Food for Thought
Here you will find some material from Greg to help us dig deeper into the book of Acts while we focus on this book.
The Acts of the Apostles
This book was written by the ‘beloved’ physician, Luke, and is in a way a sequel to his Gospel, linking and uniting it to the Epistles. Both books were written to his friend Theophilus, whose name means ‘lover of God’, and contain many particulars concerning the apostles Peter and Paul and of the development of the Christian church from the ascension of Christ to the arrival of Paul in Rome. This covered a period of about 30 years.
Many Bible scholars see in the book of Acts the formal beginning of the age of the Holy Spirit. It can be divided into two parts. Jesus, at his ascension makes the announcement in chapter 1: 8 of the great mission to be undertaken through human agency under the power of the Holy Spirit. The first period of home mission was to the Jews, initially in Jerusalem, and then further afield. Peter was the most prominent figure in this phase. Then there is the period of foreign mission, dominated by the apostle Paul.
The object of the book has been considered to be:
To relate ways in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit were communicated on the day of Pentecost by confirming the miracles performed by the apostles and affirming the truths of Christianity (by showing that all that Christ had declared was really fulfilled).
To prove that Gentiles could be admitted into the church of Christ.
Before reading a book, it can be very useful if one has an overview of its contents and understands its overall significance. This is exactly what Luke aims to provide in the very first verse when he says, "The first account I composed, Theophillus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach." Luke, the historian, is referring to his gospel - the Gospel of Luke. This was volume 1, and the book of Acts is volume 2 about the continued doing and teaching of Jesus.
The gospels in one sense tell the story of the finished work of Christ. Jesus in John 17:4. In his high priestly prayer, says’ I have finished the work you gave me to do’. While on the cross those final words just before he gave up his life, he said’ It is finished’ John 19: 30. The gospels all speak of the finished work of Christ – The long awaited sacrifice of sin that he offered ,satisfied God fully. By His sacrifice, he saved forever those who believed, and secured their redemption by his resurrection from the dead. NOTHING can be added to the finished work of Christ.
It was satisfactory so God raised him from the dead to validate his satisfaction, then He gave him the name that was above every other name, exalted him to his right hand as savior. This work of redemption Jesus finished. The work of doing and teaching and proclaiming the kingdom had just begun. There were a very few who believed to start with.
So Acts is volume 2 of the New Testament history of redemption . It could actually be said that it is volume 3 because the first volume of redemptive history is the Old Testament itself. The Gospels tell the story of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The old testament gives the prophesies of the coming Messiah and the gospels give the realization of those prophesies. The plan of God promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. In Luke 1 ,he speaks about the exact truth about the things you have been taught. As a precise historian inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luke writes one long history to provide absolute certainty of the facts of redemptive history so as to provide full assurance to believers that God’s promise of salvation was being fulfilled. In every minute detail.
He ends his gospel by telling the disciples to ‘ stay in the city(Jerusalem) until you are clothed with power from on high and the book of Acts begins with the coming of the Holy Spirit and in Acts 1:8 He gives the promise of the Holy Spirit and the great commission to be his witnesses in Jerusalem , Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This is in fact the outline for the entire book of the spread of the message of good news from Jerusalem (Chapters 1-7) Judea and Samaria (Chapters 8-12) and the ends of the earth (chapters 13-28). You will receive. It is the Holy Spirit which would bring effectiveness to their witness and ministry.
In this momentous chapter we see the birth of the church.
In Chapter 1:8 God holds back his followers. He tells them to wait until they are filled with the Holy Spirit and equipped for their ministry and now in Chapter 2, we see them empowered and the church born.
A group of about 150 believers were gathered together in unity and prayer, the Lord commands his blessing. A sound like a rushing mighty wind came from heaven and filled the house. It was so loud that it attracted a large crowd of onlookers. These were ‘devout men from every nation under heaven’. The fact that they understood the gospel in their own language was very significant. They were bewildered, amazed and astonished by this and very importantly were personally equipped to both receive and spread the Christian message. It also proved that their authority was from God.
Here at Pentecost, we see the next great event in God’s redemptive history. We see the establishment of the church. Now that the promised Holy Spirit arrives, the command to the disciples is to go and spread the news about Jesus' offer of salvation.
This is important from God’s side, to show that He does exactly as He said He would do and it is also important from our side to understand what we are part of being in Christ Jesus. We are the church so this is our history. It has been said that ALL history is in fact HIS story.
The first act of redemptive history is when God speaks in many ways through many prophets to establish true understanding of his redemptive plans through the Old Testament.
The completion and fulfillment of this old covenant is the arrival of God incarnate, the Lord Jesus who came as a human and lived among us.
The next great event in God’s redemptive plan occurs 30 years later in His death on the cross. This ratifies the New Covenant by His sacrifice of himself.
A few days later with His resurrection from the dead, God affirms the sacrifice Jesus had made for us.
Forty days after this is the next great event in redemptive history happens. It is the ascension of Jesus. He goes back to heaven to be crowned and seated at the right hand of His father, having accomplished our redemption.
NOW, 50 days after Passover, at feast of Pentecost with the disciples having spent much time in prayer and all in one accord, God fills them with the Holy Spirit. This significant event occurs in God’s timing. Pentecost was a feast which celebrated the first fruit of the harvest to come. It also celebrated the giving of the Mosaic law found in Leviticus 23.
There is a loud sound of rushing wind which signifies the powerful influences and working of the Spirit of God. God takes up residence in his followers. The reason for this was to show that His power, peace and joy and ALL His fruit were to be found in his believers. We are to be fruitful vines that are grafted into the true vine. (John 15).
The divided tongues of fire which appeared above their heads were not literal flames but looked like fire. Fire in the Old Testament often indicates the presence of God. We see this with Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3:2. It also symbolizes his holiness and purity in Isaiah 4:5. The filling to capacity also signified God’s glory filling the Temple (2 Chronicles 7 and Ezekiel 43). The believers were now to be His living temple and were to be filled with His glory. This is the inauguration of the revelation of the church. It is a new era. It is a new dispensation. A new thing is born. It is something that has never been known before.
In this chapter we see that, as believers, we are wonderfully saved us and adopted into His family. As an assurance of this, He sent His Holy Spirit to be IN us. It is He who enables us to understand Scripture. It is He who teaches us ALL things. He helps us, through His power, to be obedient and to be witnesses for Him.
We continue to look at what could actually be called the Acts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We see how Jesus, who at Pentecost had sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, infill and empower his people, had placed them together in one unified spiritual organism called the Body of Christ. The purpose of the body of was to finish the work God had begun. Jesus did it himself, and now by the power of the Holy Spirit it is being continued through the church. To do this, the Spirit had giving gifts by which the church could be built up. They were by both grace gifts and spiritual gifts by which the believers ministered to each other so they could build up the body. In addition God also gave certain sign gifts for unbelievers to confirm the preaching of the gospel. Jesus similarly not only said things but did things. The works that He did corroborated the words that he spoke.
The relationship between words and actions is revealed again in Acts 3, where we see the interaction between Peter and John and the lame man who had been begging for many years at the Beautiful Gate. Peter says to him,’ In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. ‘ Once again, God uses a miracle as a means of drawing the attention of those who witness the power of Jesus. The man, who began jumping and shouting, drew a large crowd of people. Peter now had the opportunity to preach his second sermon. In v.16 he says ‘...and by faith in his name has this man been made strong’. This is the name of Jesus. It is the name that God designated above every other name. It is mentioned 700 times in the New Testament. Later in Acts 4:12 Peter declares, ‘ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’
In his sermon, Peter points out the guilt of the Jews for executing the Son of God. He declares that the people of Israel denied him, delivered him to the authorities, and executed Him. He then calls them brethren and says that they acted in ignorance, just as their rulers had. They did not fully understand that Jesus was the Messiah and the true son of God. But such ignorance does not release them from their responsibility for their actions. He then shows them God’s grace and forgiveness by calling them to repent so that their sins might be blotted out and a time of refreshing may come. This is when the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with them. The outcome we see in chapter 4 is that 5000 men believe.