Preparation towards the coming of the Spirit, by Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible study material on Acts 1:1-8

In our previous lessons, we have been looking at the introductory studies on Acts. This lesson begins our close reading and studies of the book of Acts by studying Acts 1:1-8. As a first step, it is important to give a brief overview of the book categorized under Peter’s ministry to Israel in Acts 1-12 and Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 13-28. Since this lesson falls under the first section, an attempt is made first to present an outline of Acts 1-12.

An outline of Acts 1-12 focusing on Peter’s mission to Israel
I. Peter and the Jews (1 – 7)
A. Preparation for Pentecost (1)
B. Peter’s first message (2)
C. Peter’s second message (3)
D. The first persecution (4)
E. The second persecution (5)
F. Israel’s final rejection: Stephen slain (6 – 7)
II. Peter and the Samaritans (8)
III. The Conversion of Paul (9)
IV. Peter and the Gentiles (10 –11)
V. Peter’s arrest and deliverance (12)

Preparation for the Pentecost event (Acts 1)

Inscription: A new book introduced (Acts 1:1-2)
Forming essential part of Peter’s ministry to the Jews, Acts 1 prepares the ready for the Pentecost event. Acts 1:1 identifies the writer in the form of a pronoun “I,” the recipient “Theophilus” and a reference to a former book and Acts 1:2 mentions the occasion or event that closed the former book. Worth mentioning here is that in our previous introductory study the author and the recipient (Theophilus) have already been discussed.

The former book and its relation to the new (Acts 1:1-2)
Luke mentions his former book that has traditionally been referred to as the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1 – 4). In this former book, Luke told the story of what Jesus began to do and teach while on earth. The Book of Acts then continues the story by telling what Jesus continued to do and teach through the church on earth. Thus, the Gospel of Luke tells of Jesus’ ministry on earth in a physical body, while Acts tells of Jesus’ ministry from heaven through Jesus’ spiritual body, the church. For example, in Acts 1:24, the believers ask the ascended Messiah, or Christ, to show them which man to elect as apostle; in Acts 2:47, it is the Lord who adds believers to the assembly; in Acts 13:1 – 3, it is the Lord, by who by the Spirit, sends out the first missionaries; and in Acts 14:27, Paul and Barnabas relate what God did through them.

Jesus’s earthly ministry after the resurrection (Acts 1:3-4)
Jesus ministered to the apostles during the forty days He was on earth after His resurrection. Luke 24:36 should be read in connection with these verses. In both places, Jesus instructed the apostles to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Spirit. They were to begin their ministry in Jerusalem.

The promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8)
This baptism of the Spirit had been announced by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33). It could be observed that Jesus said nothing about a baptism with fire, because the fire of baptism refers to judgment. Among other things, the coming of the Spirit would in the first place unite all the believers into one body which is the church (1 Corinthians 12:13). Secondly, it aimed to give the believers power to witness to the lost and thirdly, the coming of the Spirit sought to enable the believers to perform miraculous deeds to awaken the Jews in the expectation of signs (1 Corinthians 1:22).

There are actually two occurrences of this Spirit baptism in Acts in chapter 2, when the Spirit baptized the Jews and in chapter 10, when the Spirit came upon the Gentile believers. According to Ephesians 2:11, the body of Christ is composed of Jews and Gentiles, all baptized into this spiritual body. It is therefore more appropriate to ask God to fill us (Ephesians 5:18) or empower us for special service (Acts 10:38). Worthy of note here is that Baptism of the Spirit occurs at the time of our salvation.

A question about the restoration of God’s Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-8)
Were the apostles correct in asking Jesus about the kingdom (Acts 1:6-8)? Yes. In Matthew 22:1 – 10, Jesus promised to give Israel another opportunity to receive Him and the kingdom. In Matthew 19:28, He promised that the apostles would sit on 12 thrones (Luke 22:28 – 30). In Matthew 12:31 – 45, Jesus said that Israel would have another opportunity to be saved even after sinning against the Son, and He promised to give them a sign to encourage them. It was the sign of Jonah: death, burial and resurrection. The apostles knew that their ministry would begin with Israel. Now, they wanted to know what Israel would do. Would the nation accept or reject their message? Jesus had not told them whether it would or would not. If He had told the apostles that Israel would reject this good news, they would not have given their people an honest offer. Their ministry would have been false. What He did tell them was that they would be witnesses, starting in Jerusalem, and eventually reaching across the world

Conclusion and application
It could be said that every believer needs to move out of Luke’s Gospel into the Book of Acts. Knowing about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough for salvation but not for Spirit – empowered service. We must identify ourselves with Jesus as our ascended Lord and allow Him to work through us in the world. The church is not simply an organization engaged in religious work. It is a divine organism, the body of Jesus Christ on earth, through which His life and power must operate. He died for the lost world. We must live to bring that world to Christ the Lord.

1. State two major parts of Acts of the Apostles
2. Mention two ministries of Jesus after his resurrection.
3. What does it mean to be baptized in the Spirit?
4. Explain Acts 1:8.

Purposes of the book of Acts, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

This study seeks to explain some major purposes and themes that the book of Acts emphasizes. Many reasons underscore the purposes and for that matter the significant themes of the book of Acts. For the sake of clarity and brevity, however, these purposes are summed up under historical, theological and practical significance.

1. Historical purposes
Luke purpose as recorded in Luke 1:4 and Acts 1:1 is to set forth a historical account of the continuation of God’s redemptive purpose in history. In this light, Luke gives a historical documentation of the origins of Christianity in general. Thus, for historical purposes: Acts tells of the establishment of and the growth of the Church. It also gives the historical account of how the Gospel spread. Further, it records the start of congregations. Moreover, it documents the evangelistic efforts of the apostles. Thus, whereas the Gospels firmly established the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the book of Acts gave a comprehensive account of the establishment of the Church. This point makes Luke a historian.

2. Theological purposes
Many significant themes support the fact that the Book of Acts is not only a historical book but theological as well.

God’s continuous salvation history
Theologically, the book of Acts demonstrates the theme of God’s continuous redemptive purpose in history. This means that the wondrous deeds recorded in the book of Acts are comparable in might to those seen in the gospels and in the OT. This perspective is referred to as “salvation history.” The faith of those who responded to the Gospel was mysteriously tied to this understanding that God was at work in history.

Jesus as the Messiah
Jesus of Nazareth is presented in the book of Acts as the long-awaited messiah who is the only source of our salvation (Acts 5:31; 13:23). For in him alone is forgiveness and from him alone the Holy Spirit is received. In this light, it is worth noting that in the Book of Acts, emphasis is placed on Christ’s resurrection and exaltation.

The Church
The book of Acts shows that the church began at Pentecost but was not fully revealed by God until later, primarily through the writings of Paul. Promising to build his Church in Matthew 16:18, Jesus then gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Peter used these “keys” in opening the door of faith to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2), to the Samaritans (Acts 8), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10). In other words, there is a transition in these first seven chapters of Acts, with Israel and the kingdom moving off the scene, and the church and the Gospel of God’s grace moving onto the scene.

The Holy Spirit
The Emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit is evidenced in Acts 2:25-28. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit is mentioned almost every chapter of the book. He is the Holy Spirit of promise, 1; power, 2; healing, 3; boldness, 4; Judgment, 5; administration, 6; steadfastness, 7; evangelism, 8; comfort, 9; guidance, 10; prophecy, 11; deliverance, 12; mission, 13; protection, 14; wisdom, 15; restraint and constraint, 16; opportunity 17; revelation, 18; purpose, 19; leadership, 20.

The Holy Spirit is Active in the leadership and direction of the Church. Paul and his companions respond to the Spirit’s guidance, the Holy Spirit speaks through prophets (11:28), appoints elders in the Churches (20:28) and the Spirit is the principal witness to the truth (5:32).

3. Practical purposes
The book of Acts also emphasizes practical significance in areas of prayer, generosity to the marginalized, witnessing and mission.

Luke emphasized prayer. Every chapter shows the result of earnest prayer and almost every chapter makes mention of it by name.

Ministry to the marginalized in the society
As a sequel of the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts continues the theme of emphasizing God’s acceptance of the marginalized in the society such as the poor, the rich, the sick and women. Luke seems to portray that the early Church is marked by commitments to eliminating poverty (Acts 4:34) and thus having an all-inclusive vision of incorporating people from all nations, including traditional enemies such as Samaritans (Acts 8:4-25).

Mission and Witness
Acts is also basically a book of mission and witnessing (Acts 8). They were to evangelize the world, spreading the Good news of Christ’s person and redemptive work, including his vicarious death and bodily resurrection. It was agreed that Judas’ replacement had to have the witness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22). Peter proclaimed his witness to the Jewish pilgrims on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:32), to the temple crowd who marveled over the healed lame man (Acts 3:12-26).

This study has identified the purpose of the book of Acts. Significantly, the book of Acts brings out the story of the spread of the Church through the Roman world of the first century. Luke writes also with a pastoral heart that the essential task of the Church is mission and proclamation of the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. God’s purpose is to have a Church made up of all races. Thus, there are no distinctions of race or anything else among God’s people. The Holy Spirit empowers and guides the Church. The Holy Spirit gives gifts for mission and not for personal enrichment.

1. State three major ways in which the book of Acts is significant to your Christian life and ministry.
2. The book of Acts could be described as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Explain.
3. Discuss Luke’s emphasis on God’s acceptance of the marginalized in the society.
4. How does the book of Acts orient your understanding about God’s all-inclusive ministry?