As we looked back over the whole of the book of Acts, we discussed a range of things which we have learned from this part of Scripture:
1) the fact that our faith is based on historical events which give us a firm foundation on which to stand. Within the Book of Acts there are over three hundred references to people, places, events, cities, districts and titles of various officials. With so many references of a historical nature, there are many chances to see if this work matches up with known reality; Sir William Ramsey was one historian who found, much to his surprise, that the historicity of this book is trustworthy: “I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favour of the conclusions which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavourable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the theory, had at one time quite convinced me. It did not then lie in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely, but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvellous truth. In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.” (Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1962, p. 36) Our faith is based on fact, not fiction.
2) the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers and the church. Throughout the book, we see Him moving in different ways. Ultimately, God’s mission will be completed because of His involvement in it!
3) the amazing fact that God chooses to use ordinary people to share in His work! We talked about the many people who featured in the book, not only the apostles (Peter, John, Paul) but those ‘incidental’ characters (like Ananias, so helpful to Paul after his conversion) whose presence reminds us how God uses each one of us to fulfil His will.
4) the importance of faith and prayer in our lives, looking at how often prayer featured in the book.
5) the corporate nature of the church, where every believer has a part to play and where God works through us, often in miraculous ways
6) the importance of team (the New Testament indicates the need for personal faith, but nowhere do we find ‘solo’ Christians; Acts is the story of the church, God’s people working together; even Paul took people with him on his missionary journeys and relied on the prayers and gifts of other Christians.)
7) the unavoidable fact of suffering and persecution (seen in the martyrdom of Stephen and James, but also in the everyday lives of so many believers and in Paul’s life especially).
8 ) the boldness, confidence and joy known by believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit. The transformation from terrified disciples to fearless apostles and from diffident followers to those who talked boldly wherever they went is astounding, but is testimony to what can happen when we are filled with God’s Spirit.
9) the providence, guidance and sovereignty of God and the mission of the church to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. This mission is ongoing!