Introducing Acts Pt. 3: The Acts of the Apostles, Paul, and the Holy Spirit

 Why was the Book of Acts Written?

What purpose did it serve? What was Luke’s agenda in writing these things down? Well again Luke’s words in the gospel of Luke as well as the beginning of Acts give us some hints. It says in Luke that he wanted to compile a narrative of things accomplished. He wanted to hear from and record statements from eye witnesses. And he wanted to give Theophilus an orderly account.

A Record of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul, and the Holy Spirit!

In Acts, he seems to wants to shift gears from the things that Christ said and did in Luke to what came after for the church. The extended title of the book is ‘The Acts of the Apostles.’

Some look at the book and the fact that Paul dominates the pages from chapter 7 onward and think it really is an account of his actions mostly. Further, they believe that it is written to give credence to his apostolic authority, which you will remember was under attack from those in Galatia at least. Others, such as RC Sproul, wouldn’t mind the idea of calling the book, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” He says of the book that it is more of an autobiography of the Holy Spirit and his movement in the world during this time than anything else. I kind of like the sound of that myself. These are some suggestions for what was in Luke’s mind as he wrote.

The first couple of verses again say, in the first book,

“O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.” Acts 1:1

I think some of the events of the end of the book can give us a truer picture of what the real agenda was in writing these things down.

[box] When Paul stood before Agrippa toward the end of the book he said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian!” To which Paul responded, “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Acts 26:29[/box]

Festus accused Paul of being mad for talking like he was. Paul responded, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” Acts 26:25

He also replied to King Agrippa in the same meeting, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. Acts 26:19-20

Acts Records Paul’s Obedience to Christ’s Vision

One of these days we will all stand before God. Wouldn’t it be a great thing to be able to say to Him at that time, “I did everything you asked me to do.” Paul declares,”I was Not Disobedient to the Heavenly Vision.”  I know, as for myself, I would never be able to say that. I am weak and frail and sinful. But by God’s grace, Paul was able to say it, “I did everything God told me to do. I am not crazy — I’m only speaking what I have been told to speak. Nothing more — nothing less.”  So Luke’s agenda in writing this book was to point to the fact that Paul was obedient to the heavenly vision as well as remind the reader what that commandment was in the first place.

Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

[box] Those are THE VERY LAST WORDS of Christ on this earth–A command to tell everybody. And Paul was so faithful! He went into regions of the Earth that were about as far away as anybody knew about, and he preached the gospel message. He did so even after being beaten and shipwrecked and bitten by snakes.[/box]


Acts is an Account of the Early Church’s Birth and Development

We might be tempted to read the book of Acts as an account of the early church in all of its perfection. But if we read the New Testament epistles, we will know that the early church was anything but perfect. Most of the apostolic letters were written to correct errors, heresies, abuses and disobedient behavior among people of the early church. The early church was by no means perfect, but it is of vital importance that we study it because of it’s proximity to the foundation of the Christian church.

Some, these days, are critical of placing too much emphasis on the events of the Reformation. They are critical of the creeds and catechisms that came from this time period saying about them, “Why don’t we just rely strictly on scripture for what we teach and learn?”  With respect, what I think those critics fail to realize is that the men of the Protestant reformation were not trying to reinvent the wheel.

[box] The Reformers desire was not to try and build a new religion from the ashes of the Catholic church dogmas and traditions. Their desire was for a return to first century Christianity and all that it entails.[/box]

Acts is a Record of the Purity of Apostolic Doctrine

One of the cries of the Reformation was a return to the source. And if we give any credence to what happened in the Reformation, it is because we too recognize and appreciate that our generation needs to return to the source. We must go back to the foundation of the Christian church, to the purity of the gospel as it was set forth by the Apostles. We need to study the purity of the apostolic doctrine set forth in this book. That is what Luke was doing–Giving us an account of the obedience to the commandments of the Apostles whom Christ had chosen.

The Theme:  the Church’s Obedience to Christ’s Gospel Commission

After the prologue, which we are covering today and next week, the rest of the book talks about the apostolic witness to the kingdom of God. And so the theme of Acts would be this: The Church’s obedience to Christ’s commission and commandment to be His witnesses as the ascended King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

[box] If you wonder why the first century church turned the world upside down, you have to look no further than the fact that they preached the Kingdom of God. If you want to look for a reason why the modern church is anemic the reason would be the opposite, because we do not in large part preach it.[/box]

One of the distortions of the current day church is that the Kingdom of God is somehow completely yet future. This view completely overlooks the breakthrough of God’s kingdom into this world at the ministry of Jesus and most especially at the ascension of Jesus back into heaven. While the consummation of the Kingdom is yet future, the reality of the Kingdom is now. The mission of the church is to bear witness to that reality in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth.

Not Just a Historical Record — A Story with the Power to Change Your Life!

Since so much of what we will cover in the book of Acts in the weeks and months to come may seem like pure historical fact, it may seem like Luke is reciting for us only what happened on earth with the church during this time. Do not make the mistake in thinking that nothing else was going on, because God was accomplishing his eternal purposes in the events that led away from the ascension of Christ. It must have been a fearful thing to see Christ ascend into the heavens that day. He was their teacher, their mentor–They took their cues from him and now he was gone from them. But not many days from this day, the Holy Spirit returned in power on the day of Pentecost,  and the apostles went on to shake the world with the life changing power of the gospel.

[box] It is this power that I desire to relay to each of you week to week as we make our way through. It is not just a historical story. This story has the power to change your life.[/box]

And it can change it–not just on the day that you become a Christian, but every day after that…on into eternity. The same Holy Spirit power that came upon the apostles in the book of Acts now lives in us!

Read more:

Introducing the Book of Acts: Who is Luke?

Intro to Acts Pt. 2: The Early Church and Roman Persecution

Watch the full sermon on our Youtube Channel: Koinoina Livestream

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info] Pastor Dan Woody is a founding elder for Koinonia. He has been serving churches as a pastor for the past 13 years. He and his wife Peggy are the parents of two sons, Chris and Jonathan. Pastor Dan is currently studying for his Mdiv with The North American Reformed Seminary. His interests include music, and most outdoor sports like golf, hiking, tennis and fishing. [/author_info] [/author]