Like any good origin story, there's so much to learn from the history of the early church. So much of God's love and power can be seen in these burgeoning chapters of Acts, of God establishing and mobilizing the church after Jesus' ascension to heaven.
There's a lot we could discuss here, but for the sake of time, we'll be taking a step back and looking at the impact of the book as a whole. In its entirety, it's a story of radical evangelism and service, often in the face of great adversity. Yes, Jesus left the earth, but this is just the beginning of the Gospel—and the presence of the Holy Spirit!
Here's your daily devotional on the book of Acts, an incredible witness of the apostles carrying out Christ's mission. Consider this your go-to resource to be emboldened for Jesus! There's much kingdom work to be done on this earth, LiF sister, but with God's help, it is more than possible.
A Bridge Between the New Testament & the Gospels
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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 1:6-9
To start off our deep dive into Acts, we're going to break down its structure. Acts picks up where Luke's Gospel leaves off. Since it's written by Luke, it's a fitting continuation. The book recounts everything that happens to the apostles after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven.
Just as Jesus promised, He would continue to be with His people and empower them to share His Gospel to all the world.
The book begins with Christ's ascension, moves on to the events of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, then recounts Paul and his many missionary journeys. As the book unfolds, more and more Gentiles respond to the Gospel and are saved.
Essentially, this book provides context for the Gospel mandate and serves as an essential bridge between the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament. In this critical time of transition, we see God work in powerful ways through the most unlikely of people (think Paul!).
The Events at Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ~ Acts 2:1-4
The book begins with a glimpse into Jesus' conversations with His disciples before His resurrection. He tells them He will be sending a "helper," also known as the Holy Spirit. This fulfills the Old Testament prophecies from Isaiah 32 and Ezekiel 36.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27
According to this prophecy, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be the temple in which God's presence dwells. This is in stark contrast to the Old Testament times when the temple was a physical place only certain people could visit to commune with God. Now, God would be accessible to those who called on Him. How amazing is that?
This brings us to our next big, noteworthy event—Pentecost. It's a wild account where a great fire descends on the people of Israel and fills them with the Holy Spirit, giving them great wisdom and insight. This essential event provides necessary context for the remainder of the book—How God's people would be equipped to fulfill Christ's mission now that Jesus was gone. As always, God is faithful and fulfills His time-honored promise that He would be with His people, always.
To the People of Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth
"Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know...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 2:22-38
The rest of the book is laid out in a very organized way that reflects Jesus' mandate. Chapters 2-7 are focused on the apostles bringing the Gospel to the people of Jerusalem. Chapters 8-12 recount the Gospel coming to the people of Judea and Samaria, and 13-28 are for the people of all nations, to end of the earth.
Throughout chapters 2-7, Luke explains the many miracles the apostles perform, as well as the fierce resistance they're met with when sharing Gospel. Like clockwork, the apostles perform healings and are taken into custody by the temple leaders, only to be released to perform more miracles in the name of Jesus.
Persecution is a common thread throughout Acts. It's startling to see what brutal, often life-threatening punishment the apostles endured for the sake of furthering God's kingdom.
We see this, particularly, with the account of Stephen in chapter 7. He boldly shares the Gospel and in response, he's murdered by temple leaders. This is followed by a new wave of persecution against Jesus' followers, forcing them to flee from the city.
Just as the Bible Project video explains, "The church goes from being a mostly Jewish, Jerusalem-based community of Jesus to being a multi-ethnic international movement." Since Christians are being persecuted and are forced to flee, this naturally leads to the Gospel being extended far and wide. It's amazing to see how God can take something so broken, like persecution, and turn it into something amazing—a means to share the Gospel.
Saul's Conversion & Ministry
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 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. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” ~ Acts 9:1-7
A vicious persecutor of the Christian faith, Saul had a fearsome reputation. That is until he had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Himself. In a stunning moment, Jesus came to Saul and completely changed his life. From that moment forward, he would no longer be Saul, persecutor of Christians, but he would be Paul, a faithful advocate for Jesus. This is important to note, since the majority of the New Testament is written by Paul. Consider this his origin story!
Chapters 13-28 of Acts recount Paul's many perilous missionary journeys. Again, this is a continuation of the Gospel being shared throughout the world. It's especially poignant to read Paul's very broken origins, because it makes the rest of the New Testament that much more meaningful.
We see God's redemptive power here at work in Paul. If He can turn Paul's life around and embolden him for Christ, think of what He can do for you and me.
I could go on and on and on about the insights from this book. It's rich in history and deep, theological meaning. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read the entire book from chapter 1 to chapter 28. It's a powerful read, and nothing does it justice like sitting down and soaking it all in for yourself. To make things quick, here are a few key takeaways that I've learned from my time in the book of Acts:
- The kingdom of God is for everyone. We see this in Jesus' Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..” The Christian faith is no longer for Jews in particular. Instead, the apostles are called to extend Jesus' good news to all nations. Because of this, the church is now a multi-ethnic family of God.
- Following Jesus will cost you. Persecution is seen throughout this book. It's a heavy read to witness how Jesus' followers gave up everything, even their own lives, to proclaim His truth. This begs to question—are you boldly living for Christ, despite the cultural norm?
- The radical generosity and communal living of the early church are astounding. Acts is so powerful because it essentially lays the groundwork for the Christian church. We see key pillars of the church established here—generosity, the power of community, and selflessness.
- God will always fulfill His promises. His plan was always to include non-Jewish people in His covenant, and we see distinct ways in which He fulfills ancient, Old Testament prophecy. God never forgets, never forsakes us.
Read, Wear, Remember
There are many ways to be emboldened for Christ. Reading your Bible, fellowship with other believers—and wearing super-cute, faith-based t-shirts, too! As always, I encourage you to check out our Christian t-shirts and accessories, which have been crafted with a specific purpose in mind—to encourage, uplift, and excite you, LiF sister!