I have a good friend who is a relatively new Christian. Some time ago he set out to read through the New Testament. He read Matthew, Mark, and then Luke, but he was so eager to get to the Book of Acts he skipped John. I can understand exactly why he was so anxious to get to this very exciting New Testament book. There is no other book like it. It describes the birth of the church, and the transformation of discouraged and fearful followers of Jesus into fearless preachers of the Gospel. Acts provides us with biographical insight into the lives of those men who wrote the New Testament, and an account of the birth of many of the churches to which New Testament epistles were written. Perhaps most of all, the Book of Acts describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church, convicting men of sin, converting men and women to faith in Christ, and giving courage and clarity to the apostles, who had the awesome task of committing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to written form. Here is a book that you can hardly put down, one that has informed and inspired saints down through the ages.
Acts is full of surprises. God will not be put in a box by men. God is not there to be used by men, as they go through the right sequence of spiritual steps. God uses men, rather than to be used by men, as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8) learned. The apostles and disciples of our Lord met together to choose a replacement for Judas, and Matthias was chosen by lot (see Acts 1). There is good reason to conclude that God set aside the church’s choice, raising up Saul, a man that the apostles found hard to accept as a fellow-believer, let alone an apostle (see Acts 9). When the early church had a problem of inequity in the feeding of its widows, the apostles had the church select seven men, to oversee the care of the widows, so that they, the apostles, could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6). And yet it was two of these men who were appointed to free up the apostles who were most instrumental in the proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles (Acts 7 and 8). God will not be put in a box. If the Book of Acts teaches us that God has great power, which He demonstrates in and through the church, the Book also teaches us that God’s presence and power is sovereignly bestowed on men, and that those who would seek to manipulate God for their own gain are living very dangerously.
Acts is not so much a “how to” book as it is the documentation of how our Lord continues to minister to His church through His saints, by means of His Spirit, in ways we would never have expected. It is a great book. Let us listen and learn with open hearts and minds, looking to His Spirit to make His thoughts our own, as we study this magnificent portion of His Word.