Acts (Part 1)
By Don Ruhl
The beginning of the Book of Acts reminds us the beginning of the Book of Luke. Even as Luke showed the ministry of Jesus in the Gospel According to Luke, so the physician showed the ministry of the apostles (or at least some of them), in the Book of Acts.
In his gospel account of Jesus, Luke kept us in the land of Israel, but in the Book of Acts, he started in Jerusalem, then he took us to other parts of the Roman Empire. We will see much traveling, especially of Paul, and in all that traveling Luke showed, 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands. Luke showed the church spreading along Greek shipping routes.
Jesus Prepared the First Preachers
Immediately, Luke showed Jesus commanding the apostles to wait at Jerusalem. There they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. They wondered if the time was right to restore the kingdom to Israel, but He replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1.7, 8).
Jesus explained to them how they would travel and how the church would grow, but this was also how Luke covered his history of the church. They would start in Jerusalem, travel from there to the rest of Judea, go north to Samaria and from there travel to the rest of the earth. Luke covered that, plus showed them going to the coast, to Damascus, to Antioch, to Asia, over to Europe, in particular Rome. Most of that follows Peter and Paul with emphasis upon the latter. We know about the other apostles from other historical accounts.
The Church Begins
God’s promises and prophecies headed toward the crucifixion of Jesus (and resurrection), but that was not the only significant event awaiting fulfillment. Perhaps the second largest event in the mind of God was the establishment of the church. Acts 2 shows this momentous event.
Jesus chose the Day of Pentecost to begin the church. Why do you think He chose that day? Do you know the significance of that day?
Pentecost: i.e., “fiftieth”, found only in the New Testament (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8). The festival so named is first spoken of in Ex. 23:16 as “the feast of harvest,” and again in Ex. 34:22 as “the day of the firstfruits” (Num. 28:26). From the sixteenth of the month of Nisan (the second day of the Passover), seven complete weeks, i.e., forty-nine days, were to be reckoned, and this feast was held on the fiftieth day. The manner in which it was to be kept is described in Lev. 23:15-19; Num. 28:27-29. Besides the sacrifices prescribed for the occasion, every one was to bring to the Lord his “tribute of a free-will offering” (Deut. 16:9-11). The purpose of this feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest. Its distinguishing feature was the offering of “two leavened loaves” made from the new corn of the completed harvest, which, with two lambs, were waved before the Lord as a thank offering (Easton’s Dictionary).
Then the apostles began preaching. Luke told us about Peter’s sermon. He convicted the Jews of killing the Son of God and they believed Peter. Knowing that God’s wrath must be upon them, this happened, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2.37, 38). About 3,000 responded to that message!
Miracles and Preaching
Even as Jesus did miracles to provide opportunities to preach and to teach, so, the apostles did the same thing (Acts 3). When the Jewish leaders confronted Peter about the miracle, he again preached (Acts 4).
Thus, Luke recorded the apostles doing as Jesus did, and the leaders attacking the apostles as they attacked Jesus. The Jewish leaders even imprisoned some of the apostles.
Then a problem arose in the church (Acts 6), and the apostles appointed deacons to take care of the problem. While those men ministered to the church members, freeing up the preachers to preach and pray, nevertheless, the deacons preached also.
Acts 6–8 shows the preaching of two of those men. Stephen preached boldly to the Jewish leaders, condemning them for crucifying Christ. However, the leaders killed Stephen for his sermon. Yet, none of the problems or persecutions stopped the church, for as Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”