This is a wonderful account. It tells about life in the Early (first) Church. [Note: This refers to people not a building.] And it is about the first missionaries. The book of Acts is the second part of Luke's work (1:1. Read Luke 1:1-4).

The book reminds its readers about the Holy Spirit. He gives power to each person. He gives power to groups of believers too. And he gives them the equipment that they need for their work. They will teach believers. They will tell other people about Jesus. They will care for members of the church. And there will be service to society too.

PETER is the main person in the first half of the book. (This is chapters 1-12.)

PAUL is the main person in the second half of the book. (This is chapters 13-26.)

The Church and its Power (Chapters 1-3)

There are three main subjects. And Luke clearly introduced them in this first section. Believers are to:

Wait (chapter 1). We see that prayer was most important to the first Christians. The Lord Jesus gave his instructions to them all. He did this through the Holy Spirit (1:2). But the Church must pray. Then they would understand the meaning of those orders. They would discover what their practical actions should be.

‘Wait’ is a main word here (1:4. Read Luke 24:49.) The book that is full of action begins with doing nothing! And it shows us the pattern for Christian service.

Witness (chapter 2. This word means to live and to speak so that people can see what God is like. The word can be a noun or a verb.) The Holy Spirit showed himself in an unusual way. And this made it possible for everyone to hear the gospel. There was a vast crowd of people who came from many nations. So their languages were many. But they all heard the gospel in their own language.

Here it was the opposite of Babel. (Read Genesis 11:1-9.) Now man did not want honour for himself (Genesis 11:4). His only desire was for God's honour. Man did not want to be famous (Genesis 11:4). He wanted Christ to be famous. (Read 3:6, 16; 4:10; 5:41.)

Notice something about the subject of their witness. It was not their ideas. It was not their experiences. It was the great acts of God. Peter preached a wonderful message. Here are some facts about it:

  • He used the Bible. He showed the truth of the gospel from Old Testament prophecy.
  • He made Christ the centre of his words (2:22-36).
  • He convinced the people about their part in Christ's death (2:23,36-37).
  • He appealed for them to repent (2:38-40).
  • His words were powerful. And there was a wonderful result (2:41).

Notice something else. Luke insisted that worship is a vital part of witness (2:46-47. Read Luke 24:48, 52).

Work (chapter 3). We might think that the Lord only cares about large crowds (2:41). But this is not so. Our work for him is personal (3:2-10). Every person is important.

The main subject in chapters 1-3 is the Holy Spirit's power:

  • Expecting the power (chapter 1)
  • Arrival of the power (chapter 2)
  • Showing the power (chapter 3).

The Church and its Problems (Chapters 4-12)

Whenever there is a work for God, there will be problems. There will always be people who oppose the work. These chapters tell us about the first dangers for the Early (first) Church.

Trouble from outside: We read about Peter's answers and John's answers to many hard questions (4:3-22). There was the arrest of the apostles. They were in prison for the night (5:17-18). Then there was the murder of Stephen (7:54-60). Saul tried to destroy all Christians (8:3). King Herod ordered his men to kill James with a sword (12:2). And from the beginning, the believers realized that things would not be easy. They were working in a society that would always oppose them.

Trouble from inside: This was much more serious.

  • Some believers were not sincere (5:1-10). And they pretended to be better than they were. But the leaders refused to accept this behaviour. And much blessing followed. There were miracles (5:12). And many people believed in the Lord Jesus (5:14). God used Peter to heal many people (5:15, 16). And the apostles spoke to evil spirits. They used the Name of Jesus. They told the evil spirits to leave people, and they did (5:16). There was trouble too (5:17-18). But God kept the apostles safe (5:19).
  • There were difficulties in relationships (6:1). But God soon used this problem for his good purposes (6:3). Notice that spiritual qualities are essential for practical tasks (6:5). Notice, too, that at least one leader did both things. He did practical things (6:2). And he also preached (7:2-54).
  • There were differences in what they believed. This was the worst problem for the Church in the first centuries. They needed to know what the relationship between Christians and Jews should be. This was the first time that they had to deal with this hard matter (chapter 10). And it was the first part of a process. It was the process of Christian love.

Love wants to bring people together. But Jews could not eat with Gentiles. [Note: A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew.] Jews could not go into a Gentile house (11:3). And Cornelius was a Gentile. He knew about this rule. So this was the reason for his reaction (10:24-28). Some people insisted that everyone must obey all Jewish rules (11:1-3). The Christians had this same problem later. (Read chapter 15; Galatians 2:11-14; 5:1-6.)

The Church and its Opportunities (Chapters 13-28)

There were difficulties. But there were opportunities too. We read about Paul's three journeys. He was being a missionary at the time. Then we read about what happened to him later. We read about four places. They were Jerusalem and Caesarea. Then there was Malta and Rome.

We will study Paul's journeys and his experiences under seven headings:

Paul the missionary. He had three journeys: His first one (13:1-15:35); his second one (15:36-18:22); and his third journey (18:23-21:16). Paul and his friends had great courage (15:26). The Holy Spirit was guiding them. They listened to the Holy Spirit and they obeyed him (16:6-10).

Paul the preacher. There are great descriptions of some talks that he gave. He preached to:

  • Jews who wanted to worship God (13:16-41)
  • Gentiles who had strange religious ideas (17:22-31)
  • Leaders who were spiritual (20:18-35).

Notice that Paul said things that were suitable for each group.

Paul's support of God's word. There are several speeches in chapters 22-28. And Paul defended the Christians’ beliefs. He declared the gospel. (Some examples are 22:1-22 and 23:1-9.) Paul was very clever. He knew all the facts too. It is important to know what we believe. Knowledge is important when we are explaining the gospel (24:10-21; 26:1-27).

Paul the evangelist. [Note: An ‘evangelist’ is someone whose work is to bring people to Christ]. Paul was a citizen of Rome. So he had certain rights. And he claimed these rights sometimes (22:24-29). But there was something else that he wanted much more. It was to show people how to become Christians (26:18, 23, 27-29).

Paul the witness. He did not just explain with facts. He told about his own experience. He knew that God's grace changes people. He knew what Christ had done for him. And he wanted other people to know his Lord's love and power (22:3-13; 26:3-19).

Paul the prisoner. Paul was a citizen of Rome. So he could appeal to Caesar (26:31-32; 27:1; 28:19-20). This meant that he could ask Caesar to judge him. Notice how Paul used hard circumstances. He used them for spiritual purposes (28:8-10).

[Note: Caesar was the title for the chief ruler of the great Roman Empire. He was a very powerful man.]

Paul the teacher. At the end of the book of Acts, Paul rented a house (28:30). He was a prisoner, but he could live in a house. And he lived there for two years (28:30). During that time, he was very busy. Paul explained, preached and taught God's word. Many people came to visit him. And he tried to persuade them to believe in Jesus (28:23).

The account says that ‘nobody tried to stop him’. Work like this still goes on all over the world. Bold men and women continue to declare God's word.