Introduction to Acts (part 1)

Introduction to Acts (part 1)

  • Many view the Early Church through rose-colored glasses.
    • We romanticize their growth, generosity, and sincerity.
    • The early church had serious problems.
  • Read through the entire book (2.5 hours).
    • The mission of God through the working of the Holy Spirit
    • Send out the apostles/disciples as gospel witnesses.
  • 2 vol. set, separated when gospels combined.
  • Historical background bridges gospels and epistles
    • Introduces us to Paul.
    • Validates his claim to apostolic authority.
    • Explains baptism/circumcision.

Luke 1:1–4 and Acts 1:1–5

  • Authorship:
    • Zero competing candidates set forth. Luke virtually unchallenged until 18th century.
    • Traveled with Paul
      • “We passages” (16:10–17; Chs. 20; 21; 27–28).
      • Eliminates people mentioned by name (8 names).
      • The Beloved Physician (Col. 4:14).
      • Luke alone is with me (2 Tim. 4:11).
      • Luke, one of Paul’s fellow workers (Phi 24).
    • Style = educated literary Greek. Even poetic, but accurate.
    • Influenced by the Greek Old Testament (LXX).
  • Purpose:
    • Historical (Testify)
      • Accurate descriptions of people, places, and events.
      • Details the missionary progress of the church.
      • Entirely accurate in every factual claim.
        • Respected by classical historians.
        • Credible historian where fact-checking is possible.
      • However, selective w/ highlights.
    • Theological (Qualify)
      • How Jesus kept his promise to always be with the church—through the Holy Spirit.
      • How to defend their faith in the face of persecution.
      • Picture of a Christian worldview.
      • Scholars who assign late date & question accuracy, generally have a problem w/ divine influence. Luke’s motives automatically suspect.
      • Darrel Bock, “This is a worldview issue when it comes to Acts. If one doubts God’s activity in things such as miracles, then Acts instantly becomes suspect historically, and interpretation quickly moves in a more ‘poetic’ direction.”
    • Pastoral (Edify)
      • Luke’s agenda? “That you may be certain” (Lk. 1:4).
      • Now in part 2, gospel > next phase of church history (ascension, spread of the gospel).
      • Instructed and built up in the faith.
      • Apologetic intentions.
      • Centrality & content of the gospel.
      • Peter, James, and Paul fundamental agreement about the gospel.
        • Yes, tension over the mission to the Gentiles (11:3; 13:45; 15:1, 5; 17:5; 21:21, 28–29).
        • Kingdom advances through gospel preaching (6:7; 12:24; 19:20).
  • Big Idea: Church Growth = Faithful Preaching.
    1. Understanding the Gospel
    2. Preaching the Gospel
    3. Responding to the Gospel

Understanding the Gospel

  • The Gospel Message:
    • Life (2:22; 10:37–39a)
    • Death (2:23; 3:13–15; 4:10; 5:28, 30; 7:52)
      • “You killed him!”
      • Proof of Messiah (3:18; 8:32; 13:27–29; 17:2–3; 26:22–23)
    • Resurrection (4:33; 2:29–32; 17:3). Not argued, assumed.
  • “New movement” rooted in Old Testament promises:
    • The Messiah would be betrayed (1:16–20).
    • God would pour out his Spirit (2:16–21).
    • The resurrection and ascension (2:25–32).
    • Leaders would oppose him (3:17–18; 13:27).
    • A prophet like Moses (3:22).
    • Rejected by his own people (4:10–11).
    • Led as a lamb to the slaughter (8:32).
    • Israel’s unbelief and Gentile belief (13:26–27; 28:23–28).
  • Goal = Worship of God, not man (14:8–19).
  • Gospel Testimonies
    • Apostles
    • Opponents misrepresent Christ because of their own presuppositions and misunderstandings.
  • Apologetics and Christian Worldview is critically important.
    • Youth Sunday School Class on Christian Worldview for 6–12th grade starting in two weeks (6/21).
    • Investigation > Implementation of their faith.

If Step 1 is understanding the gospel, then Step 2 is…

Preaching the Gospel

  • The extraordinary means of proclaiming the message.
    • Proclamation of Christ + working of His Spirit = God is at work. None of the apostles are main character. Both Peter and Paul are eclipsed by the central character, namely God. This is a record of the mission of God.
    • Darrell Johnson has three convictions about preaching:
      • When the living God speaks, something always happens. “Let there be light.” And there was-lots of it. “Be still.” And the waves and winds died down. “Lazarus, come forth.” And out walks a dead man.
      • When the preacher speaks God’s speech, God speaks. “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God” (The Second Helvetic Confession).
      • Therefore, when the preacher speaks God’s speech, something always happens. Whenever Christ is preached, God is at work!
    • The weaknesses of the apostles and disciples.
      • Ministry in Jerusalem to the Jews (1–12)
      • Paul’s missionary journies to the Gentiles (13–28)
      • Paul not necessarily portrayed as a great orator:
        • Most of the Athenians are unconvinced by him.
        • Festus thinks he is crazy.
        • Eutychus falls asleep and dies!
  • The extraordinary means of confirming the message.
    • Tongues and healing.
    • Bock, “Luke emphasizes what the Spirit does for the community more than what the Spirit does in each believer.”
    • Acts chronicles many events that are unique and unrepeatable. Narrative description not necessarily prescription. Normative? Should we copy/avoid?
    • Examples of Descriptive:
      • Day of Pentecost (ch.2).
      • Ministry of Apostles (pillars). Elected Judas’ replacement by lot (1:23–26).
      • Common possessions (2:44–45).
      • Sell our goods and share with the needy (4:32f).
      • Blinding light and audible revelation at conversion (9:3f).
    • Didactic guides interpretation of descriptive.
  • The sovereign work of God.
    • Some view doctrine of election as a family secret.
    • In Acts, election encourages evangelism (4:28–30; 18:9–10).
  • We should assume God has people in Clovis and our neighborhood who will respond to the gospel in faith.
  • Open ending > mission of God continues.

Understanding the Gospel > Preaching the Gospel >

Responding to the Gospel

  • How believers respond (2:42–47).
  • Various responses to the gospel in Acts:
    • Cut to the heart (2:37).
    • Peter imprisoned (4:3).
    • Sanhedrin ordered Peter to withdraw (4:15).
    • Sanhedrin ordered Peter to be taken outside (5:33–34).
    • Stephen stoned to death (7:54–60).
    • Cornelius responded in faith and Holy Spirit came (10:44).
    • Some converted in Antioch. Paul invited to preach again (13:42–43).
    • Sneering philosophers in Areopagus (17:31–32).
    • Jerusalem crowd shouted for Paul’s death (22:22).
    • Festus accused Paul of being out of his mind (26:23–24).
  • Mark Dever, “Those are the different ways people responded to the truth in the book of Acts: conviction, arrest, dismissal, fury and protection, murder, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, polite interest, sneers, shouts, interruptions.”


  • Ray Sanchez will be looking at The Mission of the Gospel next week focusing on the way in which the gospel spreads beginning in Jerusalem > Judea and Samaria > The ends of the earth.
  • Throughout Acts we will see that the mission of God is carried out—even in the face of opposition.

What is your response? Conviction? Dismissive? Converted? Revived? Unconcerned?