Feb 04 2018: Advice for Reading Acts

Advice for Reading Acts*

The Book of Acts is the second part of Luke’s writing. The first part (the Gospel of Luke) was about what “Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1-2). With some carefully chosen connections to part 1, Acts begins by picking up the prophecy from Luke 3:16 by John the Baptist about the coming Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). The disciples are promised the “power” of the Spirit (cf. Luke 24:49, “clothed with power from on high”) so as to bear witness to Jesus. Luke then narrates the ascension (cf. Luke 24:51) in the context of Jesus’ promised return; the clear implication is that through the Spirit they are to carry on the story until he comes (cf. the parable in Luke 19:11-27).

How Luke does this is the genius of Acts. First, note the large number of speeches that Luke records throughout the narrative (e.g., Peter  in 2:14-39; 3:11-26; 10:27-43; Stephen in 7:1-53; Paul in 13:16-47; 17:22-31; 20:17-35). These tend to appear at key points and illustrate how the gospel is preached (or defended) in a variety of settings. In each case the speech either includes the essence of the story of Jesus or focuses on him at the end. Thus Jesus’ story continues in Acts as the early believers bear witness to him.

Second, note (1) the connection between Jesus Christ and the Spirit and (2) that the Spirit is ultimately responsible for every major turning point in the narrative. How Luke connects Jesus and the Spirit is especially important. You will remember from reading Luke that the Spirit is the key to Jesus’ earthly ministry (cf. Acts 10:38). Now “exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Christ, the great bearer of the Spirit, is also the great “baptizer” in the Spirit so that others will receive the Spirit and thus bear witness to Christ. It is therefore not surprising that at every turn, the Spirit is the driving force behind the forward movement of the gospel.

Third, because the gospel is God’s thing, initiated by him and expressing his faithfulness to Israel through Christ, and carried out by the power of the Spirit, Luke also regularly reminds us that nothing can hinder it—not the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (chs 3~5); not unbelieving Jews, like Saul of Tarsus, bent on destruction (8:1-3); not the church in Jerusalem (11:1-18); not secular leaders, like Herod (12:1-23); not Judaizers within the church (15:1-35); not religious or secular opposition from Greeks (16:16-40; 19:23-41); not shipwrecks or snakes (chs 27~28). With the coming of Jesus and the Spirit, the time of God’s favor has come. The gospel is God’s activity in history; salvation is for all people, and nothing can hinder it. And so the book concludes with Paul preaching in Rome with all boldness and without hindrance (28:31).

During missions month of February, it is our prayer that in reading the book of Acts our heart will be stirred up to participate in the God-glorifying missions with joy in the gospel.

* Taken from How to Read the Bible Book by Book. 

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Acts 4 Thursday: Acts 8
Tuesday: Acts 5 Friday: Acts 9
Wednesday: Acts 6 Saturday: Acts 10

Bible Column & Reading Plan by Rev. Chang Soo Lee
Mississauga Camps Lead Pastor