“The Word of God is more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. It is sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.” (Psalm 19:10).
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19a).
The theme of the Book of Acts:
Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
If you read the Book of Acts, you will discover that this is exactly what the early church did. The Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost, empowered them, and they became His witnesses – first in Jerusalem (Acts 1:12), then in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), and then to the ends of the earth (Acts 19:10).
Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament, is the history of the birth of the Christian church, and chronicles the church’s first thirty-three years. Not only is Acts a history book; it is also a blueprint of God’s plan and purpose for His church today.
Every church has a different model, style and format. But we must endeavor to lay aside all man-made traditions and mentalities of “this is how we’ve always done it.” If we’re going to do church, then we should look at the Scriptures and do it the way Jesus set it out for us. Jesus is the Head of His church and He said, “I will build my church.” Let’s go back to the plan and blueprint in Acts and see how to do church.
Luke begins this book by writing: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3).
Acts was written by the beloved physician Luke, and it is the second book he wrote. The first one is the Gospel bearing His name, in which He recorded all that Jesus began to do and teach. The Book of Acts is a record of all the things Jesus continued to do and teach – through His church. Although this book is often referred to as “The Acts of the Apostles,” it could also accurately be described as “The Acts of Jesus.”
Introducing Doctor Luke:
Who is Luke? His writings, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, make up twenty-five percent of the New Testament. That’s a good chunk of the writings which contribute so much to our understanding of who Jesus is! “We meet Luke for the first time in Troas where he joins Paul and Silas and Timothy on the second missionary journey (Acts 16:10, note the “we”). He may have been converted there and joined the missionary team as a kind of staff doctor.” (John Piper, What Jesus Did After the Beginning, September 16, 1990 audio message, www.desiringgod.org).
We know the Apostle Paul had a great love for this man of God. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he wrote in one of his last letters: “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world… Only Luke is with me.” (2 Timothy 4:10-11). That is one of the simplest yet most profound statements written about Doctor Luke. We don’t know a lot about him, other than the fact that he was one of Paul’s companions on his missionary journeys. Paul tells us here that all of his other friends had abandoned him… except for Luke. In one of the autobiographical portions of one of his letters, Paul wrote:
“I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along.” (2 Corinthians 11:23b-28, nlt).
Luke was one of Paul’s faithful travelling companions. Everyone else had abandoned him and said, “It’s too hard to be a Christian – I’m going back to the world!” So Paul said, “Only Luke is with me.” What an amazing, faithful man of God Luke must have been. When Paul was beaten and his back looked like hamburger – all ripped up and torn to shreds – Doctor Luke was there to bandage him up and take care of him.
Doing the Stuff:
The Gospel of Luke chronicles all that Jesus began to do and teach. The Book of Acts continues telling the story of what Jesus did and taught – through the church. And what did Jesus do when He walked the earth? Luke tells us “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38).
When someone came to Jesus who was sick, He healed them. When someone came to Jesus who was discouraged, He encouraged them. When someone came to Jesus who was demon possessed or troubled in their mind, He set them free. Everywhere Jesus went, He helped people, healed people, and transformed people’s lives. “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2).
After Jesus went around changing people’s lives, healing those who were broken-hearted, comforting those who were mourning, and setting free those who were in bondage, He passed the baton to His disciples and said, “Now it’s your turn to do the stuff.” We see this in Matthew’s Gospel: “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease… And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:1,7-8).
Jesus gave His disciples a commandment. He said, “I want you to go do the same things that I did.” The Gospels record the life of Jesus, how He went out and did miracles, signs and wonders. In the Book of Acts, we see the church going out doing miracles, signs and wonders in obedience to the command of Jesus.
As we journey through Acts, let’s pray that this would not only be a time of information, but that it would be a time of inspiration, revelation and impartation. “It is impossible to spend several months in close study of the remarkable short book (of Acts)… without being profoundly stirred and, to be honest, disturbed. The reader is stirred because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in history… Yet we cannot help feeling disturbed as well as moved, for this surely is the church as it was meant to be.” John B. Phillips, The Young Church in Action. (Collins / Fontana Books, 1959).
My desire is that every reader be challenged to follow the example of Jesus and then to go out and transform people’s lives. Freely we’ve received, let’s freely give!