Important Highlights of Acts Part 1
By Nick Bibile
Although the author does not mention his name we know for certain it was written by Luke. In the gospel of Luke, he wrote an eyewitness account of the life and the work of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God. It was written to Theophilus. (Luke 1:1-3) Theophilus (lover of God) in mentioned again in Luke’s second account. (Acts 1:1-3) Luke uses the title most excellent, meaning a person of rank, perhaps a Roman officer.
Luke was a Gentile. Eusebius who was the Bishop of Caesarea (263–339 AD) said Luke was a native of Antioch. Some scholars believe he was from Philippi. Probably Luke was converted in Antioch, during the ministry of Barnabas and Paul. Luke was a Physician, a fellow worker of Paul and a traveling companion of Paul.
Col 4:14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
Philemon 1: 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
Some believe Luke was very close to Mary, the mother of Jesus and he died at the age of 84 in Bithynia. (A province of Asia Minor)
The book of Acts closes with Paul at Rome in prison for two years.
Acts 28: 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Apostle Paul was martyred in Rome around 66 A.D four years before the destruction of Jerusalem, probably the book of Acts was written before 66 AD, if it was after it would have recorded the death of Paul. Scholars agree, Acts was written after Paul arrived in Rome.
Earlier the book of Acts was called the Gospel of the Holy Ghost and the Gospel of the Resurrection, then Acts of the Apostles. Yet of the apostles only Peter and Paul is mentioned, John is mentioned only three times, James the son of Zebedee his execution is recorded.
Luke was a historian and a theologian, the book of Acts is not boring it is filled with theology and embedded in history. The book of Acts is a framework for the Epistles.
We see the ascension of Jesus to heaven, the necessity of waiting on the Holy Spirit and the apostolic witness.
We see the risen Lord expounds the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament and teaches the reign of God, his expansion of the kingdom.
Luke 24: 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The key text of the book of Acts is found in Acts 1:8
Chapter 1-7 you will see the church in Jerusalem
Chapter 8-11 you will see the church in Judea and Samaria
Chapter 12-28 to Rome and to the known world. (C/F Col 1:5-6)
Col 1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth
Criteria for an Apostle
How many people were gathered in the upper room? Acts 1:15 say about 120 believers. However the importance is given to the apostles in the preceding two verses, verse 13-14. How many names of the apostles are mentioned in verse 13? Only 11. Judas the traitor committed suicide. They wanted to fill that position.
Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.
An apostle should be one who had been with Jesus, disciple of Jesus from the beginning and one who had witnessed the resurrection of the Lord. Apostle should be ordained by Jesus. They decided to cast out lots.
Was it a mistake to caste out lots?
Read Acts 1:21-26
Here we see the cooperation between human leadership/apostles and the Lord. They proposed two men who may have qualified for the post of apostleship.
Acts 1: 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.
They prayed but the final decision left to the Lord.
Acts 1: 24 And they prayed and said, You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
To whom the prayer was offered? Luke constantly uses Lord for Jesus. See Luke 2:36. This is the few places in the New Testament where prayer was offered to Jesus. Why was prayer offered to Jesus? Because it was Jesus who chose the original twelve and it is fitting that the Lord will select a successor to Judas.
Those days casting out lots were done by taking two pieces of tiles, one white on one side the other black on the other side. If both turns out to be white it is a positive (Yes) decision but if both turns out black it is a negative (No) decision. If it both black and white, need to throw it again. The lot fell on Matthias and it seemed to be that Matthias was the right choice.
Why did they cast out lots? See Proverbs 16
Proverbs 16: 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
Was it a mistake to cast out lots to select an apostle?
I believe it was a mistake in casting out lots to chose an apostle. You will not hear again of Mathias. Never again in the New Testament records a decision by casting out lots. Why? Once the Holy Spirit is poured out you don’t need to cast out lots.
What about Paul? How can Paul be an apostle?
Paul was not with Jesus from the beginning, yet Lord Jesus called him to be an apostle. Who baptized Paul? Ananias.
Acts 9: 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Ananias was ordained under extraordinary way by the Lord, so we need to remember this was an extraordinary situation happened in history only at that time and we cannot make it these extraordinary cases for our theology today. Paul mentions in I Corinthians 15, that Jesus appeared to him. Paul was ordained by the Lord to be an apostle to the Gentiles.
It mean "fiftieth", it came on the fiftieth day after the second day of the Passover. It is also called the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of the Seventh because it followed the seven weeks. It was also called the Feast of Harvest because the time of the coming harvest, which began when, the Passover was ended.
On the day of Pentecost, fiftieth day after our Lord’s Resurrection, the Spirit was poured upon the disciples. It marks the harvest fulfillment and completion of the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God. On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit descended upon the apostles, and on which, under Peter's preaching, so many thousands were converted in Jerusalem (Acts 2).
Coming of the Holy Spirit
Most importantly coming of the Holy Spirit needs to be taken in historical terms, especially on the outpouring of the Spirit.
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
When did Peter or the other disciples become Christians in the New Testament? Peter and the other disciples were of Christ, they were believers of Christ yet, and they became Christians in the day of Pentecost when they were baptized to the body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 12: 13 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Galatians 3: 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Before the Holy Spirit was poured out they were believers but of Christ but when the Holy Spirit was poured out they were baptized into the body of Christ and they become in Christ. You become a Christian when you are in Christ.
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Christian is where Christ is in you, how many times in the epistles of Paul you see the word in Christ. Before Peter and the disciples were like the Old Testament believers, they were of Christ. Now however in Ephesians Chapter one it says we were chosen in him before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4) Yes, we were chosen to be saved. Salvation came during our life here on earth. Peter and the other believers just like the Old Testament saints were believers of Christ but the reality being in Christ came after the Pentecost. Coming of the Spirit was crucial to become a Christian.
Samaritans believed God when Philip preached the gospel, yet they received the Holy Spirit when the apostles prayed for them. (Read Acts 8:5, 12;14-17)
In Acts 10 we see Cornelius was a devout godly man. Peter went and preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, while Peter was preaching the Holy Spirit fell upon them. They became Christians when the spirit fell upon them.
How about today?
Coming of the Spirit corresponds to Jesus death, resurrection and the ascension. It is not correct to pray for a new Pentecost, Pentecost was an historical event that happened once for all. Praying for a new Pentecost is like praying for a new atoning death of Christ.
Pentecost, the falling of the spirit was an extraordinary event, which happened to the believers in Acts chapter 2, Samaritans in chapter 8, Cornelius in chapter 10, also certain disciples in Acts 19. Paul’s conversion and experience was extraordinary.
So how about today? Today you become a Christian just like how the three thousand were converted. What did Peter say? Peter preached the gospel and they were cut to the heart. (Acts 2:37)
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Once you trust and believe Christ as Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit that comes and dwells in us. This is how Lydia and the Philippian Jailor became Christians.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
1 Corinthians 6: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Teachings of the Apostles
In the former book, the book of Luke was the teachings of Jesus; in the book of Acts we see the teachings of the apostles.
Acts 1: 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Acts 2: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Is there a difference between Jesus teaching and the teachings of the apostles? No. First Jesus taught the apostles and then the apostles taught the believers. The most important part of the apostles was to teach the doctrine what they heard from Jesus.
John 14: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
In every stage of missionary outreach the apostles were present in the book of Acts. There are three major stages of the missionary outreach.
Chapter two to the Jews.
Chapter eight to the Samaritans.
Chapter 10 to the Gentiles.
The apostles were present on all three times; incidentally Peter was present on all three times. Peter preaches at the day of Pentecost, he is called from Jerusalem to go to Samaria, and then he is sent to the house of Cornelius. Who was the first to evangelize the Samaritans in the book of Acts? Philip. Was he the Philip the apostle? No, this was Philip the evangelist.
Philip preached the gospel and the Samaritans believed God, but why was it necessary for Peter and John to go to Samaria if they believed the gospel? (Acts 8:14) As we saw previously the Holy Spirit has not come to them yet. What is the lesson here? The presence of the apostles was vital for them to receive the spirit. Spirit was not given because of the apostles but in their presence. But there were exceptional cases.
The Ethiopian Eunuch. He was baptized by Philip the evangelist, however apostles had laid their hands on Philip before.
How many chapters are there in the book of Acts? 28 chapters. Where in the book of Acts the conversion of Paul recorded? Acts chapter 9 we see the record of Luke, then Acts chapter 22 and 26 we see Paul’s testimony. Paul’s first missionary journey begins in Acts chapter 13, apostle Paul becomes the most dominant Christian in the book of Acts as half of the book is devoted to Paul’s missionary journeys.
Continued in Part 2