The Book of Acts chronicles the foundation of the Christian church on the day of Pentecost and its spread throughout the known world in the first century. What starts as a Jewish based movement in Jerusalem under the leadership of Peter, develops into more of a Gentile orientation led by Paul and the members of his missionary team sent out from Antioch. The emphasis is on the simplicity and power of the gospel presentation with its focus on the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ. The power of God is demonstrated through the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit working through selected leaders.
The miracles and sign gifts associated with the beginning of the church demonstrate the transitional nature of this historical account. Yet much of the methodology for missionary work and church growth remain normative for today. The lessons related to spiritual leadership and aggressive evangelism and mutual ministry and encouragement are all relevant to each of us. The demonstration of the power of God at work gives us confidence to stand against all opposition in seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The Acts of the Resurrected Jesus Christ Performed by His Chosen Apostles Through the Power of the Promised Holy Spirit
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.”
2 Major Threads governing the outline:
• Geographical spread of the gospel – switch from Jerusalem to Antioch as center of operations
• Progression in terms of the central figures – from Peter to Paul
I. (1:1 – 8:3) Origin of the Christian Church in Jerusalem – Leadership of Peter
A. (1:1-26) Foundation for the Church — Commissioned to Witness – Preparations for Pentecost – Emphasis on Jesus Christ and His Instructions – Home base in Jerusalem
B. (2:1-47) Filling of the Church — The Coming of the Holy Spirit in Powerful Proclamation – Emphasis on the Holy Spirit — Peter’s initial sermon showing continuity with OT prophecy
C. (3:1 – 5:42) Fortification of the Church — Apostolic Ministry Focusing on Peter and John
D. (6:1 – 8:3) Fulfillment in the Church of God’s Progressive Plans — Jewish Persecution of the Church Confirms the Nation in Unbelief (Until Times of Gentiles Fulfilled) – Focusing on Stephen
Transition: (8:1-3) Persecution of the Church by Saul – Leads to spread of church to Judea and Samaria
II. (8:4 – 12:25) Early Development of the Christian Church in Judea and Samaria – Transition from Peter to Barnabas and Saul
A. (8:4-40) New Territory for Expansion — Ministry Outreach of Philip the Evangelist
B. (9:1-31) New Leadership for the Church — Conversion and Initial Ministry of Paul = Apostle to Gentiles
C. (9:32 – 11:18) New Mindset of Accepting Gentiles on Equal Footing with Jews – Healing Ministry of Peter With a Changed Perspective Towards Gentiles
D. (11:19 – 12:25) New Center of Operations — Teaming of Saul and Barnabas to Bring Relief to Persecuted Brethren in Judea from New Headquarters in Antioch
Transition: (12:24-25) Successful Mission and Return of Barnabas and Saul to Antioch
III. (13:1 – 28:31) Spread of the Christian Church to the Ends of the Earth – Missionary Journeys of Paul
A. (13:1 – 15:35) Paul’s First Missionary Journey and Jerusalem Council
B. (15:36 – 18:22) Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
C. (18:23 – 21:16) Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
D. (21:17 – 28:31) Paul’s Final Trials and Journey to Rome
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
·• To give proper emphasis to the balanced presentation of the gospel – including the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – making sure that our gospel presentation is accurate, focused and impactful
• To fire up our passion to fulfill the Great Commission Mandate and to prepare us for persecution as we identify with Jesus Christ and aggressively proclaim Him
• To provide a balanced perspective on the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit
• To understand the transitional nature of the early church and discern what examples of methodology should be considered as normative for today – especially informing our ecclesiology regarding the structure and the operation of the local church
• To encourage us to support ongoing missionary activity throughout the world
• To give us confidence that the Sovereign Lord is successfully building His church against all opposition and is active in the world today through His church
John 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.
James Boice: Luke’s history opens up and embraces the entire church age. At the beginning, we are in contact with the risen Christ and a world of miracles. This is a world we have very little contact with today. But then, as the book progresses, we have the feeling that it becomes increasingly like the kind of world we know. At the end, we find the Christians bearing witness, just as we are called to bear witness, and being persecuted, just as we are often persecuted. As we study this book we find sound principles of church growth and see the way in which temptation and trials are overcome by the grace of God.
Warren Wiersbe: “Witness” is a key word in the book of Acts and is used twenty-nine times as either a verb or a noun. A witness is somebody who tells what he has seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20). When you are on the witness stand in court, the judge is not interested in your ideas or opinions; he only wants to hear what you know. Our English word martyr comes from the Greek word translated “witness,” and many of God’s people have sealed their witness by laying down their lives.
Ray Stedman: Here in this introduction we have all the elements that make up the book of Acts: a risen Lord whose life is made available through the coming of the Spirit, and who will come again in power and great glory, but with whom we are yet in instant communication by means of the miracle of prayer. That is the book of Acts. That is the life of the church. These are what make any group of Christians have an impact, and exercise a vital revolutionary force in the age in which they live. May God grant that this will be our experience.