Introduction: When I was a very young adult, the Sabbath School
would start with reports. Reports on how many articles of clothing
had been given away, how many Bible studies given, how many studied
the Bible lesson each day, and how much money had been raised for
various causes. Then someone read a “mission report” about a mission
project. It was all deadly dull. The reporting never inspired much
in me, except guilt, if I was unable to raise my hand that I had
studied every day. Most members decided to skip the reporting and
sleep in a little longer. When the church gave me authority in the
matter, reports ended and the Sabbath School was devoted exclusively
to study and discussion of the Bible. My experience as a youth gave
me a bias against reports. What role did reports play in the early
church? What role should they play today? Does the nature of the
report matter? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and find out!

  1. Reports and Praises

    1. Read Acts 4:1-4. How successful is the evangelism of
      Peter and John? (“Many believed!”)

      1. Why do you think the text specifically mentions the
        Sadducees? (Read Acts 23:8. The Sadducees did not
        believe in the resurrection. The disciples were not
        only teaching heresy, but they were saying
        specifically that Jesus had been resurrected!)

    2. Read Acts 4:5-7. Had Annas or Caiaphas gone to law
      school? (Apparently not! You ask only leading questions
      of hostile witnesses. A good leading question suggests
      the answer and is susceptible to a yes or no answer. If
      you want to get hurt in a trial, ask a question like they
      did of a hostile witness!)

      1. How would you have asked the question if you were a
        Sadducee? (“Have you been teaching the resurrection
        heresy?” Followed by, “Is Satan the author of

      2. I enjoy poking fun at the incompetence of the
        religious leaders, but how serious a matter was this
        hearing? (Peter and John know that Jesus got killed
        in a very similar situation. I would have been
        sweating, not smirking had I been there.)

    3. Read Acts 4:8-10. Who is the best legal coach in the
      universe? (The Holy Spirit! This answer (which is really
      two leading questions followed by the answer) gives me
      great pleasure: “Are we on trial for being kind? Was our
      healing of a disabled person the reason for our arrest?)

      1. What evidence of Jesus’ resurrection did the
        disciples give? (They reported that the power of the
        resurrected Jesus healed this fellow. This fellow is
        evidence of the healing, and the healing is evidence
        of the resurrection. Perfect.)

      2. Have Peter and John give a report to the Sanhedrin?

        1. What does this teach us about reports? (It is
          composed by the inspiration of God, it is a
          report about the activities of God, and it is
          very carefully crafted.)

    4. Read Acts 4:13-16. The Sadducees got “out-lawyered” by
      uneducated men! What does this teach about the power of
      the Holy Spirit in our life? (He changes the odds. Never
      feel that you are unable to witness (or report) to those
      more educated than you.)

    5. Read Acts 4:21-22. How can you tell who lost this
      encounter? (Those who lose an argument resort to threats.
      Violence is the result of an inability to persuade.)

    6. Read Acts 4:23. This is quite a report! On what were the
      disciples reporting?

      1. Other than the level of excitement, how does this
        differ from the Sabbath School reports of my youth?
        (Those were reports on what humans had done. This
        is a report of what God has done.)

      2. We have a praise and worship period in our church.
        You probably have one too. What kind of reports do
        you hear? Reports of what God has done or reports
        of what humans have done?

    7. Read Acts 4:24. How did the people respond to the report?
      (They praised God! Notice the link. When people report
      what they have done, they are looking for praise. I think
      this is inappropriate in church. But, when you report
      what God has done, then the people praise God.)

    8. Read Acts 4:25-26. What point are the people making in
      response to this report? (The Great God in Heaven will
      frustrate all of the evil and feeble efforts of humans.
      Reports of human activity is a waste of time because we
      “plot in vain.” We need reports of what God is doing
      through His people.)

  2. Reports and Ministry

    1. Read Acts 21:17-18. What doe James and “all the elders
      present” represent? (This is the leadership of the
      Jerusalem church. These are the leaders at

    2. Read Acts 21:19. Notice a variation here. Paul reports
      “what God had done,” but he also included “his ministry.”
      Is that acceptable? (Every report needs a context. Paul
      is still reporting on what God has done.)

    3. Read Acts 21:20. How do the leaders react? (They praised
      God. This gives us further proof of the focus of Paul’s

  3. Reporting Strategies

    1. Read Acts 21:20-21. Are these reports true? (Read
      Galatians 5:1-6. It is certainly true Paul taught
      Christians that they did not need to be circumcised!
      Whether he also taught the Jews this is not clear to me –
      although the breadth of his argument (“every man who lets
      himself be circumcised”)makes me believe he did. Of
      course, Paul himself is a Jew.)

    2. Read Acts 21:22. How about saying, “Yes, Paul is here
      and, yes, he has been preaching against circumcision?”

    3. Read Acts 21:23-26. How can Paul create “report” that
      seems misleading? How can Paul suggest there is “no
      truth” to the reports about turning away from Moses?

      1. Why is Paul suggesting that anything connected with
        the temple (post Jesus’ resurrection) can “purify” a

    4. Read Acts 16:1-3, Romans 14:19-22 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. What does this suggest that Paul is doing? (Notice
      two things. First, Acts 21:25 acknowledges the limits on
      what is required of the Gentiles. So, there is no
      misrepresentation about that critical issue. As to what
      Paul does, his goal is to avoid offending others. He
      wants to minimize conflicts within the body of

      1. What additional lesson does this teach us about
        reports? (That we don’t need to tell everything that
        we know.)

      2. Should we can “slant” a report if we know that some
        aspects of it will cause distress among some of the

    5. Read Numbers 13:17-20. Moses and God’s people are at the
      border of Canaan – the land promised to them by God. What
      do you think was Moses’ intention in sending out the
      spies? (To get back an encouraging report! To excite the
      people about what lay ahead of them.)

    6. Read Numbers 13:26-29. If these guys were guided by Paul
      (or at least the leaders in Jerusalem), how would the
      report have been different? (They would have glossed over
      the “giants” part.)

    7. Read Numbers 13:30. How does Caleb approach reporting?
      (He gives the positive, faith-affirming report.)

    8. Read Numbers 13:31-33. What is missing from their prior
      report? (The positive aspects of what they saw!)

    9. Would Paul and Caleb have disagreed on how the report
      should be given? (Paul clearly believed in minimizing
      conflict. Thus, Caleb would have written the “Let’s go
      get them, God is with us part of the report. Paul would
      have made sure that the report was crafted to maximize
      the number who would want to follow God.)

    10. Read Numbers 14:1-3. What is the result of the negative
      report? (A negative reaction of the people.)

      1. I’m reading a book entitled “Thinking, Fast and
        Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, and it discusses
        “priming.” Something that we see or hear “primes”
        (meaning influences) our decision-making without us
        even consciously thinking about it. What does this
        suggest to report writers? (That we have a great
        ability to influence the decision-making of those
        who read our reports. That creates a very big
        responsibility to write positive, uplifting, God-centered reports.)

    11. Friend, you make formal and informal reports all the
      time. Will you commit today to give God the praise, to
      try to make a positive impact, and to avoid unnecessary

  4. Next week: Evaluating Witnessing and Evangelism.