The book of Acts has three main sections: the introduction (1:1-2), the preparation (1:3-26), and the propagation (2:1—28:31). The introduction is very brief, consisting of only two verses, and the preparation covers the remainder of chapter one. The section concerned with the propagation covers chapter two through twenty-eight. This section may be the longest section in all of the sixty-six books of the Bible. In this message we shall consider the introduction of Acts, and then go on to consider the preparation. In the introduction this book is presented to us. As we shall see, the preparation involves something both on the Lord’s side and on the side of His disciples.
Acts 1:1 and 2 say, “The first account I made, O Theophilus, concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He was taken up, having given command through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He chose.” In verse 1 “I” refers to Luke, the writer of the book of Acts. The early church recognized Luke as the author both of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:3) and Acts. Luke’s authorship is evident from the style of composition of the two books. Luke was a Gentile (Col. 4:14), and probably an Asiatic Greek, and a physician. Starting in Troas, he joined Paul in his ministry and accompanied him in his last three ministry journeys (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5—21:18; 27:1—28:15). He was a faithful companion of Paul until his martyrdom (Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11).
Both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written to a person named Theophilus. This name in Greek means “loved by God,” or “friend of God.” Theophilus was probably a Gentile believer who occupied some official position under the Roman Empire.
Acts is the continuation of the Gospel of Luke. This can be proved by comparing 1:1-2 with Luke 1:14. The words “first account” in Acts 1:1 refer to the Gospel of Luke as a “consecutive account” (Luke 1:3) written to Theophilus by Luke.
Acts 1:2 says that the Lord Jesus gave “command through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He chose.” The resurrected Christ has become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), yet still in resurrection He did things through the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
As we have pointed out, 1:3-26 is concerned with preparation, a preparation both on the Lord’s side and the side of the disciples. In this section of Acts we see Christ’s preparation of the disciples in His resurrection (vv. 3-8). He speaks to them things concerning the kingdom of God (v. 3) and charges them to wait for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (vv. 4-8). After Christ’s ascension in verses 9 through 11, we have the disciples’ preparation (vv. 12-26). The disciples persevered in prayer (vv. 12-14) and then chose Matthias (vv. 15-26).
Before the Lord went to the heavens to carry out His propagation in His ascension, He did something further to prepare His disciples. Although they had been with Him for three and a half years, they still had not yet been fully prepared. From this we see that we can not do a quick work to perfect the saints in the Lord’s recovery.
We may say that the three and a half years the Lord Jesus spent with His disciples were nearly the equivalent of a college education, which usually lasts four years. Perhaps you are wondering about the last half year of the “college course” for the Lord’s disciples. This last half year took place after His resurrection.
Throughout the centuries, people have learned that in order for a person to be educated properly, he needs to pass through kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, and four years of college. All the years from kindergarten through high school are a preparation for the college years. We may apply this principle to the Bible and find in the Scriptures various levels of spiritual education. In the Old Testament we go from “kindergarten” in Genesis to “high school” in the Psalms and the Prophets. In between, we have the “elementary school” beginning in Exodus, and “junior high” in the historical books. Coming to the New Testament, we may say that the Gospels are on a “college” level and that the Epistles are on the level of “graduate school.”
The Lord Jesus spent three and a half years with the disciples to give them a “college education.” Although Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen, the Lord’s calling uplifted them and made them “college students.” Gamaliel, however, remained in the Old Testament “high school.” As both “professor” and “chancellor,” the Lord Jesus first spent three and a half years with His “students.” The remainder of their “education” was completed in His resurrection. This means that the Lord was able to carry out three and a half years of education with His disciples when He was in the flesh. Then in His resurrection He completed their training.
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