1. The Dawn of a New Era

Since this lesson, and several of the lessons that follow, will be based on the Acts of the Apostles, it will be well—as a starting point—to become better acquainted with this important book. The following information should prove helpful:

(1) Author: Luke, the "beloved physician," is generally recognized as the author of Acts. Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts contain similar dedications (shown in the opening verses), and both mention "Theophilus"—who was probably a patron of Luke. The opening verse of Acts also makes mention of "the first book" (or "former treatise")—and this evidently refers to the Gospel of Luke. Many similarities, both of style and technical phrases used, will also be noted. The date of writing is usually placed at around A.D. 85. The metaphysical meaning of the name Luke is: "luminous; light-giving; enlightening; instructing" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 407)—and it is easy to recognize the significance of this interpretation when reading the Gospel of Luke, or the book of Acts.

(2) Purpose: At first reading, the book of Acts appears to consist of two main sections: the first section dealing with the activities of Peter, and the second section describing the activities of Paul. The New Testament also contains evidence of factional divisions in the early church—some Christians recognizing the leadership of Peter, with others looking to Paul for guidance. Because of this, some early New Testament commentators suggested the possibility of there being originally two books of "Acts," which were later combined. However, in all of Luke's writings there is a marked tendency to minimize all controversial matters; hence, it seems much more likely that Luke's purpose in writing this book was to draw the factions together, and to show that the two apostles, although outwardly differing, were one in their great purpose and in their loyalty to Jesus Christ.

(3) Special feature: When writing his Gospel, Luke had to depend upon other persons, or written documents, for the needed information. But in writing Acts, Luke was able to report several important happenings at first hand, for he was actually present and took part in some of the activities mentioned. The reader is able to recognize many of these firsthand reports through Luke's use of the pronoun we—indicating that the writer was present on those occasions. Further reference will be made to this in later lessons.

(4) A problem: The reader will notice that the book of Acts ends rather abruptly, mentioning Paul's imprisonment at Rome, but giving no further details. Other parts of the New Testament indicate that there were important happenings during and after Paul's imprisonment; but no mention is made of these in Acts. The question therefore arises as to whether Luke planned to write a third volume—and if this volume was completed, what became of it? Possibly it was Luke's intention to write about later happenings, but there seems no indication that such a book was ever written. The probability is that Luke died, or was imprisoned and executed, before this project could be put into operation. However, in a later lesson we shall be able to trace something of what this projected volume might have contained.

Let us now look at some of the happenings recorded in the early chapters of Acts:


read the passage
Acts 1:1-26

1. EARLY ORGANIZATION.

The opening chapter of Acts records an early activity of the apostles, as they sought to replace the departed Judas. Apparently, it was felt that since Jesus called and ordained twelve apostles, they should continue to operate with that number. Historically, there were twelve tribes of Israel, and this number would therefore have special significance for the developing "New Israel." Hence, a new apostle should be elected to make the organization complete; and Matthias was elected to fill the vacancy.

Following this election, very little is heard of Matthias during New Testament times. However, there is a tradition that Matthias was one of "the seventy" sent forth during the days of Jesus' ministry. (See Luke 10:1-20.) Tradition also states that Matthias, following the early persecutions, carried the Gospel into Ethiopia, where he wrote several small books. These books have not survived, but two statements from them have come down to us through some early church documents: "Wonder at the things before you, [making this] the first step to the knowledge beyond"; and, "If an elect man's neighbor sin, the elect man has sinned."

Metaphysical meaning: It will be recalled that Judas (whose place was taken by Matthias) represents, metaphysically, the unredeemed life forces. Thus the actions taken by Judas may be regarded as indicating an attitude of, "My will, not Thine, be done!" But in contrast to this, the name Matthias means, "Given wholly to Jehovah." (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 434) This means that when Matthias replaces Judas in consciousness, the rightful attitude is restored, and the prayer then becomes: "Thy will, not mine, be done!"


read the passage
Acts 2:1-13

2. DAY OF PENTECOST.

The happenings on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the above New Testament passage, had very far-reaching effects. Therefore, the student should make himself familiar with all details relating to this momentous occasion. Note the following:

(1) Pentecost: This was a Jewish harvest festival, held approximately fifty days after Passover. This festival dated back to very ancient times, and was always regarded as a joyous occasion. (See Exod. 23:16; Exod. 34:22; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:9-10) Pentecost was also regarded as commemorating the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai (See Exod. 19-20)—thus making Pentecost also a national birthday celebration. For the Jewish people, therefore, Pentecost was an outstanding festival—something akin to one of our national holidays. Note: Since Jesus was with His followers for forty days following Passover, this would place the Apostles' Pentecost experience about ten days after Jesus' Ascension. The early Christians continued to observe the day of Pentecost, but instead of associating it with Jewish customs and history, they regarded it as the birthday of the Christian church. The day was especially used for mass baptism of converts, when the candidates for baptism wore white robes. Because of this, the day became known later as "Whit (white) Sunday"; and this designation is still used by many sections of the Christian church.

(2) Place of meeting: In the first chapter of Acts, the organization meeting is reported as being held in the "upper room where they were staying." This must have been a large room, since mention is made of "the company of persons ... about a hundred and twenty." There seems to be general agreement that this was the same upper room where Jesus held the Last Supper. Most probably, therefore, this was also the place of meeting during the Pentecost period. However, it would appear that at Pentecost only the apostles were present.

(3) The Pentecost experience: The New Testament account mentions two happenings which, although closely related, may be considered separately: (a) "a sound ... like the rush of a mighty wind" and (b) "tongues of fire, distributed and resting on each of them." Then is mentioned the twofold result: (a) "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit," and (b) "they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." These happenings may be considered in two ways:

First: As the record of an actual experience. This experience came to the waiting apostles, and brought about a miraculous transformation in their attitude and outlook. They were waiting expectantly, as they had been directed, "until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Then, immediately following this experience, they went forth into the streets of Jerusalem to proclaim the message of the risen Christ.

Second: As an important present-day lesson. Note the metaphysical significance of the details mentioned. The "upper room" indicates a high state of consciousness; the "rushing wind" represents a cleansing activity, such as is accomplished through vigorous denial; the "tongues of fire" bring illumination and give power to the spoken word—thus are closely associated with the work of affirmation. However, note that prior to these manifestations the apostles were "all together in one place"—which may be interpreted as indicating agreement, or harmony in consciousness.

(4) Spiritual baptism: The term "spiritual baptism" is sometimes applied to the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. But this may cause some confusion. The account of the apostles' spiritual baptism is given in John 20:19-23. This passage states that "He [Jesus] breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' " This was their spiritual baptism; and since John's account was written much later than Acts, possibly the writer was seeking to make this situation clear. The Pentecost experience may therefore be regarded as the harvest (or outer manifestation) of the seed sown by Jesus on Easter evening, when He appeared to the apostles in the upper room. The New Testament mentions several other occasions when there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, somewhat similar to the Pentecost experience;.and some of these references should be carefully checked. (See Acts 4:31; Acts 8:17; Acts 9:17; Acts 10:44.)

(5) Speaking in "tongues": The account states that because of the extraordinary happenings in the upper room, a large crowd—consisting mainly of visitors to Jerusalem—gathered around the house. The apostles therefore went forth to address the assembled multitude, speaking "in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." The remarkable part of the story is the recorded fact that these visitors from many lands actually understood what the apostles were saying. The visitors exclaimed, "We hearthem telling in ourown tonguesthe mighty works of God."

As a start for understanding this story, it will be well to recall that these visitors to Jerusalem were not "foreigners," but Jews coming from different parts of the world. However, there was this important distinction: Jews living in the Holy Land spoke Aramaic, whereas Jews from other parts of the world spoke various dialects of Greek. Thus there would be a wide gap between the ordinary speech of the apostles and that of the visitors. However, the New Testament indicates that a miracle took place, so that the messages of the apostles were clearly understood by their hearers. There seem to be two possibilities in regard to this miracle:

(a) Some writers have noted that approximately twelve nationalities are mentioned, and there were also twelve apostles. This might mean, therefore, that although the message was the same, each apostle miraculously spoke in a different language (or dialect), so that every person present was able to understand at least one apostle. Thus, the miracle would be in connection with the speech of the apostles.

(b) But perhaps the better explanation is that the miracle was connected with the hearers—so that whatever was said by the apostles, each hearer would be able to understand. This seems to be a more orderly arrangement, with only one apostle speaking at a time, and all the hearers listening—but each hearer miraculously interpreting the message in his own language, or dialect.

3. THE ACTIVITIES OF PETER.

Reference has already been made to the transforming effect of the Pentecost experience. The apostles were changed men. And this was particularly noticeable in the case of Peter. At an earlier period—when Jesus had been arrested and condemned—Peter was so overcome by his fears that he thrice denied all knowledge of, or association with the Lord; although the Gospels record that he afterwards repented, and "went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). But following the Pentecost experience, Peter's fears were replaced by faith, and his cowardice was transformed into courage. Indeed, on the day of Pentecost Peter stood up boldly, near the scene of his former pitiful failure, and openly proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the long-expected Messiah. This was truly a transformation!

Metaphysically, Peter symbolized faith. At this point, therefore, it will prove interesting and instructive to review briefly a number of Peter's activities, seeking to recognize their historical significance, and also tracing how they illustrate certain phases in the development of faith. These activities of Peter will carry us considerably beyond Pentecost; but the suggested arrangement will make for compactness and continuity, and also enable the student to make a fairly complete study of these early activities of Peter. These activities may be listed as follows:

A. Peter's first sermon:


read the passage
Acts 2:14-47; Joel 2:28-32

Several important features in Peter's Pentecost sermon should be given careful consideration:

Note how Peter opened his sermon with a gallant defense of his fellow apostles. Apparently the gathering crowd misunderstood the excited actions and ecstatic utterances of the apostles, and some of the people accused them of taking too much wine. Peter's quick response may be paraphrased thus: "How can you say that these men are drunk? They haven't had time yet—for it's only nine o'clock in the morning!" Peter's courageous attitude at this time stands out in striking contrast to his cowardice on the night of Jesus' arrest.

Then Peter's quotation from Joel should be reviewed. This little book of Joel was written about 350 B.C., at the time when the Persian Empire was being threatened by the Macedonians. At that time the little country of Judea was a province in the Persian Empire, and was enjoying a comparatively peaceful existence; but the rise of the Macedonian Empire indicated that many drastic changes would occur in the near future. Apparently the prophet Joel associated these national upheavals with the long-threatened "Day of Jehovah," and this little book pictures many dire possibilities.

Historically, all the above is fairly clear. But what is not so clear is why Peter should use this quotation in connection with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is perhaps unfortunate that readers of the New Testament have become so accustomed to reading this passage that they overlook the direct contrast between this teaching and the ministry of Jesus Christ. Actually, what Peter was here suggesting was more in line with the teaching of John the Baptist, whose message was: "Repent—or else!" It seems strange that Peter, after having overcome his own fears, should seek to influence men and women by filling their minds with this "fear of the Lord"! True, this first sermon from Peter brought into the Christian community "about three thousand souls"; but the record also states that "fear came upon every soul."

Metaphysically, Peter's first sermon may be regarded as symbolizing the early struggles in consciousness between faith and fear, with faith eventually becoming dominant. In the early stages of spiritual development, traces of fear may still linger; but an important activity of faith is the overcoming of fear.

B. Healing the crippled man:


read the passage
Acts 3:1-26

There are several important features connected with this miracle, and these should be carefully considered:

(1) The "ninth hour" was three o'clock in the afternoon, and the crippled man had been at his begging-post since early morning. Mention is also made that the man had been crippled from his birth. Thus this would appear to be a "hopeless case." Nevertheless, a complete healing took place.

(2) Attention should be given to Peter's statement, "In the name of Jesus Christ ... "Thisshould not be regarded as a spiritual formula, or a phrase suitable for ending a prayer. Peter was here speaking in a somewhat similar way to that in which an ambassador speaks on behalf of his government. The ambassador's words have behind them all the prestige and power of the country he represents. Similarly, Peter believed that he was empowered to speak words which had behind them all the authority and healing power of Jesus Christ. However, we should recognize that this authority was not limited to Peter. All apostles, and others working closely with Jesus Christ, were so empowered. (See Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; Matt. 28:18-20.) The apostle Paul also stated that he and those associated with him were "ambassadors of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 5:20).

(3) It should be noted that not only did Peter "speak the word" to the crippled man, but he also followed this with appropriate action. The account states that "He took him by the right hand and raised him up." Evidently, Peter was expecting the word to produce results! This indicates one characteristic difference between faith and hope.

(4) An especially important feature in this miracle is the inclusion of the apostle John. This healing was not accomplished by Peter alone, but by Peter and John. Metaphysically, this indicates that there are — times when some of our spiritual faculties need to be reinforced, or implemented by other spiritual faculties. The exercise of one faculty alone may not accomplish the desired good. Thus in the case of the crippled man, when to faith (Peter) was added love (John), then healing took place. It is instructive to note how Jesus, when organizing His disciples for a teaching and healing mission, "began to send them out two by two" (Mark 6:7). Similarly, there are many occasions when our spiritual faculties need this implementation and balance, if the highest good is to be accomplished. It seems more than a coincidence that in a later New Testament passage, Peter's name should be attached to this type of teaching: "Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love] "(II Pet. 1:5-7 A.V.).

C. Two Arrests:


read the passage
Acts 4:1-31; Acts 5:12-42

While these arrests occurred at different times, they have several features in common, and for purposes of study they may be considered together. In the first arrest, only Peter and John appear to be involved. But on the second occasion Peter and several other apostles, whose names are not given, were arrested. This second arrest took on a very serious aspect, since the lives of the apostles were in grave danger. However, through the intervention of an outstanding Jewish leader, named Gamaliel, the apostles were finally released, after being beaten and threatened with further punishment.

What is often referred to as "Gamaliel's advice," in connection with the second arrest, has been the subject of considerable discussion. Gamaliel said: "If this ... is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might be found opposing God!" How should this statement be understood? Several possibilities have been suggested:

(1) Gamaliel's statement is sometimes regarded as a type of pious platitude—similar to many statements uttered by Jewish rabbis at that time. If this be the case, his words would have very little meaning, or permanent value.

(2) But Gamaliel's statement has also been interpreted as advocating a "do-nothing," or "wait-and-see" policy—suggesting that the Jewish leaders exercise patience, and let this new teaching run its course. Gamaliel is thus shown as hesitating to take sides, and preferring to wait until the issues were safely decided. Such an attitude has been vigorously denounced in modern times, and Gamaliel has been regarded as a man lacking in moral courage.

(3) However, there is the further possibility that Gamaliel's statement was the outcome of a carefully planned effort to save the lives of the apostles. That the apostles were in grave danger is shown by what happened to Stephen only a short while afterward. Indeed, the account distinctly states that some members of the council were determined to destroy the apostles. But Gamaliel seems to have had some liberal tendencies, and possibly was sympathetic toward the new teaching; and therefore he sought to save the lives of the apostles. It will be noted that Gamaliel's statement was so worded that, while urging the council to refrain from hasty action, it also provided an effective "face-saver" for members of the council who had expressed their desire to destroy the apostles. No self-respecting Jewish leader would join in an activity which could be regarded as opposing God! Perhaps, therefore, instead of condemning Gamaliel for advocating a "do-nothing" policy, we should recognize his action as an outstanding and courageous effort, which resulted in saving the lives of the apostles.

From a metaphysical standpoint, these arrest stories act as illustrations showing the working of faith, as symbolized by Peter. Faith is here portrayed as the power that enables us to hold steady in all testing times, giving us the courage we need in times of trouble, and also the assurance of final triumph.


read the passage
Acts 4:32-37; Acts 5:1-16

4. ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA.

In order to understand fully the story of Ananias and Sapphira it is necessary to recognize that the Christian group at Jerusalem had developed into something akin to a self-sustaining community. Some members of the group sold their property and placed the proceeds into a common treasury, from which the daily needs of the group were supplied. Chapter Four makes special mention of Barnabas selling his field and bringing the money to the apostles. The indications are that several other persons did likewise; and because of their generous actions they were highly esteemed by members of the group.

Then follows the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their property—but there was a slight difference in their method of handling the proceeds. Ostensibly, Ananias handed to Peter the entire proceeds from the property, and in so doing he expected to receive highest commendation for his generosity. But the story indicates that he gave only part of the proceeds, and kept back the remainder for his own personal use. Peter's stern rebuke regarding this deception resulted in the death of both Ananias and Sapphira.

From a casual reading of the story, it may appear that Peter's actions were scarcely in line with the teachings of Jesus—especially as related to forgiveness. Possibly Peter had forgotten the lesson of "seventy times seven"! (See Matt. 18:21-22.) But, in all probability, this rather distressing story was preserved in the early records because of the important lessons it contains. Note the following:

(a) In human experience, while there isusuallythe desire to receive the fullest possible blessings from God, yet there is often a tendency to hold back something from God, or to retain certain old ways of thinking or living. This tendency may operate on the intellectual level, and we may be fully conscious of what is taking place (Ananias); or the tendency may be on the subconscious level, and may operate through our feelings and emotions (Sapphira). In both instances, however, the result is the same - there is a holding back of something from God.

(b) If we desire to make spiritual progress, this tendency must be eliminated from our consciousness. Under certain circumstances it is not sufficient for us to say to ourself, "I forgive you—don't do it again!" There must be a thorough cleansing of consciousness, and this tendency must be completely eliminated. Such a cleansing is brought about by strong words of denial, spoken in faith (Peter). However, we should always remember to follow all such denials with suitable affirmations. The vacancy created by the elimination of Ananias (negative tendencies) must be filled by an inflow of positive good.


read the passage
Acts 8:9-25

5. PETER AND SIMON THE SORCERER.

When reading this story, the student should refer back to what was stated earlier in this lesson regarding speaking "in the name of Jesus Christ." (See comment re Acts 3:1-26.) Evidently, Simon desired to speak in the power of this "name," but thought that authority to do so could be purchased at current market prices. Peter soon disillusioned him! Just here, care should be exercised so that the names are not confused. The apostle Peter was also known as Simon; but this story deals with Simon the sorcerer. The nameSimon means "hearing"—and the two men in this story may serve to indicate that there is a vast difference between spiritual hearing and personal hearing. The following throws considerable light on this story:

"Simon the sorcerer is the ambition of personality to handle the power of Spirit without paying the price through faith and love. The offer of money for spiritual power entails the thought of man's putting a price on the works of God. The power of the Holy Spirit is obtained only by unselfish service; therefore personal power and glorification have 'neither part nor lot' in the spiritual realm, the kingdom of heaven. The only way to loose the bonds of personality, to make the heart right toward God, is through repentance, diligent prayer, and meditation, which transmute selfishness into unselfishness, personality into individuality" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 620).


read the passage
Acts 9:32-35

6. HEALING OF AENEAS.

Shortly before the happenings here mentioned, a severe persecution had arisen at Jerusalem, and many of the Christian converts fled to other cities in order to avoid arrest. Peter also had departed from Jerusalem, mainly for the same reason, and was staying for a brief period at Lydda, about twenty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem. The story relates how Aeneas, who lived at Lydda and had been paralyzed for eight years was miraculously healed, and was able to arise from his bed when Peter spoke the healing word. The metaphysical significance of all this is interesting:

"Aeneas (praise, laudable, that which is praiseworthy, full of thankfulness, and gratitude), when no longer bound by cross currents of criticism, faultfinding, and weakness, arises and in the name of Jesus Christ proclaims life, health, and freedom; all strife is turned into constructive, spiritual activity; all desert places in consciousness receive the redeeming power of the living word" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 28-29).


read the passage
Acts 9:36-43

7. RAISING OF DORCAS.

While this story mentions two names (Dorcas, Greek; and Tabitha, Aramaic) both refer to the same woman. This woman lived at Joppa, and is described as being "full of good works and acts of charity." But the story relates that she "fell sick and died." However, some of Dorcas' fellow workers, hearing that Peter was in the nearby city of Lydda, hurriedly sent for the apostle; and he was able to restore Dorcas to life and activity.

The names Dorcas and Tabitha are interpreted as meaning "gazelle"—a small type of antelope; and this would indicate that Dorcas was graceful and swift of movement. Metaphysically, this would symbolize those youthful hopes, ideals, and activities which may tend to "die" with the advance of years. But through the power of faith (Peter), Dorcas in consciousness may be re-awakened and restored to all the activities represented by the name. That which seems to be dead is made alive through faith, for faith has power to overcome death.


read the passage
Acts 10:1-48; Acts 11:1-18

8. PETER AND CORNELIUS.

Cornelius is described as an officer in the Roman army, and was probably quite wealthy. Apparently, he was also a regular attendant at the local synagogue, and a generous contributor. At that time many Gentiles were attending Jewish synagogues, although they did not conform to all the ceremonial laws. Cornelius and many of his fellow Gentiles recognized the superiority of Jewish monotheism, as compared with the polytheism of the Gentile world. Peter's visit to Cornelius may be briefly outlined as follows (each section should be carefully studied, keeping well in mind the relation of each section with the story as a whole):

(1) Happenings at Caesarea:

This section tells of Cornelius' vision, and the instructions given to him at that time.

(2) Happenings at Joppa:

Here is recorded Peter's strange vision. The meaning of the vision is made clear by the arrival of Cornelius' messengers.

(3) Later happenings at Caesarea:

This section tells of the meeting between Peter and Cornelius, and may be subdivided as follows: (a) preparations at Cornelius' house; (b) arrival of Peter; (c) Cornelius' explanation; (d) Peter's sermon; (e) manifestation of the Holy Spirit, followed by public baptism service.

(4) Peter's report to "circumcision party":

This report was made when Peter returned to Jerusalem, and is very important in its relation to later events.

(5) Interpretation of the story:

(a) Historical: This represents the first "breakthrough" of Christianity into the Gentile world. Thus far, the Christian message had been given only to Jewish people, and had been regarded as a development within Judaism. Now the way was opened to the Gentiles. However, this should be recognized as only a temporary breakthrough. Shortly after this, Peter seems to have had some misgivings regarding the Gentiles; and another apostle, Paul, was needed to develop this breakthrough into a fully opened way. (See Gal. 2:11-14.)

(b) Metaphysical: "Cornelius ... represents that in consciousness which, no longer bound by outer show and formality, truly searches after God ... an angel of the Lord ... reveals to Cornelius (or that in us which is seeking a higher spiritual basis) how to open the way for the light of spiritual faith ... by ... sending for 'Simon, who issurnamed Peter' " (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 157).

As related to Peter, this story shows how faith opens ways when there seems no way, and breaks through barriers which have seemed impenetrable.


read the passage
Acts 12:1-19

9. PETER IN PRISON.

This imprisonment of Peter occurred during the early part of A.D. 44. Herod died later the same year. The martyrdom of James, son of Zebedee and brother of the apostle John, occurred shortly before this imprisonment of Peter. Several important features related to Peter's imprisonment should be noted:

(a) Herod Agrippa is named as persecutor of the Christians, and it was he who ordered the arrest of Peter. Earlier arrests were made under orders of the Jewish council, or Sanhedrin. The entry of Herod into this persecuting activity would therefore indicate that the Christians were becoming too numerous to be handled by the religious authorities.

(b) Peter's release: The writer of Acts here tells an interesting story of angelic activities, and a miraculous release. Note especially how "the iron gate ... opened to them of its own accord." Suggestions have been made that there were some Christian converts among the guards, and these may have given some assistance to Peter.

(c) Prayer in the church: Apparently, members of the Christian group were still meeting "in the house of Mary"—scene of the Last Supper and other important events; and the record states that "earnest prayer for him [Peter] was made." However, later on when Peter made a personal appearance before the group, the astonished Christians could not fully accept this answer to their prayers. Apparently, this was too good to be true!

(d) Metaphysical significance: This story of Peter's imprisonment confronts us with a seemingly paradoxical situation. Faith and freedom are usually regarded as being closely related; yet it often happens that some of our beliefs bring us into bondage. The faith which we hoped would set us free somehow takes a wrong turn, and we find ourself, like Peter, in prison! However, the main point in this story is not Peter's imprisonment, but his release. Similarly, although there are times when our faith seems to get into difficulties, yet through prayer and spiritual illumination there is always the possibility of a new awakening, with the accompanying release and freedom.

Questions for Lesson 1

Historical Questions:
  1. What action did the apostles take to replace Judas? Who was elected to fill the vacancy? Why was this replacement deemed necessary?
  2. Tell briefly, in your own words, what happened in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. How did this experience affect Peter?
  3. Read carefully the story of Peter and John healing the crippled man (Acts 3:1-10)—and then: (a) Explain why this appeared to be a "hopeless case." (b) Mention something that Peter did in addition to "speaking the word." What would this indicate?
  4. Indicate briefly the historical importance of Peter's visit to Cornelius. (Acts 10) What new way for the Christian message was opened because of this visit?
  5. Tell briefly, in your own words, how Peter was released from prison (Acts 12:1-19) How did this release affect the Christian group?
Metaphysical Questions:
  1. What is the metaphysical meaning of the name Matthias? Explain briefly how, in consciousness, Matthias makes a fitting replacement for Judas.
  2. Scripture states that on the day of Pentecost the apostles heard the sound of a "mighty wind," and saw "tongues as of fire." What do these terms represent metaphysically?
  3. When healing the crippled man, Peter was accompanied by the apostle John. (Acts 3:1 -26) What is the metaphysical significance of this combination?
  4. Explain briefly the metaphysical meaning of Peter's actions toward Ananias and Sapphira. What must be eliminated from our consciousness?
  5. What important present-day lesson is to be found in the story of Peter's imprisonment? (Acts 12:1-19) How does this lesson apply in our experience?