Summary: This message is a part of a series that surveys the entire Bible. It is based upon the study guide from an older Chuck Swindoll series. This message surveys the book of Acts.
Well today it’s back on the road again. We are going to resume our journey along God’s Route 66. This segment of the journey will take us through the book of Acts. We are not first-century persons, hampered by all the physical and cultural limitations of a pre-scientific society. At the same time we have our own limitations: we do not live in the age of the apostles and do not have direct contact with those who experienced the ministry of Jesus firsthand. As we open the book of Acts we find it extremely difficult to walk in the sandals of those first century Christians. There is just so much in the book that sounds unfamiliar or even puzzling. But on the same note there is much that has a familiar ring to it. The worldview of those outside the church today is not really much different from those who were outside the church in the first century. It almost seems that our postmodern, post-Christian culture has come full circle. The challenges that we face today are quite similar to those that the church faced in the first century, communicating the changeless gospel message and in nurturing the faith of new Christians within an increasingly hostile environment. Today we are going to bring this all into perspective. As Luke closed his Gospel the disciples have had their hope restored by the risen Lord. As Luke begins his sequel the book of Acts, we are going to see how God uses the disciples to literally turn the world upside down.
I. There are various ways to make our journey through the book of Acts.
A. Before approaching the book of Acts we need to understand why Luke wrote it.
1. Both Acts and Luke are written to strengthen the faith of a person by the name of Theophilus.
2. Luke implies in the opening of the gospel that he had carefully researched his material (Luke 1:1–4). He was concerned to provide a proper sequence of events. He shows awareness of other accounts which have been written concerning Jesus.
3. Luke wanted to provide a historical record of the events of Jesus’ life and the progress of the first-century church.
4. Luke also wrote the two books to enable Theophilus to know the certainty of the things he had been taught.
5. Luke intends to show how the apostles began the work Jesus initiated on the earth. Acts 1:1 describes Luke’s Gospel as an account of “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.”
6. Acts traces how this mission would pass from the apostles to the members of the church.
B. We can track the spread of Christianity from its beginning in Jerusalem to the farthest reaches of the known world.
1. This begins when Jesus commissions His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8—NIV)
2. The primary task Jesus calls His disciples to, is absolutely huge. How could this small group of people take His message to the ends of the earth?
3. Jesus outlines the resources He has made available for the accomplishment of the task.
4. This primary task is given to all Christians of all time. Acts clearly shows that the churches primary task is missionary in nature and requires an obedient response to His commission.
5. The book of Acts can outlined geographically this way.
a. Acts 1-7: The events in Jerusalem.
b. Acts 8-12: The Gospel reaches into Judea and Samaria.
c. Acts 13-28: The Gospel spreads to the uttermost parts of the known world.
C. We can trace the timeline of the book of Acts which highlights the five major sections of the book.
1. The first chapter of Acts picks up where the Gospels leave off with Jesus commissioning His disciples and ascending into Heaven.
2. Acts chapters 2-7 has the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit boldly proclaiming the gospel message. This leads to the church having to endure three periods of persecution.
a. Peter and John are imprisoned. (Acts 4)
b. The Apostles are beaten and forbidden to teach any more about Jesus. (Acts 5)
c. Stephen is stoned to death and becomes the first to die for their faith. (Acts 7)
3. Chapters 8-9 detail the shockwaves that went through the Christian community as a result of Stephen’s death. Also Saul who we are introduced to at Stephen’s death is converted in chapter 9.
4. Chapters 10-12 shows the great difficulty that the church had in accepting Saul and shows the lack of success realized by him in his first preaching attempts.
5. Chapters 13-28 provide us with the details of Paul’s three missionary journeys and his trip to Rome to stand trial before Caesar.