This is a brief introduction to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, or just Acts, from the Bible. I am not committing to a series on the book, but we shall see if it ends up becoming one!
Acts opens as follows:
The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom.Acts 1:1-3 (WEB)
The author is someone named Luke, and he also wrote the Gospel associated with his name. You can think of the book of Acts as a “part two” of the book of Luke, or if you prefer, a kind of sequel!
While the book of Luke focusses on Jesus’ life and teaching, covering in detail the events of His birth, ministry, death and resurrection – Acts tells the story of the early church. What happened after Jesus left the earth? Acts tells us.
The books of Luke and Acts fit nicely together. I do not know if they were originally written together and intended to be read as a pair, but Luke’s opening words above suggest Acts as a separate work.
When someone wants to read the Bible for the first time, I often think reading Luke then Acts is a good place to start. Together they describe the foundation and formation of the church we are a part of today.
Luke is writing to someone named Theophilus, also mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. He sets out why he wrote the first book, and what it covered. He picks up the narrative after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and begins with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the promise of the Holy Spirit.
I love this phrase at the beginning of the book of Acts – “concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” His account of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke was just the beginning of what what Jesus did. Note the word “began” in verse one. On the one hand, Jesus had completed His earthly ministry and His work was done – reflected in His words at the cross “It is finished!” And yet, it was also just the beginning. Through His Holy Spirit, He would continue to do and to teach, and build His church.
One of the things I think we can miss sometimes is the frequency of Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles after His death. Verse three above points out that Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days, showing them “many proofs.” The Gospels give us a number of accounts of the Resurrected Jesus, but clearly cannot describe them all. Jesus appeared many times, and this served to strengthen the faith of those Apostles, many of whom would go on to die for their belief in Christ.
Acts contains many miracles, great sermons and displays of God’s power. It may be known for the miraculous conversion of Paul on the Damascas Road, but also notes the astonishing change in Peter from the one who denied Christ to one who would preach to thousands and suffer arrest and persecution for it.
When we truly encounter Christ, we cannot help but be changed forever.
The opening chapters of Acts is often read and thought about at this time of yar. We celebrated the Ascension of Christ in the week just gone, and this coming weekend recall the events of Pentacost described in Acts chapter 2.
I encourage you to read and study this book over the coming days. There is much we can learn from how the early church conducted itself, and may you be encouraged and uplifted as you read of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being praised and worshipped throughout the ancient world. May He ever be praised as He was among those few early believers!