Acts 1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.
The book of Acts is the second part of a two volume work, commonly called Luke/Acts. Together, Luke and Acts comprise about twenty-seven percent of the New Testament. They were likely financed by a gentleman named Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1), whose name means lover of God. The book of Acts was probably completed around AD 62.
Three important questions are answered by this book. First, How did the church begin? Jesus said I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), and Acts covers the first thirty-two years of church history.
Second, What is the role of the Holy Spirit? Jesus promised to send the Spirit (John 16:7-15), and Acts shows how the Spirit builds the church.
Third, Who was the Apostle Paul? Paul wrote thirteen letters of the New Testament, but is never mentioned in the gospels. His story is told in the book of Acts, which serves as a bridge between the gospels and the letters of Paul.
Acts 1:8 [Y]ou will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
The apostles had many responsibilities, but first and foremost, they were to be Christ’s witnesses. This is a legal term for someone who gives testimony of what they have seen or heard. Since the apostles were with Jesus after he rose from the dead, they could testify that he really was alive. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses (Acts 2:32), said Peter.
We believe Jesus rose from the dead because we have eyewitness testimony, from credible people, who were willing to suffer and die for what they saw. This is compelling evidence in any court of law. But we also have the witness of the Holy Spirit. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32), said the apostles. The testimony of the apostles, combined with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is sufficient for faith even today.
Acts 1:9 [Jesus] was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
After his resurrection, Jesus met with his disciples over a period of forty days, and spoke about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). The disciples were so traumatized by his crucifixion that they needed this time to grasp the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Then, after forty days of teaching, Jesus’ earthly ministry officially closed, with his ascension into heaven. This began his heavenly ministry which includes building his church (Matthew 16:18), interceding for believers (Hebrews 7:25), and preparing a place for us (John 14:2).
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Jesus told the apostles not to leave Jerusalem, but [to] wait for the gift my Father promised (Acts 1:4). So they waited in Jerusalem until the Spirit came from heaven. The sound of a violent wind filled the house, and what seemed to be tongues of fire came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:2-3).
The text is not explicit, but the wind may speak of power (as in a hurricane) and the tongues of fire may stand for God’s speech. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:29). When you add wind to fire it begins to spread, and the fire of God’s word was about to spread among the people.
One of the first things we learn about God in the Bible is that he speaks. God said Let there be light (Genesis 1:3). God said Let the land produce (Genesis 1:24). And God said Let us make mankind (Genesis1:26). God also spoke to the prophets, who announced to the people, this is what the Lord says (Isaiah 8:11).
Furthermore, since God only had one Son, he made him a preacher (Matthew 4:17). Then Jesus appointed apostles to preach (Mark 3:14), and they appointed pastors to preach. Paul told Timothy to Preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2). Martin Luther called the church a mouth house because that is where God’s word is preached. With his word God made the world, and with his word he makes the church.
Acts 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.
Peter was accustomed to crowds from being with Jesus, and this was a crowd of many thousands. It is hard to imagine speaking to that many people without a microphone, but it has been done. In the eighteenth century, George Whitfield often preached to over ten thousand people outside. He preached so loudly that he was known to spit up blood after a sermon.
Peter also raised his voice and began to preach as never before. First he preached from the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), who foretold the coming of the Holy Spirit, which they were experiencing. Then he preached from a Psalm of David (Psalm 16:9-11), which foretold the resurrection of Christ. Then he said, God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36).
Clearly, something had happened to Peter. Several weeks earlier he denied Jesus three times with a curse (Matthew 26:69-75). Now he was preaching Christ so fearlessly that he didn’t care what happened to him. How can this be explained?
Peter saw Jesus crucified, then he saw him raised. Then he understood that Jesus was crucified for our sins, and raised for our salvation. Then he was filled with the Spirit of Christ. What else could he do but preach? God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah, (Acts 2:36), he said.
Acts 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do?
That was a good question. What do you do when you’ve killed the Messiah? They thought they were pretty good people. They read the Scriptures, said their prayers, went to synagogue, and tried to live right. But the word of God, preached in the power of the Spirit, revealed the true nature of their little black hearts—and ours.
Notice Peter’s use of the second person pronoun. [Y]ou, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23), he said. I prefer to say we since everyone sins, it is theologically correct, and much more polite. But Peter pointed his finger as though it were loaded and said, you . . . put him to death.
The word of God is most powerful when the application is most personal. No one gets into heaven by saying, we have sinned. It is better to say, I have sinned, by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most miserable fault. Then we are prepared to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
Reflection and Review
Why is the book of Acts important?
Why was Peter so bold in his preaching?
Why should preachers talk about sin?