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The Book of Acts

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Review , Ananias is told that the newly converted Saul of Tarsus will be coming to his house.

Or goal is to do a brief survey of each section or book of the NT.
We want to see the “Bigger Picture.”
Remember the Gospels:
Matthew — Jesus is King
Mark - Jesus is the suffering servant
Luke - Jesus is the perfect man
John - Jesus is divine
Remember that each week we are going to ask the following questions:
Who wrote the book?
To whom did they write?
What problem or question are they addressing?
What does that mean for us today?

ACTS - Intro

Who wrote Acts? Luke wrote Acts. It's the 2nd Part and follow up to the book of Luke. Acts 1:1-3
The Title is “The Acts of the Apostles.”
But a better title might be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles.” Or “The Acts of Jesus and the Spirit.”
To Whom Did Luke write? "The book is written to Theophilus, the same person to whom Luke’s Gospel is addressed and presumably for the same purpose: to present an orderly account of historical facts to Theophilus (Luke 1:1–4). Basically, the book is written to confirm the faith of believers. It is the history of the apostles and covers approximately the first 30 years of the early Church." Mark Water, The Books of the Bible Made Easy, The Made Easy Series (Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishing, 2001), 44.
What problem/question is Luke Addressing? Luke is writing to give his readers a history of the early Church and the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

Acts Answers 4 questions:

How did the disciples become effective leaders in the absence of Christ?
What accounts for the phenomenal growth in the early church?
Acts 2:41 - 3,000
Acts 2:47 - The Lord adds to their number daily
Acts 4:4 - 5,000
Acts 5:14 - Multitudes
Acts 6:7 - The number of disciples greatly increases
How did a religion begun among the Jews later become a gentile faith?
How are the teachings of the Epistles related to the teachings of the Gospels?
Acts fills the gap between the Gospels and Epistles. It is a pivotal book.
It links the ministry and teachings of Christ with the Christianity that appears developed in the Epistles.

Outline

Acts 1:8 provides the outline of the book - The Geographical and cultural movement of the Gospel drives the book!
Acts 1:8 ESV
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.”

Some Distinctive Features of Acts:

Prayer - Almost every chapter makes mention of prayer and shows the result of prayer!
Preaching of the Apostles
One sermon of Peter (Acts 2:14-40) and one Sermon of Paul (Acts 13:16-42) are produced in full.
12 Sermons or speeches are recorded
Peter (4)
Paul (6)
James (1)
Stephen (1)
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is Mentioned over 50 times in Acts, more than any other New Testament Book.
We see in Acts that the Holy Spirit has a personality. He can be lied against (Acts 5:4), tested (Acts 5:9), and resisted (Acts 7:51).
Acts shows on four different occasions where groups of people received the Holy Spirit:
Acts 2 - The Day of Pentecost (Jews)
Acts 8 - Samaritans (Half Jews)
Acts 10 - House of Cornelius (Palestinian Gentiles)
Acts 19 - Disciples at Ephesus

Witness

Acts 1:6-8
Acts 1:6–8 ESV
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.”
They spend time with Jesus following the resurrection and they want to know when he’s going to overthrow the Romans and set up His kingdom.
Jesus’ response is to get them back on mission! What is the Mission?
They Are going to receive power. Power for what? Power for Witness!
Acts 3. Christ’s Legacy: The Call to Witness (1:6–8)

The power they were to receive was divine power; the word is dynamis, the same word used of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels. It is the Spirit’s power (2:1–21). The endowment with the Spirit is the prelude to, the equipping for, mission. The role of the apostles is that of “witness” (martys).30

The Power of the spirit is not to feel good.
The Power of the spirit is not given for their selfish benefit.
THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN SO THAT THEY CAN BE WITNESSES!
Jesus sends the Spirit to point people to himself. He empowers people to point others towards Jesus.
Witnesses of What?
Acts 3. Christ’s Legacy: The Call to Witness (1:6–8)

In Acts the apostles’ main role is depicted as witnessing to the earthly ministry of Jesus, above all to his resurrection (cf. 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39, 41). As eyewitnesses only they were in the position to be guarantors of the resurrection. But with its root meaning of testimony, “witness” comes to have an almost legal sense of bearing one’s testimony to Christ.

The Main thing they witness to is that Jesus is alive!
Acts 1:22
Acts 1:22 ESV
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.”
Acts 2:32
Acts 2:32 ESV
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
Acts 3:15
Acts 3:15 ESV
15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Acts 5:30-32
Acts 5:30–32 ESV
30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Acts 10:39-41
Acts 10:39–41 ESV
39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Acts 13:30-31
Acts 13:30–31 ESV
30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
The Spirit uses these men women of the early Church through signs and wonders, just like Jesus - To show that Jesus has been resurrected and he is King.
The Message of Acts is that Jesus has come to begin a New Creation. It started with His resurrection and now continues in His Spirit-empowered Church. The Church now, empowered by the Spirit, has the task of calling all nations into this new community and kingdom.

Problems

The early Church was not perfect. It faced many problems.
Problems from within:
Lying to the Holy Spirit - Acts 5:1-10
Racial/Ethnic Issues - Acts 6:1
Failing to do what Jesus asked them to do - Notice that they do not move out of Jerusalem UNTIL persecution causes them to scatter! Acts 8:1
Problems from without:
Persecution and Political Opposition - The book of Acts is full of Persecution and opposition
Acts 4:5-22
Acts 5:17-42
Acts 6:8-7:53
Acts 8:1-3
Acts 12:1-18
Acts 14
Acts 16
Acts 17
Acts 18
Acts 19
Acts 21
AND MORE!
There is persecution or opposition of some form in almost every single chapter of Acts.
Why?
The message of Jesus disrupts the culture.
If Jesus is King Caesar is not!
Many
Death
The Death of Stephen - Acts 6:8-7:53
James - Acts 12:1-2
Despite all of these things, the Church grows, is directed, and expands through the power of the Spirit!

Renounce the Dominant Script

The Disciples caused such a ruckus because they renounced the dominant script of the day!
Walter Brueggemann argues in an essay entitled, Counterscript: “Living with the elusive God”, That all cultures and people have a script that they live by.
His main point is that God offers us an alternative or a counter script to live by. He says that in baptism, we are essentially saying - “I renounce the dominate script!”

What does all this mean for us?

What started the church is what the Church must continue in! The Church moves forward through prayer and the preaching of God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit!
We are called to be Spirit-Empowered witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our Lives should be full of God’s power and Love! If we have one without the other, the church suffers!
What did the Spirit Empower them to do?
The Spirit Enabled them to speak differently
They speak with relevance AND boldness
If you look throughout the book of Acts you’ll find that over and over and over the Holy Spirit is empowering men and women to speak with relevance and boldness.
Boldness: This man Peter, who once had denied Jesus is now preaching.
What happened?
It was the power of the Holy Spirit.
As one Pastor put it: This is a reminder that the Holy is not a reward for good behavior, but a gift for those who wait on Jesus.
In Acts 4:13 sums it up well
Acts 4:13 ESV
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Peter not only speaks with boldness, he speaks with relevance.
What Peter says “cuts to their heart”
Peter Speaks here on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 people come to know Jesus
In Acts 4, He speaks to a crowd at the temple in at thousands more respond to his messages.
Whatever he is saying, those who hear it are moved by it - They seem to be either moved towards violent rejection or glad acceptance - But it’s not often, at least in the early part of Acts that we see irrelevance.
The Holy Spirit wants to empower us to speak differently
He wants to use us to speak with boldness and relevance
There is a community around us filled with people who have real needs.
The Holy Spirit wants to touch and work in the lives of these individuals and he wants to use us to do it.
If we will pray and listen and be empowered by the Holy Spirit, he will give us the right words to speak that will cut to the heart and be relevant to the needs of men and women around us!
Illustration: Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this was a story some of you may have heard. But Dr. Mark Rutland, who was the president of SEU when I attend, tells the story of a time he was in Mexico on a Missions trip. He didn’t speak Spanish other than some high school Spanish. He was supposed to preach, but the interpreter was held up. He gets up to preach without the interpreter and fluent Spanish begins flowing out of him. He’s spoken fluently every since. Notice: The Spirit enabled boldness AND relevance. If he had spoken English, they wouldn’t have understood a word he was saying. BUT the Spirit enabled him to speak the language of the people.
The Spirit wants to enable you and I to speak the language of the people God has placed around us. To speak with boldness and relevance in a way that “cuts to the heart.”
The Spirit Enabled them to hear differently
The people who were listening heard them speaking in their own languages.
There are people here in Jerusalem from all over the world for the feast of Pentecost.
They would have all been Jews, but many of them were from far off places.
Acts 2:5 “5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”
The Spirit shows up and begins to speak, enabling the listeners to hear the wonders of God in their native tongues.
Why would God enable them to hear the wonders of God in their own language? Why couldn’t they have just spoken in Greek? That was the common language of the day and the majority of the crowd here would have understood it.
One Commentator put it this way: If they wanted to merely communicate with one another, they could have simply spoken Greek. Everyone who traveled in the Mediterranean world knew Greek. Why does the Holy Spirit not use the common language that everyone knew? It was important for each to hear the message in their own language, that they not only understand, but that the message get to the core of their background and experience. One can learn a language to accomplish a utilitarian purpose, but that’s not what God does. God seeks understanding, revelation. Perhaps the Spirit does not communicate in spite of our different languages and experiences, but through them, transfiguring and interpreting them.
The spirit wasn’t just working on the speaker’s end - He was also working on the Hearer’s end. In some ways, I believe he was translating - Making it relevant to the background, experiences, and lives of those who needed it.
Some believe this was the real miracle here.
Not only do those listening hear differently, the disciples themselves seem to be more attune to the direction and the instruction of the Spirit
Throughout the book you see the Spirit directing Peter, Paul, and others through prophecy, visions, and dreams.
In Acts 8, Phillip is directed to minister to a Eunuch from Ethiopia
In Acts 9, Annanias is told that the newly converted Saul of Tarsus will be coming to his house.
In Acts 10, Peter is directed to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
In Acts 13, the Spirit speaks to send out missionaries
In Acts 16, Paul is directed to Macedonia and the Gospel enters Europe for the first time
You could make an Entire Bible study out of simply the places where God directed the early Church!
Their ears now seem to be tuned to the frequency of the Spirit!
The Spirit wants to enable us to hear differently
If we will pay attention, the Spirit is speaking.
This is the heart of Evangelism: Listening. What is the Spirit saying and doing in my life and in the lives of those around me?
The Spirit is already at work.
How can we join Him in what he is already doing?
Illustration: Sometimes my wife and kids will be talking to me and, to be honest, I’m distracted. I’m engaged in trying fix a problem, looking at something on a screen, reading, or otherwise occupied. When this happens, I don’t always fully understand or get what they might be saying to me. You know how it goes. In order to truly hear them, I have to stop, slow down, put down the distraction and listen.
There is a world that is speaking. There is a God that is speaking. Most of us are too distracted to really hear what’s going on.
Stop
Slow down
Listen
Hear what God and your neighbor might be saying.
The Spirit Enabled them to see differently
They saw the scriptures differently
Look at Peter’s Sermon - He sees the Old Testament with New Eyes. He sees the teachings of Jesus with new Eyes.
Peter is able to pull things out of the scriptures that before he missed or didn’t find applicable.
They are able to remember the words of Jesus and see them in a new light and a fresh way.
They saw people differently
The Spirit breaks work to break down their racial and gender prejudices
Notice what Peter Says here from Joel: Sons and DAUGHTERS will prophecy. Male and female slaves will prophecy. Young and old will see dreams and visions.
The Holy Spirit has always been active in the world. But in the past, the Holy Spirit worked on individual people for individual purposes. Now, God has poured his Spirit on a bunch of people: slave and free, male and female, young and old. This is the nucleus of God’s people.
The Jews saw Gentiles and Samaritans as beneath them - But now, through the Power of the Spirit, God brings all these diverse groups together.
In Acts 10:34-35, Peter sums it up this way:
Acts 10:34–35 ESV
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
In Acts 14:8-10 Paul “Sees” that a man has faith to be well
Acts 14:8–10 ESV
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
God wants to enable us to see differently
The Spirit wants to bring the scriptures alive and make them relevant to your life and situation.
The Spirit wants to empower you to see people differently!
Illustration: A friar returned to his monastery after an Ignatian thirty-day retreat. Over granola the next morning, he was interrogated by a grumpy old member of the community who complained, “We’ve been working like slaves while you’ve been swanning around doing nothing! And look at you! You don’t look any different.” “You’re quite right, I probably don’t,” was the reply. “But you do.”
Sweet, Leonard. Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There (p. 27). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.
This is so important in our day and time.
The world has polarized us and group us up like never before.
Democrat
Republican
Liberal
Conservative
White
Black
Latino
Asian
These groups are great - They testify to the diversity of viewpoints and the beauty within God’s creation. BUT the culture often wants to put these groups against one another. AND if we are not careful, the Church buys into this. We see that GROUP over there as the out group and we are the “in” group.
If the book of Acts teaches us anything - It’s that the Spirit of God is working to bring everything and everyone into the Kingdom of God.
When we look at people, may we celebrate the diversity that God has given us - But may we see people made in God’s image that God wants to be a part of his family!
May the Spirit empower us to see with eyes of compassion. May he empower us to love even those we different from us, with whom we disagree.
The Pentecostal movement as we know it today started over 100 years ago at a place called Azusa Street in Los Angeles, CA. The Leader was a black man by the name of William Seymour. During the early days of the outpouring of the spirit, it was said that “The color line was washed away in the blood.” Black, white, young, old, male, and female all worshiped together. When the spirit truly moves he helps people to see differently. Sadly, the change didn’t last and it wasn’t long before pentecostal denominations sprang up based on race. But the early days of Pentecost and the book of Acts teach us that when the Spirit shows up, if we will let him have his way, he will breakdown the barriers and limits that culture and society puts on individuals!
Nothing Can Stop the Spirit-Empowered, Spirit-Directed Church!
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