

“They thus received, but did not at that moment actually enjoy, the gift of the Holy Ghost. … The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right, based on faithfulness, to receive the constant companionship of this member of the Godhead; and this gift is conferred by the laying on of hands following baptism. This gift offers certain blessings provided there is full compliance with the law involved; everyone upon whom the gift is bestowed does not in fact enjoy or possess the offered gift. In the case of the apostles the actual enjoyment of the gift was delayed until the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:857).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why the Apostles were told to wait for the companionship of the Holy Ghost before they fulfilled their commission to testify of Jesus Christ throughout the earth:

“An eyewitness was not enough. Even the witness and testimony of the original Apostles had to be rooted in the testimony of the Holy Ghost. [President Joseph Fielding Smith] has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than ‘a visitation of an angel.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954, 1:44.) And the Bible shows that when we testify on the basis of this witness, the Holy Ghost testifies to those who hear our words” (“Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 30).