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.
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
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
Did this spiritual kingdom just appear out of nowhere
without any warning?
Oh, no, God had carefully planned and foretold its
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
continues to be a faithful Christian.
Bro. Bob Hare was on a camping trip.
At the campsite was another young man from Croatia
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
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
May their fever and fervor infect us!
God uses witnesses to teach others!
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
Jesus as the
Faith in Christ
as God's Son.
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?
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
are three important truths that emerge in light of such
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
and Silas pray to God from a prison cell one minute, and
then an earthquake from God frees them the next (Acts
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
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
The apostles and disciples in Acts acted!
Why don't you do the same!