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We have just finished the Book of Nehemiah. You can download the completed pdf file from our church website: We learned much from the mission of Nehemiah as he pursued God’s kingdom purposes for his day and time – involving rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and reviving the people spiritually.

Today we are going to begin a study of the Book of Acts and focus on the mission of the church for today. For the life of Christ we have the Synoptic Gospel accounts of Mat, Mark, Luke and John. But for the important transition time of the founding of the church and the spread of the gospel through the efforts of first Peter centered in Jerusalem and then Paul as the special Apostle to the Gentiles, we only have the one historical document of the Book of Acts. That concept of “transition time” is very important. This is a bridge period of time – the gospel of the kingdom is still being offered first to the Jews in the early chapters – there is still the presentation of the now risen and ascended Messiah to God’s chosen people. There is still the offer of the coming kingdom if they will repent and embrace the promised Messiah. But there is a transition as they continue to reject (not individually, but as a nation) and now the coming of the future king will be linked to the completion of the fullness of the times of the Gentiles. As a transition book, we will see some things that are not normative for this church age. But we will also learn much from studying the initial missionary journeys about how the head of the church wants us to build His church.

Key Verse: Acts 1:8 “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem; and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

You can outline the book along these geographic lines. Not sure how far we will take this study before we interrupt and go down a different path … but we are at least committing to the first section. Look at the contrast between the two parts of the Book

  • Chaps 1-12

  • Chaps 13-28

Jerusalem the center – Jewish focus Antioch the center – Gentile focus

Peter – central figure Paul – central figure – Apostle to the Gentiles

Peter imprisoned Paul imprisoned

We should gain confidence from studying this book; we should get excited about the power of God working through His people; we should learn much about witnessing; we should learn much about church methodology; we should draw closer to the person of Jesus Christ Himself as we see His continued activity right now in the world – understanding the significance of His resurrection and ascension and current role at the right hand of God.

Title of the Book:

Stott: The most accurate (though cumbersome) title, then, which does justice to Luke’s own statement in verses 1 and 2, would be something like “The Continuing Words and Deeds of Jesus by his Spirit through his Apostles.”

Bock: “The Acts of the Sovereign God through the Lord Messiah Jesus by His Spirit on Behalf of the Way.”



“The first account I composed, Theophilus,”

A. Who is Luke?

Identified as the author by the “we” passages in Acts (other travelling companions can be ruled out like Silas and Timothy) and by church tradition and by the link to the gospel he wrote

1. Historian

Luke 1:1-4 “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

This should be regarded as the preface to both Luke and Acts since the author considered his work to be a historical unity.

Things “accomplished” or “fulfilled” as prophecied in the OT – that would apply more to the life of Christ than the events of Acts

Luke was not an eyewitness to the extent that the apostles were – excellent at research; interviewing the eyewitnesses; compiling and checking the fact

All about accuracy and truth and reliability – not dry and dull history here – exciting events

2. Physician – educated; could certainly distinguish miracles from medical works of healing; understood the significance of the miracles which Christ performed – pointing to Him as the Messiah; previewing His power when He comes to establish His kingdom on earth; and those miracles performed early on by the apostles to authenticate their new message; also lived through the transition of seeing those miracles becoming less prominent as the foundation of the church was laid and now others came along to build the superstructure

3. Gentile – Col. 4:11, 14 – in that list of greetings, distinguished from those who were of the circumcision; probably the only Gentile writer of any book of the bible; possibly a native of Antioch

4. Traveling Companion of Paul

B. Who is Theophilus? – “lover of God” or “friend of God”

MacArthur: (on Luke 1:3) “most excellent” – This was a title used to address governors (Ac 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). This sort of language was reserved for the highest dignitaries, suggesting that Theophilus was such a person.

Important figure; probably wealthy; from the ruling class; ¼ of NT addressed personally to him

May have supported financially the project of researching and writing and distributing these scrolls. Was he a believer already or someone that Luke was trying to impact with the Gospel message?

Good generic name for each of us as we receive this revelation – want to grow as lovers of God, as friends of God, as those who understand the mind of God and obey Him

C. What was the Emphasis of the Gospel of Luke?

The Works and Words of Jesus

Matt: Jesus as King of the Jews Mark: Christ the Servant John: Son of God

Presentation of Jesus as the Son of Man – a title that points to Him as the promised Messiah; perfect man of righteousness

Daniel 7:13-14 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”


A. Synergy Between the Works and the Words of Christ

“about all that Jesus began to do and teach,”

No disconnect between how Jesus lived and what He taught

No hypocrisy when it comes to Christ

Christians are often discredited at this point – when their actions don’t match their words

Doctrine must impact behavior – that is why doctrine is so practical

Lloyd-Jones: The starting point, the fundamental thing, is that Christianity is about Jesus. Christianity is not a teaching – it is a person. It is not merely a moral outlook that is to be applied in the realm of politics. You start with a historical person.

Boice: Christianity is a historical religion. It is a religion that is not based primarily on an idea or philosophy. Most of the religions of the world can exist apart from their founder. You do not have to have a historical Buddha to have Buddhism. All you have to have are Buddhist teachings. So also with many other religions. This is not the case with Christianity. If you take away the history – if you reduce it, as some have tried to do, to a religion of mere ethics or ideas – Christianity evaporates. This is because Christianity is indissolubly linked to the life and accomplishments of Christianity’s founder.

And the life of Jesus continues today and must impact me today!

B. Significance of the Ascension – Huge Turning Point in History

“until the day when He was taken up,”

1. Proof of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Testimony to the resurrection is theme of the Gospel message in Acts

Significance of where Jesus is today

Approval of God signified in this “taking up” – cf. Enoch

Look at the testimony of John in his gospel – presenting Jesus as the eternal Son of God who existed from all time and came down from heaven to enter this world via the virgin birth – a totally unique situation; here now he is returning to his heavenly home

2. Progressive Revelation now advancing to a new era

Emphasis on the Holy Spirit – could not be given until Jesus returned to the Father

Stott: Here Luke tells us how he thinks of his two-volume work on the origins of Christianity, which constitutes approximately one quarter of the New Testament. He does not regard volume one as the story of Jesus Christ . . . and volume two as the story of the church of Jesus Christ . . . For the contrasting parallel he draws between his two volumes was not between Christ and his church, but between two stages of the ministry of the same Christ. . . Thus Jesus’ ministry on earth, exercised personally and publicly, was followed by his ministry from heaven, exercised through his Holy Spirit by his apostles. Moreover, the watershed between the two was the ascension. Not only did it conclude Luke’s first book and introduce his second (Acts 1:9), but it terminated Jesus’ earthly ministry and inaugurated his heavenly ministry.

C. Spirit Mediated Special Instructions to His Chosen Apostles

“after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.”

3 Main Players all referenced in this phrase

Apostles = envoy, delegate or ambassador, sent out with a message and carrying the authority of the sender

We have our marching orders for this age — how obedient are we?

We must be a people who are Mission-Oriented – cf. The Great Commission Church

Stott: Luke has used the same verb eklegomai in his account of Jesus’ calling and choice of the Twelve, “whom he also designated apostles”, and he is about to use it again when two men are proposed to fill the vacancy left by Judas and the believers pray “Lord, . . . show us which of these two you have chosen” (24). Significantly, the same verb is also used later in connection with Paul. The risen Lord describes him to Ananias as “my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles . . . “ (9:15), and Ananias conveys this message to Paul: “The God of our fathers has chosen you . . . You will be his witness . . . “ (22:14-15). It is thus emphasized that all the apostles (the Twelve, Matthias and Paul) were neither self-appointed, nor appointed by any human being, committee, synod or church, but were directly and personally chosen and appointed by Jesus Christ himself.

We have been chosen to bear fruit as well


A. Foreordained Privilege

“to the apostles whom He had chosen”

Will be looking later in the chapter about the replacement chosen for Judas = Matthias; how does the apostle Paul play into this equation?

“Training of the Twelve” – good name for book about the apostles – look at all that Jesus invested in preparing these men for the pioneering work of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth

B. Fabulous Proofs – incredible, astonishing, wonderful, marvelous

1. Convincing Presentations

“To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs,”

Appearances – not constantly for that 40 day period, but a number of distinct appearances

Bock: Kistemaker lists ten appearances of Jesus: to the women at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, the Emmaus disciple, Peter in Jerusalem, ten disciples, eleven disciples, seven disciples fishing in Galilee, eleven disciples in Galilee, the five hundred, and James the Lord’s brother

1 Cor. 15 details many of these

Death described as “His suffering” – we can never minimize what took place

Bock: As the apostles return to Jerusalem, they can be assured that the suffering of Jesus did not end the story of the kingdom but was part of God’s program. Jesus is raised, alive, and ready to bestow the blessing they need to carry out the mission he will give them. . . There will be a day when Jesus returns from heaven to complete what God has started through him. The introduction to Acts not only highlights key themes of the book; it also proclaims with assurance that God’s program is on track.

Blaiklock: The fact of the resurrection was to be the solid foundation of the apostles’ faith and the chief ingredient of their early message.

Read the Book of Acts looking for any reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ

People are constantly demanding proof for Christianity – look at how these men were transformed by the gospel; empowered to accomplish an amazing work in the short timeframe of their lifespan; if they were testifying to a lie – if they had not seen the risen Christ – what a fraud! Liar, Lunatic, or Lord – those are the options — (today they add a fourth choice: Legend)

2. Multiple Appearings

“appearing to them over a period of forty days,”

to different people and different groups of people at different times and in different settings

3. Authoritative Teaching

“and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

Only the one sent from heaven could speak with knowledge and authority on such a topic

What are some of these things concerning the kingdom of God?

Bock: God’s promised rule that comes with Jesus’ messianic program and activity . . . appears thirty-two times in Luke and six times in Acts (1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31).

Theme of Renewed offer of the kingdom of God to the Jews before turning to the Gentiles with the gospel

J Sidlow Baxter: They were to witness to Him (1) as being indeed the Messiah-King of Israel, the crucified but now risen Deliverer of His people, the predestined King of the long-promised “kingdom of heaven”: and (2) as the personal Saviour, from the guilt and power and eternal penalty of sin, of all who believe upon Him, through His atoning death and resurrection. They were to present the offer of the King and the kingdom, just as the Lord Himself had done up to the time of His crucifixion; only now there was a wonderful new factor in the message – that of the Cross, the atonement for “the sin of the world,” and the good news of personal salvation by faith on the Lord Jesus, the Christ of Israel and now the Saviour of the world.

C. Final Preparation – Wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the promised Holy Spirit

1. Call for Staging

“And gathering them together,”

2. Trigger for Deployment

“He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,”

Jerusalem = dangerous place to wait

10 day period of waiting upon God; must have been difficult to wait when they were primed for action; importance of faith in the promises of God

What has our experience been in terms of waiting upon God?

OT prophecies of the coming of the Holy Spirit: Joel 2:28ff, Is. 32:15; Ezk. 36:27

Jesus’ promises of the coming of the Holy Spirit: John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7


A. Holy Spirit Baptism Promised by God the Father and Testified to by Jesus Christ

“but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;”

B. Holy Spirit Baptism Preferred Over the Water Baptism of John

“for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit”

Parallel to John 3 – born again (born from above) by water and the spirit

Does this establish a pattern for this age that the baptism with the Holy Spirit should be an event subsequent to one’s conversion? Importance of understanding the transitional nature of the Book of Acts

1 Cor. 12:13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”

C. Holy Spirit Baptism Coming Soon as a New Phenomenon

“not many days from now.”

Specific timetable in mind; Father knows; we must be watching and ready

Dramatic upcoming event of Pentecost


These opening verses distinguish Jesus Christ from the founder of every other religion. His life on earth was only the beginning of His spiritual ministry. That ministry continues today under His direction by His appointed apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has sent – because of the historical fact of His resurrection and ascension into heaven.

We are called to be witnesses today – not something complicated – tell people that Jesus is still alive and at work in our lives and wants to work in their lives as well.

Look at the impact of a faithful individual in witnessing for Christ: a couple of key heroes of the faith went home this week – having finished the course of their witness to Christ:

– Alan Tibbels – Sandtown Habitat for Humanity – what type of impact could this man have? Became a quadriplegic 25 years ago after a terrible accident on a church basketball floor – his life must have been over?? For nearly 21 years, Mr. Tibbels was the force behind Sandtown Habitat for Humanity, an organization that built and renovated nearly 300 homes in one of the city’s most blighted areas. What the newspaper accounts fail to emphasize is his consistent witness to his Lord and Savior.

– John Wooden – legendary coach of the UCLA college basketball team; 99 years of testifying to the importance of godly character

As we begin this study of ACTs, think about what type of testimony and impact you should be having for Christ. But it must start with first obeying the gospel message of repentance from your sins and faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.