Acts

Acts

Acts Reading List (click here)


Week 3 (5.19.24) – Pentecost Sunday

(Acts 2:1-13)

 

Week 2 (5.12.24)

(Acts 1:12-26)

In chapter 1, we read that “on one occasion, while he was eating with them, (Jesus) gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they returned from the Mount of Olives, where they had just seen the ascension of their Lord to heaven, they went to the upper room where they were staying and … waited in anticipation of the Lord’s promise that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. They waited ten days, because the Lord appeared to them over a period of forty days, from his resurrection to his ascension. And Pentecost (Feast of Weeks or First Fruits) occurred fifty days after Passover (when Jesus was crucified).

It’s very possible that this upper room was where Jesus and his disciples had kept the Passover on the eve of his execution (40 days earlier); it may also have been the room where he appeared to some of them in Jerusalem after he rose from the dead (Lk 24:33, 36; John 20:19, 26). It’s been speculated that the house in which this upper room was located was the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. When Peter was miraculously released from prison “he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying” (Acts 12:12). See also Mark 14:51-52.

Those present were the Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot). These eleven apostles had in their company the women who had gone up to Jerusalem from Galilee with Jesus and his followers (Lk 8:2 ff), including Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Note that Mary in this last mention of Mary in the NT, she is worshipping with the other followers of Jesus after his ascension. With these women, the brothers of Jesus (the younger sons of Mary (Mat 1:25; Mk 6:3; Lk 2:7) are also mentioned. They didn’t acknowledge Jesus as Messiah before his death (John 7:5), but after his resurrection they are found among his followers. The most prominent figure among these brothers is James (Acts 12:17; 15:13 ff; 21:18 ff), who was one of the individuals to whom Christ appeared in resurrection (1 Cor 15:17). Three other brothers of Jesus are mentioned by name, Joses, Judas and Simon (Mk 6:3), of these Judas is thought to be the author of the Epistle of Jude. Others may well have been Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, those healed of blindness and diseases, etc. There were many followers of Jesus in Jerusalem (and many more elsewhere). So, what did they do for ten days?

They all joined together constantly in prayer—Acts 1:14

Prayer was a huge influence in the early church. The disciples had witnessed over the course of three years that their Lord was a man of prayer. They had asked him for instruction on how they too could be men of prayer. Note that prayer is mentioned 31 times in the Book of Acts. We’ll be talking a lot about prayer as we move along.

Peter, as the acknowledged leader of the Apostles, stood up among the believers (v. 15) and stated that Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas. Jesus had specifically appointed the Twelve (after a long night of prayerLk 6:12-16). He quoted from the “Royal” Psalms 69:29 and 109:8 which prophesied the need to replace the deserter. Judas’ defection had created the vacancy. No steps were taken to appoint a successor to James (when he was martyred); he was faithful to death (as were the other Apostles.

They proposed two men who met the qualifications of an apostle (see vv 21-22), Joseph, called Barsabbas (presumably born on a sabbath), and Matthias. Then they prayed, asking Jesus to show them which of the two to choose. The method at the time was known as casting of lots, which was a strong Old Testament tradition for making religious decisions (see 1 Chron 26:14-16). The appointment of a twelfth apostle was a unique situation, a choice that was made by Jesus himself. In the rest of the NT, the elders and deacons and other church leaders are chosen according to decisions made by human beings, whether by an apostle or by others in the churches (see Acts 6:3–6; 14:23; 15:22; 2 Cor. 8:19; cf. 1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9).

HOMEWORK: 
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
Acts 2:1-13


Week 1 (5.5.24)

(Acts 1:1-11)

The Book of Acts provides a focused history centered on the beginning and early development of the church in Jerusalem. It covers the ministry of the Apostle Peter and an extensive account of the way God used the Apostle Paul to take the Gospel to Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. It covers a period of about thirty years. The first eleven verses deal with the forty days between the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension and emphasize the historicity of Christianity, the presence of Christ, the missionary mandate, and the Lord’s return.

Acts, and the Gospel of Luke, is addressed to Theophilus, which means “Friend (or Lover) of God.” He was likely a believer (see Luke 1:4), and the title “Most excellent” suggests that he may have been a Roman citizen of high social status and wealth. Luke is writing to him so that he “may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Lk. 1:4).

Although Luke never names himself as the author, ancient historians are unanimous in their assertion that he was the author of both the third Gospel and Acts. Paul refers to Luke three times in his letters. The references in Philemon and Colossians place Luke with Paul in Rome during his imprisonment, representing historical data that lines up with the text. It was probably during this time that Luke engaged in the writing of both books while he served with the apostle Paul as his “fellow worker.” In the Colossians passage, Paul speaks of Luke as the “doctor,” but we know little else about his background, training, or practice as a physician. It is generally agreed that his writing in both books is the purest Greek in all the New Testament, suggesting the probability of advanced learning and training.

As we study Acts we’ll find sound principles of church growth and the way in which temptations and trials are overcome by the grace of God. Acts also provides a bridge between the Gospel accounts and the epistles. Without Acts, most of the writings throughout the rest of the New Testament would have little basis for validity. For example, who would believe Paul was an apostle without the written accounts of what happened on the road to Damascus?

The book joins what Jesus “began to do and to teach” (v. 1) as told in the gospels with what he continued to do and teach through the apostles’ preaching and the establishment of the church. You might say that what Jesus began to do and teach in one body, he now continues to do and teach through his new body (the Church), by the power of the Holy Spirit.

After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. —Acts 1:3

In the final chapter of his Gospel (Lk 24), Luke records some of these appearances. And the apostle Paul records that Jesus appeared not only to the twelve apostles and to James (the Lord’s brother), but even to five hundred brothers at the same time (1 Cor 15:5-7). Paul adds that many were still alive, meaning that anyone who needed eye-witness verification of this incredible claim of bodily resurrection from the dead could easily obtain it. Yes, “many convincing proofs,” but some doubted (see John 20:24-28).

John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 1:5

The “baptism of the Spirit” refers to being equipped or empowered by God’s Spirit to carry out the task that Jesus has given the church. When the Spirit equips us or baptizes us, we are immersed, as it were, in the Holy Spirit; sometimes the Scriptures refer to this as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Other times the term “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is used in the same way as being filled with love or filled with joy—there’s a sensation of superabundance of the presence of God. We’ll talk much more about baptism in general and the power of Holy Spirit as we journey through the book.

The kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus’ teaching during his three-year ministry. It continues to be the central theme of his teaching after his resurrection. The kingdom, however, took a substantially different form than what his Jewish followers were expecting. The disciples ask, Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6). Even after three plus years of being with Jesus, they were still expecting a restoration of the earthly, Jewish (Davidic) kingdom. Note that, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they finally understood that the kingdom that Jesus spoke of was a spiritual kingdom, and that it was available to all peoples of the earth – Jews and Gentiles.

He told them that they would “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” (v. 8). This verse serves as an outline for the rest of the book, i.e., Jerusalem is the focus of chaps 1-7; Judea and Samaria is covered in chaps 8-11; and the “ends of the earth” (Rome) is described in chaps 12-24. Of course, the task of the Church is to reach the entire world with the Gospel of Christ (John 3:16).

The specific power they were to receive by the Holy Spirit was not miracle-working and signs (although the Apostles were empowered to do these things), but to be his “witnesses” throughout the world (see Mat 28:18-20). Our task on earth as we await the return of Christ is to carry out the Great Commission by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to glorify God in all we say and do. One sure evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is that we testify about Jesus (Rev 12:11, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”)

HOMEWORK: 
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Acts 1:12-26


Our next discipleship journey will take us through the Book of Acts — a history of the development of the early church, from the ascension of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit to Paul’s imprisonment at Rome and the opening of his ministry there. (See Bible Project overview Part 1 and Part 2)


Why is Acts so important?

Acts is the only biblical book that chronicles the history of the church immediately after Jesus’s ascension. As such, it provides us with a valuable account of how the church was able to grow and spread out from Jerusalem into the rest of the Roman Empire. In only three decades, a small group of frightened believers in Jerusalem transformed into an empire-wide movement of people who had committed their lives to Jesus Christ, ending on a high note with Paul on the verge of taking the gospel to the highest government official in the land—the Emperor of Rome.

What’s the big idea?

Acts can be neatly divided into two sections, the first dealing primarily with the ministry of Peter in Jerusalem and Samaria (Acts 1–12) and the second following Paul on his missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13–28). Acts is significant for chronicling the spread of the gospel, not only geographically but also culturally. It records the transition from taking the gospel to an exclusively Jewish audience—with Peter preaching to a small group in the Upper Room—to the gospel going out among the Gentiles, primarily under the ministry of the apostle Paul. The transition is best illustrated by Peter’s vision in which he heard a voice telling him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (10:15). This led Peter to then share the gospel with many Gentiles. The lesson? God wants His message of hope and salvation to extend to all people—“in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8).

How do I apply this?

What opportunities for sharing the gospel can you take advantage of in the days to come? This question should ring through your mind as you page through the book of Acts. In virtually every chapter, apostles such as Peter and Paul powerfully present the gospel to individuals and groups of people. The apostles portrayed in Acts shine with evangelistic zeal, showing a striking transition from the often misguided disciples of the Gospels. Clearly the apostles’ faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus produced a noticeable change in their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Too often, our own lives do not reflect that sort of change. We struggle with fears over how others will react to our faith or with breaking out of our own routine long enough to invest in the life of someone else who needs the gospel. Allow Acts to encourage you to walk more closely with God so that you might make Christ’s name known with the boldness and the zeal of the apostles.