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Where Should I Start Reading the Bible? Part 3

by Pastor Al Robbins

The first four books in the New Testament detail the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. These books are important to read to see what Jesus taught His disciples. Many versions of the Bible show the words of Jesus in red to emphasize them. However, although His words are very important, the Bible contains much more than just His words. They serve as the introduction to the rest of the New Testament.

After the four Gospels, the next book in the New Testament is The Acts of the Apostles, more commonly referred to just as Acts. As was mentioned before, this is the continuation of the Gospel of Luke, written to the same person-Theophilus.

Luke starts the book by talking about how Jesus appeared to His disciples. This passage connects the previous book (the Gospel of Luke) to the current book and gives the starting point for Luke's narration.

Acts 1:1-8 (NIV)
1  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach
2  until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
3  After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6  So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7  He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The book of Acts is the story of the beginning of the church. After the Ascension of Christ, the disciples and the other followers of Jesus were unsure of what to do and where to go, but they knew that God had not abandoned them. They "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14) and waited for direction.

That direction came when the Holy Spirit filled the prayer meeting with His power. The power of God fell on this group of fishermen, tax collectors and others that were not used to being leaders and allowed God to turn them into world-changers.

Acts 2:1-8 (NIV)
1  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7  Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8  Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?

Filled with the power and the boldness that only God can give, the disciples became the Apostles, and began to teach and preach of the Good News of the salvation of God, showing with signs and wonders the power of God.

Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)
38  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Acts 5:12 (NIV)
12  The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade.

Up to this time, the followers of Jesus were centered in Jerusalem. They met together frequently in prayer and to learn more about Him. The number of believers were increasing, so the disciples selected "seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3) to oversee the waiting on tables. One of these seven men was Stephen, who became the first martyr, stoned because of his faith in Jesus (Acts 6:8 - 7:60).

The large number of people who were coming to faith in Jesus Christ was distressing to the leaders of the time, and persecution arose.

Acts 8:1 (NIV)
1  And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

God also showed His sovereignty and power by changing the heart of a man known as Saul, a man who was "giving approval" to the persecution. Saul was zealous in his intent to eliminate this threat.

Acts 9:1-2 (NIV)
1  Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest
2  and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

God, however, had very different plans and appeared to Saul on his journey to Damascus and allowed him to see the truth of who Jesus truly was, and called him to be "a chosen vessel" (Acts 9:15).

The rest of the book of Acts details how the church grew throughout the region. It also explains how Saul became Paul, an important messenger of the grace of God. We see how God used men and women, flawed and imperfect, to cause His Kingdom to grow. We see how events that seemed to be disastrous became victories for God.

Reading the book of Acts, we see the power of God in the lives of ordinary people make them extraordinary warriors on His behalf. As you read this book, may God encourage you to trust Him to make you a world-changer.

 

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