From Deficiency to Sufficiency
As we can see from our text, we are beginning to embark upon a journey through the book of Acts. For some time now I have been saying that we would be covering this book once we finished our study of Mark, and the time has now come.
We began in Mark, because whether one realizes it, there is a seriously deficient understanding of the Gospel of Christ today. What is concerning is that this deficiency is noticeable not among non-believers, which is a given, but among professing Christians. Gospel ignorance plagues our land, and it plagues not only those outside the church, but those within the church at large.
The desire, therefore, was to have us as a local body of believers immerse ourselves for two years in Mark’s account on the life, and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who did not come to be served, but to serve by giving His life as a ransom for many. For two years our minds have been engaged with the truth that Jesus Christ, The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became a Man so that He, as a man, might do what we could not. He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. He lived a perfectly righteous life according to the Law in our stead. He lived the life we are incapable of living, and He first lived for us so that He might then die for us. He became a Man to become our sin, bearing it upon His body on the cross so that He might endure upon Himself the wrath we rightly deserve for our sin against a holy God. As John says:
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The Father magnified His love for us by satisfying His justice toward our sin upon His only Son, whom He loved, and who willingly gave of Himself for us. God demonstrated His own love towards us in that while we were yet helpless, ungodly, sinners at enmity with Him, Christ died for us. As Peter says:
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”
After Christ rendered Himself as an offering for our sin, God proved Him to be the way, the truth, and the life by bringing Him back to life on the third day never to die again. The Father resurrecting His Son is the furnished proof that all who turn from their sin to trust in Christ will be freely forgiven all their sins, and given a righteousness which enables them to forever live with the One, True, Living and Holy God. They will be given the very life Christ lived, and continues to live, on their behalf. Since He forever lives, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him. As Paul says:
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
In Christ, God is therefore just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we through His poverty might become rich. As Augustine said many years ago:
“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”
Gospel ignorance may be plaguing the land and the church at large but may that never be with this body of believers. May we continually contend for the faith which has been once for all delivered to the saints and entrust it to the next generation so they may faithfully do the same. We began in Mark so that we might understand God and His gospel of His Christ, who was crucified and risen again on our behalf for His glory!
We will now begin a study through the book of Acts, because another malady the church at large faces today is not only an ignorance of the gospel, but an ignorance of the church itself. There is a deficient understanding of Ecclesiology, an inadequate knowledge of the church, the Ecclesia, the body and the bride of Christ. A proper exposition of the book of Acts should remedy such a deficiency if it exists among us, for Acts is the first volume of church history.
This is a beloved book by many, and rightfully so. Acts covers the beginnings of the church at Pentecost, the fundamental priorities of the church in the worship of God, the God ordained leadership structure of the church, the unchanging purpose of the church, and above all the ultimate Architect of the church, which is Christ. There is every reason for people to love this book.
Though it is loved by many, it is also greatly misunderstood by many. Strange teachings have come out through the life the church which stem from an incorrect interpretation of Acts. Teachings such as Baptismal Regeneration, which asserts that one must be baptized to be saved; or Spirit Baptism, which maintains that a believer must seek an additional baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to be filled by Him, and such a filling will be manifested through miraculous signs, especially the gift of tongues. A misunderstanding of Acts has also resulted in an unbiblical view of the gift of apostleship today, as well as confusion over the miraculous sign gifts such as healing, prophecy, and tongues. All these misunderstandings stem from improper Bible interpretation, and from reading Acts as if it were an epistle to the church dictating what must been done.
Acts falls under the genre of historical narrative that describes the transitional period between the Old and New Testament, which means that it is chiefly descriptive, but not necessarily prescriptive. In other words, Acts is describing for us events to understand, but not always prescribing things for us to do in our everyday lives. Great care must therefore be given when studying this book, especially to avoid what I believe to be the greatest misunderstanding that has ever been generated from a mishandling of it, which is a misunderstanding of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit who is actively working throughout the entirety of it to build the church of Christ.
This inevitably means that though Acts is a work of history intended to convey information, it is also a work of theology intended to establish and build up ones understanding of the Spirit, which is known as Pneumatology. It further bolsters ones Christology, that is the study and knowledge of Christ. It strengthens a person’s grasp of Soteriology, which is refers to the study of the salvation found in Christ alone. It, therefore, forms ones Ecclesiology, which is the study of the body of believers bought by Christ and placed by Him into what is known as the church. Lastly, the book of Acts develops ones Missiology, meaning it teaches us what the mission of the church is to be.
Yes, Acts is a work of history intended to inform us, and it is also a work of theology intended to transform the way we think of God, the Christ, the Spirit, and the church so that we may live to the praise of His glory. Theology without practice is vain. Practice without theology is arrogance.
The Beloved Physician
The word “Acts” is translated from the Greek word “Praxeis” which speaks of heroic exploits, or courageous deeds being carried out.We have been calling it The Book of Acts, but it has been known by other names through the centuries: The Acts, The Acts of the Apostles, The Act of The Father, The Acts of the Risen Lord, The Gospel of the Resurrection, The Gospel of the Holy Ghost, The Acts of the Holy Spirit through His Apostles.
You will notice that through all the titles given to this book through the ages, the acts are attributed to different persons. Some attribute it to the Apostles. Others the Father, or The Son, or the Holy Spirit. I would like to share one other title that has been given to this book which I believe captures the heart of it. A man by the name of Alan Thompson called it, The Acts of the Lord Jesus through His People by the Holy Spirit for the Accomplishment of the Father’s Purpose. Lengthy? Yes. Accurate? Absolutely!
The book of Acts is a treatise. It is a work that was written around AD 62, that formally and systematically covers roughly 40 years from Christ commissioning the Apostles before His ascension to just before Paul’s first trial under Roman imprisonment.
It was written by a “beloved physician” named Luke, who is known for his gospel account and whom many believe to have been a gentile. Many conclude this because he is not considered among those of the circumcision in the book of Colossians. There are, however, others who believe that Luke was a Hellenic Jew, which meant that they believe he was a Jew who had embraced and syncretized Greek culture with Jewish culture. Regardless of this, Luke was a faithful companion of Paul during his missionary journey from Troas to Macedonia, and a “fellow laborer” with Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome.
The last time Luke is heard of in the Scripture is when Paul knew that his end was near, that he was being poured out as a drink offering, that the time of his departure had come, that he had fought the good fight, that he had kept the faith when others left had him. Paul says, “Only Luke is with me.” When Paul was preparing to embrace death for the testimony of Christ, Luke stood with him. He truly was a faithful and fellow laborer with Paul.
Luke is hailed by many as a meticulous historian. His historical accuracy led to the renowned late 19th to early 20th century archeologist Sir William Ramsey to supposedly declare:
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians…Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.”
Ramsey had apparently set out to disprove the historical credibility of Luke’s work, but after being faced with Luke’s accuracy with Roman Law and society, his giving correct titles, and his ability to correctly convey the geography of the time, he concluded:
“I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without any prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now attempt to justify to the read. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory [which dated acts in the second century] had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It has gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”
There is now even more support of Luke’s account in Acts as being a work of historical precision.
The Physicians Purpose
Luke wrote Acts as a continuation of his gospel account, both of which were written to a man believed to be a high ranking official residing in Antioch Syria named, Theophilus. Luke’s purpose for writing Acts to Theophilus is seen in his beginning statement:
“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach. 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.”
When Luke says, “The first account I composed” he is referring to his gospel account which he opens by saying:
“1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”
Luke wrote to Theophilus in two volumes. The first was his gospel account, where he carefully and consecutively presented the exact truth of the Person and work of Christ so that Theophilus may know and understand that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Son of the Living God. The resurrection being the climactic event proving this truth without a shadow of a doubt. Luke ends his account to Theophilus with Jesus commissioning the apostles:
“44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
His second account, therefore, was written so that Theophilus would know all that Christ continued to do and teach through the apostles by the Spirit to accomplish the Father’s purpose. Christianity did not end with an empty tomb; it began with it! As one person says about the book of Acts:
“All through the narrative we see the ever-present, all-controlling power of the ever-living Savior. He worketh all and in all in spreading abroad his truth among men by his Spirit and through the instrumentality of his apostles.”
Christ Builds His Church
The book of Acts records Jesus doing what He said He would do in Matthew 16:16 after Peter confessed Him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said:
“Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.”
In other words, Christ builds His church through the clear proclamation of the message of the gospel of Christ crucified and risen again.
The gospel accounts record Jesus finishing the work of redemption on the cross. Acts then records Christ building His church through the message of reconciliation with God in Him. It records the apostles carrying out the great commission. Christ sending His apostles out as witness of His life, His death, His burial, and His resurrection, and proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins not just among the Jews, but to all the nations. Remember what Jesus said to them in John 10:16:
“16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
Acts records the apostles going out, not with cleverness of speech, not with persuasive words of worldly wisdom, not like those who peddle the word of God for profit, but those who are embolden by the power of the Spirit and who preach a message of foolishness to a perishing world. They preached Christ crucified, which was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greek, it is the power of God. The gospel is the voice of Christ calling His lost sheep to Himself.
This is what we see in Acts. The witnesses of the risen Christ going out into the world proclaiming the gospel which God uses as a clarion call to draw His people whom He laid His life down for to Himself. In Acts 1 the witnesses are commissioned. In Acts 2 the gospel is preached, and God calls about 3,000 people to Himself at that moment thus building His body, His assembly, His gathering, His church. As the church grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ, Acts 2:47 says, “and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Christ was building His church.
In Acts 3-4 the Apostles continued to preach, but they begin to experience persecution for the name of Christ. What do they do? In Acts 4:29-33 they prayed that God would grant them more confidence to speak His Word, which He had been confirming through them with signs and wonders. The author of Hebrews says of the message of salvation that:
“3 How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”
They continued to speak the word of God with boldness, and God continued to validate their message with His power and Acts 5:14 says:
“And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Christ was building His church through them.
In Acts 5:17-20, some of the Apostles suffer imprisonment for the sake of Christ, but God frees them and commissions them to continue to carry the whole message of this Life, which is eternal life in Christ. What did they do? They continued to preach Christ, for He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved, so continued to speak in His name and they suffered even further for it. Acts 5:41-42, however, says:
“They rejoiced that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 6:7 says, “The word of God kept spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.” Christ was building His church. His lost sheep were hearing His voice.
In Acts 8:1-3, severe persecution arises against the church, scattering it throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:4 says, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Persecution was used by God to spread the message of Life. As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Acts 9:31 tells us that the church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria was being built up, and going on in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit and was continuing to increase. Why? Christ was building His church.
When one reads Acts, they see that from Jerusalem and in all Judea; to Samaria, and eventually to the remotest parts of the known world, Jesus Christ builds His church and He turns the world upside down doing it.
Christ Continues to Build His Church
This work has not ended with Acts, which to no surprise ends abruptly with Paul in prison:
“Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
Christ is still building His church today. With what does He use to build it? His gospel alone! With whom does He use to proclaim it? His people!
We may not be eyewitnesses of His glory, but we are to be ambassadors of His glorious message of life, which we are not to be ashamed of for it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe!
As ambassadors of Christ who have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, preach Christ. Plead for people to be saved from this perverse world and reconciled to God through faith in Christ alone, for as 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
 Mark 1:1
 Mark 10:45
 1 John 4:10
 Romans 5:6-10
 1 Peter 3:18
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 Romans 3:25-26
 2 Corinthians 8:9
 2 Timothy 2:2; Jude 3
 Acts 2:1–41
 Acts 2:42
 Acts 6:1-6; 14:23
 Acts 1:8; 2:42; 4:1-2, 19-20, 31; 5:20-21, 41-42; 6:2-4,7; 8:4; 28:30-31
 Acts 2:39,47; 5:14; 6:7
 Acts 2:38
 Acts 2.1-13; 8:14-17; 10:9-48; 19:1-7
 Colossians 4:11-14
 Philemon 24
 2 Timothy 4:6-7
 2 Timothy 4:11
 Quoted by Josh McDowell in Evidence that Demands a Verdict; Page 71
 Quoted by John MacArthur in The MacArthur New Testament Commentray: Acts 1-12; Page 5
 Luke 1:1-4
 Easton’s Bible Dictionary: Acts of the Apostles – Easton’s Bible Dictionary (blueletterbible.org)
 Matthew 16:18
 1 Corinthians 2:1
 1 Corinthians 2:4
 2 Corinthians 2:17
 1 Corinthians 1:18
 1 Corinthians 1:23
 Acts 1:8
 Acts 2:37-41
 Hebrews 2:3-4
 John 14:6
 Acts 4:14
 Acts 17:6
 Romans 1:16