Summary: The people of God had a thirst for the living God. There’s a hunger for God’s presence. If you want to deepen your experience of Jesus, it’s nearly always because of times of extraordinary prayer.
Today we begin a new study on the book of Acts (page 1156 in your pew Bibles). Acts is one large story but a lot of little stories inside the big story. The book is simply exciting and it leaves you saying, “WOW!” so many times. We will be going chapter by chapter and verse by verses in the months to come.
Acts is unique. 1) Acts is unique in what it accomplishes for us inside the New Testament. While there are four gospels that narrate for us Jesus’ life, there’s only 1 account of what happened next. This book tells us how Christianity began to spread throughout the world. Acts answers questions for us where we would scratch our heads if Acts didn’t exist. There would be great gaps in our knowledge of the Bible between the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament if it were not for the Book of Acts. Now if we had no book of Acts we would pass in our New Testaments from the last page of John, chapter 21, to the beginning of the letter to the Romans, and countless questions would crop up.
2) Acts is also unique because it is the second-longest book in the New Testament, behind only Luke’s gospel. If you were to sit down to read the book in its entirety, it would take you about 2.5 hours. But this is the big reason why Acts matters
3) Acts teaches us how to make our lives count. The truth when your experience of Christianity is stale and it feels like your drinking a flat Coke … Acts shows a robust, Christian faith that energizes us. There is such a thing as Christianity lived out like it’s displayed in the book of Acts.
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 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. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:1–8).
Acts is the second volume of Luke’s two entries to the New Testament. For those of you who’ve been around with us for a couple of years, you’ll know we went verse by verse through Luke’s Gospel (volume 1) for the better part of three years. In fact, I want you to see the connection between the two. The first four verses of Luke’s gospel, which you almost have to read in order to get started with Acts because it’s really a preamble to the whole two books: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1–4).
Who is Theophilus? We know a few things about him. He might have been wealthy and a person of nobility, because in Luke 1 he’s called, “…most excellent Theophilus …” which is probably a title. One thing we almost certainly know is he was a cultured man. He was intellectually sophisticated because, unlike the other books of the New Testament, Luke begins both Luke and Acts with a preamble & is almost identical to the preamble of other works of literature in history at that time. Luke is actually making a case to him about why Christianity is true, because (again) in Luke 1, he says in effect, “Theophilus, I want you to be convinced. I want you to be absolutely sure in your mind that these things are true.” Theophilus is probably some kind of Roman official because of the title "most excellent" which Luke uses only for Roman officials like Felix (Acts 23:26) and Festus (Acts 26:25), the governors of Judea. “Though Luke surely intended his work for the whole Christian community, Theophilus may have received the special dedication for being a patron who helped defray some of the costs of Luke’s writing.”