Read an Excerpt
The Spread of the Gospel
By John MacArthur
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The Birth of the Church
How would you rate the reputation of Christ's church in the world today? Why?
Luke's book of Acts picks up where his Gospel left off, providing details of the birth and early years of the church that Jesus had promised to build. Together, the two books, Luke and Acts, form a comprehensive and seamless account of how the followers of Jesus "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6) by taking the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to "the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The opening chapters of Acts portray the apostles and other disciples gathered together in Jerusalem just before the feast of Pentecost. Following Christ's ascension into heaven and a season of prayer, the time comes for the fulfillment of the promise of the indwelling Spirit (see John 14:16–17, 26; 16:5–15). This marvelous, miraculous outpouring of God results in the birth of the church and provides the supernatural power for believers to take the life-changing message of the gospel to all nations. Acts 2 concludes with a snapshot of church life in the first century.
Keys to the Text
Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the divine agent who creates, sustains, and preserves spiritual life in those who place their trust in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not merely an influence or an impersonal power emanating from God. He is a person, the third member of the Trinity, equal in every way to God the Father and God the Son. Among the many characteristics of personhood that the Holy Spirit manifests are: He functions with mind, emotion, and will; He loves the saints; He communicates with them, teaches, guides, comforts, and chastises them; He can be grieved, quenched, lied to, tested, resisted, and blasphemed. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has indwelt all believers, illuminating their understanding and application of God's Word. He fills them, seals them, communes with them, fellowships with them, intercedes for them, comforts them, admonishes them, sanctifies them, and enables them to resist sin and serve God.
Unleashing the Text
Read 1:1–2:47, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.
Acts 1:1–2:47 (NKJV)
1The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,
3to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
4And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me;
5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
9Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
11who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey.
13And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
15And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,
16"Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;
17for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry."
18(Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.
19And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20"For it is written in the Book of Psalms: 'Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it'; and, 'Let another take his office.'
21"Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."
23And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen
25to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."
26And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
2:1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
6And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?
8And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
12So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.
15For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.
16But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.
18And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
19I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
21And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'
22"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
24whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
25For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
26Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'
29"Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
30Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,
31he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
32This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
33Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34"For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand,
35Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'
36"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
40And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."
41Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
1) What words and phrases does Luke use in his opening paragraph to drive home the truth of Christ's resurrection? _______________________________________________________
2) What instructions and insights did Jesus give His followers concerning the Holy Spirit? _______________________________________________________
(Verses to consider: Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19–20; Tit. 3:5–6; Eph. 3:16, 20)
3) Following the ascension of Christ into heaven what did the believers do? What are we told about the identity of this group? _______________________________________________________
4) Use three adjectives to describe the events that occurred after the Spirit came. _______________________________________________________
This is the beginning of the church. For more insight about what the church is, read the apostle Paul's description of the church in Ephesians 3:1–12.
Exploring the Meaning
5) What theological insights does Paul's exposition in Ephesians 3 add to Luke's historical narrative of the birth of the church? What is God's intent in creating the entity we call the church? _______________________________________________________
6) What was the thrust of Peter's sermon to the gathered crowd at Pentecost? _______________________________________________________
7) How does Luke describe the atmosphere and activities of the first-century church (2:42–47)? _______________________________________________________
Truth for Today
In an effort to appeal to people's interest, the church today emphasizes a great many different programs, methods, and approaches. "Culturally relevant" worship services emphasizing music and drama have become increasingly popular. Secular psychology, management techniques, and advertising strategies have all made significant inroads into the life of the church. Seminars on everything from how to have a good marriage to how to handle money abound. Not all of those things may be harmful. Some, in their place, may even be helpful. But what has too often been sacrificed in the flurry of activities and programs is the priority of preaching. The first event of church history, following the coming of the Spirit, was Peter's sermon. It led to three thousand conversions and launched the church. The book of Acts is largely the record of apostolic preaching. Preaching has always remained central to the church's mission.
Reflecting on the Text
8) In Acts, there is always a close connection between the activity of God's Spirit and the proclamation of the gospel. Time and again those who experience the baptism or filling of the Spirit begin immediately speaking with others the truth about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. How vocal are you about the things of God? To what do you ascribe this? _______________________________________________________
(Verses to consider: 1:8; 2:4, 17; 4:8, 31; 6:10; 10:44–46; 13:9; 19:6)
Excerpted from Acts by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.