Important Teaching on Acts
By Paul Robison

This wonderful book in the New Testament names 30 countries, 50 cities, and over 100 people.  It serves as historical bridge between the Gospels and the Letters.  It shows how a religious movement with Jewish roots became a worldwide religion.  It recounts the first 30 years of the church’s life and also provides an account of Paul’s life (without this revelation, we’d really be in the dark about Christianity).  It shows the continuation of Jesus’ ministry through the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles and missionaries who went forth preaching and establishing churches.  This book is Acts of the Apostles written by a physician, who was also a very accurate historian, whose name was Luke.

This book is also a part of a larger work.  Acts is Volume 2, and Luke’s gospel is Volume 1.  Someone has rightly noted that these two volumes really make up one work, and the preface to Luke’s gospel covers both sections and shows us that it is by a Gentile for a Gentile readership (Stott).  Now let’s look at the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel: “Inasmuch as many [i.e. other apostles and evangelists] have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us [these were events that had been prophesied and now were being fulfilled among Christians], just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us [or just as apostles and other evangelists who were eyewitnesses explained those events to us Christians], it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account [since I have known much about Christianity from its inception, I wanted to provide a written record], most excellent Theophilus [“most excellent” was a title that referred to nobility and Theophilus means “lover of God”], that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed [I write so that you can know the reliability about the those events and teachings taught you concerning the Gospel and the church so that you could become a Christian].”  One commentator notes: “The addressee had already been informed orally concerning Christ, perhaps through the preaching that he had heard, but he needs further instruction to stabilize him and convince him of the truth.  Luke’s obvious purpose was to give to his [brother in the Lord] complete knowledge of the truth” (Tenney).  Another commentator states: “Whoever Theophilus was, he stands as ‘a representative Gentile convert’” (Stott).  And while Luke is addressing this official using a polite name to keep his real identity a secret (that’s my opinion), he is also hopeful that other Gentiles, “especially those who have an open-minded interest in the historical origins of Christianity,” (Gundry) like the God-fearer Cornelius, would read his work, and they would see “the religious devotion, the moral purity, and the political innocence of Jesus and His followers” (Gundry).  So Luke writes in about 62 AD with a two- fold purpose: to bolster the faith of a real aristocratic Gentile Christian and to evangelize other Gentiles who were lovers of God.  “Be witnesses!” would be a good two word summary.  Now with this background in mind, let’s look at seven important teachings about God that we find in the book of Acts.

First of all, we see that God establishes the church.  The church was no after-thought of God.  In fact, Ephesians 3:10-11 tells that it was a part of God’s eternal purpose.  Did this spiritual kingdom just appear out of nowhere without any warning?  Oh, no, God had carefully planned and foretold its arrival.  The prophet Joel, hundreds of years before Christ was born, foretold that those in this kingdom would have God’s Spirit and enjoy salvation.  Notice what 2:28 & 32 states: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; … And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Then Isaiah 2:2-3 adds a prophecy that says that many nations would be present in Jerusalem when God’s house shall come into existence: “‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”  Then in Daniel 2:44, we learn that this eternal kingdom would be established during the days of the Roman Empire: “And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”  Then Jesus makes this affirmation in Mark 9:1: “And He said the them [the apostles], ‘Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”  That eternal kingdom is God’s kingdom, and the apostles are going to see it established with power.  Now look at Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Isn’t that amazing, we see here mentioned: the power (which Jesus predicted), the Holy Spirit (which Joel predicted), and the place of Jerusalem (which Isaiah predicted)?  The kingdom is about to come into existence.  The in chapter 2, we see that the Holy Spirit does come with power, and Jews from many nations are gathered in Jerusalem, and Peter declares in verse 16: “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,” and then he continues to quote the passage that we saw in Joel offering salvation to all.  And by the time he is finished preaching about how Jesus brings such salvation, there were 3000 immersed in Jesus’ name, and verse 47 states that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  All the prophecies and all the events in Acts 2 fit together, don’t they?  Now, we see that God’s eternal kingdom, composed of Spirit-filled believers, are that spiritual kingdom which was part of God’s eternal purpose!  This is the same church that Jesus promised to build in Matthew 16:18: “And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [on Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah], I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it!”  One other quick idea: What are these “gates” that Jesus mentions?  Well, back in that day, the gates were usually part of a city’s wall, and a wall was designed to protect a city.  So if the gates are part of the defense of Hades, who is on the attack here?  Yes, the church is on the offensive, and Satan’s and his forces will not be able to prevail against it!  God establishes the church, His eternal and spiritual kingdom!

Secondly, God uses witnesses to teach others.  Jesus had said that the apostles
would be witnesses as we saw just a moment ago in 1:8, and Peter preaches the first Gospel sermon in Acts 2.  In Acts 4, the Supreme Court of the day orders the apostles not to preach about Jesus anymore, but Peter and John reply: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard!”  “We’ve seen the Risen Messiah and heard God’s voice say He was His Son!  Sorry, good rulers, but we can’t help but tell others the good news that a new covenant has been established, and the church is on the march!”  Then there’s bold Stephen who also witnesses to this group, and loses his life for doing so.  We notice also that it wasn’t just the apostles who were witnesses.  Acts 8:4 tells us: “Therefore those who were scattered [those ordinary everyday Christians like us] went everywhere preaching the word.”  Have you ever noticed how God works to get the witness and the unbeliever together in Acts?  There’s Philip and the Ethiopian treasurer (Act 8), there’s Ananias and Saul (Acts 9), there’s Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10), there’s Paul and Lydia and the jailer (Acts 16), there’s Aquila and Priscilla and Apollos (Acts 19), there’s Roman and Jewish rulers and Paul (Acts 24-25).  Question: Can the same God still work to get witnesses and unbelievers together?  Answer: You bet he does!  Bro. Harold Paden went to Italy to fight as a solider during WW2.  After he came back to the States, he and brother Cline Paden retuned to Italy and began a Christian orphanage.  One of those orphans was named Gianfranco Sciotti.  Not long ago, Bro. Gianfranco wrote a moving letter thanking the Paden brothers, and especially Harold, for sharing the Gospel with him.  He continues to be a faithful Christian.  Bro. Bob Hare was on a camping trip.  At the campsite was another young man from Croatia named Maladen.  Somehow over an open fire, the conversation turned to God and spiritual things.  Maladen had been trained in Communism, but what he was hearing was challenging his beliefs.  The two continued to correspond together.  Maladen Yovanavich is probably our strongest preacher in Croatia today!  Following the birth of a boy, a Christian school was started.  One year, a young man enrolled in Abilene Christian College.  That same year he attended a lectureship in 1923.  One of preachers at that lectureship preached the Gospel and Burton Coffman was immersed into Christ.  Some say that Brother Coffman was one of the most influential Christian leaders during the 20th century (he died in June 2006 at the age of 101)!  Someone has said, “It could be that one of the greatest hindrances to evangelism today is the poverty of our own experiences” (Graham).  The brothers in Acts and the modern brothers in these examples all love their Lord and His word so much that, like Peter and John, they couldn’t help be speak what they had experienced.  May their fever and fervor infect us!  God uses witnesses to teach others!

Next, God demonstrates a way of salvation.   Here is chart which summarizes what nine people or groups of people did to become Christians (Hawley).  Notice that all these examples heard the Gospel; they hear that Jesus shed His blood to atone for our sins.  He took our sins so that we could take on His righteousness—that’s the great exchange of Christianity!  Most examples show that they

PEOPLE HEARD BELIEVED REPENTED CONFESSED BAPTIZED
The 3000 Jews Heard
Acts 2:38
Know
Acts 2:36
Repented
Acts 2:38
Baptized
Acts 2:38
The Samaritan Heard
Acts 8:6
Believed
Acts 8:12
    Baptized
Acts 8:12
The Ethiopian Heard
Acts 8:35
Believed
Acts 8:37
Confessed
Acts 8:37
Baptized
Acts 8:38
Saul Heard
Acts 22:14
Believed
Acts 9:6
Repented
Acts 9:9
  Baptized
Acts 22:16
Cornelius Heard
Acts 10:33
Believed
Acts 10:43
Repented
Acts 11:18
  Baptized
Acts 10:47
Lydia Heard
Acts 16:14
      Baptized
Acts 16:15
The Jailer Heard
Acts 16:32
  Repented
Acts 16:33
  Baptized
Acts 16:33
The Corinthians Heard
Acts 18:8
Believed
Acts 18:8
    Baptized
Acts 18:8
The Ephesians Heard
Act 19:5
Believed
Acts 19:4
    Baptized
Acts 19:5
Summary Heard the
Gospel about
Jesus
Believed in
Jesus as the
only Savior
Repented of
their sins

Confessed
Faith in Christ
as God's Son.
Immersed
in Christ's
name.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

believed that Jesus was God's Son, which shows that they had to be old enough to make a rational decision about His sacrifice and His commands.  They some examples show how they repented, and one example shows how one confessed his faith orally.  Lastly, ALL examples show how these people were immersed into Jesus' name to have their sins forgiven!  So, God's way of salvation is that people hear the Gospel, believe that Christ gave Himself voluntarily as the Lamb of God to pay the price for their sins and offer freedom from Satan's captivity, they changed the direction of their life, they confessed that Jesus was God's Son, and they were immersed in Jesus' name to have their sins washed away by the precious blood of Christ!  This is God's way of salvation for eternal life!  No someone might ask, “How can we know that we are to follow this way today?”  Well, Acts 2:39: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  The promise of forgiveness and being filled with God's Spirit is not only for the Jews and their lineage, but it is for ALL peoples of all generations, those who are afar off, as many people, it's not limited to any ethnic group or time period, as God will call through the preaching of Gospel!  If you will follow God's way today, you can leave this assembly today with your sins forgiven, with you life filled with God's Spirit, and with the hope of eternal life in heaven with all the faithful!  God's way of salvation is revealed in Acts.  Why not obey it today?

Next, God
brings about progress despite opposition.  On Pentecost, the apostles were mocked as being drunk.  Then we see that the Supreme Court tries to silence the apostle's and did silence Stephen's' preaching (Acts 3-7).  For awhile, Paul and Jewish kings become persecutors of the disciples (Acts 8-12).  The Jews were constantly stirring up trouble against those missionaries who were trying to teach their Gentile concerts about Christ (Acts 13-18), but pagans could also stir up people when their pocketbooks were hit (as seen in Philippi and Ephesus, Acts 16 & 19).  We see that as long as Roman governors could strive to please the Jews and to accept bribes for freedom, “Christians must expect to receive less than justice (Acts 21-25).  There are three important truths that emerge in light of such opposition.  First of all, Christians are called to stand firm and to be faithful despite the persecutions which they must endure.  Paul and Barnabas told the young congregations that they had established on their first missionary trip in Acts 14:22: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  Secondly, knowing that persecutions could always come, they were to trust God and not seek revenge: “So they [the apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame [by beating] for His name” (Acts 5:41)!  Thirdly, despite all the opposition from various sources, the Gospel and church continued to make progress throughout the world.  As Jesus had foretold, the Gospel was spread from Jerusalem to all parts of the Roman Empire.  We see how Acts closes with Paul in the largest city of the empire still preaching the Gospel!  We can be opposed today as well, but let's remember that God brings about progress despite the opposition.

Next, God wants all (cultures, races, and social classes) to be saved, united, and guided.  Christianity is not the faith of any one ethnic group.  It is the new spiritual kingdom with a new covenant for all people.  We see that those converted in Acts were from all kinds of cultures: Jewish, Cyprian, African, Asian, Macedonian, Grecian, and Roman.  They came from three major ethnic groups: Jews, Greeks, and Romans.  They came from all kinds of social statuses: from slaves to jailers, from tent-makers to merchants, from soldiers to city officials!  God wanted all to be a part of the church.  In the church they would saved through Christ, united in one body, and guided in their spiritual lives by local shepherds who were part of the local congregations!  Brethren, Luke shows us that everybody is a candidate for conversion.  When we look at someone and think, “Well, they’re certainly not worthy of the Gospel,” then we'd better soon say, “Get behind us, Satan!  For we are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men!”  Someone wrote this little poem to remind us of something important: “We have a super garbage man, who weekly empties out our can.  He's just a nice as kind can be; he always stops a bit to talk with me.  Most folks tend to frown upon his smell, but they really need to know him well.  Many folks would rank him low if someone were to take a poll, but from our Lord we have a role, it's our great joy to feed his soul” (modified Marshall)!  One of our own wrote these words which are part of a hymn: “Received ye freely, freely give, from every land they call.  Unless they hear, they cannot live: the Gospel is for all.  The blessed Gospel is for all, where sin has gone must go His grace, the Gospel is for all” (McCaleb).  God wants all (cultures, races, and social classes) to be saved, united, and guided!

Next, God
desires churches to be active.  The church in Jerusalem was very giving and supported many widows (Acts 2 & 6).  The church in Antioch of Syria sent out missionaries and was peace-loving (Acts 13 & 15).  The church in Berea was diligent in its study of the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).  The church in Ephesus publicly burned their books of magic to show their new devotion to Christ alone, and their good elders met with Paul when he called upon them (Acts 19:18-20).  The churches of Macedonia and Achaia gave generously to help their needy Jewish brethren (Acts 20-21).  The church in Rome welcomed Paul warmly on his way to Rome and accompanied him into the city (Acts 28).  From these examples, we can see that God wants churches who are busy in doing good works!  Don't you think a living God, a living Christ, and a living Spirit get pretty upset and grieved with churches that are dead?  The apostle Paul told Titus: “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).  To be a fruitful church is to be an active church.  And this also means serving beyond our own walls, just like those good congregations in the first century did!  God desires churches to be active!

Next, God longs
for us to ask that He will make things happen.  Someone has counted that there are 24 prayers in Acts (Ash).  Watch this!  The disciples pray that God will help them to speak about Jesus boldly, and God does so (Acts 4:23ff)!  Paul was praying to have his sight back, and God grants it (Acts 9:11ff)!  Peter prays that Dorcus would be raised from the dead, and God makes happen (Acts 9:36ff)!  The church in Jerusalem prays that Peter will be spared from death, and God grants this request (Acts 12:5ff)!  Paul and Silas pray to God from a prison cell one minute, and then an earthquake from God frees them the next (Acts 16:25ff)!  Paul prays that Publius would be would be healed of a sickness, and God grants his request (Acts 28:8)!  Let's recap here.  Prayer overcomes influential men, blindness, death, imprisonments, and sickness!  Now is there any barrier that God cannot overcome?  Nothing is impossible for God!  He is without limitations!  Think about that statement through the rest of your day!  So the next time we want to see something happen, why don't come together and ask the Lord in prayer to make it happen?  It may not get an immediate answer, like one third of the prayers in Acts, but our heavenly Father hears what we ask, and longs to help His children, just as any good earthly father does as well.  Someone made this observation: “How many Christians look upon it as a burden and a duty and a difficulty to get alone with God!  That is the great hindrance to our Christian lives everywhere” (Murray in Rowell).  Someone else put it this way: “If we are honest, we must admit that much of our time is spent pretending.  But when we turn to God in prayer, we must present our real selves, candidly acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, and our total dependence on Him” (Unknown in Rowell).  God longs for us to ask that He will make things happen!

Praise God for Bro. Luke and his great masterpiece that was written to touch the hearts of Gentiles!  We have seen seven great teachings about God in it: God establishes the church; God uses witnesses to teach others; God demonstrates a way of salvation; God brings about progress despite opposition; God wants all (cultures, races, social classes) to be saved, united, and guided; God desires that churches be active; God longs for us to ask that He will make things happen. You better be careful when you read Acts, because if you get hold of it, God will probably get hold of you, and your world and life will never be the same again! All examples of conversion involved baptism, and the water is ready for those who need to be immersed into Jesus' name this morning.  If you've had doubts about God being able to work through the church or to work through this congregation to the point that you've become inactive, then why not confess those doubts and ask God to increase your faith once again and to renew your zeal.  A step towards Christ is an action towards fruitfulness!  The apostles and disciples in Acts acted!  Why don't you do the same!