Week 41: The Acts of the Apostles

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

What’s Going On?

The book of Acts is the second part of the letter written by Luke to Theophilus and picks up right where the book of Luke left off. This book will tell us about the acts, or activities, of the early apostles and how they carried out their calling with the help of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the book can be broken up into three sections based on Acts 1:8: The Gospel spreads throughout Jerusalem in chapters 1-7, then into Judea and Samaria in chapters 8-11, and finally be in position to spread throughout the world in chapter 12-28.

Jerusalem – Almost immediately following the arrival of the Holy Spirit, we see opposition beginning to stir. But Peter speaks to the crowd that what is happening had been prophesied by Joel, David, Abraham, and all of the Old Testament prophets. The crowd listens intently and Peter’s position as the leader of the early Jewish/Christian church is firmly established. We’ll follow the movements of the disciples, now called apostles, as the community of Jerusalem begins to be transformed.

Judea and Samaria – The movement will expand as the persecution in Jerusalem increases after the stoning of Stephen. One of the men leading the persecution was Saul, a Pharisee who no doubt believed he was doing the right thing to protect the Jewish beliefs as he understood them. But Saul would have a life altering experience on the Road to Damascus when Jesus Himself appears and tells him to stop persecuting the Christians. Saul will adopt the new name of Paul and spend the next several years gaining the trust of the Christians he had once tried to persecute.

The world – The question will arise about Gentile converts having to follow Jewish law. The decision is made at the Council at Jerusalem that Gentiles, now equipped with The Holy Spirit, are not bound by Old Testament food laws or the law of circumcision.  Paul will spend the rest of his life sharing the Gospel through a succession of missionary journeys all around the Mediterranean Sea.  

Paul will constantly be charged with “disturbing the peace” and sent to trial, punished, and even imprisoned. At the end of the book we find Paul sitting in prison in Rome after appealing to Caesar and awaiting his opportunity to speak on his own defense. While the outcome isn’t revealed here, we do know from outside resources that both Peter and Paul will be put to death by Nero. It makes sense to me, although there is no evidence to suggest this, that perhaps the two letters written by Luke are a part of the defense strategy. The two books together give an orderly account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and show Peter and Paul being primarily responsible for being leaders of the new Christian movement: Peter to the Jewish converts and Paul to the Gentiles. I can see Luke carefully interviewing eye-witnesses for the purpose of supporting both Peter and Paul, not to mention the opportunity to witness the Good News to the very Emperor himself. While this may not be the primary reason for Luke’s account, it is interesting that his two letters are the epitome of a concise testimony that can be understood by Jew and Gentile alike to tell The Good News of salvation.

When and Where Are We?

The book of Acts takes place 30-65 AD. During this time we’ll follow Paul on his missionary journeys that will carry the Gospel message over a thousand miles away and into the heart of the Roman Empire where the message will explode throughout the empire and change the entire world.

Who‘s Who?

  • Luke – the author of the letter who becomes a part of the story when he joins Paul in chap 16.
  • Peter – becomes the leader of the new group of apostles and is the head of the church in Jerusalem
  • Saul/Paul – persecutor of Christians but becomes their greatest spokesman after meeting Jesus

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Acts 1-5
  • Tuesday: Acts 6-10
  • Wednesday: Acts 11-15
  • Thursday: Acts 16-20
  • Friday: Acts 21-24
  • Saturday: Acts 25-28
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