Sabbath School Lesson for August 24-30, 2019


Many areas of study can be undertaken when examining the early New Testament church. Here are a few of them…

  • The New Testament church was a new kind of community, centered on their love for each other and God. (Sunday)
  • Women disciples, such as Dorcas, held significant roles of service and witness. (Monday)
  • Gentiles were gradually embraced as part of the Christian community, encouraged by the sharing, generous ways of their Lord. (Tuesday)
  • Paul was sent out to evangelize Gentiles and gave guidance on how the church should fulfill the mission of Christ. (Wednesday)
  • James, another leader of the early church, encouraged a focus on caring for the needy and oppressed. (Thursday)


Jesus laid out the mission of the church at the beginning of His public ministry (Luke 4:18, 19). What has been called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20) was a continuation of that call to duty that the disciples tried to fulfill. It held many of the same goals that our Lord strove to achieve while among us.

The mission statement of Jesus included preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, and freeing those who were oppressed. He later sent His disciples out with instructions to do the same works they had seen Him do (Matthew 10:7, 8).

Jesus’ parting words to us encompassed preaching the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19), going into all the world (Mark 16:15), preaching repentance and remission of sins in His name (Luke 24:47). And John’s gospel shares the story of Peter being told to “feed My sheep”, another way of showing him his future work in the church.

Memory Text: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 NKJV

Jesus must have understood, from His own experience on this earth, how difficult this mandate would be for His children. First of all, they were to minister to the world (visiting widows and orphans), but, at the same time, not become defiled by its evil influences (to remain unspotted from the world).

This, of course, can only be accomplished with Christ abiding in our hearts continually. So, Jesus ended His Great Commission with the promise that He would be with them, “even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

Sunday: A New Kind of Community

Having the history of the Jewish people and the counsel of Old Testament prophets to draw from, the disciples were able to combine the ministry and teaching of Jesus to create a new kind of church community that would rock the world.

Their first focus on preaching the good news of Jesus’ resurrection was understandable. They wanted others to see Christ as the Messiah that had been spoken of by the prophets of old.

But, soon there was some dissatisfaction expressed over the distribution of food for widows. Evidently, they were looking out for the needy from the very beginning, but these disturbing reports brought to their attention the need for reorganizing their efforts.

So, they appointed able leaders to attend to the practical needs of the church, and the office of elder and deacon were created for these critical parts of ministry that might otherwise be neglected. Different ministries and service opportunities continue to be encouraged by having an organized team of leaders appointed to see to the everyday needs of the church.

There is need of both inward nurturing and community outreach in every congregation, both back then and now. What a special kind of community this creates. And it can happen anywhere on the face of the earth, where Spirit-driven followers of God assemble themselves together.

Discussion Questions:

Read Acts 2:42, 46. 47. How do both doctrine (teaching) and praising God keep a church spiritually alive? How important is fellowship and eating with each other to the well-being of a church congregation? In what ways does your church engage in these activities?

Read Acts 2:44, 45, 4:32-35, and 8:1-3. What was going on in the church that made this sacrificial giving so important to the survival of the new community? Why should we also maintain a spirit of sacrificial giving, like those in the early church? What needs around us might need our help today, and why is it important that we try to meet those needs?

Read Acts 6:3, 4. What benefit is there of dividing the work of God among those in the church? What problems are created when there is not adequate leadership and participation among the members?

Monday: Dorcas’ Ministry and Witness

Dorcas, or Tabitha in Aramaic, was a disciple from the coastal city of Joppa. Her ministry of charitable works for so many people caused quite a stir when she died unexpectedly from some kind of sickness.

Peter was in Lydda nearby, but he heard of Dorcas’ demise when he arrived at the city of Joppa and was led to the upper room where they wept and mourned for her. Surrounding her were many of the clothes she had sewn and donated to the needy, impressing Peter with the saintly qualities of this woman.

Peter asked to be alone in the room with her, and after beseeching God in prayer, his request for her to be brought back to life was granted. This miraculous wonder worked well for the cause of God. Not only would families continue to be blessed by Dorcas’ charitable works of kindness, but people’s hearts would be thrilled and won over to God, because of her unique testimony of being brought back to life.

Discussion Questions:

Read Acts 9:36, 39. Why was Dorcas so well-loved by those who knew her, both her closest friends (the other widows) and by all those she helped with her acts of charity? Why is it important to use our talents, whatever they are, for the cause of God? What talents do you and your church have?

Read Acts 9:41, 42. How did the resurrection of Dorcas cause her witness to be even greater in the city of Joppa?

Read Acts 7:58-60. Why did God allow Stepehen to be put to death, and Dorcas to be brought back to life? What does it mean to surrender our will to God’s?

Tuesday: Giving as a Way of Sharing

As the early church began to grow, we continue to learn about its ministry of working actively to benefit all those with whom it came in contact?

The Gentiles were embraced fully as Christians, especially after a special council was held in Jerusalem and Paul’s report of successful work among the Gentiles was heard. Along with this recognition of their efforts, they were also advised to remember the poor, which Paul was already eager to do (Galatians 2:9, 10).

By the church members remembering the poor, by systematically giving of their means to support them, they were merely following the example of Christ while He was among them.

But this example went back much further. The story of how the manna was distributed was helpful in understanding how to organize their charitable work. As it says in 2 Corinthians 8:15, “…He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” In other words, everyone was taken care of equally when they were traveling in the wilderness. Nobody felt left out, or gained too much.

Discussion Questions:

Read Acts 11:28 and 1 Corinthians 16:1. Why were they asked to help the poor at that time? How was their method of collecting from the saints a good way to reach their goals?

Read 2 Corinthians 9:8, 9, 13. Why must we always give God credit and glory as we share with others? What has He done to deserve this glory?

Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. How do we prioritize needs and determine which charity to support? What does it mean for it to come from the heart? Should we only rely on our emotions as we give to others? Why or why not?

Wednesday: Paul’s Guide to Living and Loving Well

People have benefited greatly from Paul’s explanation of salvation by faith in his epistle to the Romans. Martin Luther founded the Protestant movement on the verse found there that says, “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). And most of the chapters build on this revelation and what it means.

But the last five chapters of Romans provide a shift, giving us a fuller description of what a life of faith looks like. Paul shows us what surrender to God requires from us. He begins by telling us that we become “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).

Continuing further in chapter 12, we are called to serve God with our spiritual gifts, and then told to behave like Christians, with brotherly love for everyone. The rest of the chapters in this epistle give much counsel on how to properly love both God and man.

Discussion Questions:

Read Romans 11:36-12:1, 2. Why is sacrificing ourselves to God our reasonable service (v. 36)? How is this sacrifice done, and why does God require it of us (v. 2)?

Read Romans 12:3-8. Why should we not think more highly of ourselves than others? How is it possible to do this, even in a corporate sense–in other words, to think more highly of our church than other churches? How do we prevent this from happening?

Read Romans 12:9, 10, 13, 16, 21. How does community service fit in with this counsel? Why is it important to minister to both those inside and outside our congregation? Why would Paul endorse this type of outreach?

Thursday: James “the Just”

Although there is much speculation about who the author of the book of James might be, tradition has suggested that it was James, a brother or stepbrother of Jesus and a leading voice in the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13).

This figure came to be known as James “the Just”, which identifies him easily as a wise leader, who fought for equality and justice for the oppressed. He repeatedly admonishes his readers to love their neighbors and continue in a life of practical service to God and others, the surest way to demonstrate our faith.

The only religion that matters to the world is found in the first chapter of James, verse 27, where we are reminded to “visit orphans and widows in their trouble [or anyone in need of our help], and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

It should be the objective of every church body to act on these words–to be a shining light to their community, both in acts of service and individual lifestyle. Simply wishing someone well, or even praying for them, will never have the same impact as putting our words into actions, which is the only way our love will reach those who need it most.

As we preach the word to the world, let’s make sure we are also living it. By working together, any church can make a difference in their community and be a force for good that glorifies our Father in heaven.

Discussion Questions:

Read Galatians 1:18, 19, 2:9, 10. Why is there a need for church leaders to remind themselves to “remember the poor”? Who are the poor?

Read James 1:22 and 4:17. Why must we be doers of the word, as well as hearers?

Read James 2:1-4, 13. In what ways does mercy triumph over judgment? To what kind of judgment was James referring?

Final Thoughts

There are at least three areas of concentration that identify the early church. The Christian church included in their ministry…

  1. Worship–“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42); “praising God…” (Acts 2:47)
  2. Fellowship–“…and fellowship, in the breaking of bread…” (Acts 2:42); “…breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” (Acts 2:46)
  3. Community Service–“and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (Acts 2:45)

Although an individual can participate in worship and even volunteer opportunities without the help of others, the impact is not felt nearly so much as when people come together and accomplish them as a church family. Christianity would not have survived through the ages without God’s disciples coming together for worship, fellowship, and service.

This is why Jesus prayed so fervently in John 17 for them to be one in God, and to be one with each other. United they could achieve more and have a wider influence for good.

“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21 NKJV

This united state was witnessed in the upper room, just before the Pentecost experience…

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” Acts 1:14 NKJV

Today, at least in many countries, people don’t feel the urgency to attend religious worship services and become part of the ministry activities of a church congregation. This is unfortunate, because we can see from scripture that this is not God’s will for how to most effectively spread the gospel.

We must ensure that our churches today retain the simplicity and urgency of purpose that marked the early church. Perhaps then, we can see this trend disappear, and once again, God’s followers will multiply and become closer in relationship, with each other and with God.

Let us pray, as they did in the upper room, for this to happen soon. Because we need the Holy Spirit now as much as they did back then.

Next Week’s Lesson: Living the Gospel

To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to

Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at