Learning from Acts 1-8
1:1-26 - We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified’. Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up… into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’. He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
2:1-47 - ‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’ (1,5). They are ‘amazed’ at what they hear – ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’ (7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’ (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message – ‘Jesus is Lord’ – is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (41-47).
3:1-26 - ‘Laid daily at the gate of the temple’, the ‘man lame from birth’ had seen plenty of ‘ordinary’ days (2). This was no ‘ordinary’ day. This was a day for ‘walking, and leaping, and praising God’ (9). Jesus Christ can do for us what ‘silver and gold’ cannot do (6). He is ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Romans 1:16). From the healing of the lame man came a great opportunity for Peter to preach the Gospel to ‘the people’ (10-12). Peter gave all the glory to God. Peter and John had not performed this miracle by their ‘own power or piety’ (12). This was the work of God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, the God who raised Jesus from the dead (13-16). This is the God who calls us to return to Him. ‘Turn’ to Him. He will forgive your sins. He will send ‘times of refreshing’ (19).
4:1-5:11 - Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’…’ (31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God…’ (Psalm 139:23-24).
5:12-6:7 - There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’ (14). There was persecution (17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men… known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ (3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’ – ‘filled with the Spirit’ – as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (7).
6:8-8:3 - In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact. In life, we see him, ‘full of grace and power’, doing ‘great wonders and signs among the people’. People noticed that ‘his face was like the face of an angel’. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to ‘withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke’, they decided that he needed to be silenced. (6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (7:59-60). In Stephen’s words, we hear an echo of Christ’s words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (8). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)!
8:4-40 - Make sure that it’s real! Simon the magician was impressed by the ‘signs and great miracles’, but his ‘heart’ was ‘not right before God’ (13,19). The Ethiopian’s conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (30-35). From the Ethiopian’s conversion, we learn of Jesus’ promise: ‘Seek and you will find’. From Simon’s tragedy, we hear Jesus’ warning: ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter the kingdom of heaven…’ (Matthew 7:7,21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? – ‘Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure’ (2 Peter 1:10). ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free’ (Mission Praise. 587).