Journey Through The New Testament: Acts
'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you' (1:8). We cannot fill ourselves with the Spirit. We can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (1:14). 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). ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (2:36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’ - is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Jesus Christ can do for us what ‘silver and gold’ cannot do (3:6). He gives ‘salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Romans 1:16). Peter preached Christ with great boldness (4:12). Peter had denied the Lord. Where did this boldness come from? – It came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (4:8).
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! 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’ (6:3-4). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (6:7). ‘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 (8:1). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)! Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (8:30-35). From the Ethiopian’s conversion, we learn of Jesus’ promise: ‘Seek and you will find’ (Matthew 7:7).
God’s true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus... has sent me...’(9:17). Saul ‘preached boldly in the Name of Jesus’ (9:27). Peter said, ‘Jesus Christ heals you...’ (9:34). Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (10:45; 11:1,18). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’ (Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). Great things can happen when ‘earnest prayer’ is ‘made to God by the church’ - God ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Continue in the grace of God’ (13:43): When we enjoy God’s blessing, let us say, ‘God has done this!’ (14:27).
Peter says, ‘We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus’ (15:11). Paul says, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (16:31). This is the Gospel: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8). Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (25-34). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit... with all perseverance’ (Ephesians 6:18). God is not the ‘unknown God’ (17:23). Let us make it our ambition ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10). ‘Let us press on to know the Lord’ (Hosea 6:3).
Apollos needed to have ‘the way of God expounded to him more accurately’ (18:24-26). There is always more to learn. We should never adopt a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. ‘The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily’ (19:20-21). Wherever Paul went, there were opportunities to make Christ known. Wherever he went, people were trusting Christ. This is what drove Paul on - Bringing more and more sinners to his Saviour! Paul wanted to be ‘at Jerusalem... on the day of Pentecost’ (20:16). This had been a place and time of blessing (2:1-4,41). Paul was eager for the blessing of God in his own life. He was eager to bring God’s blessing to others. How much does the blessing of God mean to you? ‘Lord bless me and make me a blessing’. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (20:35). Let it be Thanksgiving (‘I want to’) rather than Duty Giving (‘I ought to’) or Grudge Giving (‘I have to’).
We need both divine power: ‘the things that God had done’ (21:19) - and human witness: You will be a witness for Him (22:15). Without the power of God, no one will come to faith in Christ. God works through human witnesses. Let Him speak - through you! Serving the Lord is never easy. Sometimes, it can be very difficult. We draw our strength from God’s Word - ‘Take courage’ (23:10-11). Paul’s great theme was ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ (24:24). Festus made no decision about Paul (25:26). There is a more important question: ‘What do you think of the Christ?’ Each of us must answer the question: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 22:42; 27:22). Do you have a story to tell? - Tell your story: the ‘before’, the ‘after’, the fact that it was Jesus who made the difference. Don’t forget the challenge: To ‘all who are listening to me today’ - Come to Christ (26:29).
God’s way of salvation: (a) Our human situation is hopeless: ‘All our hope of being saved was at last abandoned’ (27:20). We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. (b) There is hope: ‘God has granted you all those who sail with you’ (27:25). God has provided a way of salvation: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16). (c) Faith believes the Word of God: ‘I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told’ (27:25) - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (16:31). (d) Safety: ‘all escaped to land’ (27:44). God has ‘prepared’ for us ‘a better country’, a ‘heavenly one’, ‘a city’, ‘the city which is to come’. Make sure that you don’t ‘neglect such a great salvation’ (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14; 2:3). Paul’s protection from the ‘snake’: ‘Rejoice’ - Christ has won for us a great victory over ‘that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan’ (28:3-6; Revelation 12:9-12).