Posts Tagged 'Introduction'


Introductory Matters

The New Testament book of Acts is the link between the Gospels and the Epistles. Without it, we would not know how the Church grew, where all the Christians and churches came from, and, in fact, we would have an incomplete picture of Jesus Christ. Left only with the image of our Lord painted in the Gospels, we have a Savior who lived humbly, taught things never taught before, and provided salvation for all who would believe in Him. But Jesus’ mission did not end with His resurrection and ascension. He came not only to save but also to establish a “called out” group of people called the Church, and the book of Acts deals with that part of His mission. Knowing what is written in Acts is absolutely essential if you want to understand any of the Epistles.

In length, the book of Acts is almost the longest book in the New Testament, made up of 28 chapters and over 1,000 verses. Yet, the name of the book is a misnomer. It was added to the text in the second century, but “the Acts of the Apostles” is not at all what the book is about! It’s really about “the Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Church.”

But Acts is much more than just history, although there is plenty of history in it. Acts give us a tremendous principle that has been largely forgotten or ignored in the 21st century. The principle in Acts was really first mentioned in the Old Testament:

See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. (Exodus 25:40)

It was vital that Moses follow God’s instructions to the letter in building the Tabernacle if he was to have success in leading the Hebrews. In the book of Acts, God has given us a pattern for building the Church, for Christian evangelism, and missionary effort. One of the many reasons why the Church of Jesus Christ seems to be struggling so much today is because we have strayed from God’s way of building it. If we could get back to God’s pattern of Church building as revealed in Acts, how much greater would our efforts be blessed by Him?

1. Division and peculiarity

The book of Acts, written by Luke, is easy to divide up for study, and there are many excellent ways to divide up Acts. Here is one the most workable:

  • Chapters 1—12: the work of Peter
  • Chapters 13—28: the work of Paul

Of course, within these major divisions, there are major subdivisions, which we will look at in depth as we work our way through Acts.

A very peculiar feature of Acts is that there is no end; there is no conclusion to the book. It ends abruptly with the apostle Paul living in a rented house in Rome. This has led some to speculate that part of Acts is missing or that Luke intended to write more but for some reason didn’t. These speculations may have merit; but the fact is, the Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Church never really end; the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church continues to this day. And while Luke may or may not be recording what the Church is doing today, we know we are being watched closely:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

2. Special features of Acts

Dr. McGee lists seven special features of the book of Acts. Here they are in summary form:

(1) Prominence of the Lord Jesus Christ. This sounds funny, since He had left the scene at the very beginning of Acts, taken up to heaven in His ascension, so He is no longer in the picture. However, just because we can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t working! Jesus Christ may not be physically on the earth right now, but He is the Sovereign Lord over all at the right hand of God, but still living in and working through His Church and His ambassadors on earth.

(2) Prominence of the Holy Spirit. This is how Jesus is working on earth today; in the Person and Power of the Holy Spirit. The promise that He would send the Holy Spirit was given by Jesus four times in the Gospel of John (see 1:33; 7:37—39; 14:16—17; 20:22). The promise was given one more time at the beginning of Acts and the Holy Spirit finally came in Acts 3. The Church of Jesus Christ is living in the age of the Holy Spirit today, as He indwells all believers.

(3) Power of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ may look powerless, but when it does what God intends for it to do, there is no stopping it! However, you can’t help but notice that the Church in Acts seemed so much more powerful than the Church today. There is a good reason for this: the very early Church operated on a “spiritual high” that has never been repeated. Still, as each believer yields his life to the Holy Spirit within him, he will be a spiritual force to be reckoned with.

(4) Prominence of the Church. In Acts, as opposed to the Gospels, the Church is visible and active. It is seen growing in spite of (or maybe because of) persecution.

(5) Prominence of places. Reading Acts is sort of like leafing through a travelogue. It begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome, but in between we are introduced to all kinds of towns, cities, islands, provinces, regions, and countries. It’s significant that archeology has found all the places Luke wrote about to have been real places at one time, even though many have long since disappeared.

(6) Prominence of people. Luke writes about an amazing 110 people in Acts! We know all about Peter and Paul, but 108 other believers are mentioned by name throughout Acts. This was Luke’s way to showing how large the Church had become in such a short span of time. By the time Acts ends, there could have been millions of Christians scattered across Asia and Europe.

(7) Prominence of the Resurrection. When you read the sermons that were recorded for us by Luke—sermons preached by Peter and Paul—we see that the Resurrection of Jesus was the center point of those sermons. We don’t hear a lot about Jesus’ Resurrection these days, unless it’s Easter. But in the early Church, the Resurrection was the focal point of all preaching because the Resurrection was the reason for the Church’s existence.

(8) Prominence of Peter and Paul. Were there other great preachers in the early Church? Of course there were! There is no way the Church grew at such a pace with just the preaching of Peter and Paul! Why are there no records of their work? This is a question we will have to ask the Lord when we see Him. Peter, Paul, and Luke were friends and associates in the great work of the Gospel, so it makes sense that Luke would write mostly about them.  There were many other preachers of distinction in the early Church, but we will have to wait for Heaven to learn about their contribution to the growth of the Body of Christ in the book of Acts.

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