Christ has been crucified, buried, and gloriously risen again! For forty days, He has walked and talked with the disciples, and many have witnessed His ascension into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the throne of God! Those in attendance have been given a command, a commission; GO and preach to every creature. With this, we find a new age in the history of man, the beginning of the church age, and the age of grace.
Just as Christ had promised, His ascension brought to the believer the Holy Spirit of God to dwell within our hearts. The church was empowered to become witnesses of Him to the uttermost parts of the earth, and enabled to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. The first event of the new church age was ushered in by the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached, the Holy Spirit moved, and 3,000 people of every tribe and tongue heard the gospel message in their own language and believed in Jesus Christ as Savior!
In Acts chapter three, we begin to see the Apostolic works and miracles performed in Jerusalem by Peter and John with the healing of the lame man. These signs were given as a testimony to the Jews in order for them to believe in the message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. In Acts four, we see the first persecution of Peter and John with their trial before the Sanhedrin. I love the account in Acts four and verse thirteen, when the Sanhedrin perceived that that Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant, they marveled and took knowledge of one thing; that they had been with Jesus!
After that, Peter and John were let go and returned unto their people to report what had happened. Multitudes believed in Christ; they prayed together, and the place where they were assembled began to shake, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit of God. As a result, they all began to speak the Word of God with great boldness, shared the same mind and heart, sold their possessions, and gave it all for the furtherance of the gospel!
By Acts chapter six, we see that the church has added believers daily, they are preaching the Word of God house to house, and disputes have started to arise about the role of the Apostles. Having more ministry than they can handle, the Apostles called the people together to choose out Deacons to serve in the ministry, the first of which was a man named Stephen. In Acts seven, persecution again rears it’s head and Stephen is falsely accused and put to death by stoning.
Looking back at Acts chapter one with Christ’s command to go into all the world with the gospel message, and now being well established within the church age, the Apostles failed to go unto the uttermost parts of the earth. We see in Acts eight, that now because of great persecution, that they are now scattered as they were commanded to do to begin with. We also see another man come on the scene; Saul. Saul is ruthless, makes havoc of the church, persecutes all that he comes into contact with and is feared greatly among the disciples.
Although Saul is mightily used as an agent of destruction to the church, he sets out on the road to Damascus where his life is utterly changed for the rest of his life. A great light appears, he falls to the ground, and out of Heaven he hears, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” At that moment, Saul once a persecutor of Christians is now converted and given assignment by Christ Himself! In Acts nine, we see the conversion and calling of the Apostle Paul; the disciples were fearful and did not want to give Saul an opportunity, but Barnabas, the son of consolation took him, and so began the missionary journeys of the second greatest missionary to ever live.
Acts chapter ten is a glorious chapter for all of us! In this chapter, Peter has a vision from God that commands him to eat what was to a Jew unclean meat. The interpretation of the dream is that through Christ, there is nothing that is unclean and therefore even the gentiles are open to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! What does this mean for us? We too are able to receive salvation through grace by Christ Jesus! What a glorious chapter, that the gospel message was open to all, every nation is accepted by Him, not just to the Jew!
Acts chapter sixteen brings Paul to Timothy, who by the Apostle’s own words becomes his “dearly beloved son in the faith.” Just as Barnabas took, and trained Paul; Paul now mentors and trains Timothy to carry the gospel message to the world. In Acts seventeen, Paul is waiting on Timothy and Silas in Athens. As he looks over the city, his heart is stirred within him because he sees them wholly given to idolatry. Paul then preaches, and while some mocked him, there were many that believed.
All throughout Paul’s ministry he sees people saved, churches started, and disciples trained up; but all at the cost of great beatings and persecutions. God has moved in a mighty way and used the man that persecuted the church to help establish and lay a foundational model of the new testament church. We come to Acts chapter twenty and verse twenty four, which I have adopted as my life verse, and we see the Apostle’s attitude and conviction concerning his persecutions; “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” What a testimony of a changed life in Christ!
God has truly used Paul in ways that have been unmatched throughout history. Though he was beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes had to flee from further persecution, we find him using his Roman citizenship and the law to his advantage in Acts chapter twenty six. Paul is taken captive and he appeals unto Caesar as a Roman citizen, and is brought before King Agrippa. The Lord gave the Apostle an opportunity to present the gospel message to kings, just as he had been told from the beginning. Paul preaches the gospel, and Agrippa’s response was that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian.
Acts ends with the Jews refusing to accept nor even hear the gospel being preached. So Paul turns his attention to the gentiles. As Paul’s ministry continues to expand into every tribe and tongue, we see the early church made up mostly of the Jews now being more and more gentile. As we all know, God is not yet done with Israel, however He has chosen to use the church to carry out His command; to reach the world with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!