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I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BOOK
The historical importance of the Book of Acts is unquestioned. It is the chief source book for the facts concerning Christianity in the first century after Christ. But the book is also important doctrinally, for in it are the seeds of doctrines developed later in the epistles — seeds which were nurtured in transformed lives. The doctrine of Acts is exemplified more in life than developed in systematic statement. It is doctrine in practice. Thus the book shows us what men can do in the power of the risen Saviour. It is the record of the continuation of those things which Jesus began to do while on earth and which He carries on as risen Head of the church (1:1). The book furnishes us the principles for revival and missionary work; it shows the divine pattern for church government; and it exhibits not only steadfastness but expansion under persecution. It is a book for the church in any century.
II. THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
Dr. Luke was evidently a Greek and not a Jew, for in Colossians 4:12-14 he is distinguished from those who are said to be of the circumcision. His place of birth is unknown to us, though Antioch in Syria and Philippi are often suggested. Of necessity he would have had to receive his medical training in one of the three universities of the day — in Alexandria, Athens, or Tarsus. We know nothing of the circumstances of his conversion.
Although Luke is usually remembered as a physician, we should realize that he was primarily a missionary. His written ministry in the composition of the Gospel of Luke qualifies him as such, but he also did itinerant missionary work. The Macedonian call was answered by Luke as well as Paul (16:13, 17). He was in charge of the work at Philippi for approximately six years, and later he preached in Rome (Philem. 24). He was also with Paul during his second imprisonment in Rome (II Tim. 4:11).
III. THE DATE OF THE BOOK
Since the record in Acts concludes with Paul's arrival in Rome to begin his first confinement in that city, one would judge that the book was written about A.D. 63 in Rome during that first imprisonment. If it were written later it would be very difficult to explain why Luke did not mention such momentous events as the burning of Rome, the martyrdom of Paul, and the destruction of Jerusalem itself (particularly if it were written after A.D. 70).
IV. THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE BOOK
Briefly, the proof for the Lucan authorship of Acts is usually developed along three lines. (1) The author of Acts was clearly a companion of Paul. This is seen from the "we" sections of the book — sections in which the first person plural is used signifying that the writer was a companion of Paul at those times (16:10-17; 20:5—21:18; 27:1 — 28:16). (2) By a process of elimination, that companion has to be Luke. The sections themselves eliminate, by mentioning, Silas, Timothy, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, and Trophimus; while the prison epistles point to Luke's being the companion (Col. 4:12; Philem. 24). (3) The same man who wrote the "we" sections wrote the remainder of the book, for the style is the same. (4) This conclusion that Luke was the author is substantiated by the incidence of medical terms found in Acts (1:3, 3:7 ff.; 9:18, 33; 13:11; 28:1-10).
V. THE SOURCES OF THE BOOK
Luke's statement concerning his method of research is found in Luke 1:1-4. Since his purpose in the writing of both the Gospel and the Acts was historical, and since his method was so careful, we may be assured that we have an accurate account of the events. In addition to all the care exercised by the author, the superintending work of the Holy Spirit guarantees the accuracy of the record which we have.
In producing his history of the apostolic age, Luke used several sources.
(1) Of some of the events he was a personal eyewitness. These are the "we" sections of the book; that is, sections in which Luke personally participated (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:31). These indicate that Luke was personally involved in the journey from Troas to Philippi (on the second missionary journey of Paul) and from Philippi (on the third journey) to Koine, including two years in Caesarea and two years in Rome. For all of these events he had his personal recollections and possibly diary-type written notes.
(2) Since Luke was with Paul during the five or six years before the writing of Acts, Paul could have provided him with information for the record in chapters 7, 9, 11:25-30, 13:116:8, and 17:1-20:4.
(3) Luke also had access to other eyewitnesses in gathering his material — people like Silas, Timothy, Titus, Aristarchus, James, Philip and his daughters (19:29; 20:4; 21:8,18; Col. 4:10; Philem. 24).
After gathering his facts Luke declares that he "closely traced all things accurately" (Luke 1:3), which means that he sifted the facts before he wrote and that he made accurate use in his writing of those sifted facts. The physician's diagnostic skill was applied to the sifting of the source material in thorough preparation for writing an accurate historical account. And, of course, in all this work Luke was guided by the Holy Spirit of God so that the Acts is that exact historical record correct in every detail which God wanted us to have.CHAPTER 2
THE RISEN LORD
It has often been said that the title of the Acts of the Apostles ought to be the Acts of the Risen Lord. The idea for such a change comes from the introduction to this first chapter (vv. 1-3). The former treatise (the Gospel of Luke) which Dr. Luke wrote to Theophilus (apparently a noble convert to Christianity) had recorded the things which Jesus began to do while in His body of limitation. The present treatise (Acts) continued the record of the works of Jesus, only in His resurrection body in which He was seen by the apostles for forty days (v. 3). Three acts of this risen Lord are recorded in this chapter.
I. THE RISEN LORD CORRECTING, 1:4-7
A. Correction concerning Service, 4-5
In His conversations with His disciples during the forty day post-resurrection ministry, the Lord spoke concerning the kingdom of God. Apparently the disciples had become greatly enthused, and so the Lord cautioned them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit before they began their service for Him. The ministry of the Spirit was not unknown to them; indeed they had experienced it (Jn. 14:17; 20:22). But the baptizing work of the Spirit was something they had not yet experienced, for the Lord said, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (v. 5). Then they would be ready for service. (And, of course, after the promise had been received there would be no more need for tarrying.)
B. Correction concerning Seasons, 6-7
Jewish minds had long been agitated over the coming of Messiah's kingdom. When Jesus of Nazareth appeared on the scene of history the hopes of many of the Jewish satellite people were pinned on Him. But these hopes were dashed against the stones of the hill of Calvary when their conquerors crucified their deliverer. Now that He had risen from the dead their hopes were revived. "Will the kingdom come now?" was the burning question (v. 6). Questions about the kingdom are pertinent, the Lord implied, but as for answering the question about the time of the coming of the kingdom, this He could not do. To know many things about the kingdom is quite proper (v. 3), but "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons" (v. 7).
II. THE RISEN LORD COMMISSIONING, 1:8-11
A. The Nafure of the Commission, 8
Until the kingdom should come the disciples were commissioned to be occupied with witnessing of their Lord.
1. Its Power. The power of the commission is the person of the Holy Spirit who would come upon them and baptize them on the day of Pentecost.
2. Its Personnel. The commission is to be carried out by the disciples and all who are "my witnesses" (the correct rendering of "witnesses unto me").
3. Its Program. The commission's outreach is world-wide. In the Acts the record of witnessing in Jerusalem is in chapters 1-7; in Judea and Samaria, 8-12; unto the uttermost part of the earth, 13-28.
B. The Need for the Commission, 9-11
The commission was given in view of the departure of the Lord. That ascension is described in verses 9 and 10 by three different verbs — "taken up (epaireo), "received" (hupolambano), and "went up" (poreuomai). As He ascended there appeared two angels who announced the promise of His return. They declared that the same Person would return in like manner (that is, in clouds and great glory, Mk. 13:26). This will be fulfilled in that future day when the Lord returns during the battle of Armageddon with His own to set up His millennial and eternal kingdom (Rev. 19:11-16 cf. Zech. 12:10; 14:14).
III. THE RISEN LORD CHOOSING, 1:12-26
A. The Necessity for the Choosing, 12-20
After the Lord had ascended the disciples returned to Jerusalem from nearby Mount Olivet (less than one mile — a sabbath day's journey). They assembled in the upper room which many understand to have been in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. There were about 120 there altogether — including the remaining 11 apostles, Jesus' mother and brothers (who had not believed in Him until after the resurrection, John 7:5), and some other women. They continued in prayer and supplication during the ten days between Christ's ascension and the coming of the Spirit. As they did, Peter stood up and took charge of choosing a successor to Judas the betrayer. He reminded the group that the Old Testament Scriptures had predicted Judas' treachery (Psa. 41:9) and that they must now choose someone to take his place.
B. The Nature of the Choosing, 21-26
First Peter declared the qualifications necessary for an apostle. He must be a witness of the resurrection and a companion of the Lord during the whole of His public earthly ministry (vv. 21-22). Two candidates were nominated, Justus and Matthias. Then they prayed not for the Lord to choose but for the choice which the Lord had already made to be made known to them. The two names were put on lots, placed in an urn, and then the one which first fell from the urn was taken to be the Lord's choice. This was in accord with Old Testament practice (cf. Prov. 16:33) and is a method no longer needed by Christians with the coming of the abiding presence of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:14; Jas. 1:5). The lot fell on Matthias and from that time on he, not Paul, was considered as the twelfth apostle (cf. 2:14; 6:2). Apparently it will be Matthias who will be included in the fulfillment of such promises as Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 21:14 (though Paul is designated an apostle with authority equal to any of the twelve).CHAPTER 3
PENTECOST — BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH
I. THE PROPHECY OF PENTECOST
Pentecost was a divinely planned event prophesied in Leviticus 23. The first of the annual feasts of Israel was Passover which marked a new beginning for the children of Israel. This was a type of Christ our passover sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7). The second was the feast of Unleavened Bread which lasted for seven days and which typified the lifelong walk of the believer in separation from evil. Firstfruits was the third feast, a type of the resurrection of Christ (Jn. 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:23). This was followed 50 days later by the feast of Pentecost or, as it was sometimes called, the feast of Weeks because it fell seven (a week of) weeks after Firstfruits. Likewise 50 days after the resurrection of Christ the event recorded in Acts 2 occurred.
II. THE POWER OF PENTECOST
The Power of Pentecost is a Person, the Holy Spirit of God. Pentecostal power is simply the unhindered working of the Spirit in any life at any time. On the Day of Pentecost He came to baptize the disciples into the Body of Christ, thus welding them as a unit into the risen Head of the Church (Acts 11:15-16; I Cor. 12:13). This is something that is experienced by each individual only once — at the time of his conversion. As other groups of believers were brought into the Body of Christ they were baptized by the Spirit (Acts 11:15-16), but each individual experiences this only once (note the aorist tense of the verb in I Cor. 12:13). On the Day of Pentecost the disciples were also filled with the Spirit (2:4), something which they and all believers may experience repeatedly (cf. 4:31; 6:5; 7:55; 9:17). At Pentecost, too, the Spirit inaugurated His permanent relationship of indwelling all believers in fulfillment of the Saviour's promise recorded in John 14:17. In a very real sense Pentecost was the beginning of the age of the Spirit.
A. The Evidence of His Coming, 1-4
The coming of the Spirit was evinced by wind, fire, and tongues. Strictly speaking it was not wind but a roar or reverberation which filled the house. The literal translation of the phrase in verse 2 is "an echoing sound as of a mighty wind borne violently." The fire was really what the tongues looked like as they divided themselves over the company, a tongue settling upon the head of each one. Finally the disciples began each to speak in real languages new to the speakers and understood by those from various lands who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. The natural sense of these verses indicates that the tongues were not jargon but real languages, and that the miracle was in the giving of the ability to speak these languages not in sensitizing in some way the ears of the hearers.
B. The Effects of His Coming, 5-13
Such startling and strange phenomena could not help but attract attention, and quickly a crowd gathered. Pentecost was one of the three festivals (along with Passover and Tabernacles) at which the law required attendance of Jews at the temple. Jerusalem was jammed. Indeed, 200,000 people could crowd together in the temple area alone. Jews from Babylonia, Syria, Egypt, Rome, Crete and Arabia all heard of the wonderful works of God in their mother tongues.
At first the people were amazed (literally, wide-open astonishment, v. 7). Then they were perplexed or at a loss to understand what they were witnessing (v. 12). They knew that they did not know what was going on, and since ignorance is always a blow to man's pride, they were driven to criticism (v. 13). They concluded that the disciples were drunk (cf. Eph. 5:18).
III. THE PREACHING OF PENTECOST, 2:14-47
A. The Sermon, 14-36
As spokesman for the 12, Peter seized the opportunity, afforded by the charge of drunkenness levelled at the disciples, to preach Jesus to the crowd.
1. Introduction — explanation, 14-21. The message began with an explanation of the phenomena. It could not be drunkenness since it was only 9 o'clock in the morning, and Jews engaged in the exercises of the synagogue on a feast day abstained from eating and drinking until 10 a.m. or even noon. It was not intoxication, Peter said; it was the ministry of the Spirit that caused the spectacle. To prove that the Spirit can produce such things, Peter quoted from Joel 2:28-32. This is a prophecy which will be fulfilled during the millennium when Israel is reestablished in her own land. Peter was not saying that the prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost or even that it was partially fulfilled; knowing from Joel what the Spirit could do, he was simply reminding the Jews that they should have recognized what they were then seeing as a work of the Spirit also. He continued to quote from Joel at length only in order to be able to include the salvation invitation recorded in verse 21.
2. Theme – Jesus is Messiah, 22-35. To the English reader it means little to say that Jesus is Messiah or Christ. Jesus Christ to us is in the nature of first and last names, but to the Jews Christ or Messiah was a well-defined concept from their Old Testament Scriptures and Jesus of Nazareth was to many merely another upstart human, religious teacher. To say that Jesus was the Christ was blasphemy. Thus Peter sought to prove to his audience that Jesus of Nazareth whom they knew well was their Messiah whom they also knew well. From Old Testament prophecies Peter reminded them of the picture of Messiah. From contemporary facts he painted a picture of Jesus. He superimposed these two pictures on each other to prove that Jesus is Christ, and the focal point of his entire argument was the resurrection.
First he proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 22-24). Then he recalled the predictions of the resurrection from Psalm 16:8-11 (vv. 25-31). He showed that it was not David who was raised since he was still in a tomb; therefore, David must have been speaking about someone else, namely Messiah. "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ" (v. 31a). Having proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus and having shown that Messiah had to be raised, Peter then reinforced his argument by citing proofs of the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 32-36). He reminded them that they were eyewitnesses of that miracle (v. 32), and we should remember that he was speaking to many residents of the city in which the resurrection had taken place less than two months before. Second, he cited the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God (vv. 33-35). This answered in the negative two questions: Can a mere man occupy that place of honor? and, Can a dead man be exalted? The third proof of the resurrection was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit — something no mere man, and certainly not a dead man, could do (vv. 33-35).
Excerpted from The Acts of the Apostles by Charles Caldwell Ryrie. Copyright © 1961 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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2.The Risen Lord
3. Pentecost - Birthday of the Church
4. The Healing of a Lame Man
5. The Beginning of Persecution
6. Purity, Purging and Persecution
7. Workers Together with God
8. The First Martyr
9. Enforced Expansion
10. The Conversion of Paul
11. Gentiles in the Church
12. The Church at Antioch
13. The Herodian Persecution
14. The First Missionary Journey
15. The Council at Jerusalem
16. The Second Missionary Journey
17. The Third Missionary Journey18. On to Rome
Posted April 5, 2013