INTRODUCTION BOOK OF ACTS (2022)

 

 THE BOOK OF ACTS

Acts – Chapter 1: 1-13

Tuesday Morning Bible Study

January 11, 2022

Pastor Carolyn Sissom

 

As we joyfully approach the study of the Book of Acts, I am seeking the LORD to grace “the church” with a great outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have learned that whenever we teach, preach and declare the Word of God, angels perform it.  Lord God, please grant us this grace and may it be so. 

 

Without dispute, Dr. Luke is the author of the dual documents of Luke-Acts.  In his gospel, he clearly defines his purpose of presenting the most excellent Theophilus with a carefully compiled account of the facts of the beginnings of Christianity in what we know now to also be the beginning of a new era and a new time line.  “B.C.” stands for “before Christ,” while “A.D.” stands for “anno domini,” meaning “in the year of our LORD.”  It has been “the year of our Lord,” since Christ’s birth.  It is the “In that day” which was prophesied by Zechariah, The LORD shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one (Zech. 14:9).  

 

We can safely assume that Theophilus was a member of Roman nobility and a high   official in the service of Rome.  His name means, “friend of God.”   Because of the way the letters are written, we can assume he was already a believer.  Whatever his influence, Luke would have hoped to reach a wide circle through his writing.  As we know, Luke is in Heaven, he would now know how great and wide that circle has become.

 

The Book of Acts picks up the story exactly where the Gospel leaves off.  In his first volume (the Gospel), Luke tells of Jesus’ earthly ministry from His birth to His ascension.  His second volume continues the ministry of Jesus after His ascension and cover the next 30 years.  Acts is an account of the LORD’s spiritual ministry through His Holy Spirit as Christianity spreads from Judea to Rome.  It ends with the great Apostle Paul proclaiming the gospel in the heart of the Roman Empire.  The experiences of the apostles are an extension of Jesus’ own ministry and such should be the continuing ministry of the “Church.”

 

“Luke confines himself to facts.  He does no preaching.  He doesn’t have to.  The facts speak eloquently by themselves.  If the church was not a supernatural movement, there is no way to account for Christianity.  The church had no wealth in those early days, certainly no military might.  There was no political power behind it.  When you think of the unfavorable conditions under which it developed, you wonder how it ever got started.  Its founder was a discredited Jew and His followers were insignificant nobodies. 

 

But there was something unique about it.  Those who got involved were utterly transformed.  Christianity not only survived, but spread because people were changed as they came in contact with the unseen Christ.  We read how two of these three transformed nobodies astonished those who challenged them” (C. S. Lovett)

 

Acts 4:13:  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.

 

“What happened to those two fishermen to make them so outstanding?  At Pentecost, the disciples were transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.  It was Pentecost that made ordinary people supernatural agents for Christ on earth.  The Book of Acts is primarily the story of the ministry of Peter and Paul.  Others are mentioned, but these are the heroes.  No doubt they should be taken as representative of the rest.  We know the LORD used all of the apostles in a mighty way.    

 

The first twelve chapters feature the apostle Peter, while the last sixteen focus on the ministry of the apostle Paul to the Gentiles.  Luke closes his history with Paul still in prison enjoying unhindered freedom to preach the Gospel.  One thing is clear, Christianity is not a movement carried on in memory of a dead founder, but one which is energized by His presence as its LIVING LEADER” (C.S. Lovett).

 

Matthew 16: 18-19: I say unto you that you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not overpower it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have already been loosed in heaven.

 

Acts 1: 1-3:  The former book 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 (N.I.V.).

 

When the Word says, “The apostles whom He had chosen”.  They were not selected as buddies or pals to keep the Lord company.  He had this job for them.  They were going to build the church from the spiritual realm of the Kingdom of God.  They were going to build his church with Him!

 

I sound like a broken record, but I do not understand how “the Church” missed for so many years that Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, sent the Disciples to preach the Kingdom of God, and that we the church are to preach the Kingdom of God.  I seriously heard an educated, famous minister say that the Kingdom was ushered in November 2020. 

 

Mark. 1:15:  The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel. 

 

Lk. 4:43:  I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent.

 

The disciples were going to go into the building business—the church building business.  That didn’t mean they were to go around building churches.  I don’t recall that a single one of them mentioned the building fund.  He called the twelve for the building of one church, His body.  He told them about it, though they didn’t realize the 3-1/2 years He spent with them was to get them ready for that particular job.  Although He did tell them:

 

Luke 24:  49-53: Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.  And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.  And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:  And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.  Amen.”

 

The last part of Luke pictures the disciples joyously returning from the ascension to await the coming of the Holy Ghost.  To understand rightly the reality of the Spirit realm, we must accept the ascension.  All the supernatural Acts of the Holy Ghost through the Apostles in the Book of Acts originates in the Spirit realm as the Holy Ghost carries out His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. 

 

Luke 9:51:  When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem (NASB). (K.J.V. “received up.)

 

1 Ti. 3:16:  Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.  God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. 

 

The word says, “He commanded them”.  Let us rejoice that they obeyed Him.

 

Acts 1: 4-5: 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 you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

 

He showed Himself alive, not some shadowy figure having séances.  He returned in the same body and allowed them to examine it in broad daylight.  On one occasion He was seen by more than 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6).  He ate and drank with them and even held teaching sessions in which they were allowed to question Him about the Kingdom.  These appearances provided the apostles with immovable conviction.  They never again questioned the fact of His resurrection.  Instead, it became the basis of the “Good News” they proclaimed. 

 

God’s special witness on earth passed from the hands of the Godly remnant of Israel---representing the ideal nation---to those of the church, composed at first entirely of Jewish believers, but latterly of believers who were probably Gentile in origin.  It was essential that the risen Messiah was first presented to Israel in Jerusalem according to the well-established principle ‘to the Jew first.’  It is also clear that the universal mission of the church was not forced upon the understanding of the apostles until they were able to hear it.  They needed their Savior to minister this truth to them after his resurrection from the dead.

 

God chose for the earthly church to start at Jerusalem.  In the very place where His Son was so hated, the Savior’s grace was to flood forth.  In the very city where He was despised, His glory was to be displayed in power by the conversion of thousands and by signs and wonders.  The disciple’s commission read, Beginning at Jerusalem…

 

Luke 24:45-47: He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rose from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.   

 

Jesus’ plan called for the gospel to go forth from Jerusalem, thence to the uttermost parts of the earth.  From Jerusalem, the Lord’s Spirit was to proceed like a torrent from heaven.

 

Acts 1:5: For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.  

 

His words about spirit-baptism cause their minds to leap once again to thoughts of political power.  Again, they bring up the idea of Israel being restored as the ruling world power per O.T. promises.  For 3-/12 years Jesus tried to shift their minds from a political kingdom to His spiritual kingdom which is “not of this world

(John 18:36).

 

Acts 1: 6-7:  When they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

 

With this scripture, it is not wise for prophets to put earthly time on God’s actions with mankind on earth.  Time is part of God’s creation.  Time does not exist in Heaven.  If the LORD speaks to you a specific time, then walk out on that thin limb, but otherwise, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons.”

 

Acts 1:8: You shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

If it’s power they want, its power they’ll get—but not the kind they think.  Instead of political power that would see Israel exalted as the empress of the world, they are going to receive a supernatural power that is “out of this world.”  They will have the ability in Christ to do things in the spirit-realm.  They are going to be able to release captives from Satan’s kingdom and transplant them in to Christ’s (Col. 1:13).  No military force can do that.  It can’t capture the minds of men, let alone their hearts.  Ah, but spiritual power is unseen and works by faith.  The disciples forgot all about political power once they tasted the spiritual power of Pentecost.

 

The Lord has actually given them the “keys of the kingdom,” and He limits His action to their obedience (Matt. 16:18).  The disciples will be backed by Jesus’ power as they go into the world.

 

The Power of the Holy Ghost is for those who are sent and faithfully witness.  To those, He will give the Witness of the Holy Ghost in power.

 

Acts 1:9: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

 

The cloud is the sign of the Son of Man.  Matt. 24:30: Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

 

We have three great events in the New Testament connected with Jesus and the Cloud:

 

  1. His transfiguration where He talked with Moses and Elijah.  (Matt. 17:5)
  2. His ascension described here.
  3. When he comes again in glory. Mark 13:26:   You shall see the Son of Man coming in clouds with power and great glory.

 

I believe this is the same Shekinah Cloud of glory which hovered over the tabernacle in the days of Moses and indicated God’s presence with His people (Ex. 40:34).  This is the Glory Cloud in the Tabernacle of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Ghost is the Lord Jesus’ Tabernacle in a people.

 

Acts 1:10: While they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, “You men of Galilee why stand you gazing up into heaven?”  This same Jesus, who is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.

 

These angels confirmed that Jesus did actually go into heaven.  They also announced that He will one day return in exactly the same manner.

 

The disciples already had His promise of Christ’s return via the Holy Ghost in them, but this was different. The angels speak of another physical return of the Lord.  Perhaps these were the same two angels who rolled the stone from His tomb and spoke to Mary.

 

These angels give us a lot to go on.  They tell us the glorious return of Christ will be visible, unexpected, and the same Jesus is to return.  The plural clouds will be clouds of saints (1 Thess. 3:13, Heb. 12:1).  In 2001, the LORD gave me a vision of “clouds of saints” flying in the air with Jesus.   

 

Just as the ascent of the humiliated Christ was spectacular, the return of the glorified Christ will be even more breath-taking.

 

Acts 1: 12-13: Then they returned unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey.  And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room which abode both Peter and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

 

That Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives in to Heaven; and according to Zechariah 14:4-5, he will return to the Mount of Olives. 

 

The Mount of Olives was in the truest sense Jesus’ home during his ministry.  We never read of Him spending a night in Jerusalem.  When every man went unto his own house, Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. 

 

Luke 21:37: In the daytime he was teaching in the temple, and at night he went out and abode in the mount called the Mount of Olives.

 

Ezekiel spoke of this day as well as the Presence of the Divine Majesty (Shekinah Glory) dwelt three and a half years on the Mount of Olives, to see whether the Jewish people would or would not repent, calling, “Return unto me, and I will return unto you;” (Mal. 3:7).   Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; (Isa. 55:6) and then, when all was vain, returned to its own place.

 

Ez. 11:22-23: Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.  And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.

 

It is my persuasion that Ezekiel’s vision of the temple is the glory of the gospel church.

 

Jesus Christ is the true Shekinah Presence.  The time of His public ministry was three and one-half years.  During that time, Jesus made Olivet His place of resort.  From its grassy knolls and green slopes, as from a throne of emerald confronting His own Zion, He pleaded in words of stern majesty and tearful tenderness, ---Turn you, turn ye, why will you die, O house of Israel?

 

When Jesus’ divine mission was terminated, it was from the Mount of Olives that He ascended in the Shekinah-cloud---“a cloud received Him out of their sight.”

 

The prophet, Zechariah sees the glorious return of Jesus Christ with all the saints on the day of the LORD. 

 

Zech. 14:4-5:  His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. You shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal; yea, you shall flee like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with you.

 

Zachariah, sees by vision, the very great valley now has a river or stream flowing through it---living waters leap from the Temple-Rock flowing down the eastern slopes to the Kedron.  One half toward the Dead Sea carrying life and happiness and the other toward the Western Sea, mingling with the waves of the Mediterranean.

 

This is metaphorical of the power and progress of the Gospel breaking up and repealing the Jewish economy.  Christ stands in vision on His favorite mountain.  His glorified feet press the very sod from where he would weep at Gethsemane.  Up heaving from its foundations is the hill of God, Mt. Zion; its mighty masses of rock removed out of their places.  The temple and temple sacrifices over turned.   The mountain barriers and walls of separation which had excluded the Gentiles are demolished.  The waste places of the earth, the deserts of heathenism are opened up.  Zech. 4:7:  Who are you O great mountain? ---you shall become a plain.

 

The disruption of a mountain (metaphorical of kingdoms) is as an earthquake-shock depicting the mighty revolution which occurred in the Church of God by the admission of the outer-world “un-covenant nations” to the privileges of the Jew. 

 

Isaiah describes the commencement of the same Gospel era:  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (Isa. 40: 4-5).

 

Zech. 14:8: It shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea; in summer and in winter shall it be.

 

The living waters gushing forth from Jerusalem are a beautiful symbol of the Gospel’s progress through the world.  Preach the Gospel to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  By the grace and energy of the Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost, these waters are life giving, carrying healing and joy wherever they go.

 

The old material temple of Jerusalem is destroyed.  Jesus Christ, the great antitype of the Temple takes its place.  It is from Him all gospel blessings flow, and the power of the Cross makes them living waters.

 

Ezekiel’s parallel picture is fuller, and more graphic.  He sees the same vision of holy waters issuing from under the threshold of the house eastward, at the south side of the altar; these getting deeper and deeper until it becomes a huge torrent, an impassable river.

 

It shall come to pass that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall come shall live.  What a picture of the spread of the Gospel, the triumph of Christianity. 

 

The promised Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost.  The fountain was opened in the house of David (Zech 13:1).  The river carries countless blessings in its course.  Where Christianity has not converted and regenerated, it has civilized.  It has tamed the savage, and elevated the civilized.  Wherever Christianity has permeated, its streams carry with it life, health, healing and joy.  Everything shall live wherever the river goes.

 

Carolyn Sissom, Pastor

Eastgate Ministries, Inc.

www.eastgateministries.com

Scripture from K.J.V; N.K.J.V.; N.I.V. and N.A.S.B; I enter into the labors of C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts; Carolyn Sissom Sermons- The Apostles Whom He Had Chosen 3/30/2008) and The Mount of Olives 6/11/2017.    

Connect with us