Notes on Acts
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).
9:1-43 - Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul’s missionary journeys (13:1-28:31), we may be tempted to think, ‘What a great man Paul must have been’. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that ‘nothing good dwells within’ him. Paul never forgot his ‘past’: ‘I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him’. Paul describes himself as ‘the worst of sinners’. Paul gives his testimony: ‘The grace of God was poured on me abundantly’ (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God’s true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus... has sent me...’(17). Saul ‘preached boldly in the Name of Jesus’ (27). Peter said, ‘Jesus Christ heals you...’ (34).
10:1-11:18 - ‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). 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). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise, 128). ‘Go forth and tell!’ (Mission Praise, 178).
11:19-12:25 - Barnabas ‘was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord’ (11:24). Let’s be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service. 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). Give all the glory to the Lord. Herod ‘did not give God the glory’. He accepted the praise of the people - ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man’. Herod’s sudden death - ‘an angel of the Lord struck him down’ - is a warning (12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1). ‘Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap’. ‘Walk humbly with your God’ (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
13:1-43 - ‘Set apart’ by ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘sent out by the Holy Spirit’, ‘filled by the Holy Spirit’ (2,4,9): In the ministry of Paul and Barnabus, we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In their teaching, we have ‘the teaching of the Lord’ (12). This is what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. What is God saying to us as we listen to His Word? - ‘Continue in the grace of God’ (43). How are we to continue in the grace of God? - Keep looking away from the human servant to the divine Saviour: ‘After me One is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am unworthy to untie’ (25).
13:44-14:28 - When God is working powerfully through His servants, there is always the tendency to attach too much importance to the servants. We must resist this temptation. The glory belongs to God alone. We must never forget: ‘We too are only men, human like you’. God has called us to ‘bring Good News’ to sinners, the Good News of salvation. As we proclaim this Good News - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ - , we must never forget this: We are ‘unworthy servants’, ‘the worst of sinners’ (14:28; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; Luke 17:10). Look beyond the preacher, the evangelist, the teacher of God’s Word. Look to the Saviour. Give all the glory to Him. He is the Gospel. He is our salvation. He is the living Word. The Gospel is preached. There is blessing. We say, ‘God has done this!’ (52,8,27).
15:1-35 - The Gospel is for all nations. In the Old Testament, we catch a glimpse of this (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalms 96:1-3;100:1; Isaiah 45:22). Here, we have the Gospel made clear. Peter says, ‘We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus’ (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). Together with the Good News concerning salvation, there is also an ‘exhortation’ to go on with the Saviour (31). In this call to submit to the Lord, we hear the word, ‘abstain’ (20,29). Does this sound negative? It is a positive call to be set apart for God - ‘saved... for good works...’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ is our Saviour. He is also our Lord. In salvation and surrender, we find our true joy (31).
15:36-16:40 - 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). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’ (10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit... with all perseverance’ (Ephesians 6:18).
17:1-34 - Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry - ‘reasoning with them from the Scriptures’ and private devotion - ‘examining the Scriptures every day’ (2,11). We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord’s Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day. God is not the ‘unknown God’. He has made himself known to us. For many, He seems to be the ‘unknown God’. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of ‘the God who made the world’ to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (24,3). When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the ‘unknown God’ about whom we can know very little. We will 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).
18:1-21 - It was not an easy situation at Corinth. There were some who ‘opposed Paul and became abusive’ (6). There was great pressure on Paul. He could have given up very easily. It was God’s Word which kept Paul going (10). Paul did not collapse under thee pressure - ‘he stayed a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them’ (11). At Ephesus, there were people who asked Paul ‘to stay for a longer period’. He ‘declined’. Paul was moving on. He refused to be shackled by the expectations of other people. The important thing was ‘God’s will’. For us, there can be no standing still. We must move on with God. We must not get ‘stuck in a rut’. Some say, ‘Everything must remain the same. Nothing must change’. Paul had to ‘set sail from Ephesus’. We must ‘launch out into the deep’ - at Jesus’ Word (20-21; Luke 5:4-5).
18:22-19:22 - Apollos ‘taught accurately the things concerning Jesus’. He needed to have ‘the way of God expounded to him more accurately’ (24-26). There is always more to learn. We should never adopt a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. In ‘two years’ of ministry, ‘God did’ great things through Paul (10-11). Paul was moving on. His road led to ‘Rome’. It was a road, full of blessing - ‘The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily’ (20-21). Paul was on the move. God was on the move. Wherever Paul went, there were opportunities to make Christ known. Wherever he went, people were trusting Christ. Paul was moving from place to place, bringing Christ to so many different people. People were moving ‘from death to life’ (John 5:24). This is what drove Paul on - Bringing more and more sinners to his Saviour!
19:23-20:16 - Read verse 28: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’. Remember Exodus 20:3 - ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’. Remove all pretenders from God’s throne. Rededicate yourself to the Lord - ‘King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be’ (Redemption Hymnal, 165). People could not get enough of God’s Word. Be hungry and thirsty for God, for His righteousness, for His Word, for His blessing (7; Matthew 5:6). Paul wanted to be ‘at Jerusalem... on the day of Pentecost’ (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? Do you want His blessing? Do you want to be a blessing? ‘Lord bless me and make me a blessing’.
20:17-21:14 - From Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders, there are some lessons for all of us. (a) ‘Repentance to God’ and ‘faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (21) - This is not only a call for conversion. It is for every believer - all the time. (b) ‘Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock of God... Care for the Church of God’ (28). Taking our own spiritual growth seriously will always involve caring for others. (c) ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (35). Jesus Others Yourself - This is JOY. Let it be Thanksgiving (‘I want to’) rather than Duty Giving (‘I ought to’) or Grudge Giving (‘I have to’). For Jesus and Paul, Jerusalem meant suffering. For both, the important thing was doing ‘the Lord’s will’ (10-14; Matthew 16:21-23). ‘Let us go forth to Him... and bear the abuse He endured’ (Hebrews 13:13).
21:15-22:16 - Here, we focus on two brief phrases - ‘the things that God had done’ (19) and you will be a witness for Him’ (22:15). In the work of God we must learn to hold these two things together - divine power and human witness. Without the power of God, no one will come to faith in Christ: ‘It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’. How does God work? - He works through human witnesses: ‘we preach... Jesus Christ as Lord’. How are divine power and human witness related to each other? - ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent, superior, all-surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (Corinthians 4:5-7). Let God speak - through you!
22:17-23:35 - A Jew, ‘praying in the temple’ at ‘Jerusalem’, Paul was obedient to God’s call - ‘I will send you far away to the Gentiles’ (22:17,21).The racists would not hear of this - ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he ought not to live’ (22:22). This was not simply dislike for Paul. This was hatred directed against the God who, in Jesus Christ, offers salvation to all nations. Paul was a ‘Roman citizen’ (22:25-29). God was protecting Paul for his future ministry - ‘you must bear witness also at Rome’ (23:11). Paul was giving his own testimony when he wrote the words, ‘All things work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans 8:28). Serving the Lord is never easy. Sometimes, it can be very difficult. When we face violent opposition, we draw our strength from God’s Word - ‘Take courage’ (23:10-11).
24:1-27 - Paul did not abandon the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures - ‘I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets (14). He read the Old Testament. It led him to Christ. Paul’s great theme was ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ (24). Paul speaks. Jesus is speaking through him. Jesus did ‘not come to abolish the law and the prophets’. He came ‘to fulfil them’. ‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself’ (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27). God has spoken ‘through the prophets’. God has spoken through His Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2). We read the Old Testament. We learn from ‘Moses’ and ‘Elijah’. They step back. We see ‘Jesus, only’. He is God’s ‘beloved Son’. We ‘listen to Him’ (Matthew 17:3,8,5).
25:1-27 - Paul stood before Festus as an accused man. Festus listened. Recognizing his own shortcomings and respecting the accused wishes, he gave Paul a fair hearing (20-21,25). Festus made no decision - ‘I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him’ (26). Jesus was ‘dead’. Now, He is ‘alive’ (19). This is not just ‘something to think about’. We must make our decision. There can be no ‘sitting on the fence’. Some are indecisive - ‘I have nothing definite to say about Jesus’. It’s ‘make up your mind’ time - ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3). Festus had to make a decision about Paul. 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).
26:1-32 - Paul answers three questions concerning himself. He puts a most important question to his hearers. (a) What was I before my conversion? Here, he speaks of his religion - ‘According to the strictest party of my religion I have lived as a Pharisee’ (5). This brought him ‘to the ground’ (14). (b) How did my conversion come about? Here, he speaks of his Saviour - ‘I am Jesus... Stand up!’ (15). (c) What happened after my conversion? Here, he describes how he became a ‘servant’ and a ‘witness’ (16). (d) The final question concerns our response - What about you? Will you become a Christian? (27-29). 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 (29).
27:1-44 - There is, in this story, a great picture of God’s way of salvation. (a) Our human situation is hopeless: ‘All our hope of being saved was at last abandoned’ (20). We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. (b) There is hope: ‘God has granted you all those who sail with you’ (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’ (25) - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (16:31). (d) Safety: ‘all escaped to land’ (44). God has ‘prepared’ for us ‘a better country’, a ‘heavenly one’, ‘a city’, ‘the city which is to come’. Do you want to ‘escape’, to be saved? Make sure that you don’t ‘neglect such a great salvation’ (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14; 2:3).
28:1-31 - Read of 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’. When God gives us His victory, we must not think too highly of ourselves - ‘he was a god’. We must give all the glory to God: ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ have come’ (3-6; Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12:9-12). ‘So we came to Rome’ (14) - These are words of triumph. God had fulfilled His promise: ‘you must bear witness also at Rome’ (23:11). Rejoicing that ‘this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles’, Paul was ‘preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered’ (29,31). Don’t miss God’s opportunities to share Christ’s Good News!