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New Testament Survey
Lesson Six

Acts

Acts is a book about the church in action.  This book traces the history of the church from it's inception at Pentecost to it's spread throughout the western part of the Roman Empire.  The book does not have a conclusion or ending, which indicates that the book is still being written today as the Holy Spirit acts in God's people.

The book is a sequel to the book of Luke.  Like the book of Luke, it was written to provide a historical record of God's revelation to humanity in the work of Christ and His church.

In all probability the book of Acts had no title when it first appeared.  It is assumed that the title was given at a later date by someone other than the author.  The title; nevertheless, is ancient as it appears in the oldest known manuscripts and in most ancient versions.

In actual fact it is the record of the acts of some of the Apostles.  Some apostles are not named other than being included in the list given before the account of Pentecost.  The acts that are recorded are some of the acts of those apostles not all of them.  It is a fragmentary history, centering around geography, as stated in 1:8; "witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth".

1. There are 28 chapters in the book of Acts, which contain 1007 verses.

2. Luke is the author of the book of Acts.  The style and method of Acts is the same as that of the book of Luke.  It can be said with certainty that the author of both books is Luke.

3. The date of the writing of the book is uncertain.  Some have suggested, by its tone, it would have been written before the burning of Rome in A.D.64.  A latter date has no support, so if it was written after the burning of Rome, or after the destruction of Jerusalem it's attitude to the Romans and Jews is unusual.   It was probably written around A.D. 62 or perhaps early A.D.64.

4. It is generally believed to have been written from Rome.

Theme

The inception and progress of the church in proclaiming the message of the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ


Christ is seen as the One sitting at the right hand of God, dispensing the power of the Holy Spirit to His followers.  He is the Prince of the Kings of the Earth, ruling from heaven.

Key Words


The key word in the book of Acts is witness.  Although the word itself does not appear frequently, the whole of the book is about the witness of the early church.

Key Verse


Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Purpose


1. The main purpose is given in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1.  It is an account of the continuation of the ministry of Christ.  What He began to do on earth He continued from heaven through His chosen followers.

2. Another reason for the book is to prove He has ascended to the throne of His father David.

3. It was written to show the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.

4. It recorded the fulfilment of the Great Commission as well as Old Testament prophecies.

5. It was given to leave an example for the church of all ages, that in the midst of persecution and death the power of God ensures the success of the gospel.

*****


Events and Characters


1. Christ proved His physical resurrection to the early disciples, then ascended into heaven.  They were told to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit and the angels said  He would come again.   The Jewish feast of Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit was poured out, ushering in the New Covenant age of the Church.  Peter's sermon brought 3000 people into the kingdom of God.  The lame man is healed giving another opportunity for Peter to preach the gospel.   The religious leaders arrest Peter and John, threaten them and release them.  The church is moved in prayer.

2. The church is moved to giving and Ananias with his wife Sapphira attempt to deceive the church regarding their generosity.  They are smitten and die for their lie against God.  The Apostles are again arrested for their witness and declare they must obey God in the matter.  Gamaliel wisely advises the religious leaders to move carefully lest they be found to be fighting against God.   The witness of the church continues.  The growth of the church brings problems so seven men are chosen by the qualifications laid down by the Apostles and serve in the office of deacon.  One of these men, Stephen, performed miracles which caused him to be arrested. Before the Sanhedrin he recounts the history of Israel and challenges them for their continued rebellion.  He is stoned to death. The covenant had now been confirmed as promised by God through Daniel, so the gospel now begins to spread to the non-Jewish world.

3. A man by the name of Saul was party to the death of Stephen and he continued to severely persecute the church.  Philip goes to Samaria and many people come to the Lord. Peter and John come and confirm the believers.  They confront Simon the sorcerer and preach in many Samaritan villages.  Philip is caught away in the Spirit and presents Christ to the Ethiopian Eunuch who is baptized.  Saul receives a direct visitation of God, and is converted.  Ananias baptizes him.  Saul boldly preaches the gospel. A man by the name of Aeneas is healed of palsy which had kept him bed-ridden for eight years.  Peter raises Dorcas from the dead. Peter receives a vision teaching him not to despise the Gentiles. He goes to the household of Cornelius, preaches, they receive the Holy Spirit and he baptizes them in water.  This accelerated the change that had begun at the stoning of Stephen, the church would come to be dominated by the Gentiles.

4. Peter is accused for going to the Gentiles and his defence is accepted.  The gospel spreads to many parts and Barnabas is sent to Antioch.  The disciples are first called Christians there.  Herod imprisons James and Peter, James is murdered by Herod. Peter is freed by the angel.  Herod dies a horrible death.  The gospel prospers after his death.  Paul and Barnabas are sent from Antioch to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  Their witness is received.  Paul and Barnabas are persecuted at Iconium. At Lystra Paul heals a cripple.  He and Barnabas are acclaimed as gods. When certain Jews come to the area the people turn on Paul.  He is stoned and left for dead, but walks away.  They return to Jerusalem to deal with the dissension regarding circumcision.  Paul and Barnabas separate over the issue of John Mark.

5. Paul has Timothy circumcised, casts out the spirit of divination and with Silas is cast into the Philippian jail.    They are delivered and the jailer is converted.  Paul goes to Thessalonica where some receive the gospel, but others persecute him.  He goes to Berea.  He then goes to Athens preaches about the unknown God and many are converted.  Paul at Corinth works at tent making.  He is accused before Galio, but is dismissed.  Apollos preaches with great ability.  Paul preaches at Ephesians where Christians are filled with the Spirit by the laying on of His hands.  He is there about 2 years and God works special miracles through him.  The Jews believe not and the seven sons of Sceva attempt to imitate him.  

6. Paul goes to Macedonia and in Troas celebrates communion and preaches until midnight.  Eutychus drops off to sleep and falls from the window and is killed.  Paul raises him from the dead and continues preaching until daylight. He travels on and meets with the elders of Ephesus and charges them with their responsibility.  He refuses to listen to the advice and the prophetic word warning him not to go to Jerusalem.  At Jerusalem he goes to the temple and is accused of defiling it. The charge is untrue, but he is arrested.  He is allowed to speak to the people and gives his testimony.  When he speaks about the Gentiles the crowd turns against him. He is bound and the Romans are about to beat him when he claims his privilege as a Roman citizen.

7. Paul defends himself before the Sanhedrin.  Paul is encouraged by God that he will present the gospel in Rome.   The Jews lie in wait to kill him.  The commander finds out about this through Paul's nephew and sends him by night to Felix.  The Jews come with the orator Tertullus and Paul again answers the charge. Felix leaves Paul bound in order to please the Jews.  The Jews accuse Paul before Festus. Festus wants to send him back to Jerusalem so Paul appeals to Caesar.  Agrippa comes and Paul is brought before him. Paul gives his testimony, which convicts Agrippa.  He could have been set free except for his appeal to Caesar.  Paul is sent to Rome.  Paul warns of the dangers of the voyage from The Fair Havens.  They run into a storm lasting two weeks.  At the end of that time Paul encourages the men by stating God had promised to save their lives. The ship is destroyed in the storm, but all 276 people are saved from the sea.
8. When they arrive on the island Paul helps with the fire. As he is putting sticks on the fire a viper bites him which makes the natives think he is a criminal.  He shakes it off and when he did not die the natives of the island change their minds and look upon him as a god.   Many sick are healed.  They depart for Rome.  Paul is in his own rented house, under house arrest but free to preach the gospel.


Lessons to Remember


1. The task of world evangelization is the mission of the church.

2. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the purposes of God.

3. There will be opposition to the gospel, but it only strengthens the witness.

4. God uses those who will break out of themselves and follow the vision He has given.

5. God can turn the vilest persecutor into a great warrior for the kingdom.

6. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, he softens the hearts to hear the message.

7. We can turn negative circumstance into opportunities to present the gospel.

*****


Outline


I.  The Foundational Events of the Church           1 - 5

    A. Final Ministry of Christ and Ascension     1
    B. The Outpouring of Power at Pentecost     2
    C. Peter and John and the Lame Man     3
    D. Peter and John Threatened and Arrested     4
    E. Ananias and Sapphira and More Persecution     5

II.  Progress of the Church     6  -  12

    A. Deacons and Stephen     6  -  7
    B. Philip's Evangelistic Work     8
    C. Conversion of Saul     9    
    D. Peter Sent to the Gentiles    10  -  11
    E. James Martyred, Peter Delivered Herod dies         12

III.  Foreign Missions    13  -  28

    A. Paul and Barnabas - First Missionary Journey    13:-15:35
    B. Second Missionary Journey    15:35 -  18:23
    C. Third Missionary Journey    18:23 -21:26
    D. Paul as a Prisoner    21:27  -  28:31
        1. His Treatment    24  -  26
        2. His Triumph        26  -  27
        3. His Travels        27  -  28


Outline (Alternative)


I.  The Period of Home Missions     1:1 - 11:18

    A. Church at Jerusalem     1:1  -  8:3
        1.  Ministry of Peter        1  -  5
        2.  Story of Stephen        6  -  7
    B. Church in Judea and Samaria     8:4  -  11:18
        1.  Barnabas, Philip     8:4  -  40
        2.  Conversion of Saul     9
        3.  House of Cornelius    10  -  11:18

II.  The Period of Foreign Missions    11:19  -  28:31

    A. Church at Antioch    11:19  -  30
    B. First Missionary Journey    13:1  -  14:26
    C. Extended Stay at Antioch    14:26  -  28
    D. Church Council at Jerusalem    15:1  -  29
        1. Dispute at Antioch    15:1  -  2
        2. Council at Jerusalem    15:3  -  29
    E. Return to Antioch    15:30  -  34
    F. Second Missionary Journey    15:36  -  18:22
        Close of the Journey    18:22
    G. Third Missionary Journey    18:23  -  21:14
    H. Paul at Jerusalem, Arrested    21:15  -  23:30
    I. Ceasarea, Two Year Imprisonment     23:31 - 26:32
    J. Rome    27:1  -  28:31

*****
Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson arrives do the following:

1.  Read through the Book Of Romans two or three times.

2.  Analyze Romans Chapter 8.



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