The Bible In Our World (Part 29)

 

Acts (Part 2)

By Don Ruhl

 

My teacher for the Book of Acts in preaching school, Don Sullivan, presented a chart showing conflict and triumph in the Book of Acts. The church would experience persecution, internal problems, or natural calamity, but those things did not disrupt her unity or work. Out of each conflict, Luke shows the church triumphant, because the Lord works all things according to the counsel of His will and purpose in the church.

In the first part of Acts, we covered chapters 1–7. The second part covers 8–12. This part makes it obvious that the church is not merely a sect of Judaism.

In this section, Luke shows the conversion and beginning works of Paul, whom God used to reach the Gentiles and whom God used to write most of the epistles of the New Testament.

Persecution Scattered the Disciples 

The Jews persecuted the church in Jerusalem and the disciples scattered to the outlying areas. Once they arrived in those locations, they started teaching and preaching. After the death of Stephen, Luke shows the work of Philip, one of the seven along with Stephen. Philip went to Samaria and preached (Acts 8.4–13). Since he could work miracles, but could not pass on the ability to others, the apostles sent Peter and John to do that (Acts 8.14–25).

When Simon, the former sorcerer, saw what Peter and John could do, he offered them money to purchase that power. This is where we get the term “simony,” someone is seeking to sell or to buy religious privileges.

Then Luke shows Philip leaving Samaria and preaching to one man (Acts 8.26–40). This led to the church being established in Africa. Then Luke turns his attention to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

With some exceptions, Luke focuses our attention on Saul, later known as Paul. Something unusual, a vision of the Lord Jesus, precipitated Paul’s conversion (Acts 9.3–7), and a brief spell of blindness. He went to Damascus, his original destination, and later a disciple healed Paul and baptized him (Acts 9.8–19).

The Gentiles Enter the Church 

Chapter 10 shows the beginning of a major fulfillment of prophecies and promises from the Old Testament, that the Lord wanted the Gentiles included, choosing Peter to go preach to the first Gentiles, although it required a bit of persuading to get him to go (Acts 10.9–16). Peter finally understood the Lord, even telling the Gentile that the Lord makes no distinctions between people, but still Peter did not know what to do about it (Acts 10.28, 29). After hearing the Gentile’s explanation for sending for Peter, he confessed that the Gentiles could now be part of the church (Acts 10.34, 35).

The Church Accepts the Gentiles 

Initially, the Jews in the church resisted Peter’s preaching to Gentiles (Acts 11.1–3), but after Peter’s explanation, they all accepted the Gentiles (Acts 11.4–18). While the acceptance of the Gentiles was no longer questioned, some in the church believed the Gentiles had to adhere to the Law of Moses, namely, in the matter of circumcision. This problem shows up later in Acts and in some of Paul’s letters as he refuted that teaching.

The Antioch Church 

However, the church in Antioch was the place where the Jews and the Gentiles came together in a wonderful way, so that the disciples there acquired a new name, in fulfillment of prophecy, the name of “Christian” (Acts 11.19–26; Isa 62.1–5). The church in Antioch showed kindness to the church in Judea and Jerusalem (Acts 11.27–30).

Persecution Intensifies 

The Jews started the persecution of the church, but Herod later joined it, which is what Luke shows us in chapter 12. Herod killed James and arrested Peter (Acts 12.1–4). However, the Lord killed Herod (Acts 12.20–24). The word of Herod proved fatal to him, but the word of the Lord proved life-giving to the church.

The New Testament lists several different Herods:

Herod the Great – Matthew 2 and Luke 1

Herod Archelaus – Matthew 2.22

Herod Antipas – Mark 6; 8.15; Luke 13.31

Herod Agrippa I – Acts 12

Herod Agrippa II – Acts 25; 26

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