Key word: Witnesses “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 Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” - Acts 1:8
Dr. A. T. Pierson often called the fifth book of the New Testament, The Acts of the Holy Spirit. There is wisdom in that descriptive title, for the Holy Spirit did guide the growth and advancement of the Church of Jesus Christ in a marvelous and miraculous way. The Book of Acts is filled with the mystery and majesty of a Divine movement. God the Father had promised through the prophet Joel that His Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh, so that sons and daughters would prophesy, young men would see visions, and old men would dream dreams (Acts 2:17, cp. Joel 2:28-30). The Book of Acts records that this actually happened.
Young men saw visions. Saul of Tarsus had a vision of the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:3-9). Ananias had a vision instructing him to minister to Saul in Damascus (Acts 9:10-16). The Gentile Cornelius had a vision instructing him to ask Peter to come to Joppa with the gospel (Acts 10:3-6). Peter had a vision to eat unclean animals which meant to go and fellowship with the “unclean” Gentiles (Acts 10:9-18, 28). Saul, changed into the Apostle Paul, had a vision to go to Macedonia to preach the gospel (Acts 16:9). Paul had another vision that God would save souls in the wicked city of Corinth (Acts 18:9,10). He also had a vision promising the Lord’s presence during his final voyage to Rome (Acts 23:11).
As the young men saw visions, so the voice of prophecy could be heard in the Book of Acts. There are several selected sermons in Acts which have been recorded for consideration. Peter, Paul, Stephen, and James contributed some of the most important majestic messages.
James spoke to the Jerusalem Council Acts 15:13-21
Paul spoke to the Ephesians Acts 20:17-35
Paul spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem Acts 22:1-21
Paul spoke to the Sanhedrin Acts 23:1-6
Paul spoke before King Agrippa Acts 26
Paul spoke to the Jewish rulers in Rome Acts 28:17-20
Then there were “signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6-7,13; 14:3-4). The Book of Acts is filled with many marvelous miracles as Joel had predicted. Peter healed a man lame from birth at the Temple Gate (3:7-11, cp. 4:16-17). His very shadow brought recovery to the sick (5:15-16). Peter was able to raise Tabitha (Dorcas) to life (9:36-42). In like manner, Paul cured a man crippled from birth (14:8-18). People were healed by touching a piece of cloth he had held (19:11-12). He too was able to bring someone back from the dead (20:9-12). As Peter was miraculously set free from prison (5:19; 12:3-19), so was Paul (16:25-34). Miracle after miracle confirmed the men and the message they proclaimed. Consider some more of the wonderful works of God:
The appearance of the resurrected Christ Acts 1:3
The sound of wind, fire, & the gift of languages Acts 2:3
The earth quaked in answer to prayer Acts 4:31
Judgment fell upon Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:5-10
The resurrected Christ appeared to Saul Acts 9:3-9
At the word from Ananias, sight was restored Acts 9:17-18
Peter healed Aeneas in Lydda Acts 9:32-35
An angel appeared to Cornelius Acts 10:3,46
A sorcerer was blinded Acts 13:11-12
A cripple was healed at Lystra Acts 14:8-18
A young man was raised from death in Troas Acts 20:8-12
A viper bit Paul in Melita but did no harm Acts 28:3-6
Diseases were cured by Paul in Melita Acts 28:8-9
There are many other details associated with Peter and Paul in the biblical narrative, for the story of these amazing days is told primarily through their lives. The first twelve chapters of Acts are concerned mainly with the ApostlePeter, the initial leader of the Jewish-Christian church in Jerualem, and also the initial point of contact with the Gentile world through Cornelius. The second half of Acts is devoted to the ministry of the Apostle Paul, who was converted to Christ while seeking to persecute the saints in Damascus (9:1-19). His three missionary journeys and his journey to Rome in chains are covered in the narrative. Brief summaries of their lives and the concise outline provide an overview of the main events in the Book of Acts. 1. Empowered 1 - 2:41 the baptism of the Holy Spirit
2. Established 2:42 - 7 the birth of the Church
3. Extended 8 beyond Jerusalem
4. Enlightened 9 - 12 inclusion of the Gentiles
5. Enlarged 13 - 28 Paul’s missionary journeys
The Powerful Personality of Peter
Of all the personalities in the New Testament, Peter appeals to many people because he is so very human. Peter is presented as a very emotional personality with a penchant for saying the right thing at the right time, and also for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He seemed willing to speak for others (cp. Mark 8:29) and to ask the questions that everyone wanted to ask (Mark 10:28; 11:21; Matt. 15:15; 18:21; Luke 12:41). Four names are used to refer to Peter. He is called by his Hebrew name Simeon in Acts 15:14. The Greek equivalent Simon is used almost fifty times in the Gospels and Acts. Paul enjoyed calling him Cephas (cp. 1 Cor. 1:12; 2:22; 9:5), though Peter is employed most often.
Many things are known about Peter. He is the son of Jonah (John) according to Matthew 16:17 (cp. John 1:42). He and his brother Andrew were partners in a fishing business in Galilee (Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3) with James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Peter was married (Mark 1:29-31; 1 Cor. 9:5), and had a residence in Capernaum (Mark 1:21,29). Prior to receiving the call to follow Jesus, Peter had been a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42).
As a disciple of Christ, the name of Peter is listed first in the apostolic roster (Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Matt. 10:2). Such preference is appropriate because Peter was a leader among men. He was sometimes singled out for special recognition (Mark 8:29-33), and enjoyed private moments with the Lord. Peter was present when Jesus raised a little girl to health (Mark 5:35-41), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8), and when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mark 14:43-50).
The worst moment in Peter’s life came when he denied the Lord of glory (Mark 14:66-72). However, he was restored to fellowship and given a place of leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:17-19; John 21:15-19; Mark 16:7) in Jerusalem. His wise counsel and leadership allowed him to serve as a unifying force between those who ministered to the Jews and those who ministered to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11).
Tradition says that Peter died a witness for the Lord in Rome sometime after AD 60. His spiritual legacy includes the telling of his story to John Mark, who wrote his gospel and assisted with the two epistles, 1 and 2 Peter.
A Summary of Saul’s Salvation
Like many Jewish babies, he had been named Saul, perhaps in memory of Israel’s first king. Today, he is better known as Paul (meaning little one), indicating the change of his name (cp. Acts 13:9). Born of Jewish parents from the tribe of Benjamin who were also Roman citizens, Paul was reared in the city of Tarsus, Cilicia. According to both custom and Jewish law, he was circumcised on the eighth day. As a youth, it would be his privilege to sit at the feet of the great Rabbi Gamaliel and learn the Law of Moses. A capable student filled with religious zeal, Paul became “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5). His fervor for the things he loved so dearly would find a terrible outlet: Paul persecuted those Christians of “The Way” until he was converted to Christ himself, c. AD 34. One of the scenes which haunted Paul throughout his life was the part he played in the death of Stephen. While others threw the stones which broke his body, Saul stood by and held their garments in consent.
Soon after his salvation, Paul began to preach Christ with the same intensity that he had once reserved for the Law. For Paul, the Law had lost its vitality and validity. He was given to understand that no one can be saved by keeping the Law. Only faith in Christ would save. There was more. Paul came to understand that if belief in Christ was the true object of saving faith, then even the Gentiles could believe. Paul would go and preach to the Gentiles. His initial work took him to such places as Damascus, and then to the kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs to the east and south. While there is no record of the details of his activity in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), some opposition was involved, for the “governor” of King Aretas in Damascus sought to have him arrested (2 Cor. 11:32-33).
After returning from Damascus, Paul went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:18-19). Because of intense hostility against Paul by the Jews (his former associates), he had to flee the city. He was taken to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast to board a boat for Tarsus. For ten years Paul would evangelize the Gentiles.
At the end of this period, Barnabas came to Tarsus from Antioch to invite Paul to join him in caring for a thriving church there. A year later, Paul and Barnabas visited Jerusalem to confer with Peter, James, and John (Gal. 2:10). The result of this meeting was an agreement that those in Jerusalem would focus attention on evangelizing to the Jews, while Barnabas and Paul would take the gospel to the Gentiles. Because of the famine in the city, it was requested that Barnabas and Paul try to find ways to send financial relief whenever possible.
Three Missionary Journeys
Encouraged by the church at Antioch to take the gospel to the Gentile world, Barnabas and Paul set out in AD 47 on the first of three missionary journeys. In AD 48/49, Barnabas and Paul returned to Jerusalem to ask counsel regarding the proper relationship between the Jews and Gentiles. It was decided that while circumcision should not be imposed upon the Gentile converts, they should conform to certain aspects of the Jewish law in order to keep peace (Acts 15:1-29).
Once that question was settled, Paul and Barnabas parted company over the controversial behavior of John Mark. Paul chose Silas to travel with him. Together they visited the developing churches of Galatia. At Lystra, they were joined by Timothy, whom Paul had led to Christ two years earlier.
Planning to journey west to Ephesus, the Holy Spirit led them instead to turn north and northwest and go to the seaport of Troas. In a vision, Paul was led of the Lord to go to Macedonia. With the addition of Luke to their small group (Acts 16:10), the four men moved on to Macedonia to the Roman colony of Philippi; there the Lord established a church despite strong opposition. From Philippi the journey was made to Thessalonica, the major city of the province, where a church was established. However, when a riot broke out, the four missionaries were forced to leave the city in haste.
Paul moved next to Berea where he was well received, but opponents from Thessalonica had followed him there. So much unrest was created that the journey had to continue. Paul was forced to flee from city to city. Alone now, Paul moved south into the province of Achaia where he briefly stayed in Athens, and then went to Corinth in fear for his life (1 Cor. 2:3). Despite his initial apprehensions, Paul stayed for 18 months and saw many souls come to the Savior. While he was at Corinth, a new Roman proconsul named Gallio arrived on July 1, AD 51, to take up residence in the wicked metropolitan city. When Paul was brought before Gallio on charges of preaching an illegal religion, the proconsul dismissed the charges.
From Corinth, Paul returned to Jerusalem and Antioch before going to Ephesus, where he would remain for three years. The Lord gave Paul and those who ministered with him many souls for their labors in the whole province of Asia (western Asia Minor). As the great apostle considered his next move, he wanted to go to Spain (Rom. 15:20). Such a journey would give him the opportunity to go through Rome. But before that could happen, Paul felt he needed to take a love offering to the saints back in Jerusalem. Though apprehensive of being arrested (Rom. 15:25-32), he made the journey anyway, only to be attacked by a mob near the Temple. Though Roman soldiers came to his rescue, Paul was kept in custody for the next two years. After appealing to Caesar, he was sent to Rome in chains in the fall of AD 59. Two more years would pass before his case came before the Imperial Court. Still, he was able to proclaim the gospel to all he met (Phil. 1:2, 18). Because he was under house arrest, Paul was able to receive visitors, including Epaphroditus from Philippi and Epaphras from Colossae. From Colossae, too, came Onesimus, the slave of his friend Philemon (Phil. 1:6).
About the remainder of Paul’s life there is little information. It is probable that he was released from prison only to be incarcerated a second time, and to suffer martyrdom under the Roman emperor Nero. The probable site of his execution can still be visited today at Tre Fontane on the Ostain Road. A burial place is marked near the Basilica of St. Paul. Beneath a high altar is a stone inscription carved at least in the fourth century: “TO PAUL, APOSTLE AND MARTYR.”
Major Events during the Days of Paul 4 BC Herod the Great, King of Judea from 37 to 4 BC
4 Archelaus Ethnarch of Judea/Idumaea/Samaria 4 BC - 6 AD
4 Philip Tetrarch of Batanaea, Trachionitis, Auranitis and “Ituraea” 4 BC to 6 AD
4 Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene in Syria 4 BC to 37 AD
6 AD Judea made a Roman province under a procurator
c10 Paul is born in the city of Tarsus Acts 22:3
14 Tiberius Caesar becomes Roman Emperor, rules to 37 AD
18 Caiaphas becomes the Jewish High Priest and remains in office until 36 AD
(Jesus appeared before him) Matt. 26:57-68
c20-30 Paul is educated in Judaism Acts 22:3
26 Pontus Pilate becomes Procurator of Judea and remains in office until 36 AD
(Jesus appeared before him) Matt. 27:2-26
27 Appearance of John the Baptist, baptism of Jesus and the beginning of the public ministry of Christ
30 Crucifixion of Jesus
30 Pentecost and pouring out of the Spirit during the days when Tiberius was Emperor of Rome and Pontius Pilate was still the Procurator of Judea
31 Spread of the gospel at Jerusalem
35-40 The conversion of Cornelius Acts 10
35-36 Paul persecuted Christians
36 Martyrdom of Stephen witnessed by Paul Acts 7:58
Death of Tiberius, accession of Emperor Caius Caligula (he rules until AD 41). Pilate deposed.
Herod Agrippa I given the tetrarchy of Philip and Abilene
37 Conversion of Saul Acts 9
38 Paul goes into Arabia Gal. 1:17
Herod Agrippa I is relieved of his duties
39 Paul visits Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29
Paul returns to Tarsus Acts 9:30
Herod Antipas is banished to Gaul
Dominions of Herod Antipas given to Herod Agrippa I.
Emperor Caligula orders his statue to be set up at Jerusalem leading to a riot.
40 The revolt of Theudas takes place Acts 5:36
41 Peter goes on a missionary journey
Cornelius is converted Acts 10-11
42 Herod Agrippa I is made King of Judea and Samaria.
Claudius succeeds Caligula as Roman Emperor, rules until AD 54
70 Jerusalem falls to Tiberius’ Roman Legions under Titus
The Acts of the Apostles: An Outline
I. 1:1 - 8:3 The Church in Jerusalem
A. Waiting for the Wind 1:1-22
B. The Matter of Matthias 1:23-26
C. The Power of Pentecost 2:2-47
D. “Signs and Wonders” 3:1-4:37
E. Judgment in the House of God 5:1-42
F. The Selection of Seven Servants 6:1-15
G. Standing Up for Stephen 7:1-8:3
II. 8:4 - 11:18 The Church to Judea and Samaria
A. The Preaching of Philip 8:4-40
B. The Salvation of Saul 9:1-43
C. The Conversion of Cornelius 10:1-11:18
III. 11:19 - 28:31 The Church to the World
A. The Gospel Arrives in Antioch 11:19-28
B. Gifts of God’s Grace 11:29-30
C. The Hatred of Herod Agrippa I 12:1-25
D. Divine Guidance for Barnabas and Saul 13:1-3
E. The Gospel Is Proclaimed to the Gentiles 13:4-12
Paul’s First Missionary Journey AD 45-48
F. The Terrible Mistake of John Mark 13:13
G. Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe 13:14-14:28
The Council Meeting at Jerusalem AD 50
H. A Question of Conscience 15:1-35
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey AD 50-53
I. “Son of Consolation” 15:36-39
J. Silas: Co-laborer with Paul 15:40-41
K. Young Timothy 16:1-3
L. The Gospel Reaches Europe 16:4-9
M. Paul at Philippi 16:10-40
N. “Turning the World Upside Down” 17:1-14
O. Athens: The Cradle of Democracy 17:15-34
P. A Return to Spiritual Roots 18:1-28
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey AD 54-58
Q. Three Years at Ephesus 19:1-12
R. The Debate over Diana 19:13-41
S. A Journey of Love 20:1-21:16
T. Danger in the City of Peace 21:17-26:32
U. The Last Voyage to Rome 27:1-28:15
V. Two Years at Rome AD 61-63 28:16-31
Study Questions: Lesson 5
First please read chapter 8 in the text.
1. What might be a better title for the fifth book of the New Testament? Explain your answer briefly.
The Powerful Personality of Peter
2. Summarize the life of Peter (in less than a half-page).
A Summary of Saul’s Salvation (and following)
3. Summarize the life of Paul (in less than a half-page).
4. Persecution played a large part of the story of the Church in Acts. In what ways do average Christians suffer [that they are able to enter into the kingdom of God - see Acts 14:22].
5. Should Christians actively seek the following (explain each answer):
a. the power of the Holy Spirit?
b. bold witnessing that might trigger persecution?
6. What impresses you about Paul’s three missionary journeys? Why?
MAKING IT PERSONAL
7. Please share the account of someone you have personally witnessed to recently. If you have not given witness to Christ lately, state why that might be. (If you do not know how to witness, please ask for spiritual counsel in this area from someone you trust.)