“How God Reveals His Will” Acts: To the End of the Earth
Scripture: Acts 1:20-26
The book of Acts is not a book of prescriptions, it’s a book of descriptions. This means Acts doesn’t tell us what the church today should be like but what the church back then was like. And yet if we keep an eye out for how God worked then, we can get a sense of how he may be working in our own lives now. From this passage we learn that God leads his people today by his Word, wise counsel and prayer in the Spirit
#1: God’s Will for the Early Church
God made his will clear for the early church in his Word. Psalm 109:8 says that another apostle was to replace Judas’ place, thus restoring twelve apostles in Acts 1. The twelve apostles symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel and this meant the church was to be God’s New Israel. God was preparing them to receive the gift of his Spirit. Peter discerned God’s will because he knew God’s Word. But God did not reveal who or how to replace Judas. This was decided by the early believers as they used their collective wisdom to come up with criteria and candidates. It seems God was more concerned that a replacement be found than necessarily who or how that replacement was identified.
After two candidates are chosen, the believers pray and cast lots. Casting lots was the way the believers entrusted the process to God’s leading. Matthias is identified and God’s will is done. But Matthias is never mentioned again not only in Acts but the rest of the New Testament. Although Matthias was important, God doesn’t tell us anything more about him. The focus of the passage describes the process of following God’s will more than it does the significance of Matthias. Although Acts was not written as a manual for how we can know the will of God, we still see three principles at work that may be instructive for us.
#2: God’s Will for Every Christian
Christians want to know the will of God concerning many different things in their lives such as relationships, family, career, and church. But is it even possible to know his will for every decision we need to make? Do we need to know it? Here are three principles we see at work in Acts that may translate to our own lives.
First: Follow what the Bible makes clear. Everything we must absolutely know for our lives, God has made clear in the Bible. Too often we’re trying to figure out what the Bible doesn’t specifically address all the while losing focus on what the Bible has made clear. Know what God has made clear and follow that.
Second: Receive wisdom from others. Many of the decisions we need to make in our lives are not ethical or moral decisions. So what’s at stake is not a matter of obedience or disobedience but wisdom and foolishness. God gives his people spiritual community by which they can depend and lean on the counsel and wisdom of godly believers.
Third: Take it to the Lord in prayer. Believers never again cast lots in the Bible because God sends his Holy Spirit to guide and lead believers. When we pray, we commune with the Spirit who exposes hidden motives, gives wisdom to cover folly, brings to mind Scripture, gives peace when we’re too anxious and disrupts us when we’re too complacent. When we pray, God leads us by his Spirit.
Word, counsel and prayer should be the habits of the daily Christian life. But living this way does not ensure we won’t make foolish or even sinful decisions. Our confidence is not in avoiding such things but in God who leads every one of our decisions toward his perfect purposes. The God who purchased his people with the blood of his Son has our lives and decisions in his protecting hands.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- What are some reasons you or others are so concerned with discerning the will of God? What are the areas that you most want to know God’s will concerning?
- When it comes to Word, counsel and prayer, which do you tend to gravitate toward the most? Which do you gravitate toward the least? Why?
- What are your fears of making a “wrong” decision in life? How does the gospel give you confidence to make decisions even without a clear and strong sense of “this is from the Lord”?