Introduction to the Study of the Book of Acts
January 2, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
I. Introduction - The Acts of the Apostles
A. Open your Bible to the Book of Acts
1. You know the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John… and then comes ‘Acts’
a. The Gospels record the life and words of Jesus Christ
b. They are followed by the EFFECT of that life and His words on the entire world!
2. Acts chronicles the history of Christianity immediately after Jesus’s resurrection.
a. It describes how Christians, as a body of believers were able to grow and spread out from Jerusalem [MAP] into the rest of the Roman Empire, in spite of intense hostility and persecution.
b. In just 30 years following the cross, a small group of frightened believers in Jerusalem were transformed into an empire-wide movement of people who had committed their lives to preaching Jesus Christ as the only answer to the human condition!
3. In virtually every chapter of the Book of Acts, men such as Peter and Paul powerfully present the gospel to people everywhere they went.
a. Souls were convicted of their sins, and thoroughly converted to faith in Jesus.
b. Others became angered, and ended up driving the Christians further and further into the Roman Empire.
4. The Book of Acts ends on a high note with one man named Paul about to take the gospel to the highest government official in Europe—Nero, the Emperor of Rome.
5. But there is no ending of the Book of Acts!
B. Acts is Not Finished
1. There are 28 chapters in Acts, but they do not end the story
2. Much of what was happening in the Book of Acts is supposed to CONTINUE being done today.
3. But too often, our lives do not reflect the sort of change that was happening in Europe and the Middle East those 2,000 years ago.
a. Some think Christianity was so primitive way back then, and needs to evolve
b. Other people struggle with fears over how others will react to our faith
c. Some Christians don’t want to be bothered – they do not want to break out of their own routine long enough to invest in the life of someone else who needs the gospel.
d. Many Christians see Christianity as only a part time routine, instead of an entirely new lifestyle and way of life!
e. So, modern Christianity has very little in common with what we find in the Book of Acts – and that is not progress, it is defeat
5. The last chapter of Acts does not describe the completion of the work of the Gospel. It leaves everyone hanging… waiting for the sequel
6. That’s where WE come in – where THIS church can add another chapter to the history of Christianity
7. But we need to make sure we stay in the lines – follow the patterns laid down for us in this Book – not try and rewrite the script, but instead, continue it!
C. Acts is Our Pattern
1. Our pattern of how to live; how to pray; how to stand up for Christ; how to give; how to go beyond our own limitations – it is our pattern to follow
2. So, let’s go back and see what we have strayed from
3. We will take much of this year, going verse by verse, chapter by chapter, going from place to place as described in Acts
4. We will be encouraged, and equipped to continue the journey that Jesus calls us to
5. And we will endeavour to be the kind of Christianity that is always In Motion!
6. Allow this study of the Book of Acts to get you to walk more closely with God, and more dependent upon the power of the Holy spirit so that you can make Christ’s name known world-wide with the same boldness and zeal of the apostles, and the early Christians that we read about in the Book of Acts!
A. The Former Treatise (Acts 1:1-3; Luke 1:1-4)
A Treatise is a
written Essay, a Thesis, a Documentary
Luke is saying, “You know the book I wrote before this one…”
2. He is saying, “The previous book that I wrote about the life of Jesus…”
3. Referring to the Gospel of Luke
a. Listen to the beginning of the Gospel of Luke… (Luke 1:1-4)
1) Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2) Even as they [THE APOSTLES] delivered them unto us [DISCIPLES], which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
3) It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4) [WHY?] That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
b. Now listen to the beginning of the Book of Acts… (Acts 1:1-3)
1) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus,
2) of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3) To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days,
4) and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4. The Gospel of Luke Records the Life and Teachings of Jesus
a. The Gospel of Luke is the most complete record of the life of Jesus of all the Gospels
b. It records “ALL that Jesus began to do and teach” – all that is important
c. It is the most complete record of the life of Jesus Christ from His conception, through to His ascension – none of the other Gospels cover as many details as Luke does
d. Yet the Gospel of Luke only scratched the surface – there is no library in the world that could hold all that Jesus did and taught (John 21:25) And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
e. Luke wrote his Gospel to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah – and it does it perfectly! Everything anyone needs to know to test and prove He is the Lord!
5. Luke wrote a SECOND Treatise – a second book… Part 2 of his series
a. The FORMER treatise was the Gospel of Luke – 33 years of the life of Christ
b. THIS Treatise is a summary of what happened AFTER the Resurrection!
1) 28 chapters
2) The Book of the Acts covers the first 30–35 years of church history
3) Acts begins with the ascension of Christ and runs all the way through to 64 AD.
4) By-the-way, if you read at an average pace, the Book of Acts can be read in a little under three hours. It's relatively short and action-packed
c. So Part 1 of the Story of Christianity are the Gospels… where it all began
d. The Book of Acts is Part 2 – the pattern for us to follow
e. WE are Part 3, as we continue what started at the resurrection
f. And the Book of Revelation is the Final Act in the story of Salvation, with Jesus’ Return
6. So, Who was Luke?
a. A Disciple of Jesus – born again, follower of Jesus Christ, maybe even one of the 70 that Jesus called after He ordained the twelve apostles
b. Paul also refers to Luke as a “fellowlabourer” (Philemon 1:24) Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
c. A faithful friend of the apostle Paul
1) Luke joined Paul in a town called Troas in Turkey during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:6–11)
2) Luke stayed with Paul even when most everyone else abandoned him (2Timothy 4:9-11) Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
3) So, you will discover that Acts was written from the viewpoint of an eyewitness (Acts 16:10). Not just writing down what other people said about Jesus, Peter, and Paul, but what he SAW with his own eyes!
d. “The beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.
1) A real doctor, that studied evidence and facts and proofs
2) A His style of writing is very careful, precise and detailed – not like the Gospel of Mark, which is very rapid, and short and terse
e. Everything we know about Luke indicates that Luke was a well-educated, observant, and careful writer who wanted to make sure people READ about the life of Jesus, and experienced the effect Christ’s life can bring to anyone who would believe on Him!
7. So, Luke and Acts were both written by the same author – Luke
8. It is part of Scripture because it was Inspired by the same Holy Spirit that inspired Moses, and David to write the Law and Psalms (2Timothy 3:16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
9. Surprising Fact:
a. If someone asked you who wrote the most in the New Testament, you'd likely be tempted to say, Paul. After all, Paul wrote the most New Testament books FOURTEEN different books from Romans to Hebrews
2) 1 Corinthians
3) 2 Corinthians
8) 1 Thessalonians
9) 2 Thessalonians
10) 1 Timothy
11) 2 Timothy
14) And Hebrews
b. But when you look at the word count of what each writer wrote, things are different:
1) If you add up all the words Paul wrote in his 14 books, it comes to about 32,000. Definitely a respectable amount.
2) But Luke wrote nearly 38,000 words (in just two books!), making him the author of almost 1/3rd of the New Testament.
3) Paul is only responsible for about 1/4th
B. ‘O Theophilus’ (Luke 1:1)
1. Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach
2. This is who Luke is writing to
3. Theophilus sounds like a name, and it could be the name of an individual, but ‘Theophilus’ means ‘lover of God’, so it probably was written to the general reader as ‘someone who loves God.’
4. Hopefully that means it is written to YOU!
5. So, both the Gospel of Luke, and this Book of Acts were written primarily for God's people, and not for the atheist or agnostic!
6. The Gospel of John was written to the unbeliever
7. But Luke and Acts were written to encourage anyone who wants to know how live the Christian life
8. And they are filled with examples of how to live it in a hostile world!
C. The Importance of the Holy Ghost / Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2)
1. Acts 1:2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
2. Here is the first mention of the Holy Ghost in Acts
a. He is the third person of the Trinity
b. He has been at work in this universe since the beginning of Creation
c. He was at work behind everything that happened throughout the Book of Acts
d. But is now at work in the lives of yielded believers – HE is how we do anything good
3. The Holy Spirit is THE most important power available in the world today, and is the most important Person to allow to run your life
a. Money, influence, popularity, politics – none can match the power of the Holy Spirit
b. Stop living in your own strengths and abilities Christian
c. Stop thinking you don’t NEED to pray and depend upon God’s help every day
d. The Holy Spirit of God is IN every believer, ready to work today, but is rarely given authority TO WORK!
D. Luke begins this Book with the fact that Jesus Showed Himself ALIVE (Acts 1:3)
1. Acts 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God
2. Jesus Showed Himself ALIVE
a. So, after Christ’s death, Jesus showed Himself to be very much ALIVE again
b. Nobody just SAID Jesus was alive – Jesus showed Himself alive, and there are PROOFS – Infallible proofs – that He is alive!
c. This – the impossible, miraculous resurrection of Jesus - is the CENTRAL Truth of Christianity
1) Acts 2:24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
2) Acts 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
3) Acts 3:15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
4) Acts 25:19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
5) Acts 26:8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
6) Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
d. If this is NOT true, if Jesus is STILL DEAD, if Jesus was only a good teacher, and not God in the flesh… then Christianity is a complete waste of time!
e. But if he IS actually risen again, then we ought to be the most fanatical people to ever walk the face of the earth! We ought to be risking OUR lives just as the first century Christians did for people to hear how to be saved!
f. No wonder the world was turned upside down
3. “After his passion”
a. Look at how Luke describes the crucifixion – such a horrible way to die
b. Yet Luke describes it as Christ’s work of love
c. It was His passion for us that drove Him to take OUR place on that Cross
1) Oh the love of Jesus – that brought Him from above
2) Oh the love of Jesus – that so many have not heard of
3) It drove Him to Golgotha – to a cross with all its pain
4) It made Him shed His precious blood – as our Saviour He was slain
5) What can I say of such great love – than hasn’t been said before?
6) I’ll say the boundless love of Jesus – makes me want to love Him more
7) His passion was at such great cost – His death was my great gain
8) But now He lives and calls to all – to trust in His lovely Name!
4. Many Infallible Proofs
a. So many people try to say…
1) Jesus never existed
2) That He was a fictitious person made up
3) That He just was a normal Jewish rabbi/teacher that His disciples made into a heroic Saviour
4) That Jesus was a martyr to a far right ideology, so He had to be made as someone bigger than life through exaggerated descriptions about Him
5) Whatever you want to believe… but History says otherwise!
b. Secular history has the following proofs about the person of Jesus Christ
1) A first-century Roman historian named, Cornelius Tacitus (circa AD 56–117), who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentioned a group of superstitious “Christians” who were following Christus (which is Latin for Christ), who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.
2) Suetonius, the chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, wrote that there was a man named Chrestus (Christ) who lived during the first century in Judaea (Annals 15.44).
3) Flavius Josephus was a famous Jewish historian. He was no friend of Christians
a) He wrote in 93 AD, in his Antiquities about James, who was “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.”
b) He also wrote, “At this time there was a rabbi named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
4) Julius Africanus quotes the ancient historian Thallus who wrote of the darkness that blanketed the land during the crucifixion of Christ (Extant Writings, 18).
5) Pliny the Younger, in his Letters 10:96, recorded early Christian worship practices including the fact that Christians worshiped Jesus as God and were very moral, and includes a reference to the love feasts the Christians had, and the Lord’s Supper.
6) Even the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover and records the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.
c. But the MOST infallible proofs of the life, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are…
1) The sheer number of clear prophecies describing Christ’s birthplace, life, miracles, and exact form and time of His crucifixion and resurrection!
2) The empty tomb and folded grave clothes are infallible proofs (Mt 28; Jn 20:3-9)
3) The eleven apostles SAW Jesus alive three days after his death
4) They ate and lived with Him for forty more days (Luke 24:38-44)
5) Those eleven men actually "HANDLED" Him (1John 1:1; John 20:28) – He was not a figment of their imagination, but real and physically alive!
6) More than 500 eye-witnesses saw Jesus alive during those forty days (1Cor 15:6)
7) The transformed lives of all those who trust Jesus as the living Saviour of their soul is an infallible proof (2Corinthians 5:17).
a) Willing to die so that Jesus could be known and believed by their enemies
b) Christianity should have died off with the death of their leader, and with the exposure of their fraud
c) But it didn’t die off – is exploded!
8) The fact the Christianity spread throughout the entire Roman Empire in under 30 years, and into all the world by 120 AD – all without weapons, money, propaganda, armies, or political power!
d. These are undeniable, absolute proofs that Jesus is Alive!
e. Don’t be a fool and ignore the facts!
E. Jesus Talked A Lot about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3; Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:17)
1. Act 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
2. Jesus taught about TWO kingdoms
a. The Kingdom of God
b. And the Kingdom of Heaven
3. The kingdom He taught about most was the Kingdom of God
4. It is important to understand the difference
a. The future kingdom is… heaven on earth
b. The present kingdom is… heaven in us
c. The Jewish apostles WANTED their kingdom to return – with Jesus as King
1) They wanted the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ to begin
2) It was supposed to be heaven on earth – the Kingdom of heaven
3) That is the Millennium
a) The earthly visible reign of Jesus Christ on this earth for 1000 years (the Kingdom of Heaven),
b) It comes right after the rapture and the seven year tribulation that will judge this world (Rev 19).
5. But most of Jesus’ teachings were about the way we live NOW – in the kingdom of God
a. Even though they would be hated and hurt in the kingdom of men
b. They could live FREE in a kingdom the world cannot see – the kingdom of God
c. They could have JOY for no other reason than just being saved
d. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
e. It is in the Kingdom of God, right here and now that we can experience “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
f. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God [NOT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN], and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
6. Are you even ready for the Second Coming of Jesus?
a. It is coming fast
b. But you are not ready if you are remaining outside of the Kingdom of God
c. Jesus said in John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
d. The only way IN is through the door – Jesus Himself!
III. What Do We Do Now?
A. Receive the King – believe on the living Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved
B. Become a Theophilus – start loving God with all your heart
C. Read through Acts Yourself – don’t wait on me!
1. Prepare yourself for what we are going to learn this year
2. Four chapters a day, you can read it through in a week
3. Or, if you just sat down and read straight through, it will take you about 3 hours
4. But no matter what, READ it yourself
5. Take Notes – there is no better way to learn this Book than by writing something down every time you read it, and learn about it
6. Watch for things that are missing in your life. Some things in Acts were just for that day, but much of what happened in the book of Acts NEEDS to happen again TODAY!
D. Start Following the Pattern found in Acts – get moving!
1. Allow this study of the Book of Acts to get you to walk more closely with God, and more dependent upon the power of the Holy spirit so that you can make Christ’s name known world-wide with the same boldness and zeal of the apostles, and the early Christians that we read about in the Book of Acts!
E. Be encouraged! The same God and the same Gospel that turned the world upside down back then, is well able to do it right now, in our lifetime!
F. Live like Jesus really is ALIVE - take every word of this Book seriously, and start living it!