I can think of no better introduction to acts than to read “The Parable of the Great Banquet” from Luke 14:12-24. It is especially appropriate as we closed last week with tha Passover and Jesus’ promise “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). This is what we see in Acts and what we still see today. Our places at the banquet have been secured and now God’s servants have gone out and called us, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame to dine at His table. And to this day He continues to send out His messengers to gather His people from the hedges and highways so that His house may be filled and that we may dine with Him.
I. Acts in Context
Luke’s silence concerning notable events occurring after 62 point to a date of authorship sometime between 60 and 62. Like his gospel account he again writes to Theophilus as he explains,
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).
If the gospel of Luke records “all that Jesus began to do and teach” what topic is the book of Acts addressing?
The book of Acts is what Jesus continued to do and teach through the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as we saw the kingdom coming in Jesus we will now see the expansion of the kingdom through the work of the Holy Spirit.
II. Acts in Outline
- “You will be My Witnesses in Jerusalem” (1:1-8:3)
- “. . . In all Judea and Samaria” (8:4-12:25)
- “. . . To the End of the Earth” (13:1-28:31)
III. The Narrative of Acts – Part One
A. “You will be My Witnesses in Jerusalem”
We have already read the opening verses of Acts will someone please read 1:4-5? Will someone else read Jeremiah 31:31-40? What is Jesus saying about this passage in Jeremiah?
He is saying that in a few days it will be fulfilled. The time is coming when God will write His law upon the hearts of His people, when He will remember their sins no more, and when God will rebuild an eternal city for His people (cf. Ezekiel 37). With this in mind their question in verse 6 is completely reasonable.
Will you continue reading to verse 11?
Last week we noted that Jesus responds not by explaining when the kingdom will come but by pointing them to how the kingdom is presently coming. We also noted that just as Jesus came and proclaimed the presence of the kingdom so too are the disciples to go and spread the presence of the kingdom by witnessing to the good news concerning its King.
But what else is interesting about Jesus’ reply?
He does not rebuke them. They are not thinking nationalistic or self-centered thoughts here; if so Jesus would have rebuked them harshly as he has done before. Rather He explains how the kingdom is coming. The book of Acts is still about the kingdom of God and we will see this throughout our study.
What is important about the angel’s words in verses 10 and 11?
Jesus will return and consummate His kingdom.
If we were to continue reading through chapter 1 we would see the casting of lots to select Matthias to replace Judas. Interestingly enough this is the only mention of this selection process in the New Testament. This is because they had not yet been given the gift of the Spirit.
Will someone read Acts 2:1-13? Does anyone know what is significant about the day of Pentecost? Everyone is able to hear in their own language. What is this a reversal of?
The Feast of Pentecost is important for two reasons. First, it was a harvest festival which celebrated the bringing in of the firstfruits and the gift of the Spirit is the firstfruit of the kingdom of God. Secondly, by the time of Jesus it had also acquired a meaning which emphasized covenant renewal and indeed the Spirit had come to fulfill the New Covenant. It is important to understand that the New Covenant is not about God abandoning Israel and replacing her with the church. Rather God has fulfilled His promises to Israel and the result is the church, His called out people.
Furthermore, we see the temporary reversal of the curse at Babel in the speaking of tongues. Just as man had gathered at Babel to make a name for himself and the Lord confused their languages so now we see God overcoming that barrier for the sake of His great name.
In what follows (Acts 2:14-41) we see the first of several sermons in Acts. As we read this there are several questions I want you to consider. First, how is Peter preaching or what is the structure of His sermon based on? Second, what does He call the people to do and why should we be familiar with this?
Peter is preaching the metanarrative of Scripture. He is proclaiming the grand story of Scripture and presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of that story and of God’s promises. In this sense his sermon is primarily evangelistic and he closes by calling the people to repentance. We should be familiar with repentance because of the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus. The repentance called for by Peter is the same repentance called for by John and Jesus. This is not just repentance for individual salvation but the focus remains upon the presence and coming of the kingdom. It is concerned with the preparation of a people for the King who has inaugurated His kingdom and will return to consummate it. These themes remain true for the numerous sermons recorded throughout Acts.
Will someone read Acts 2:42-47? What focuses of the early church do we see in this passage?
Will someone please read Acts 3:1-10 and 5:12-16? Why are these healings significant?
These should immediately remind us of Christ’s words in Luke 4:16-30 as he describe His ministry to those in Nazareth. There is a continuity between the coming of the King to proclaim liberty and heal the afflicted and the expansion of the kingdom by the apostles.
Luke summarizes the expansion of the kingdom in Acts 6:7 saying, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith”
What can we learn from Peter’s sermon in Acts? Does the modern church’s emphasis upon the kingdom of God match that of the early church? Why does this matter?