Keys to Teaching Christ in Acts
Acts catalogues the incredible story of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the explosive growth of the early church. In vivid detail, Luke records the bold proclamation of the gospel by ordinary people who are filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As the gospel moves out from Jerusalem, its messengers face opposition at every turn. Despite constant hurdles, the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth proves to be unstoppable as people from every tribe, tongue, and nation turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ.
The Book of Acts also offers its readers a firsthand account of the trials and travails of the New Testament church in its infancy. As the story of the early church unfolds, there is great success (ch. 2), challenging difficulty (chs. 6, 15), severe persecution (chs. 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21), and even a significant broken relationship (ch. 15). In other words, the early church is just like the present-day church—unpredictable and complicated, full of heartache and rejoicing, but always sustained by sovereign grace.
Acts 1:8– The church will not and cannot fulfill its mission of declaring Christ to the ends of the earth unless each member is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Without the promise of Acts 1:8 and its subsequent fulfillment (ch. 2), the church could not have successfully engaged in the Great Commission. Every joyful conversion recorded by Luke is connected to and made possible by the reality of Acts 1:8.
Acts 2:14-41– This is the first recorded sermon in the Book of Acts, and it focuses on the person and work of Jesus from the OT Scriptures (this is a pattern throughout Acts cf. 7:1-53, 13:16-41). Peter is establishing—without a doubt—that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and he is calling his audience to repent and believe. God uses Peter’s sermon to bring a massive number of people to faith in Christ and the New Testament church is born.
Acts 2:42-47– A simple and staggeringly beautiful text detailing the activity of the early church. After experiencing the miracle of conversion, the people of God gather together; their gatherings are marked by doctrinal study, meaningful relationships, and heartfelt prayer. Churches would do well to understand this text as both descriptive and prescriptive.
Acts 9– The conversion of Saul is one of the most important events in the history of the church and is retold two more times throughout the remainder of the book (chs. 22, 26).
Acts 15:1-35– As the church of Jesus Christ grows numerically, it is also becoming more ethnically diverse. While diversity is a wonderful gift from God, it creates certain challenges that must be addressed. If the church is going to be a place where unity exists in the midst of diversity, then some difficult issues need to be worked through. The decisions made by the Jerusalem Council model pastoral sensitivity while prioritizing gospel clarity.
Acts 19:21– A riot in Ephesus sets events in motion that extend through the end of the book. The Apostle Paul, carried along and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, is at the center of the final events recorded in Acts. Acts 28:31 summarizes the essential nature of and highlights the important mission that Paul has committed himself to. It also serves as a call to the church now: “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”
The indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit—when the Spirit comes the church grows. The witness of ordinary believers, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is what God has chosen to establish his church and spread his gospel.
The sovereign and unstoppable spread of the Gospel—there is no opposition that can thwart the plan of God to gather to Himself a new people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The early church faced opposition at every turn but continued to flourish.
The certainty of suffering for followers of Christ—there are many accounts of believers who suffered in the early church. Perhaps the two primary examples are Stephen and Paul. Stephen boldly proclaimed the glories of Christ as he was brutally stoned. Paul, well-known as Saul the relentless persecutor of Christians, becomes one who is persecuted after a life-transforming encounter with Jesus.
The messy nature of the church—from the frightening story of Ananias and Sapphira in ch. 5, to the challenge of Hellenistic widows in ch. 6, to the racial challenges of ch. 10, to the convening of the Jerusalem Council in ch. 15, the church of Jesus has been and will always be messy, but it will succeed because of Christ’s sufficient grace.
The sufficiency of Christ—throughout the Book of Acts, there are no gimmicks or tricks for church growth. The church grows in number and in maturity through the proclamation of the good news of the crucified and risen Christ. Acts reminds us that the most pressing need of the church is Christ-centered preaching, Christ-focused discipleship, and Christ-exalting worship.
The success of the mission—the gospel is declared in Jerusalem as the Book of Acts opens, and by the end of the book it makes its way to Rome. In the 28 chapters of Acts, the Great Commission is being obeyed and it is being accomplished. Christ calls his church to engage in a mission that will not fail.
Acts, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Eckhard J. Schnabel — wonderful and very thorough exegetical commentary.
The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, David Peterson — full of rich gospel insights and stellar quotes.
Acts, Bible Speaks Today, John R. W. Stott — it’s John Stott. There is so much gold in this little commentary.
Exalting Jesus in Acts, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, Tony Merida — Tony makes practical and accessible Christ-connections in every chapter.
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, ed. Michael J. Kruger — I don’t preach a series of sermons without consulting this (or the OT counterpart) first. It’s an unrivaled resource as far as I’m concerned.
The Book of Acts highlights the certain success of the gospel as it is declared in the power of the Spirit. The church is created by Christ, it centers on Christ, it declares Christ, and its worship (and very life) is shaped by the good news of Christ crucified and risen.