Series 44


STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 1:1-3

In many ways Acts is the most exciting book in the New Testament because it is full of movement and interest. These studies will be expository, devotional, practical and varied, and this is an introduction to the whole book:-

  1. (1) TITLE: The book is known as ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. This is correct, though it mostly tells us of the acts of two apostles: Peter, whose ministry was to the Jews and whose great word was ‘repent’; and Paul, whose ministry was to the Gentiles and whose great word was ‘believe’. However, this book does not record the acts of men but of the Risen Lord, who by the Holy Spirit filled and used men as His instruments. In Acts 1:1 Luke tells us that in his Gospel he recorded “all that Jesus began to do and to teach…” Compare Luke 1:1-4. For 33 years the Holy Spirit had indwelt, filled and worked through the human body of the Man Christ Jesus; then this same Man returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit came and filled His mystical body, the Church, and so the Lord continued to do His mighty works from heaven. A better title for this book is ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’ – and because of this the Book of Acts is an unfinished book; it records the continuing work of the Risen Lord from heaven.
  2. (2) AUTHOR: Luke wrote his Gospel and also the Book of Acts – compare Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3. Both letters were written to Theophilus.
  3. (3) DATE: Written about AD 63 and covering approximately 33 years of history. Our Lord Jesus was on the earth for 33 years, and in Acts we have an example of what can be accomplished through one generation of believers.
  4. (4) KEY-VERSE AND KEY-WORD: It is Acts 1:8, and the word ‘witness’ is the key-word. In this one verse we have a bird’s-eye view of the whole book; we start by reading about the preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem, the ecclesiastical centre, and conclude with the preaching of the gospel in Rome, the centre of world power.

Why should we study this wonderful Book of Acts?


1. It is the record of actual history.

Be sure of this: it is authentic (2 Timothy 3:16); it is the first book ever written of church history; it is the history book of the Church, of which we are members; and it applies to this Church age and the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in which we are living – look up and compare Matthew 16:18 and Acts 2:41 – the building and the adding are still going on!


2. It is full of instruction for us as Christians.

It is our textbook (2 Timothy 2:15); we learn how to worship, walk, witness, win souls, pray, conquer, suffer, rejoice in trial, live for the Lord and how to die to Him. It tells us how the early Christians gave, worked together and acted in times of crisis! What an exciting record it is!


3. It contains a clear exposition of vital Christian doctrine.

Romans, of course, is the textbook of theology but in Acts we hear the gospel preached and see it working. We hear it in the sermons and speeches of Peter, Paul, Stephen, Philip, James and Ananias, and quickly learn what a Christian believes and how he is to present the gospel to others. All the vital doctrines are emphasised in this book, and it is significant to notice that the message, though preached by many different people, is always the same.


4. It contains many biographies.

Pick out the stories of individuals whom God saved, blessed and used: Stephen (Acts 6:5-7; 60); Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42); John Mark (Acts 13:1-13); Apollos (Acts 18:24-28). Make a list of these biographies, because you will have a valuable aid to further study.


5. It has a strong missionary emphasis.

The Book of Acts is the authorised missionary manual of the Church, dealing with the why, the how and the where of missionary work; it speaks of the evangelisation of cities (Acts 8:1-8), of individuals (Acts 8:26-39); it shows how men are called and equipped for missionary service; this book inspires, trains, instructs and equips missionaries – a great missionary book from start to finish (Acts 13:1-5)!


6. It describes many notable conversions.

This will inspire you – read of the conversions at Pentecost (Acts 2:36-42); of the Queen’s treasurer (Acts 8:26-39); of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-17); of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48); of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15); of the jailer (Acts 16:25-34); and of Crispus (Acts 18:8) – examples of what God is doing all over the world today through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the gospel and in answer to the prayers of God’s people.


7. It is of great spiritual value.

To read the Book of Acts will send us to our knees. It will give us a deeper love for the Lord, fire us with new zeal, and stir us to be active in the Lord’s service. Read of the men who turned the world upside down and you will be turned upside down also (Acts 17:6). Read of what God can do with ordinary men and women when they are filled with the Holy Spirit – look up Acts 4:31 and 33.

The late Dr Campbell Morgan used to say that a study of this book will do two things for us. First, it will fill us with hope; we shall realise what a wonderful Lord we have, what a mighty person the Holy Spirit is, and what a powerful gospel has been entrusted to us. Second, it will fill us with shame; to read this book will humble us and send us to our knees and cause us to cry out, ‘Lord, do it again!’