Last session we began by seeing the “The Parable of the Great Banquet” (Luke 14:12-24) as paradigmatic of the time between the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit to equip His called-out people for this purpose. What began in Jerusalem will now spread to the larger area of Judea, into despised Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth as His messengers are sent to gather His people from the hedges and highways so that many may join Him at the banquet.
I. The Narrative of Acts – Part Two
A. “. . . In all Judea and Samaria”
Before looking at how the gospel spreads “in all Judea and Samaria” we need to go back to Jerusalem and observe the means by which the kingdom expands. In Acts 6 a dispute arises between the Hellenists and the Hebrews regarding the care of widows the apostles then appoint seven men “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” to care to this task so that they could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” One of these men, Stephen, was seized and brought before the council. Stephen then powerfully proclaims Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel and harshly rebukes their stubborn unbelief. The council is so enraged that they drug him outside the city and stoned him. This brings us to the beginning of chapter 8.
Will someone read Acts 8:1-8? What is the means by which the gospel spreads?
Amazingly we read that God uses persecution to disperse His people, His church, so that they will proclaim the good news of the kingdom as we read “those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). It is also important to see that the gospel was being proclaimed and the church was spreading not only due to the work of the apostles but by the church itself! Everyone who was scattered “went about preaching the word.” And with this we see that Christ’s witnesses went throughout Judea and Samaria.
Among those who were scattered is Philip, one of the seven chosen to serve, will someone read the narrative of Philip’s ministry in Samaria in Acts 8:9-25? What significant event is recorded in this passage?
The Spirit was given to the Samaritans.
Where have we read of this?
The hour that Christ proclaimed in John 4 has arrived. The time has come when the Father is worshiped neither on Mt. Gerizim nor in Jerusalem. The time has come when the Father is worshiped through His Son Jesus the Christ. Furthermore we see the nation of Israel being restored. Last week we briefly looked at Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones and the promise that God will place His Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 37). After this vision Ezekiel is told to take two sticks one symbolizing Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and one symbolizing Joseph, the Northern Kingdom which is later known as Samaria, and unite them as one people under the Davidic King. God is not simply giving His Spirit to the Samaritans He is restoring the Kingdom of Israel.
In chapter 9 an amazing thing is recorded. Saul, who we were earlier introduced to at the stoning of Stephen, is confronted by the risen Christ and told to go to Ananias in Damascus.
Will someone Read Acts 9:10-19 as the Lord speaks to Ananias in a vision?
The Lord informs Ananias that Saul is His chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles. This is in many ways a preview of what is to come as we turn to Acts 10 and the account of Peter and Cornelius. Here were are introduced to Cornelius a God-fearing Roman centurion who is instructed by the Lord to send for Peter in Joppa.
Will someone read Acts 10:9-33? What is the significance of Peter’s vision both within this context and the redemptive narrative of Scripture as a whole?
This vision is significant in that we see Peter abandoning the oral traditions of His people, which he mentions in verse 28, and submitting Himself to the redemptive narrative of Scripture that the Lord is both the Creator of all and the Savior of all and not merely Israel only. Because of this Peter heeds Cornelius’ request and proclaims to them all that he has been commanded by the Lord (10:34-43). And while Peter was proclaiming the Word of the Lord the Spirit is poured out upon the Gentiles and then they are baptized (10:44-48).
Turning back to Joel 2 the day of the Lord is recorded (2:1-11), the Lord’s desire for Israel’s repentance (2:12-17), the restoration of Israel (2:18-27), and the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon the Gentiles and the salvation of all who call upon the Lord (2:28-32).
Will someone read Joel 2:28-32? What covenant promise is God fulfilling in these verses and how is He fulfilling it?
God is fulfilling His promise to Abraham that He will make Abraham a blessing and bless all of the families of the earth in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). And He is fulfilling it in such a way that the promises made to Israel are now being fulfilled for both Jew and Gentile alike.
Will someone please read Ephesians 2:11-22 as Paul expounds this as it is fulfilled in Christ?
The pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles demonstrates that Christ has broken down the wall dividing Jews and Gentiles and has formed from them one people for Himself. With this the gospel is ready to extend its witness to the very ends of the earth.
B. “. . . To the End of the Earth”
The church in Antioch is first introduced in Acts 11:19-26.
Will someone read that passage for us? How is this church started?
Rather simplistically Luke writes that some men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who were scattered because of the persecution, proclaimed the Lord Jesus. Here we see that church planting in its simplest form requires only four things the Spirit, seed, a sower, and soil.
Where do we see these four essentials in this passage?
With this as the foundation it is not surprising to read that it is to this church that the Spirit speaks and says, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Then we read that, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).
There is one last obstacle that must be overcome as the gospel extends itself to the ends of the earth and we are introduced to this conflict in Acts 15:1-3.
Will someone read this passage for us? Will someone read Peter’s response in Acts 15:6-11?
Other obstacles will arise; false teaching and persecution will continue to attack the true gospel and those who live according to and proclaim it and yet this marks a significant turning point as the Apostles stand in one accord and affirm that the gospel must go to the gentiles. The remainder of Luke’s volume records the missionary journeys of Paul and his companions as they proclaim the gospel to the very ends of the earth. Following Luke’s geographical outline Acts ends with Paul imprisoned in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Luke is symbolically demonstrating, by means of the extent of the Roman Empire, that the gospel has indeed gone to the ends of the earth.
II. Acts as Eschatology
God has reconciled His people to Himself and to each other in Christ. He has revealed Christ as the fulfillment of the Davidic kingship. The temples in Jerusalem and on Mt. Gerizim have been replaced with Jesus, the new temple. The blessings of the new covenant have come and restored Israel and joined them together with the Gentiles to form one people of God. Yet the prophetic hope remains for a future restoration in which God’s people will dwell in a restored promised land with their God. Indeed as the author of Hebrews writes, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
How has our study of Acts changed your understanding of how God is fulfilling His promises and expanding His kingdom?