Acts (Act)

Book 5 of the NT, having 28 chapters. It takes 2 hrs 40 mins to read. Written by Luke between AD 63 and 70 it covers a period of 30 years, following immediately on from Christ’s ascension (when He left this earth as recorded in Mk 16:19, Lk 24:51).

Key people: Peter, James, John, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Silas.

Outline. Luke’s first book (the Gospel of Luke) was “about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen” (Act 1:1,2, 10:38).  Acts (also called The Acts of the Apostles) continues to outline the ministry of the disciples (now termed apostles) and early church workers.  It is the record of the beginning of the church, how it functioned, and is God’s ideal that the church should have continued, in the same power and authority, to turn the world the right way up (Act 17:6).  Peter, prominent in chapters 1-12, was an apostle to the Jews. Following Paul’s conversion he became the apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jews), and his missionary journeys are recorded (Act 13:46, 18:6; Gal 2:8).  Throughout the book, persecution only aided the spread of Christianity. The magnitude of the call to reach the world has not diminished nor has the availability of the Holy Spirit (Act 10:45,47, 11:15).

Main lesson. “If their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Act 5:38,39).  God’s supernatural power was evident in healing, releasing from jail, raising people from the dead, multitudes of people being saved, divine judgments on believers and non-believers, yet at the same time the believers were persecuted, beaten, killed and faced hardship of all kinds. God has a set purpose in all He does (Act 2:23, 4:28). It is our responsibility to be yielded to, and filled with the Holy Spirit so in all situations we are submissive to His plans, putting the divine kingdom before our desires and letting our lights shine so that He is glorified (Mt 5:16).

Key verses and thoughts: * Those used by God to manifest His power said in effect, ‘it is not us, it is God’s power. We are but channels through which He flows to touch people at their point of need’ (Act 3:6,12, 4:7,10,13, 14:15). Divine judgment was quickly administered when one man accepted the praises of others, failing to acknowledge the source of his ability was not in him (Act 12:21-23). When God works through us be sure He is the one who gets the glory and recognition for it is not by human effort “but by my Spirit says the Lord” (Zech 4:6).

* The opposition that had started against Jesus because He was real (what the common folk wanted, not just a lifeless religion like the Pharisee’s) continued against those walking in His steps but “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus Christ” (Act 5:41, 7:57-60, 8:1-3). If we live Godly lives we will stand out from the crowd and probably receive ‘special attention’ – not because we are offensive but as a result of our lives being in contrast to those who are not connected to the source of real life (Act 4:19,20, 5:29).

* This book records the power of the gospel to transform a person from one who was zealous for God but totally opposed the gospel (until he had a life changing encounter) to one of its greatest ambassadors and who would ultimately suffer and die because of his faith (Act 9:1,15,16,21, 16:22,23 20:24, 22:3, 26:9-11). If Paul had not been imprisoned, several of his letters (NT books) may not have been written and preserved for our benefit. This was his life’s motto, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Act 20:24). The gospel has the potential to change us to this extent too. Yes, Paul had a more dramatic conversion than most people have, but the effectiveness of his life was because he advanced in the Lord. Whenever or however we came to know Christ as Saviour is only the starting point. Transformation is dependent on our willingness to co-operate and obey regardless of the personal inconvenience and sacrifice.

* God commands all people to repent. “I pray that not only you, but all who are listening to me today will turn to Jesus” (Act 17:30, 20:21, 26:29). The gospel presentation should be clear and requiring a response (Act 2:37, 3:19, 4:12). There are only two options: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”, or continue to disobey, rejecting Him, turning your heart back toward the old life of bondage and sin by resisting the Holy Spirit (Act 7:39,51, 13:39, 16:30,31). God sees sinners whose hearts are open and searching, accepting those who do what is right (Act 8:26-39, 10:34,35).

See also: Ananias, Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla, Barnabas, Holy Spirit, James, John, John Mark, Luke, martyr, mission, missionary, Paul, persecution, Peter, Philip, Silas, Stephen, Timothy.