The Power-Filled Promise
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. - Acts 1
As we begin our study on the book of Acts, let’s imagine it as a braided rope tying together the story of Jesus’ life on earth with the dramatic birth and miraculous growth of the new Church.
The Holy Spirit Comes As Promised
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. - Acts 2:1-13
Jesus gave His disciples explicit instructions to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit, the Helper, to come. He promised the Holy Spirit would teach them and help them remember all He had said.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. - Acts 2:14-47
Acts 2 is an amazing demonstration of the power of God and His promises. Nothing exactly like that Pentecost power had ever happened before or since.
Shift Your Perspective
Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ - Acts 3
Today we encounter Peter and John on their way to the temple to pray. While pressing through the crowds, they encounter a beggar, a man who had been “lame from birth."
Ordinary Isn't a Bad Thing
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. - Acts 4
Peter and John were ordinary men. Fishermen, actually.
Who’s Fighting for You?
‘Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’ - Acts 5
I learned in journalism school not to bury the lead. So let me give you the lead right up-front.
Chosen to Serve
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. - Acts 6
The new church was growing rapidly. People were being saved and baptized by the thousands.
The Holy Spirit’s Hard Truth
You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit - Acts 7
In Acts 6, the Jewish religious leaders seized Stephen and brought false charges against him. They were desperate enough to prove him guilty, they even persuaded people to lie about Stephen’s teachings.
Are You Willing to be Scattered?
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. - Acts 8
The stoning of Stephen led to a widespread outbreak of persecution and the ringleader was Saul. Saul was on a mission to destroy the church.
From Persecutor to Preacher
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. - Acts 9
Today we encounter one of the most profound heart transformations in all of Scripture. Whose heart?
Do You Need a Breakthrough?
The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean - Acts 10:1-33
To get to a breakthrough sometimes God has to break you. We don’t like to think that way, do we?
A Spiritual Breakthrough
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message - Acts 10:34-48
Yesterday, we read how God was breaking Peter. God had to work in Peter’s heart and mind so He could work through Peter.
Dining With “Them”
You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them - Acts 11
Have you ever had a meal or even a cup of coffee with “them”? Someone “your people” would completely disapprove of you dining with?
Freedom Is Where We Belong
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists - Acts 12
This wasn’t the first time Peter’s life was in jeopardy. Stephen had already been stoned.
Keep On Sharing
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourself worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles - Acts 13
Jesus instructed His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He told them to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Committed to the Cause
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed - Acts 14
The dynamic duo missionary team, Paul and Barnabas, are closing out the last leg of the first missionary journey in the town of Iconium. Though the shortest in length of his three journeys, this trip established Paul as a leader of the early Church and fearless communicator of the gospel.
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith - Acts 15
Conflict in the Church. Anybody else comforted to learn that it’s been a part of church life since the beginning?
Lord, Open My Heart to Respond
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there - Acts 16
The apostle Paul was eager to make his way to Macedonia after joining two new travel companions, Silas and Timothy, and receiving a stark vision from God. Setting sail they eventually arrived in Philippi, which was a leading city of the district of Macedonia.
Paul Builds a Case for the One True God
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands - Acts 17
Near the close of Acts 17, we find Paul in Athens addressing a broad audience of philosophers and educators, men who gathered regularly to hear the “latest” teachings but didn’t believe in any one thing. They loved to think for the sake of thinking and did not deal in absolutes.
Accepting Correction Gracefully
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures - Acts 18
Apollos was an evangelist, a leader in the early Church, and a true student of the Scriptures. On this particular day he was speaking with eloquence and fervor to an awestruck crowd.
Imposters, Opposers and Transformers
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. - Acts 19
Paul’s third missionary tour included a visit to Ephesus. He would end up spending more than two years in this cosmopolitan city, sharing the gospel with both Jews and Gentiles of Asia.
A Good Goodbye
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. - Acts 20
How do you say “goodbye” to someone you know you’ll likely never see again. Difficult, right?
I Am Ready
Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 21
On Paul’s farewell journey toward Jerusalem, he experienced both pain and promise. He experienced both joy and tears.
Having Faith with a Brave Heart
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live! - Acts 22
Do you ever feel like your faith requires too much work or sacrifice? I wonder if the apostle Paul sometimes felt that way.
Take Courage—God Is on Your Side
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome. - Acts 23
Acts 23 opens with Paul again defending himself, this time before an informal gathering of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious and civil court). In his opening statement, Paul declared that he had a clear conscience before God.
Held Against Your Will
When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison. - Acts 24
Are you like me? Do you skim over dates and time periods in the Bible?
Appeal to Authority
Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’ - Acts 25
In Acts 25 we find Paul still stuck in the middle of false accusations, imprisoned for his faith and awaiting yet another trial. By this time Paul has spent two years in prison because of baseless charges brought against him by the Jewish religious leaders.
Making the Most of Every Opportunity
Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains. - Acts 26
“You are out of your mind, Paul!” … This is how Festus responds to Paul and the gospel.
God Is Always In Control
On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. - Acts 27
Just as God had promised in Acts 23:11, Paul was on his way to testify in Rome. After Paul embarked a ship with other prisoners, the crew set sail along the coast of Asia.
Shut-In But Not Silenced
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! - Acts 28
This is not the first time we read about a long period of incarceration for Paul. He took a hard stance on his innocence, appealing to Caesar, as he stood before Festus and Felix.