Acts of the Apostles –The History of the Church
Acts of the Apostles is usually considered the lone New Testament book of history although some people also include the Gospels as history. It is the fifth book of the 27 New Testament books and was written by Luke (the physician) to Theophilus in approximately AD 63-70. Acts is thought of as the connection between the brief historical account of the ascension of Jesus and the establishment and growth of the church, and between the Gospels and the Epistles (Letters) of Paul during his missionary journeys.
Some consider this book a continuation of the Book of Luke, having the same author. As an eyewitness, Luke records an accurate and thorough history of the Holy Spirit’s arrival and the birth of the Christianity. Within approximately 10 years after the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were called Christians (Acts 11:26).
The church’s history begins with the founding, organization, and growth of Christianity within just 30 years after the ascension of the resurrected Christ. Acts’ first chapter deals with Jesus resurrection from the tomb and the 40 days He spent with the apostles. He spent this time teaching further about the Kingdom of God and what they were to do after His ascension.
Jesus instructed His followers that after they received power of the Holy Spirit, they were to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Peter became a lead figure in the group after the Day of Pentecost1. Pentecost is viewed as a major turning point in the God-given power and anointing bestowed the church. The disciples and apostles journeyed throughout Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Ethiopia, Macedonia, and eventually to Rome and throughout the world as we now know it. Despite opposition, imprisonment, beatings even unto death, the church instead begin to thrive. The apostles experienced ever-growing audiences, who through the Holy Spirit, received many miracles of healing, deliverances from demons (unclean spirits), and miraculous acts of protection from persecution.
During this period, Luke writes of the amazing conversion of a legalistic Jew named Saul, who later became a Christ follower whom God renamed Paul, an apostle. Paul is possibly the most responsible for the increase of Christianity. Luke also writes about Stephen, the first martyr for Christianity and the killing of James (John’s brother) who were among the closest to Jesus.
In the face of extreme hostility and persecution, the disciples and followers of Christ Jesus remained steadfastly faithful as many still do 2000 years later. Thus, the spread of the “good news” of Jesus and Christianity has become one of the three largest and most proclaimed belief systems of the world today.
Acts of the Apostles – The Day of Pentecost
Acts of the Apostles shares the amazing day of Pentecost, which changed the apostles, the church,2 and the world. Churches did not become established simply because groups of believers wanted to do so. They were led and empowered by the descent of God’s Spirit to multiply through Asia Minor, Greece, Syria, Rome, and beyond. The Holy Spirit was made available to young, old, men, women, Jews, and Gentiles from then on. Before His ascension, Jesus told His devoted apostles to return to Jerusalem to wait for the promised gift from the Father. He said in
They were gathered together on that Day of Pentecost when a “mighty windstorm came from heaven and filled the whole house.” It was then the group saw “tongues like flames of fire,” which came upon each of them. Every person was “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign languages as the Spirit gave them that ability” (Acts 2:3). When the busy street of Jews below (from several various nations) heard this they gathered and were “startled because each one heard the disciples speaking in his own language.” The multitudes were amazed; some scoffed, and others believed the 120 to be drunk on too much wine.
Acts of the Apostles – The Journeys
The major part of the book of Acts reports of Paul’s missionary journeys with his companions. Peter was a great example of Jesus’ acceptance of man despite his sometimes weak and regretful failures. Peter was changed by love and became called “the Rock” due to his firm and steadfast faith. This simple fisherman was not flawless and at times stumbled, but never failed to follow Jesus.
Jesus will change your life too if you turn to Him as Peter did. None of us are perfect, and most of us are failing and simple people who will continue to make mistakes; but all of us are called by God and the Holy Spirit to come to Jesus. If you have not yet done so, won’t you accept Him today?