The book of Acts should come with a warning label reading, "If you are open to God, this book will call you to new life."
Acts is an extraordinary work. In essence, it is the story of transformed lives—and the difference these lives made in the world.
Just before Acts begins, we see the disciples behind closed doors wallowing in the mire of their fear, self-doubt and personal shame. Apart from their master, they were a pathetic group indeed (Lk 24:11; Jn 20:19). However, by the second chapter of Acts, the same men who abandoned Jesus at Gethsemane have become irrepressible dynamos, preaching with utter conviction—and at great personal risk—"the mighty acts of God."
What changed them? And what impact did they make upon their generation and all subsequent ones? This is the story of Acts.
Acts is an important book for us today because it confirms that the power which transformed the disciples' lives is the same power that can transform our lives today! That power is, of course, God himself—coming to us through the Holy Spirit.
There are many benefits to studying Acts:
Acts serves as a distant mirror. We will see the dynamics of the earliest church, the nature of their fellowship, the intensity of their prayer life, and their out-and-out zeal to declare the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Through this example, our own situation will be called into question. What does it mean to be the church today—and what are we to be doing?
Acts emphasizes the primary task of the church—evangelization. Speaking the gospel is only part of the task. It is the formative process that we see in these earliest communities. In Acts we see the entire process of calling, healing, empowering and sending people forth to love and obey Jesus Christ. Acts will challenge us to a holistic-community spirituality that can renew our churches today.
Acts calls us to a vital experience with the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised power to the disciples after the Holy Spirit came upon them. And the book of Acts reveals the Holy Spirit as the driving force behind all meaningful ministry in Jesus' name. Where do we look for spiritual power today? Education? Work? Religious heritage? Acts calls us to a Spirit-filled life.
Acts forges a new sense of identity. The disciples gradually realized they were no longer Jews (at least from the confessional and ceremonial points of view). They slowly began to understand that they were part of that new community of the Spirit which was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. And they saw the need to call all people—Jews and Gentiles—to repentance and fellowship with this new community—the church. Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Lord's Supper became the outward signs of the inward grace. The emphasis is on relationships.
The explosive power of this living document will touch you. As you work through these quiet times, may you experience the calling, healing, empowering and sending dynamic of the Holy Spirit.