Acts: Birth of Church and Consummation of Jewish Age
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both
to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost
had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive
after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of
the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them,
commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father,
which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be
baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord,
wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them,
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own
power. 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 parts of the earth.
Acts 1:1ff (Spoke 22, Cycle 3)
The Book of Acts is the last of the Five New Testament History Books.
It is the premier book of historical consummation second only to the
Apocalypse on the third Cycle of Spoke 22.
Its dominant theme is the express fulfillment of everything declared by
"all the prophets from Samuel
and those that follow after, as many as have spoken" (Acts 3:24) in the life, suffering, death and
resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, His exaltation to His Throne in Heaven, His outpouring of
the Holy Spirit and the consequent birth and world-wide expansion of His Church, His Kingdom on earth
that will never end. It is the penultimate historical climax of the whole drama of redemption that
prefigures the final consummation at the end of time in the Apocalypse. It reveals the
historical meaning and purpose of the Jewish Age and everything written in the Old Testament, all
of which is summed up in the one and only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved"
(Acts 4:12) – THE LORD JESUS CHRIST – the Name above all names, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega,
the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who is revealed in all His glory in the final book (Rev 19:16).
As is typical of the supreme literary style of Scripture, the opening passage quoted
above lays out the primary themes of the whole Book of Acts. It begins with the "promise of the Father"
that came to fruition on the Day of Pentecost:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house
where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat
upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other
tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:1ff (Spoke 22, Cycle 2)
This event transformed common men – including fishermen, a political activist, and a tax collector
who were called "ignorant and unlearned" (Acts 4:13) – into powerhouse witnesses of the Risen Lord
of History who then "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6)
with their proclamation of His victory over sin and death and enthronement in heaven "on the throne
of his father David" (Luke 1:32). On the morning of Pentecost, empowered now by the Holy Spirit,
Peter preached his first sermon and declared the glorious fulfillment of the multi-faceted
Promise of the Father of which he had just received so abundantly:
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him [David],
that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his
throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left
in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are
witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father
the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of
Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of
the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to
all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Acts 2:30ff (Spoke 22, Cycle 2)
The manifold promise included a host of connected events, including the resurrection of Christ,
His ascension to His Throne in Heaven, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Has there ever been such a day since? Could anything compare with Pentecost? It is the birthday of
the Church, the Bride of Christ, the day God's Kingdom came to earth!
Peter's audience was a diverse crowd of Jews from all corners of the known world that had
come for the Feast of Pentecost because it was one of the three feasts the Lord had commanded all
Jews to attend in Jerusalem (Deut 16:16). The Holy Spirit gave them a sign only the willfully ignorant
could deny when He put His Divine Words in the mouths of over one hundred of His disciples to
proclaim the "wonderful works of God" in every language spoken by the Pentecostal pilgrims.
This foreshadowed His guiding Work that fills the rest of the book, which has been called
the "Acts of the Holy Spirit." Its chapters record the geographical progress of the Gospel,
precisely following the sequence Christ revealed in its opening passage, quoted at the head
of this section:
- In Jerusalem (Acts 1-7): All the action of the first seven chapters is set in this city.
- In all Judaea and in Samaria (Acts 8-12): The first verse of the eighth
chapter marks the transition from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria: "And at that time there
was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad
throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
This is a valuable lesson of how God uses the actions of evil people to accomplish His good ends.
In effect, God used the persecution to kick the first believers "out of the nest" of Jerusalem to
spread the Gospel world-wide.
- Unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 13-28): These remaining
chapters record the dispersion of the Gospel throughout the rest of the known world.
The explicit transition to the Gentiles is recorded in Acts 13:46ff: "Then Paul and Barnabas
waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to
you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we
turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee
to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
David Brown explained the relation between the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles in
his entry on Acts in A commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments:
This book is to the Gospels what the fruit is to the tree that bears it.
In the Gospels we see the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying: in the Acts we see it
bringing forth much fruit (John 12:24). There we see Christ purchasing the Church with His own blood:
here we see the Church, so purchased, rising into actual existence; first among the Jews of Palestine,
and next among the surrounding Gentiles, until it gains a footing in the great capital of the ancient
world – sweeping majestically from Jerusalem to Rome. Nor is this book of less value as an
Introduction to the Epistles which follow it,
than as a Sequel to the Gospels which precede it. For without
this history the Epistles of the New Testament – presupposing, as they do, the historical circumstances
of the parties addressed, and deriving from these so much of their freshness, point, and
force – would in no respect be what they now are, and would in a number of places be scarcely intelligible.
The Book of Acts is the capstone of the continuous thematic flow from Genesis through
the entire Old Testament and Gospels. It is a book of consummation twice told; once in
its record of the
actual historical fulfillment of God's Plan for the Jewish Age in the Work of Christ and subsequent
birth of His Church at Pentecost, and again in its didactic recapitulation of the primary events
in the entire Biblical history leading up to that consummation. The extended sermons of
Peter (Acts 2-3), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13) all follow a similar pattern of
recapitulating the history of Israel and declaring its fulfillment in Christ. In his first sermon,
Peter explained the outpouring of God's Spirit in terms of an apocalyptic passage from Joel that
began with "it shall come to pass in the last days." He concluded with the fulfillment of
the prophecy of the Christ's exaltation to the right hand of God from Psalm 110: "The LORD said unto my
Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy foot-stool" (Acts 2:34Rev 3:21).
His second sermon was no less apocalyptic, speaking directly of the restitution of all things at the end
of the age (Acts 3:21Rev 21:5):
But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets,
that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that
your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive
until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth
of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Acts 3:18ff (Spoke 22, Cycle 2)
In his two sermons in the second and third chapters of Acts, Peter cited or alluded to
(in this order), Joel, Psalms, Samuel, Deuteronomy, and finally, just before closing with the covenant
God made with Abraham that "in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Gen12:3),
he summed up the whole Old Testament in one sentence:
Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after,
as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
Acts 3:24 (Spoke 22, Cycle 2)
Peter's recapitulation of history was, in keeping with his brash style, somewhat disordered compared
with the sermons of Stephen in Acts 7 and Paul in Acts 13 where they systematically
reviewed all history
from its beginning in Genesis to its fulfillment in Christ. The table below lists the
books of the Old Testament they quoted or alluded to in those two chapters. For the most part, both
sermons follow the order of the books of the Bible since
they simply retell its innate historical sequence, highlighting the prominent points relating to the
Taken together, these two sermons include citations from fourteen
books of the First Covenant
and give a panoramic view of the whole course and purpose of Jewish history, beginning with their progenitor
Abraham. Stephen's sermon is the longest, spanning fifty-two verses of the seventh chapter of Acts.
Paul's is about half as long, covering the same ground in twenty-four verses.
Of the seventy-six verses in their combined historical review, only five are out of sequence with
the canonical order of books. Those are marked with an asterisk in the table.
The similarity of the two sermons is not surprising given that Paul (then Saul) was present at the stoning of Stephen
(Acts 8:1) and so almost certainly was in the audience that heard his sermon leading up to his martyrdom.
It may well have been what lit his fire to persecute the fledgling Church.
|THE BOOK OF ACTS:|
Summation of ALL HISTORY from Genesis to its Fulfillment in Christ
||Stephen's Sermon (Acts 7)
||Paul's Sermon (Acts 13)|
||2 The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham [+15 verses retelling Genesis]
||17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers|
||20 In which time Moses was born [+15 verses retelling Exodus].
||they dwelt … in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out|
||36 and in the wilderness [the Hebrew name of the Fourth Book] forty years
||18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness|
||37 A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren
||45 with Joshua into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers
||19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.|
||20 And after that he gave unto them judges |
|9: 1 Samuel
||until Samuel the prophet ...
||21 they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul|
|10: 2 Samuel
||45 unto the days of David
||22 he raised up David to be their king|
|11: 1 Kings
||47 But Solomon built him an house
||*33 as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son ...
||*35 also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine holy one to see corruption|
||48 as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool
||*34 I will give you the sure mercies of David.|
||51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart
||*43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan
||*40 spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it |
|FULFILLMENT IN CHRIST IN THE GOSPELS 40 – 43:
||52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: … But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
||23 Of [David's] seed hath God raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus. When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance … John fulfilled his course … to you is the word of this salvation sent … they have fulfilled [the prophets] in condemning him … And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from the dead:|
Once again we have come full circle, both thematically and geometrically
(BW book pg 40).
The Circle of Time and the Circle of the Bible simultaneously close
in the Book of Acts with God coming to dwell in the hearts of His people. The Triune God directed all
history to its fulfillment in that day. The Father gave the promise and
the Son sent forth
the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). Time and Eternity met in historical anticipation of the final consummation
– the Marriage of the Lamb – revealed in the Apocalypse (Rev 19:7). As Gordon D. Fee explained,
"Salvation is 'eschatological' in the sense that final salvation, which still awaits the believer, is already
a present reality through Christ and the Spirit." The Church birthed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is
"a thoroughly eschatological people who live the life of the future in the present as they await the
consummation" with the Spirit Himself being the "eschatological fulfillment" of God's promises
"who both reconstitutes God's people anew and empowers us to live the life of the future in our
between-the-times existence – between the times of Christ's first and second coming." Fee aptly described
this as the "already/not yet" eschatological framework that defines the essential theological core of
the apostolic Epistles which sprung from the fount of Pentecost. And the witness is this:
The original disciples of Christ beheld the "ends of the world [age]" (1 Cor 10:11).
They knew with
certainty that "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by
the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Heb 1:1f). This is why Peter
opened his Pentecost sermon with the apocalyptic/eschatological passage from Joel "it shall come
to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17f). Yet the coming of Christ and the Spirit was only
the beginning of the end. The Church continues to live "between-the-times" awaiting the final
consummation. This "already/not yet" end-times tension evokes the cry of the Bride (the Body of
all Believers) that jointly closes the first and last books on Spoke 22, "Make haste, my
beloved!" – "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
(Song 8:14Rev 22:20).