The Book of Acts is the second installment in Lukes history of the ministry of Jesus Christ. In the gospel he wrote he reveals the Person of Jesus Himself, His life, death and resurrection. Now he picks up where his gospel left off and shows us the Risen Lord as He continues to minister through His Church. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to expect that after He was glorified the Holy Spirit would be given to them in far greater measure than had ever been possible before. His resurrection and ascension would inaugurate a new era of God at work from within His people, through all of His people (Lk 22:20; 24:49; Jn 7:37-39; 14:16-20; Heb 8:8-12).
As Lord of the Church, He would continue to lead us. To use Pauls metaphor, He would be our Head and we would be His Body (1Co 12:27; Eph 1:22, 23; 4:4, 12, 15, 16; Col 1:18). As Savior of the Church, He atoned not only the sin of our spirit so that we now have full fellowship with God, but our physical bodies as well, so that the Holy Spirit can dwell within us empowering us to function at a supernatural level as He did (Jn 14:12; Ro 8:3). He told His disciples they should not be sorrowful when He would ascend into heaven, because His physical departure was not the end of His ministry but rather a strategic transfer of His ministry to His people (Jn 16:5-7). What had been limited to one man during His earthly ministry, would now be multiplied exponentially because the Holy Spirit would be at work through all believers. He also said that by the Spirit He and the Father would be present within each one (Jn 14:18-20).
As we read Lukes account of the early church we see these promises fulfilled. We see the arrival of the Holy Spirit in a new dimension, and then watch remarkably transformed men and women boldly carry the message and work of Christ to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and into distant Gentile nations, just as He said they would (Lk 24:46-49; Ac 1:8). Thanks to Luke we are able to see Christianity being lived out as it was intended to be. We are able to observe how the Church functioned when it was led by the apostles themselves. Were shown a picture of the early church fresh from the hands of Jesus, before traditions, philosophy and politics sapped its strength. We see New Testament doctrine in action.
Every move of God tends to corrupt over time. Like a grapevine it needs pruning, and the Book of Acts is one very important way God prunes us. By showing us how He intended His Church to function, we discover what needs to change in our churches today. When the example of the first church is laid beside our church, the differences become obvious. Most of us will discover that our forefathers and mothers functioned at a far greater level of guidance, spiritual gifts, relationships, boldness, evangelism and holiness than we do. Certainly the culture we live in varies widely from those we read about here, but for that matter, the cultures of that day varied widely from place to place as well.
Yet, the essential nature of what God wants to accomplish through the Church does not change from culture to culture or generation to generation, at least not until His Son returns in power (Mt 28:20; 1Co 13:9-12; 15:24). So, we should be preaching the same gospel these early disciples preached; we should be seeing the same miraculous transformation take place in those who repent and believe; and we should see the same sort of miracles and gifts of the Spirit at work because these are available to us as well (Heb 13:7, 8).
Some of the very first sermons ever preached are recorded here. Luke allows us to listen as Peter preaches to thousands in Jerusalem (Ac 2:14-39; 3:12-26), and as Paul preaches to Jews in Galatia (Ac 13:14-41) or to Greeks in Athens (Ac 17:22-33). We hear Stephen confront Israels history of unbelief (Ac 7:1-60). We hear Philip explain Isaiah 53 to a man from Ethiopia (Ac 8:26-39), and Peter evangelize a Roman household (Ac 10:34-43). This is a book rich in apostolic doctrine and apostolic modeling. Here are the truths we should still be declaring today. Yes, of course, we must communicate them in ways so that those to whom were speaking understand, but the truths themselves are eternal. And here we see the spiritual vitality in which we too should be ministering, and if the Book of Acts is understood this way, and given the full authority it deserves, it becomes a powerful prophetic voice calling each generation to remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first
Saturday: Acts 1:1
v1: Luke addresses this document to someone named Theophilus, just as he did the gospel he wrote earlier (Lk 1:3). The name is probably a pseudonym meant to protect the identity of a man who held high political or military position, because Luke adds the title most excellent. Elsewhere in Acts he applies this same title to Felix the Roman procurator of Judea (Ac 23:26; 24:3) and Porcius Festus his successor (Ac 26:25). The name Theophilus literally means one who is loved by God, and is in itself an explanation of why Luke took the time to write this detailed history. Someone was sincerely inquiring about Jesus Christ and His Church, and because God loved him (and us), He had moved upon Luke to investigate everything carefully and to write it out in consecutive order so that he might know the exact truth about the things he had been taught (Lk 1:3, 4).