THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF THE CHURCH, Acts 2:1-7:60
Rev. Louis M. Murphy, Sr.
June 9, 2021
The First Church: Worthy Traits
Introduction: This is the first look at the early church. It shows us the traits that characterized the daily lives of believers. It should prick the conscience of the modern-day church.
1. A people who received the Word—gladly (v.41).
2. A people who continued—stedfastly (v.42).
3. A people who stirred souls with a godly fear (v.43).
4. A people who were together—sharing in ministry (v.44-45).
5. A people who were unified (v.46).
6. A people who worshipped and praised God—daily (v.46-47).
1. (2:41) Word of God: the early believers were a people who received the Word gladly.
1. This is the basic trait, the very first trait of a true church. It actually defines a church. A church is a people, a body of people who have received the Word of God. They were not receiving…
• a set of ideas
• a man’s thoughts
• a set of rules and principles • a human philosophy
• a position
• a religion
They were receiving the Word of God, the very revelation of God Himself. God had revealed Himself in Jesus Christ to His disciples. And Peter, the spokesman for the disciples, was proclaiming the Word about Jesus Christ.
God had spoken to the world through His Son Jesus Christ, and the early believers had received His Word.
Deeper Study: The Word—John 1:1-5.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The Word— Jesus Christ, Son of God: the Word (logos) is Jesus Christ. John faced a serious problem in writing to the Gentiles, that is, the non-Jewish world. Most Gentiles had never heard of the Messiah or Savior who was expected by the Jews. The idea was foreign to them. However, the Messiah was the very center of Christianity. How was John going to present Christ so that a Gentile could understand?
The answer lay in the idea of the Word, for the Word was understood by both Gentile and Jew.
1. The Jews saw a word as something more than a mere sound. A word was something active and existing. It was power—it possessed the power to express something, to do something. This is seen in the many Old Testament references where The Word of God was seen as the creative power of God, the power that made the world and gave light and life to every man
Genesis 1:3, 6, 11,
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
Psalm 33:6, By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
Psalm 107:20, He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
Isaiah 55:11, So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
2. The Gentiles or Greeks saw the Word more philosophically.
a. When they looked at the world of nature, they saw that things were not chaotic, but orderly. Everything had its place and moved or grew in an orderly fashion, including the stars above and the vegetation below. Therefore, the Greeks said that behind the world was a mind, a reason, a power that made and kept things in their proper place. This creative and sustaining mind, this supreme reason, this unlimited power was said to be the Word.
b. The Word was also seen as the power that enabled men to think and reason. It was the power that brought light and understanding to man’s mind and enabled him to express his jumbled up thoughts in an orderly fashion.
c. More importantly, the Word was the power by which men came into contact with God and expressed their feelings to God.
2. John grabbed hold of this common idea of the Jews and Gentiles. He proclaimed that Jesus Christ was the Word. John saw that a word is the expression of an idea, a thought, an image in the mind of a person. He saw that a word describes what is in the mind of a person. Thus, he proclaimed that in the life of Jesus Christ, God was speaking to the world, speaking and demonstrating just what He wanted to say to man.
John said three things.
a. God has given us much more than mere words in the Holy Scriptures. God has given us Jesus Christ, The Word. As The Word, Jesus Christ was the picture, the expression, the pattern, the very image of what God wished to say to man. The very image within God’s mind of the Ideal Man was demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the perfect expression of all that God wishes man to be. Jesus Christ was God’s utterance, God’s speech, God’s Word to man. Jesus Christ was the Word of God who came down to earth in human flesh to bring man into a face to face relationship with God (cp. John 1:1-2).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.”
Jesus was the Word of God who came to earth to live out the written Word of God.
b. Jesus Christ is the Mind, the Reason, the Power that both made and keeps things in their proper order. He is the creative and sustaining Mind, the Supreme Reason, the unlimited Power (cp. John 1:3). “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made”.
c. Jesus Christ is the Light, the Illumination, the Power that penetrates the darkness of the world. He, theLife and Light of the world, is what makes sense of the world and enables men to understand the world (cp. John 1:4-5).
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men”.
2. Note the word “received.” A true church, a true body of believers, does not just hear and listen to the Word. They are not just present to join the crowd and see what is going on. They do not sit with wandering minds and closed hearts.
A true church receives the Word of God; they…
• welcome it
• believe it
• take it in
• practice it
• experience it • hold on to it
• hunger for it
• joy and rejoice in it
• share it
3. Note the statement: “They that gladly received his word.” Not everyone present received it. Some were there for the wrong reasons and others were closed-minded and disinterested. Still others simply refused to believe and rejected the Word. But they who received God’s Word became the very first body of believers, the first church.
4. Note that they were baptized: the idea is immediate baptism. Note also the large number: three thousand “were added” to the 120 disciples.
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).
2. (2:42) Stedfastness: the early believers were a people who continued stedfastly in four things.
Continued stedfastly to continue, persevere, endure, stick, persist. A person does not quit, back off, fade away, or slip back. He continues on stedfastly.
A. In doctrine: The teaching, the instruction of the apostles. This would include both what Christ taught and His death and resurrection and ascension or exaltation. It would be the same teaching and instructions…
• that are shared in the New Testament.
• that the disciples wrote to various churches and bodies of believers.
The teaching would be no different. There is only one message, only one Word that saves and roots and grounds people in the Lord—the Word of God Himself, the message of the New Testament. On the day of Pentecost, the persons who were saved needed to be grounded in the faith. And the only message that could ground them was the message found in the New Testament. It was that message, that doctrine they were taught.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:45-48).
Thought. Note a striking fact: we can be saved and rooted and grounded in the very same message. God has given us the very same doctrines and instructions to root and ground us. We can have a true, dynamic apostolic experience and maturity in the Lord. We can grow and know the Lord as intimately as the early believers knew the Lord. In fact, we come short if we do not, for we have the very same doctrine, teachings, and instructions that they had.
B. In Fellowship: the fellowship wrought by the Spirit of God means more than the association existing in secular groups such as civic clubs and community bodies. There is a vast difference between community participation and spiritual participation. Community participation is based upon neighborly association. Spiritual participation is based upon a spiritual union wrought by the Spirit of God.
The distinctiveness is this: the Holy Spirit is within the Christian believer. The Holy Spirit creates a spiritual union by melting and molding the heart of the Christian believer to the hearts of other believers.
He attaches the life of one believer to the lives of other believers. Through the Spirit of God, believers become one in life and purpose. They have a joint life sharing their blessings and needs and gifts together.
Note several things about fellowship that are taught by this passage.
1. Fellowship is being experienced by the new believers because they join other Christians in learning the Scriptures (apostles’ teachings) and in worship (prayers and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, Acts 2:41-42).
2. Fellowship forbids an unattached Christian life. Their fellowship is maintained because they “continue stedfastly” in the Scriptures and in worship. An unattached Christian life is just impossible.
a. Christianity is first an individual matter, but then it becomes a social matter. The Christian is attached to Christ individually, but he is also attached to other believers. He walks with other believers in the Scriptures and in worship.
b. Christianity is first a spiritual organism, but then it becomes a spiritual organization. The Christian has an inward life, but he also takes on an outward form of life. He becomes a living organization with other Christian believers. He sits at the feet of the apostles’ teaching and joins right in with other Christians as they worship together.
c. Christianity makes the true believer a saint (one who is set apart unto God), but Christianity is made up of saints—plural. Christianity is not just one person; Christianity is many persons—saints. The word is often used in the New Testament, but it is never used in the singular. Christianity is Christianity because the saints study the Scriptures together and worship together.
d. Christianity demands that a believer personally live out such virtues as kindness, longsuffering, and love; but the believer can do this only in association with others.
e. Christianity means that the Spirit of God has entered the believer’s life, but it also means that the Spirit of God has placed the believer into a corporate body (the church), into Christian society itself. The Spirit of God indwells the corporate body of believers as well as the individual (see 1 Cor. 3:16).
3. Spiritual fellowship faces two dangers.
a. Fellowship and society can be over-emphasized—to the point that individual salvation is missed. An individual must “receive His word” (Acts 2:41).
b. Individual salvation and individual worship, whether through nature or by any other means, can be overly stressed—to the point that Christian fellowship and society can be missed
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephes. 4:13).
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
C. Lord’s Supper: the phrase “breaking of bread” means the early believers observed and remembered the Lord’s death. They set aside some time to observe what churches call communion, or the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist.
Note they observed the Lord’s Supper daily (Acts 2:46). Why did they observe it so often?
1. The Lord’s Supper was the one ordinance Christ had given to symbolize His death. And it was His death that had saved them. Because of His death, they were now…
• reconciled to God.
• in fellowship with God.
• made new creatures in God.
• infilled with the Spirit of God.
• bearing all the fruit of God (Galatians 5:22-23).
All they now were and had was due to the death of Christ. They wanted to remember and thank God for His great love demonstrated in the death of His Son, and to do it often.
2. The Lord had commanded His followers to observe the Lord’s Supper often.
Christ gave us the ordinance and commanded that we use it as the primary symbol to show His death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26).
“This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25).
“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:22-24).
D. Prayer: the early believers were a people who persevered in prayer—the idea is church prayer, united prayer with the whole body of believers.
1. Through prayer they were brought into the most intimate fellowship and presence of God. They could get no closer to God than when they were drawing nigh to God through prayer.
“The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works” (Psalm 73:28).
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
2. Through prayer they received things from God. They received His provision for both their souls and lives.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22).
“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
3. (2:43) Fear, Godly— Church: the early believers were a people who stirred souls with a godly fear. Fear (phobias) does not mean terror or fright. It means…
• a godly fear, a fear of God, of His displeasure and judgment.
• a holy sense of God’s presence.
• a consciousness that God is working.
• a reverence for God and for what is happening.
• a sense of awe and wonder.
Note what it is that stirs the public to be so aware of God: the signs and wonders being done by the apostles. And note: there were many.
“His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
“But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35).
“What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose” (Psalm 25:12).
“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19).
“Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
4. (2:44-45) Church— Unity— Ministry: the early believers were a people who were together and who shared in ministry. It is critical for the church to pay close attention and heed what is being said in this point.
1. The professing believers were true believers. They were those “that [truly] believe”
Deeper Study: Believe— Commit: the word “commit” is the very same word “believe”.
This gives an excellent picture of saving faith, of what genuine faith is—of the kind of faith that really saves a person.
1. Saving faith is not head knowledge, not just a mental conviction and intellectual assent. It is not just believing the fact that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. It is not just believing history, that Jesus Christ lived upon earth as the Savior just as George Washington lived upon earth as the President of America. It is not just believing the words and claims of Jesus in the same way that a person would believe the words of George Washington.
2. Saving faith is believing in Jesus, who and what He is, that He is the Savior and Lord of life. It is a person giving and turning his life over to Jesus. It is a person casting themselves upon Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Saving faith is commitment—the commitment of a man’s total being and life to Jesus Christ. It is a man’s commitment of all he is and has to Jesus. It gives Jesus everything; therefore, it involves all of a man’s affairs. The man trusts Jesus to take care of his past (sins), his present (welfare), and his future (destiny).
He entrusts his whole life, being and possessions into Jesus’ hands. He lays himself upon Jesus’ keeping, confiding in Him about his daily necessities and acknowledging Him in all the ways of life.
He follows Jesus in every area and in every detail of life, seeking His instructions and leaving his welfare up to Him. It is simply commitment of a man’s whole being, all he is and has, to Jesus.
There are three steps involved in faith, steps that are clearly seen in this passage.
1. There is the step of seeing (John 2:23) or hearing (Romans 10:16). A person must be willing to listen to the message of Christ, the revelation of truth.
2. There is the step of mental assent. A person must agree that the message is true, that the facts of the case are thus and so. But this is not enough. Mere agreement does not lead to action. Many a person knows that something is true, but he does not change his behavior to match his knowledge.
For example, a man knows that eating too much harms his body, but he may continue to eat too much. He agrees to the truth and knows the truth, but he does nothing about it. A person may believe and know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and yet do nothing about it, never make a decision to follow Christ. This man still does not have faith, not the kind of faith that the Bible talks about.
3. There is the step of commitment. When the New Testament speaks of faith, it speaks of commitment, a personal commitment to the truth. A man hears the truth and agrees that it is true and does something about it. He commits and yields his life to the truth. The truth becomes a part of his very being, a part of his behavior and life.
2. The believers were “together”. This means they were together in the same place because they were of the same call, mind, and purpose. It does not mean just being in the same location and place. They would not have been together unless they had been of the same spirit and purpose. This is critical to God’s call.
3. The believers sold their possessions and goods and used the money to minister to the poor and needy. Now note:
⇒ Why would they go to such a drastic extreme to minister? There is one critical reason: Christ commanded it. The church too often denies and ignores it, but denial of the truth does not do away with the truth.
Now note: Who are the rich and who are the poor?
⇒ A rich person is anyone who has more than what others have, more than what the vast majority of the world has.
⇒ A rich person is anyone who has anything to put back beyond meeting the true needs of his own family.
This is exactly what Christ and the Bible say time and again (cp. also Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4; Acts 4:34-35; etc.).
In a summary statement, who is rich? A rich person is anyone who has anything beyond what he needs. What Christ demands is that we give all that we are and have to meet the needs of those in such desperate need. We are to hold back nothing. This is often the great complaint against Christians, that we just do not believe, not really. The evidence of our unbelief is seen in the insistence of Christ, the demand that we give all we have to feed the starving and meet the desperate needs of the poor and lost of the world. But we don’t. Gandhi, the great leader of India’s independence, is said to have never embraced Christianity for this very reason. How many others have rejected Christ because of our hypocrisy?
“Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Thought. Just imagine how long ago the world would have been reached with the gospel if professing believers had been honestly committing their total lives to Christ, giving all they were and had to His cause of world evangelization!
5. (2:46) Unity: a people who continued with one accord.
One Accord (homothumadon): the same mind or spirit; oneness of mind and heart. It means to be one in spirit and purpose. Homos means same and thumos means spirit or mind. The believers, all 120 of them in the upper room, were of the same spirit, of the same mind. The idea is they were after the same thing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They were focusing and concentrating their thoughts and energies upon seeking God for the promise of His Spirit.
The word is used only eleven times in Scripture, ten of those times are found in Acts, one is found in Romans.
⇒ One accord in prayer (Acts 1:14; Acts 4:24).
⇒ One accord in one place (Acts 2:1).
⇒ One accord in daily worship and the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:46; Acts 5:12).
⇒ One accord in obedience (Acts 8:6).
⇒ One accord in a business meeting (Acts 15:25).
⇒ One accord is needed to glorify God (Romans 15:6).
The phrase “one accord” is also used to refer to the unity of unbelievers and enemies of the gospel (Acts 7:57; Acts 12:20; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:29).
6. (2:46-47) Church— Worship: a people who worshipped and praised God every day. Note five things.
1. The believers were worshipping in the temple, praying and attending the regular hours of worship and prayers (cp. Acts 3:1).
2.The believers were worshipping in their homes, moving from home to home. They were sharing together in fellowship meals and in observing the Lord’s Supper, remembering their Lord’s death. Home was to be the center of ministry.
3. The believers were worshipping with gladness and singleness of heart. The word “singleness” means sincere, without hardness. Their hearts were soft and tender, easily touched and giving. There was no selfishness or withholding on their part. Where there was need, they gave.
Note their attitude was gladness, joy, and rejoicing. They were more than glad to worship and minister as the Lord had instructed.
Thought. Just imagine the radical, transformed behavior of these early believers. What could have caused such radical behavior? The proclamation of the pure, unadulterated Word of Christ. The giving of all we are and have is absolutely demanded.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23).
4. The believers were praising God.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
“That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6).
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
5. The results were twofold: they gained favor with the people, and the Lord added souls to the church. Note the word “saved”. It is in the present tense, “such as were being saved.” Salvation is a present experience of the believer as well as past and future (Deeper Study—1 Cor. 1:18). The idea is that those who were being saved were being added to the church day by day.
“Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).
“And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5:14).
“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
“And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21).
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
(Bible Study Chapter Acts 1:1-26)
Rev. Louis M. Murphy, Sr.
April 7, 2021
A study of both books bears evidence that Luke is the author. The writer was evidently a physician. Greek medical terms are used. An analysis of the Gospel and Acts together shows the same style and language. There is also a clear understanding of the Roman and Greek world of the first century. The content of the two books shows a strong unity. There is a stress upon the resurrection, the Holy Spirit, the person of Christ, and the ministry to the Gentiles.
There is also enormous evidence that the writer of Acts was an acquaintance of Paul. This is clearly seen in the “we” section of Acts. In three sections of Acts there is a remarkable switch from “they” and “he” to “we.” The “we” sections give a first-hand account (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-21:18; Acts 27:1-28:16).
1. Luke is first seen with Paul at Troas. He switches from using “he” and “they” to “we.” Luke joined Paul on his journey to Philippi, and evidently remained in Philippi until Paul returned from Jerusalem (Acts 16:10).
2. Luke later went to Jerusalem with Paul when Paul was arrested (Acts 20:5-21:15).
3. Luke is seen with Paul again while Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea. He also accompanied Paul the prisoner to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:15).
4. Paul calls Luke “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24).
5. Luke is the last one to remain with Paul in his imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:11).
DATE: Around A.D. 62.
The book was definitely written before the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), but after Paul’s mission tours and imprisonment in Rome. This alone would place the writing during some year in the 60’s. The author of Acts was an eyewitness of many of the accounts.
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Theophilus, a Gentile convert (Acts 1:1). The Gospel of Luke was also addressed to him personally.
PURPOSE: to show how the church grew through the witness of believers “both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
This is Luke’s great aim. He shows how the church in Jerusalem was persecuted and how believers were forced to scatter throughout the whole world (Acts 8:1). He shows how the church moved out from Jerusalem, and in less than thirty-five years captured the very capital of the world, Rome itself. In brief, he shows how the expansion of Christianity took place.
OUTLINE OF ACTS
I. THE GREAT DAYS OF EXPECTATION, 1:1-26
A. Jesus’ Ministry on Earth, 1:1-5
B. Jesus’ Last Day on Earth, 1:6-11
C. Judas’ Fate and Replacement: Choosing Church Leaders, 1:12-26
II. THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF THE CHURCH, 2:1-7:60
A. The Day of Pentecost and The Coming of the Holy Spirit: The Church is Born, 2:1-13
B. The First Sermon (Part I): The Gospel Message, 2:14-24
C. The First Sermon (Part II): Proofs of the Resurrection, 2:25-36
D. The First Sermon (Part III): Imperatives of Salvation, 2:37-40
E. The First Church: Worthy Traits, 2:41-47
F. The First Recorded Miracle: Lessons for Witnessing, 3:1-11
G. The Second Sermon: Points for Preaching, 3:12-26
H. The First Persecution of the Church: Lessons for Christian Service, 4:1-22
I. The Church Triumphant in Persecution: Victory Over Abuse, 4:23-31
J. The Believers of the First Church: Essentials for Life Together, 4:32-37
K. The First Sin and Trouble in the Church: Keeping Back, 5:1-11
L. The Second Persecution of the Church (Part I): A Picture of Abuse, 5:12-25
M. The Second Persecution of the Church (Part II): Reasons for Remaining Loyal, 5:26-42
N. The First Administrative Problem: The First Deacons, 6:1-7
O. The First Martyr, Stephen (Scene I): A Model Man, 6:8-15
P. The First Martyr, Stephen (Scene II): The Tragic History of Israel, 7:1-53
Q. The First Martyr, Stephen (Scene III): A Study of Martyrdom, 7:54-60
III. THE CHURCH SCATTERED: MISSIONARY BEGINNINGS IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA, 8:1-9:31
A. The Church’s Lay Leaders Scattered: How God Uses Persecution, 8:1-4
B. The Great Revival in Samaria: A Study on Revival, 8:5-25
C. The Great Mission to an Individual: A Study of Witnessing, 8:26-40
D. The Confrontation Between Saul and the Lord: A Life-changing Conversion, 9:1-9
E. The Preparation of Saul: The Needs of a New Convert, 9:10-18
F. The Beginning of Paul’s Witness: A Believer’s Life and Testimony, 9:19-22
G. The Foretaste of Paul’s Great Suffering: Faithful Despite Terrible Trial, 9:23-30
H. The State of the Church: What a Church Should Be, 9:31
IV. THE CHURCH SCATTERED: THE FIRST GREAT MISSION TO THE GENTILES—BY PETER, 9:32-11:18
A. A Broader Ministry—In Lydda: Making Men Whole, 9:32-35
B. A Broader Ministry—In Joppa: Conquering Death, 9:36-43
C. A World-Wide Ministry—In Caesarea (Part I): Breaking Down Prejudice, 10:1-33
D. A World-Wide Ministry—In Caesarea (Part II): Preaching Peace, 10:34-43
E. A World-Wide Ministry—In Caesarea (Part III): Receiving the Holy Spirit, 10:44-48
F. A World-Wide Ministry—In Caesarea (Part IV): Gaining a World-Wide Vision, 11:1-18
V. THE CHURCH SCATTERED: GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE CHURCH, 11:19-12:25
A. The First Great Gentile Church: God’s Pattern for All Churches, 11:19-30
B. The Jerusalem Church is Miraculously Protected: God’s Pattern for Deliverance from Persecution, 12:1-25
VI. THE FIRST GREAT MISSION OF PAUL TO THE GENTILES: TO CYPRUS AND GALATIA, 13:1-14:28
A. The First Missionaries, Barnabas and Paul: The Most Challenging Call Ever Given, 13:1-3
B. Cyprus, The Island: The Beginning of Missions and Evangelism, 13:4-13
C. Antioch of Pisidia, the Main City of South GALATIA (Part I): The Preaching of Paul, 13:14-41
D. Antioch of Pisidia, the Main City of South GALATIA (Part II): Various Responses to the Gospel, 13:42-52
E. Iconium, the Ancient City: God’s Pattern for Preaching and Witnessing, 14:1-7
F. Lystra, the Frontier Town: Preaching to a Heathen and Superstitious People, 14:8-20
G. Derbe and the Return Journey: How Churches are Made Strong, 14:21-28
VII. THE GREAT JERUSALEM COUNCIL: PAUL’S MISSION CALLED INTO QUESTION, 15:1-35
A. The Problem Arises: Two Questions About Salvation, 15:1-5
B. The Jerusalem Council Meets: The Great Declaration on Salvation, 15:6-22
C. The Formal Decree of the Council: The Great Decree on Salvation, 15:23-35
VIII. THE SECOND GREAT MISSION OF PAUL TO THE GENTILES: TO EUROPE, 15:36-18:22
A. The Journey Begins in Controversy: A Study on Honest Conflict, 15:36-41
B. Galatia, the Return to a Far District: Faithfulness to the Church, 16:1-5
C. Asia, the Forbidden Area, and Europe, the Chosen Area: The Call to World Evangelism—Changing the Cradle of Society, 16:6-11
D. Philippi, a Chief City and Luke’s Home (Part I): Europe’s First Convert, 16:12-15
E. Philippi (Part II): The Power of Sin and Money vs. the Power of Jesus’ Name, 16:16-24
F. Philippi (Part III): A Jailer and Salvation, 16:25-40
G. Thessalonica, a Most Important City: The Message that Turned the World Upside Down, 17:1-9
H. Berea, the Receptive City: A Noble People, 17:10-15
I. Athens, the Great Intellectual and Philosophical City (Part I): The Preacher’s Urgency and Various Audiences—Who It Is That Needs the Gospel, 17:16-21
J. Athens (Part II): Preaching to a Heathen People, 17:22-34
K. Corinth, the Bridge of Greece: An Indisputable Christian, 18:1-17
L. Jerusalem and Antioch, the Journey Back: The Heroic Christian, 18:18-22
IX. THE THIRD GREAT MISSION OF PAUL TO THE GENTILES: TO ASIA MINOR AND EUROPE, 18:23-21:16
A. Ephesus, the Market and Religious Center of Asia Minor (Part I): Apollos—Preparing the Way, 18:23-28
B. Ephesus (Part II): Paul in Ephesus—Lessons on Salvation and Revival, 19:1-20
C. Ephesus (Part III): The Way of the Lord Disturbs People, 19:21-41
D. Europe and Asia Minor, The Great Cities Revisited: The Faithful Minister, 20:1-12
E. Miletus, a Notable City in Ancient Myth (Part I): The Testimony of a Faithful Minister, 20:13-27
F. Miletus (Part II): The Last Words to Church Leaders, 20:28-38
G. Jerusalem, the Final Miles: Warned, Yet Compelled to Preach, 21:1-16
X. THE BITTER EXPERIENCE IN JERUSALEM, 21:17-23:11
A. Paul’s Reluctant Decision: A Picture of Compromise, 21:17-40
B. Paul’s Testimony Before a Crazed Mob: A Message for Upset People, 22:1-21
C. Paul’s Testimony Before the Court, the Great Sanhedrin (Trial 1): God’s Guidance and Presence Through Terrible Strain, 22:22-23:11
XI. THE FINAL JOURNEY AND WITNESS OF PAUL: TO ROME AS A PRISONER, 23:12-28:31
A. Paul’s Providential Journey Begins: Man’s Deception and God’s Providence, 23:12-35
B. Paul and Felix, the Roman Governor—Trial Two (Part I): What Real Worship Is, 24:1-21
C. Paul and Felix (Part II): The Great Tragedy—A Man Who Knows Better, 24:22-27
D. Paul and Festus, the New Roman Governor, and King Agrippa—Trial Three (Part I): A Contrast of Attitudes, 25:1-27
E. Paul and Festus and King Agrippa—Trial Four (Part II): A Life-changing Conversion, 26:1-18
F. Paul and Festus and King Agrippa (Part III): A Much Needed Testimony and Message, 26:19-32
G. Paul Sails for Rome: Great Trust and God’s Care, 27:1-44
H. Paul—Shipwrecked and Stranded on an Island: God’s Protection Through Trial After Trial, 28:1-15
I. Paul in Rome: A Strategy for Evangelism in the Great City, 28:16-31
ACTS: DIVISION I
THE GREAT DAYS OF EXPECTATION, 1:1-26
Jesus’ Ministry on Earth, 1:1-5
Introduction: note the words “former treatise” or book. Luke was referring back to his gospel. He was now writing to the same man to whom he had written his gospel, Theophilus. He was reminding Theophilus that in his gospel he had covered the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth.
Note the word “began.” Jesus’ life and work on earth was only the beginning. Although He is in heaven, He continues to work and minister through the presence of the Spirit in the hearts and lives of believers. The book of Acts could well be called…
• the acts (works and teachings) of believers; or
• the acts (works and teachings) of Christ; or
• the acts (works and teachings) of the Holy Spirit.
Luke was saying that the life of Jesus Christ continues on. The book of Acts is the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ.
Acts 1:1-5 is a summary of the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth.
1. Luke wrote to Theophilus—reminded him of the gospel, that is, of Jesus’ ministry (v.1).
2. Jesus’ work and teaching (v.1-2).
3. Jesus’ death and resurrection (v.3).
4. Jesus’ promise of the kingdom (v.3).
5. Jesus’ promise of the Spirit (v.4-5).
1. (1:1) Theophilus: Luke wrote to Theophilus, reminding him of the former gospel which he had written, the gospel which covered the life and ministry of Jesus.
We are not told who Theophilus is, but note several facts.
1. Theophilus is called “most excellent Theophilus” in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:3). The words, “most excellent Theophilus,” are a title of rank and honor. It is the same title used of Felix and Festus, two high ranking Roman officials (Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:27). Theophilus must have been a Roman official of high rank.
2. Theophilus was a personal friend of Luke, close enough to correspond with Luke about the Lord Jesus. He was either a man interested in knowing the truth about Christ or else a new convert who needed to be grounded in Christ. Perhaps Luke himself had led Theophilus to Christ.
Note: Luke did not address Theophilus as “most excellent” in Acts. The title is dropped. Why? There are three possibilities.
a. Luke and Theophilus were close friends, close enough to be on a first name basis.
b. Theophilus had either retired or been removed from office between the writing of Luke and Acts.
c. Theophilus, having grown in Christ, had grown so loving and humble he did not want his title used among his Christian friends, not in times of personal communication and fellowship.
3. Theophilus lived outside Palestine, somewhere away from Luke.
4. Theophilus was a man of education and culture. His title and the fact that the Gospel of Luke and Acts are addressed to him point toward his being educated and cultured.
5. The name Theophilus means “beloved by God” or “the friend of God.”
Thought: Theophilus was a man who sought to grow and mature in the Lord. Imagine! Luke and Acts were written to him! Two of the greatest books ever written! And why? Because he had such a deep hunger to know the Lord, to learn all he could about the Lord. What a legacy and testimony—to be known as a person who so hungered to know the Lord that God had two of the greatest books ever written addressed to him! May we all develop a hunger to learn all we can about the Lord and Savior of the universe.
2. (1:1-2) Jesus Christ, Ministry: Jesus’ ministry on earth began with His work and teaching. Note the subject of this first chapter, “The Great Days of Expectation.” The works and teachings of Christ launched these days. Jesus Christ brought the greatest expectation to earth imaginable to man; in fact, He brought the only hope man has of surviving…
• of conquering the sin and shame of the earth: its hatred, killing, maiming, selfishness, bitterness, division.
• of conquering the death and hell of man’s destiny: his dread, fear, insecurity, ignorance, and baseless hope of what lies beyond the grave.
As stated, Jesus Christ brought the only hope man has of surviving. He taught men how to live together in peace and how they should live before God. Note three significant things.
1. Christ worked and taught until He was “taken up,” that is, until He ascended back into heaven. He was faithful, using all He had for God until His life upon earth was completed.
Thought: The believer is to use his gifts for God until he enters heaven. There is no retirement from seeking to reach a world sunk so desperately in need.
“Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).
“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccles. 9:10).
2. Christ worked and taught “through the Holy Spirit.” While He was on earth in the flesh, Christ was totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit. He had to surrender Himself and to make Himself available to the Spirit.
Thought: If Christ was so dependent upon the Spirit of God, how much more are we! How much more do we need to make ourselves available to Him, available for His gifts and power!
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
“Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephes. 5:18).
3. Christ gave and taught His commandments to those whom He had chosen, His apostles. He taught throngs of people, but He zeroed in on the apostles. His whole mission depended upon them. They were to be the first who would carry His message to the world after His departure. If they failed, his mission would fail; if they succeeded, His mission would succeed. He had to concentrate upon them; to drill His commandments into them so that they in turn could teach His commandments.
Thought: Every believer is the chosen servant of God to carry on the mission of Christ. Every believer is to be proclaiming the glorious message of hope to a world lost and doomed to death.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20).
3. (1:3) Jesus’ ministry on earth was climaxed in His passion and resurrection The word “passion” means suffering; it refers to the sufferings or death of Christ. His death and resurrection assured the salvation of man.
⇒ By death He paid the penalty for man’s sin.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
⇒ By arising from the dead He conquered death for man and now makes available a new life of power for the believer.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:20-23).
Note the two proofs of salvation.
1. Jesus showed, presented Himself alive.
There are ten resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. However, there were apparently many more that are not recorded (cp. John 20:30-31; John 21:25).
1. He appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).
2. He appeared to the women running to tell the disciples about the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10).
3. He appeared to Peter, probably to assure him of his restoration (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5).
4. He appeared to the two Emmaus disciples sometime in the early evening (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-42).
5. He appeared to the disciples with Thomas absent (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).
6. One week later, He appeared to the disciples who had gone fishing (John 20).
7. He appeared to 500 believers (1 Cor. 15:6).
8. He appeared to the apostles (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18).
9. He appeared to James, the Lord’s half-brother (1 Cor. 15:7).
10. He appeared to the believers at His ascension (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-12).
It should be remembered that since Jesus’ ascension He has appeared at least two other times.
A. He appeared to Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:55-56).
B. He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3f).
2. Jesus gave many infallible proofs of His resurrection. (See Acts 10:40-41.)
a. The word “proofs” means positive proof; infallible proof; convincing proof; sure signs and ways.
b. The infallible, positive proofs and appearances went on for forty days.
4. (1:3) Jesus’ ministry on earth was to proclaim the great hope of man, the promise of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the focus of His message even after His resurrection. Man’s only hope for survival is the Kingdom of God.
5. (1:4-5) Jesus’ ministry on earth was to proclaim the great promise to believers, the promise of the Holy Spirit. God knew and Christ proclaimed that no man could live and witness for God, not “in the arm of the flesh.” No man or group of men were powerful enough to live for God or to convince others of the foolishness of the gospel…
• that love is more powerful than might.
• that God’s Son actually came to earth as a man.
• that God’s Son died but was raised from the dead, conquering death.
• that the cross is the way men are saved from sin, death and hell.
• that man can be born again, literally born again and made into a new creature by believing in Jesus.
• that man can live forever by being born again through belief in Jesus.
Christ knew that man needed a supernatural power, the power of God Himself. He knew that the very presence of God’s Spirit had to enter into the very heart of man and…
• impart the divine nature of God (2 Peter 1:4).
• recreate his being completely (2 Cor. 5:17; Ephes. 4:23-24; Col. 3:9-10).
• live within his body, giving the believer the power to control his life for God and to courageously proclaim the gospel to a world that would consider it foolishness and often react in violence.
In these two verses, Christ is sharing how the apostles (and all succeeding believers) are to receive the Holy Spirit in all His fullness and power.
1. They are to “wait for the promise of the Father,” wait in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
a. Note the phrase “the promise of the Father.” The idea is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of God to the believer. The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God Himself, and God promises to give His Spirit to the believer.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD” (Zech. 2:10)
b. The believer must wait in prayer to receive the Holy Spirit. Waiting, centering, and focusing one’s attention upon God is another way of saying believing, trusting, and focusing one’s life upon God. If a person will wait upon God—if he will learn to wait more and more—he will…
• gain more and more awareness and consciousness of the Spirit’s presence and power.
• gain more and more knowledge of the Spirit Himself, how He lives and works within the believer’s heart and life.
• learn how to surrender more and more of his life to the Spirit’s control and witness.
• experience more and more of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.
Note: the fruit of the Spirit is borne only as the believer is filled with the Spirit. Being filled is a command. Believers are not automatically filled. Too many walk around in the flesh, totally unconscious of the Spirit’s presence and will.)
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
2. Believers have to hear about the promise of the Spirit before they can receive Him. A believer cannot sit with a wandering or preoccupied mind and be filled with the Spirit of God; he cannot expect to be filled with the presence of God and never center his mind upon the things of God.
The believer has to hear and focus his attention upon, hunger and thirst for the things of God. He has to center his life upon God’s Spirit in order to receive the promise of the Spirit.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12).
3. Then, believers will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Note: this baptism is not water baptism, not the kind of water baptism John used.
It is the baptism brought by Christ Himself, the immersion of the believer into the Spirit of God and of the Spirit into the believer.