Beginning Sunday July 10, Pastor Viars will be leading our church through a study of the book of Acts. I thought some of you might appreciate a little guidance to prepare you for this very important study. So here are few tips as you read that can help you get the most out of the Sunday messages.
Acts is a story inside a story
The Bible itself is a story; it’s God’s story. The Bible’s story explains that among other things, God was interested in building a people of his own possession – a people who would testify to the world about his great and holy name. While Israel had moments of success, the overwhelming evidence is that they failed to keep their covenant with the Lord, and they failed to be a positive testimony of the Lord to their neighbors. Thus, a new covenant was coming – one that would have a different shape, a different feel, and one in which God would take even more of the initiative than he did in the first covenant. Hence, Jesus came.
The gospel of Luke was written so that Theophilus (and us) could understand the exact truth about Jesus (Luke 1:1-4). Luke was written so that we would know the most significant and important details of the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. We read at the end of Luke that Jesus appears to his followers, after his death, burial, and resurrection, and he ascends into heaven. But one is certainly left with a sense that the story is not yet complete. What about the people for God’s own possession? Surely this small band of followers cannot be the sum total of that promise, can it?
Enter Acts. Luke wrote Acts so that Theophilus (and us) could read and understand how Jesus’s followers expand in number (from a small band of 120 in Acts 1:15 to a massive movement in Acts 28) and geographically (moving from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the earth).
So I would encourage you to read the book of Acts with this overall theme in mind: Jesus is building a people for his own possession; namely, the church.
Acts is a great story in itself
Now that you have the big picture, let’s pay a bit more attention to the story of Acts itself. All stories, including Acts, are meant to be read in large sections. Thus, let me encourage you to read Acts in large sections. Try to identify the “Jerusalem/Judea phase,” the expansion into Samaria, and how the gospel goes to the remotest parts of the earth. Track how the gospel advances … through whom? Through what means?
Please also notice that the story also slows down at several points so that we would stop and think about what is happening. Here are some of the major “slow downs” in Acts:
- Sermons … listen carefully to the sermons. Luke, the writer of Acts, will spend an entire chapter telling us about 1 hour, while in other situations will give a few verses to a month or more of actual time.
- Speeches … Once again the narrative slows down for us to hear a particular speech and catch the significance of it. (Stephen’s in Acts 7 for example).
- Main character switch … In Acts 9 we switch from Peter to Paul. Why is that? What is it about the larger story line in Acts (i.e. the movement of the gospel message from Jerusalem to the remotest part of the earth) that makes Paul so important?
Connection to Living Life Together
My last piece of advice for this week is that Pastor Viars will be speaking on Acts and particularly relating that study to how the early church “lived life together.” Therefore, let me encourage you to look for those places. Look where the book of Acts highlights service, relationships, and commitments to one another.
Let’s have a blast studying this wonderful book of Scripture together. I would be happy to provide some additional insights and commentary on Acts if that would be helpful. Please either comment or “like” this post if you would appreciate more as Pastor Viars works through the book of Acts this summer.