The Book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles is a fascinating book. It could be turned into a blockbuster movie, really. There is so much happening in this book; action, drama, killing, sacrifice, persecution, unity, fellowship, miracles, and more. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie filled with all of that? It would surely be a hit!
Acts was written by Luke, the doctor. It is sort of a continuation of his Gospel. It is the story of the people who continued Jesus’ mission. In the early church, the very first Christians needed to first develop their own sense of community for their new church. They needed to set up a structure, choose leaders and spend time together worshiping God. Once that was established, they moved onto evangelism. The biggest obstacle for them was how to get the Good News out.
There was no email, social media, newspapers, telephones, text messages, faxes, mail, Fed Ex, UPS, or any other ways to communicate that we know and use today. The only way to spread a message was to go on foot and share the message by mouth. These early Christians had their work cut out for them. Not only did they preach the Good News, they set up churches wherever they traveled. They gave instructions on how to structure the churches and they wrote letters to check in and see how things were going. They helped these churches grow.
The early Christian Church withstood growing persecution from the Jewish community as well as from the Roman government. They also faced inner turmoil as they learned to form their own identity after breaking off from Judiasm and also accepting Gentiles into the church as well.
Jesus had left them with a task almost too large to imagine. These people we will read about are the people who passed the legacy of Jesus onto us, so that we can share it with our children and grandchildren.
Here is an outline of The Book of Acts:
Chapters 1-7 – Jerusalem – This is the beginning of the church. These chapters are stories that take place at the time immediately following Jesus’ ascension to heaven. Everything is new and they are working together to build a community.
Chapters 8-12 – Judea and Samaria – Persecution ensues, leaders step up and meet needs in Judea and other areas. Philip went to Samaria, Paul converted to Christianity, Peter learned that Gentiles and Jews could be saved, Stephen and James become martyrs.
Chapters 12-28 – The World – Paul led 3 journeys to spread the Word of Jesus. Paul faced persecution, 3 trials, yet he managed to plant churches all over the known world.
We haven’t even started the chapters and that is already a lot of information to digest! I hope you are as excited as I am about digging into Acts! Here we go with chapters 1 & 2.
Shortly before Jesus’ Ascension, he instructed the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon them. He tells them that “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) So, the disciples waited in hiding for this to happen. While they were waiting, they met with other followers and began to form the structure of the new church. The first order of business was to fulfill the prediction from the book of Psalms in finding a replacement for Judas the traitor. After discussion and prayer, the disciples chose Matthias, a man who had traveled with them from the baptism of Jesus to his ascension to heaven.
Seven weeks after the Resurrection, Jesus’ followers were in a meeting place together. Sounds from heaven were heard and flames of tongues appeared on them. The Holy Spirit had arrived! Were they scared? Were they excited? Did they realize what was happening even though this was the day they were waiting for? The Holy Spirit filled them with power that would enable them to perform miraculous tasks as well as speak in many different languages.
Outsiders came to see what the commotion was all about. Some were astonished while others thought they were drunk. Peter stepped up and explained that they were not drunk, but were fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, predicted centuries before. The prophecy explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon all. These followers will see visions, dream dreams and prophesy as well. He explains that they are living in a time when the Scriptures are being fulfilled. He talks about King David and how he prophesied of the Holy One not staying among the dead and not rotting in a grave. He explains that David was speaking of Jesus.
The people are shaken up! Wouldn’t you be? They are scared and ask what they should do. Remember, these are the people who several weeks earlier nailed Jesus to a cross and watched him die. Peter tells them to repent. “Turn from your sins, turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (v. 38)He goes on to tell them that this promise is not just for them but for their children, grandchildren and generations to come. (Yay!)
That means this promise is for us!
Thank you God for your forgiveness, you son and your love! How amazing it is to read about how you began the Christian church through ordinary people like us. Show us God how to be like your first apostles. Lead us to share the Good News with others.
Thursday – Acts 1
Friday – Acts 2
Saturday – Acts 3
Sunday – Acts 4
Monday – Reflection
Tuesday – Praises & Petitions