Summary: The book of Acts reports more of the work of the Spirit than the works of the apostles. It ends abruptly...God's churches continue "writing" more chapters to this day.
Acts of the Spirit
As we continue to examine the New Testament books to have a basic idea what each one is about we come to the book of Acts. Most of the New Testament books were written to address specific problems and so we approach them expecting a logical flow of an argument that works towards a conclusion. Each book is not just a set of pithy sayings and aphorisms. If something seems a little unrelated to the main theme of the book, you have to do a little bit more work to see why it is there.
The book of Acts is a little bit different, though. It still has a theme to it, but since it is written as a narrative, since it is written more in a story format, it is a little bit easier to read. It is more properly called, The Acts of the Apostles and is pretty straightforward and a little easier to grasp. It is one of the three historical accounts in the New Testament about the church. The first historical account is about the foundation of the church and it is found in the four Gospels as a whole. The second historical account is about the function of the church and that is found in the book of Acts. The third historical account is about the future of the church and that is found in The Revelation. Now, you might be saying to yourself, "I thought the Revelation was about the end of the world, I thought the Revelation is about the future, how can it be about history?" Keep in mind that was is future to us is history to God. Because He is timeless, it's all history to Him. The Revelation is about history that just hasn't happened yet, but, from our perspective, it is so sure to happen that it is as good as having happened already.
Because Acts is about the function of the church and it is in story format, there are all kinds of ways we could organize our understanding of the book. In time past, I have done a series of messages on winners and losers in the book of Acts studying how each character was either spiritually successful or unsuccessful...sometimes in moments of their lives, at other times with eternal consequences. Another time I did a series of messages on successful church ministry by studying the challenges that the early church had to overcome. Another way to examine the book of Acts is to see it through the eyes of a missionary as the churches spread out into the world. These are wonderful ways to try to understand what the book of Acts is about.
1. The empowering presence of the Holy Spirit was given to the church.
To try to understand the theme of the book of Acts, I think I would like to narrow it down to something that might not be so out in front, though. Although the name of the book is the Acts of the Apostles, I have heard it more appropriately called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospels, we see Jesus as the empowering presence in the foundation of the church. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the empowering presence in the operation of the church.
John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Jesus had promised another Comforter, which suggests that He, Himself, was the first comforter.
Before the Holy Spirit came on the apostles to empower them to preach the Gospel to the Jews gathered from all over the world at the feast of Pentecost, Jesus gave them the Holy Ghost so they could be sent out to carry out their mission.
John 20:21-22 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
The book of Acts opens up with the work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:1 Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, refers to his former treatise, the Gospel according to Luke, which he says was about what Jesus taught, and then in verse 2 he refers to how that, after Christ was taken up, Jesus gave commandments to the apostles through the Holy Ghost.
Acts 1:1-2 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,