Turning the World Upside Down, Exploring the Book of Acts Part 5, By Dr Bruce Logan

The period of consolidation

This final historical period of the book of Acts, actually follows the conclusion of Luke’s historical record that makes up the book of Acts. The dates for this period would be approximately AD 67 to AD 97 concluding when John received the Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.  Luke abruptly terminates The Book of the Acts with Paul’s final imprisonment.  Yet, we know from church history that this new sect of Christ followers known as Christians, continued to grow and expand throughout the empire after the death of Paul.  And the more that the Church grew the more structure and organization was needed.

And the more organized and influential the Church became, the more external, as well as, internal threats and challenges arose that they had to overcome.  In addition to the records that we have from other historical resources outside of the bible, the Holy Spirit also inspired biblical writers (except the book of James which was written back during the period of extension) following the execution of Paul, to pen additional letters to the Churches which are referred to as the “general epistles.”

These general epistles (not including James) were: First and Second Peter, First, Second and Third John, Hebrews, Jude and the Book of Revelation which by the way, is a fitting conclusion to the New Testament.

 

The book of Revelation, was written by John under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives us a panoramic view of the return of Christ, the establishment of God’s Kingdom, and the culmination of God’s wonderful and merciful plan of redemption for the human race who had originally fell in the Garden of Eden.  The Book of Revelation assures us of a future that is better than the past or the present.  God has a glorious plan for His people.  And those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, will enjoy life forever in a place called Heaven.   It will be life eternal with Christ in a matter and a state that will actually be incomprehensible to our current natural human understanding.

Imperial Persecutions

The story of the early church is the story of God working in incredible ways through a group of people known as his apostles. These are the people he had specially chosen and called to serve as his emissaries, to take the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ all through the known world.  Again and again we read about these apostles in the book of Acts and in the various epistles, but what happened to all of those characters once the book of Acts was complete and the biblical canon was closed?  A generation after the death of Christ, Christianity had reached Rome in the form of an obscure offshoot of Judaism popular among the city’s poor and destitute. Members of this religious sect spoke of the coming of a new kingdom and a new king. These views provoked suspicion among the Jewish authorities who rejected the group and fear among the Roman authorities who perceived these sentiments as a threat to the Empire.

 Tradition declares that both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome by Nero, along with thousands of other Christians being burned, impaled, crucified or fed to the lions in the Coliseum. In AD 64 the city of Rome is in flames and Nero blames the Christians to justify a mass slaughter. One thing is certain; the Acts of the Apostles does not tell the whole story. There are hints in Paul’s epistles that the gospel had a much wider proclamation than that describe by Luke. He states that the gospel had been “preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23); that the faith of the Roman church was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8); that the faith of the Thessalonian believers “has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thess 1:8).

Now, during this period of consolidation, the church was confronted by two primary dangers which were: physical persecution and heresy by false teachers and false doctrine.  Now, you can think of these two threats as having two components:  External and Internal.  Persecution which was external and false teaching which was internal.  Now if you examine the epistles that were written during this period, they were written for the purpose of strengthening believers who were either suffering persecution or mislead, confused and being deceived by false teaching.  Therefore, these general epistles were written to not only strengthen believers who were suffering physical persecution, but also to clarify truth so they could avoid doctrinal error and personal sin.

It is also important to point out that these epistles are referred to as “general epistles” because in contrast to Paul’s letters that were addressed to specific churches or specific individuals, the general epistles were addressed to all of the churches generally.  Consider for example the epistles of Peter.  First Peter was written to strengthen believers who were suffering, and Second Peter was written to warn about false teachers.  Notice for example, Peter’s opening greeting in his first epistle:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:1-8).

1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been “dispersed” throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. You’ll notice in Peter’s opening greeting in his first epistle, that the letter is being addressed to “the Pilgrims of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”  (Vs 1).  If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus  was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.

Notice in verse 6, Peter continues his encouragement by letting them know that, “though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.”  In other words, Peter’s first letter was written to persecuted believers who where essentially refugees who had fled their homes in order to escape the terrible persecution that Christians were being subjected to.

In contrast however, in Peter’s second letter, he informs them of his anticipation of death, and then gives them a warning against false teachers:

Peter’s Approaching Death

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease” (2 Peter 1:12-15).

Destructive Doctrines

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Doom of False Teachers

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, 11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.

Depravity of False Teachers

12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. 15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.  17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Deceptions of False Teachers

18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:1-22).

Peter knows that he will die for the Lord, and that his time was drawing near.  But there is so much the church needs to know and remember! False teachers are everywhere, causing divisions in the body of Christ. People will mock the promise of Christ’s return. There are those who twist the Old Testament, and even Paul’s letters.  The church needs to remember the Scriptures: the words of the Old Testament prophets and the words of Jesus that the apostles had passed on. Peter is an undisputed authority in the church, and so before he gives up his life, he writes one last letter.

Second Peter is a last attempt to help the global church by reminding them of the truth. Peter explains several things that Christians will need to remember after he’s gone:

  1. Godly living is the evidence of salvation (2 Peter 1:10). If the Christians really believe what they say they believe, they will display moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love.

  2. Scriptural truth and prophecy are from God, not man. Peter and the rest of the apostles would die, but the word would remain forever (1 Peter 1:25). Furthermore, the teaching that Peter and the apostles had passed on wasn’t just something they’d dreamed up; they were eyewitnesses (2 Peter 1:16-18).  And all those Old Testament prophets? They were under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

  3. False teachers will try to deceive the church. They’ll introduce divisive teachings that encourage people to indulge in the sins of the world: a twisted, disgusting take on Jesus’ grace.

  4. Mockers will discount the idea of Jesus’ return. Peter doesn’t know when Jesus was coming back; he just knew better than to doubt Him. Peter assures the church that Jesus is indeed returning, and His church should behave accordingly (2 Peter 3:14).

  5. Peter had urged the church to stand firm in his first letter, but there will be no more letters from Peter. There will be no more sermons and no more miracles from the disciple who lead the church for over 30 years.  Second Peter urges the church to stand firm, because even when Peter is gone, the church must carry on.

In other words, if you were to encapsulate and summarize the messages in Peters two letters, you can clearly see that the two most existential threats that the church faced as the church continued to grow and expand after the closing of the book of Acts and the death of the Apostles, was physical persecution and the proliferation of false teachers and false doctrines.

Similarly, Jude was also written to warn about false teaching:

Jude, Warning About the Ungodly Men

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).

The Book of Hebrews ironically, were written to believers who were second guessing their conversion to Christianity because of the false teachers who were proclaiming the law of Moses was superior to Christianity.  The author of Hebrews sets out to address these doubts by making a compelling argument that Christianity is the true successor to Judaism.  He does so by using the Old Testament scriptures and imagery in order to demonstrate to them the true supremacy and sufficiency of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4, 8:1-13, 9:1-28).

The following is just a brief summary of the general epistles:

  • Hebrews – The purpose of this letter is to reassure these second-generation Jewish Christians of Jesus as the Messiah. It is written during times of social and physical persecution and while some were considering a return to Judaism. They had come from a wonderful traditional and faithful heritage so they were cautious about accepting the Gospel. This letter is to show the continuation and fulfillment of a better (new) covenant from God.  The author warned them of drifting away and told them to look forward to Christ’s return. They were also urged to pattern their lives after Christ and assured of Jesus’ complete sacrifice for sin. One of the most outstanding verses in this letter addresses faith saying “Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists” (Hebrews 11:1).

  • James – Teaching Christian behavior and exposing dishonorable Christian behaviors, James identifies that many times Christians may profess their faith but often their actions do not. His concerns were for these Jewish Christians to turn from evil desires, watch their speech, and to obey God. He asked them to be patient, pray for one another, and remain faithful to God.  A key passage is James 2:18-20, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, but I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works…Faith without works is dead” (NKJV). Back in James 1:22 we are told that we must not just ‘hear’ the word of God, but we also must ‘do’ what it says.

  • 1 Peter – The Christians had been beaten, persecuted, dispersed, and even put to death. Peter’s letter was addressed to those scattered throughout Asia Minor and to all believers who would read this epistle. He starts his letter by giving thanks for salvation and how it had been made known through Jesus.  Peter too experienced imprisonment and encouraged others to still be loving and honest. He reminded them of their role in society, being above reproach. Then he gives instruction to the elders to lead, to younger men to follow, and that all should trust and follow God.

  • 2 Peter – In this letter, Peter warns about falling prey to false teachers whom God predicted would come. He stresses to only trust godly authority of experienced and faithful apostles. His warning included guarding against being prideful, bragging, and doing whatever they pleased.  Peter knew his time was limited; he was martyred for his faith shortly after writing this letter. In it, he wanted to stress faithfulness to Christ and offer comfort in the midst of suffering and persecution.

  • 1 John – This letter was not written to a particular church, but written in general and passed on to several congregations. John felt protective over his readers so he was warning against false teachers.  John authoritatively writes to offer confidence in having a relationship with God. He says if we know God, and believe in the Son, Jesus, we can have eternal life. John 14:14 that if we have that confidence and ask anything according to God’s will, He will hear our prayers and answer what we ask of Him. Praying according to God’s will is key.

  • 2 John – In this brief epistle, John emphasizes the foundation of following Christ Jesus and highlighting truth and love. His letter is written to a woman (or possibly a church) and her children. He once again warns to be sure to walk in truth and to not follow after false teachers who seek to deceive. Transgressors who will not confess Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins are false teachers bringing false doctrines.

  • 3 John – This epistle is only 1 brief chapter. John is thanking a man named Gaius for his hospitality to missionaries and traveling teachers of the gospel. It is a letter of gratefulness and encouragement to another believer whom John loves. John recognizes the gift of charity in this man and wishes him blessings and prosperity.

  • Jude – Reminding the church of their need to stay strong in the faith and to remain vigilant is this epistle’s purpose. Jude was Jesus’ half-brother and the brother of James. His commitment to the lordship of Christ brings him also to warn of false doctrines and teachers. He beseeches them to be careful of falling away from their faith and to remember that rebellion against God will bring punishment.

 

Lastly, the Book of Revelation was written sometime around 96 CE in Asia Minor.  The author was John who at the time was the Bishop of the church in Ephesus.  Ephesus was both the capital of the Roman province of Asia and one of the earliest centers of Christianity.  According to the Book, John was on the island of Patmos, not far from the coast of Asia Minor, “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1.10). This has traditionally been taken to mean that he had been exiled there as a martyr for his Christian faith.  Next, the author says, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” (Rev. 1.11), and this voice tells him to write what he is about to see.  This begins the “revelatory” vision that is at the center of the book.

John, the Disciple of Jesus, was banished to Patmos during the latter years of his life. When Rome had exiled John to Patmos, he was the last remaining member of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus Christ. John was born 6 A.D.  Some parts of John’s life are not clear and historical sources claim that he was a leader of the church at Ephesus. Eventually, he was captured in a persecution campaign by the Roman Emperor Domitian. John was ultimately sentenced to Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Patmos was a small, rocky and barren area where many criminals of Rome were sent to serve out their prison terms in harsh conditions. There were mines on the island that the criminals were forced to work. John was sent to the island for the same reasons because the early Christians were considered a strange cult group who were known for causing trouble within the Empire. After John had arrived, he began to have visions that were written into the Book of Revelation of the Bible.

The book next contains seven short letters of exhortation to the Christian churches in the seven leading cities of Asia Minor:  Ephesus (2.1-7, Smyrna (2.9-11), Pergamon (2.12-17) , Thyatira (2.18-29). Sardis (3.1-6), Philadelphia (3.7-13). and Laodicea (3.14-22).  This region would become a key area for the expansion of Christianity into the Roman empire.

The book of Revelation represents the culmination of God’s ultimate plan of man’s redemption and restoration that He first promised in the Garden of Eden after the fall of man (Genesis 3:15), and His subsequent orchestration of human history in order to bring that promise to pass.  A plan that He began to providentially orchestrate with the call of Abraham in Genesis 12.

Finally, by the 400’s AD, a large Christian church network existed.  The followers of Jesus had now grown from a persecuted minority, to being acceptable members of the mandated religion of the State following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine and the subsequent edict by Emperor Theodosius.  Christianity was now, not only socially accepted, but even more significantly, it was no politically accepted.

Summary

Acts begins with Jesus’s charge to the Twelve Apostles to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Peter serves as the leader of the apostles and the small congregation of the faithful in Jerusalem. Their first order of business is to elect Matthias as the twelfth apostle, replacing the traitor Judas Iscariot. During the year of Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples are gathered for Pentecost, a religious holiday celebrating the grain harvest. The Holy Spirit descends upon them. As a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence, they begin speaking other languages.

Peter delivers a sermon explaining the miracle. He says that the gift of tongues is given to prophets. Peter summarizes the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. He gives scriptural proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the savior whom God promises in the Old Testament to send to save Jews from their adversity. Responding to Peter’s sermon, 3,000 people are baptized into the Christian community—an idealized, thriving community characterized by prayer, brotherhood, common ownership, and sharing.

The church divides into two groups. One group is the Hellenists, Christians who were born Jewish but who have a Greek cultural background. The other group is the Hebrews, the Christians who, like the apostles, were born into Jewish cultural backgrounds. The Hellenists feel discriminated against, so in response, the community of disciples elects seven leaders to account for the needs of the Hellenists. Foremost among these Christian Hellenist leaders is Stephen.

A controversy ensues between Stephen and some Jews, who accuse him of heresy before the Sanhedrin. Stephen’s accusers testify that “[t]his man never stops saying things against the holy place and the law” (7:13). In front of the Sanhedrin, Stephen delivers a long speech detailing the history of Jewish leadership in the Bible, concluding with a damning accusation: “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands. You stiff-necked people, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do” (7:4851).

Stephen is stoned to death, with the approval of a young man named Saul of Damascus, a vigorous persecutor of the Christians. Stephen is the first Christian martyr, a person who is killed as a result of defending the church. Saul is a Jewish leader who has been trying to wipe out the new community of Christians because he believes that they are trying to dismantle Jewish law. While traveling to persecute Christians, Saul is blinded by a light and hears the voice of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul then sets out to become the most relentless, brilliant, and bold missionary of Christianity that the church has ever known. He travels to the coast, performs miracles, preaches the Gospel, and converts Gentiles.
Barnabas and Saul, who is renamed Paul, depart on a missionary journey. In Cyprus, Paul blinds a magician, Elymas, who tries to prevent Paul from teaching. At Antioch in Pisidia, a central region in modern-day Turkey, Paul preaches to a Jewish congregation, telling his listeners about forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus as the resurrected Messiah. Many listeners become converts, but many also contradict Paul, and the missionaries are expelled from the territory.
At Iconium, too, they have some success until nonbelievers, including both Jews and Gentiles, drive them from town. At Lycaonia, Paul cures a cripple, and the local Gentiles take them for the pagan gods Zeus and Hermes before Paul is able to convince them otherwise. As usual, however, the missionaries are chased from town, and Paul is nearly stoned to death. The two make their way back to Antioch in Syria, preaching the whole way. A controversy arises as a result of their missionary activities among the Gentiles, and Paul and Barnabas journey to Jerusalem for a debate of church leaders.

Paul is eventually tried before the new governor, Festus. Paul appeals to Caesar’s judgment, and Festus, who does not believe Paul guilty, but who wants to appease the Jews calling for his execution—resolves to send him to Caesar, in Rome. First, however, Paul is brought before Herod Agrippa, the Jewish puppet-king of Palestine. Again, Paul recounts the story of his vision of Jesus and conversion to Christianity, and argues that his missionary activity is merely a fulfillment of Jewish hopes and Old Testament prophecies. King Herod Agrippa is impressed, but Paul is sent to Rome. On the way to Rome, Paul’s ship is wrecked, and through a series of sailing mishaps it takes months to arrive at Rome. Awaiting his hearing at Rome, Paul begins to spread the Gospel to the Roman Jews, who disbelieve him. He turns his emphasis again toward the Gentiles, and as Acts ends, Paul is in Rome, “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31).

Analysis

Acts of the Apostles demonstrates the importance of missionary work in the early church and how the dedication, courage and passion of those early Apostles can be an example for the Church today. The book begins with the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to his disciples, who are anxious for the final redemption. The apostles demand of Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6).

Jesus responds by charging them to concern themselves not with the Apocalypse, but with spreading the Gospel on Earth: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:78). It is through Paul, the great early missionary of the church, that Acts dramatizes the fulfillment of Jesus’s command, the spreading of the Gospel across the known world.

Paul dominates the second half of Acts and, more than any other figure, dictates the trajectory of the church’s rise. Acts begins with Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem; it ends, years later, with Paul in Rome. Paul’s final words are an apt summary of the direction in which he leads the missionary church in the vital first decades of its existence: “Let it be known to you then,” he says to the Jews of Rome, “that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (28:28).

The early church controversy between the Hellenists and the Hebrews introduces the first dissent within the church itself. The Hellenists are Jewish adherents to Jesus who were born into a Greek cultural background. They feel that the Hebrews, Jewish Christians who were born into a Jewish cultural background and who adhere strictly to Jewish law, are discriminating against them. The apostles and disciples decide that unity is more important than conformity, and they accept the position of the Hellenists, even appointing Stephen and six others to minister to the Hellenists in the church. When Stephen breaks with Jewish tradition, however, he shows how Christianity is becoming increasingly incompatible with Judaism. Although Stephen is stoned to death, the Hellenists continue to move away from the Jewish focus of the church, baptizing Samaritans and an Ethiopian.

A turning point for the church occurs when Peter himself receives a message from God: “God has shown me that I must not call anyone profane or unclean” (10:28). The message challenges one of the fundamental aspects of Judaism, the idea that Jews are a special population chosen by God. But God’s message to Peter indicates that Gentiles are no less clean than Jews, and therefore that “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life” (11:18).

The church in Antioch is founded immediately after the Jerusalem elders accept Peter’s rationale for baptizing a Gentile, thus laying the foundation for the Antioch church to become dominated by Gentile Christians. It also indicates the increasing degree to which followers of Jesus Christ are non-Jewish. The acceptance of Gentiles gives impetus to the move away from Jewish law and Judaism, and it signals the beginning of the move away from Jerusalem. In fact, at Antioch the disciples are first called Christians rather than Jews. Paul becomes the great Christian missionary to the Gentiles, traveling throughout Greece and Asia Minor and, while receiving little welcome from the Jews, recruiting many Gentiles to the church. Paul and Barnabus say, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles” (13:46).

The ending of Acts in Rome foreshadows the eventual transition of the church to that city. Acts is the story of the church’s turn away from Jerusalem and toward Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome. Acts is filled with stories and speeches, but the dramatic arc that connects all of Acts of the Apostles is the church’s move, driven by Paul, toward a split with Judaism and an emphasis on converting Gentiles. It is in that move that Christianity becomes its own distinct religion. Jesus and his followers consider themselves Jews, and Jesus’s message and teachings are the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies. It is evident from the first chapters of Acts that, in the first years after Jesus’s ascension, the apostles and their followers continued to consider themselves Jews, and to follow Jewish law. Peter and John, both of whom consider Jews the chosen people of God, are on their way to worship in the Jewish temple when they encounter the cripple. “You are the descendants of the prophets,” Peter tells a Jewish audience, “and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors. When God raised up his servant [Jesus], he sent him first to you” (3:2526).

In conclusion, as believers, it is important that we keep in mind that the books of the New Testament are not just merely books of history.  These 27 books are God’s inspired word, that He has given to us so that we might now the way to God.  And even more than that, so that we may enjoy relationship with Him for all eternity.

The Book of Acts is a powerful and rewarding study. The New Testament tells us of Jesus’ death on the cross on our behalf and what our response should be to His death. The New Testament focuses on giving solid Christian teaching along with the practical results that should follow that teaching. A New Testament Survey shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, judgment, and rewards. God sent Jesus in human form to provide a way of reconciliation to Himself. Christ took on the sins of the world so that the debt for your sin and mine is paid in full by Him.  All of mankind has sinned (defied or rejected God), and has need of repentance and forgiveness.

The New Testament illustrates the blueprint for living a righteous life pleasing to the Lord and the provision He has offered us to achieve it. Only through Jesus Christ we are given the opportunity to accept the way to reunion with God for eternity.  If you have never explored the New Testament, please search it for yourself.  The Lord says we are to get understanding; pray for it, and He will give it.

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