“Making Sense of the New Testament”: Acts

Apostle Preaching

Acts is the history book of the New Testament. It records the founding of the church and the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. It highlights the ministries of key leaders in the early church.

Acts was written by Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke. In his Gospel, he “wrote all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1-2). In Acts, he shows how Jesus’ ministry continues through the first believers.

This book is very important. It plays a vital role in the life and ministry of the church today. But there are some difficulties one encounters when reading it.

Most of these difficulties center on the activity of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to discern if He still works in the same ways today. When is He received – before, during, or after baptism? Does He empower us in the ways He empowered the original Christians?

Another difficulty is the historical nature of the book. Luke mentions ancient places, people, and events. This can make his story hard for modern readers to follow.

But these difficulties are no reason not to read the book of Acts. It is instructive for both individual Christians and the church as a whole.

Summary of Acts
The theme of Acts is the expansion of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Jesus tells the apostles, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This verse summarizes and outlines the book of Acts.

Throughout the book, Luke focuses on the ministries of important Christians. The first half (1 – 12) is about the apostle Peter, and the deacons Stephen and Philip. The second half (13 – 28) is about the apostle Paul and his various helpers.

What makes this story so remarkable is how the church flourishes in spite of intense opposition! Christians are persecuted by unbelieving Jews, skeptical Greeks, and false teachers. Paul especially endures much hardship.

Significance of Acts
The book of Acts is significant in four ways:

First, it helps us understand the Bible. It provides the historical background for many of the New Testament Letters. It records how these churches were planted, and what sort of relationship Paul had with them.  It shows what life was like for his original readers.

Second, it helps us do ministry. It tells us how the apostles preached, taught, and led the church. It records the early church’s problems and how it resolved them. It provides examples of fellowship, evangelism, and pastoral care.

Third, it helps us defend our faith. Many seek to discredit Luke only to discover how reliable he actually is. His historical accuracy boosts the Bible’s credibility. It furnishes evidence that supports the Bible’s claim to be the Word of God.

Fourth, it helps Christians who are persecuted today. The modern church is persecuted in many countries. It draws strength from the early church’s example of perseverance.

The Holy Spirit
The true hero of the book of Acts is the Holy Spirit. He empowers the apostles to speak in tongues, perform miracles, and preach the gospel. Luke tells the exploits of men, but it is the Holy Spirit who guides and enables those exploits.

There is much debate about Him today. Is He still active in the same ways as in the book of Acts? Either way, He still plays a significant role in salvation and the Christian life. And He is still the source of life for the church and power for its ministry.

What other benefits do you gain from reading the book of Acts? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

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