Acts Apostles summary
In the first section of Acts, 1-12, this section covers Peter quite a bit. We see the Jewish period, where he is in Jerusalem for about 7 years (1-8:4), and then we see the Transition period, where he is in Judea and Samaria for about 10 years (8:5-12:25). This also features the Commencement, which is the Church in its early days (1-5), and the growing experiences, which is the period of organization in preparation for extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles (6-12).
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told the group He spoke to (mainly directed at Peter) that they would be the foundation on which He would build His Church, and no power would be able to conquer it. He wasn’t saying that He would build the Church on Peter or anyone else, however, what Peter said He meant was in 1 Peter 2:4-9. This section of 1 Peter explains that people might not see a worth in Christ, but rather reject Him, however, God sees Him as the Chosen One, and through whom people have eternal life. Those who receive new life through Christ are just as living stones (they become part of the Church’s foundation) who form a Temple in which God is worshipped. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone in this living building. During the period of the OT, Israel was God’s People, His Chosen Nation – to which, He transformed physical Israel to Spiritual Israel, so that now those that believe in Christ shall become part of the Spiritual Israel – and part of the Temple’s foundation overall. Therefore, what we have is a Spiritual Israel with a Spiritual Temple as the center, with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, and His People as the foundation.
Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(The purpose of the Book of Acts was to show that Jesus continued to “do” and “teach” after His Ascension, and what He had begun to “do” and “teach” while He was on the earth. It was also to reveal the “fulfilled promise” and “work” of the Holy Ghost in the lives of the believers and in the midst of the Church. Lastly, to make plain, the place of the believer in the scheme of redemption and the propagation of the glorious Gospel. God working through men by the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Revelation of Jesus Christ.)
The fulfillment is 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “fifty.” Fifty days had elapsed from the Resurrection of Christ until the descent of the Holy Ghost. It comes from the Feast of Weeks mentioned in Leviticus 23:16, to which, the people waited fifty days and then brought a meat offering to the Lord.
The emblems of the Holy Ghost involve:
• Suddenly a “sound” from heaven “as of a rushing mighty wind.” • “Cloven tongues as of fire.” • Both “filled” and Baptized the believers in the Holy Ghost. • People began to speak with “other tongues” as the Spirit gave them utterance. • The Holy Ghost is “the gift” that is given, especially to new believers.
Foretelling of the Holy Ghost
Isaiah 28:9-12, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.”
Joel 2:27-29, “And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
Jesus promises it will be fulfilled
Mark 16:17, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.”
Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
John 14:26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
A miracle fulfillment
“Devout men, out of every nation” were present; they had come for the 8 weeks of the feasts – as we see in Acts 2:5. It drew the Jews together, as we see in 2:6. The crowd’s reaction was varied, as we see in 2:12-13. The crowd’s reaction after Peter’s sermon, as we see in 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter explained the phenomena in 2:14-21. He lifted up his voice in the midst of the people…the same Peter who was afraid to identify himself to a maiden by the fire the night Jesus was arrested. Now he asks them to “Harken to my words…” He proclaims that the “believers” are not drunken as it seems, but this is a phenomena that was prophesied by the Prophet Joel. He singles out the “Men of Israel” and exhorts them to “hear” the Words of Jesus, the Nazareth. Peter proclaims that Jesus is approved of God.
Peter speaks about Jesus
Peter’s sermon in 2:22-36 was an emphasis on Jesus and His Resurrection. This is what Peter was empowered to do was to preach, teach, and baptize with signs following. Jesus had prayed for Him to do this, as we see in Luke 22:32. After that, he quoted King David and compared it to something Jesus had said. Lastly, he tells them to repent and be baptized, and reminds them of the promise being for them and their children.
Here we see that Peter quotes King David, who said something in Psalm 110:1, which involved 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Many of the “hearers” were transformed, changed, and filled with the Holy Ghost, they gladly received Peter’s message, they were baptized and about 3,000 were added to the Church, and it seems to have had a profound effect on the Disciples – for they see the leader in Peter as he rises to preach the first sermon to the Church.
The Holy Spirit's effects on servants of GOD
• They continued steadfastly in the teaching of the Apostles. • They continued in “Fellowship” and Communion. • They continued in “Breaking of Bread.” • “Fear came upon every soul: and many signs and wonders were done by the Apostles!” • They continued in prayer. • The believers sold their possession and shared all things with each other. • The believers continued daily in one accord in the Temple. • They did eat the meat with gladness and singleness of heart. • They were worshippers; praising God, having favor with all the people and the Lord added unto the Church daily.
Acts 3:18, “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.”
The physical problem of the man in the first few verses was that he was lame – that is, he couldn’t walk so he laid daily at The Gate Beautiful begging for alms. It appeared to be at the Gate Beautiful, which is located just before people go into the inner court. It was the gate that led from the outer court to the inner courts, which Jews were only allowed. The man was usually there just to beg for alms from anyone that went into the Temple. Apparently, he thought the people going into the Temple were financially stable, or that it was just a high traffic area perfect for panhandling (as we see in today’s world). The man was at the gate, and when he saw Peter and John, he asked for alms. Peter spoke and said, “Look on us,” … “silver and fold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” The Scripture then states that Peter took him by the right hand and lifted him up – and immediately his feet and anklebones had strength. He leapt and walked; entering with them into the Temple. He was so joyous and praising of God. The Scripture says that all the people saw him walking and praising God, and knew him, because he had always sat there asking for alms at the gate of the Temple. They were filled with wonder, amazed and astonished at what happened. All the people ran and looked upon the three of them with wonder and amazement. The Healing of the “lame man” revealed that the power with which Jesus healed in His earthly Ministry was still present to heal.
Peter speaks again
His second sermon was addressed to “Ye Men of Israel!” as we see in 3:12-13. The God of Abraham and of Isaac, and of Jacob hath glorified His Son! Peter charges them with three great sins, 3:14-15, “Ye have denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” According to the Prophets, Christ should suffer and thus it is fulfilled. Conditions are given of restoration, 3:19-21, “Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” The first coming of Jesus was prophesied by Moses, as we see in Deuteronomy 18:15. Every soul that does not hear the Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people. All the Prophets including Samuel have prophesied the sufferings of Christ. Even Abraham, the Father of the Covenant. Unto the Jews, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is first offered to Israel. This is God’s last call to the nation to turn to Christ Jesus, His Son, as a corporate body. Jesus will return to set up His Kingdom as prophesied by the OT Prophets. The suffering of Christ had already been fulfilled. Then, just at that strategic moment, his sermon is interrupted and he couldn’t finish, because the enemies of Christ were exposed. The enemy, then, was of His own house. The result of the sermon, then, is in Acts 4:4, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
• Moses: The first coming of Jesus was prophesied by Moses, as we see in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” • Samuel: All of the Prophets including Samuel prophesied the sufferings of Christ. We see a reference in Luke 24:25-27, 44, “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” • Abraham: Even Abraham prophesied about the sufferings of Christ, as we see in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Acts 3:26 states that the Jews had received first, “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
“Ye have denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.”
1. Denied the Holy One and the Just 2. Desired a murderer to be granted unto you 3. Killed the Prince of life
First persecution hits
This chapter contains the first persecution of Church leaders, Peter and John are given a trial, Peter defended himself with the Name of Jesus and dared to attempt to finish his sermon that he had begun in chapter 3, and the Church continues in great power where 5,000 convert. The Priests, the Sadducees, and the Captain of the Temple brought Peter to trial, and they represent the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin). It says in 4:4, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
Who they were (the people - a quick overview)
• Peter – A bold preacher, teacher, and leader who isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in beholding the face of persecution. • John – A man who assisted Peter, and was one of the more beloved by Christ with Peter and James. He tried to hold his ground as well in the face of persecution. • Priests, Sadducees, Captain of the Temple – this group was angry and grieved at the preachings of Peter and John, and had them arrested with their priestly powers to take them before trial. • The Jewish Council (Sanhedrin), Annas, The High Priest, Caiaphas – These were the ones that gave Peter and John a trial. They didn’t consider the Apostles very intelligent and seemed to think they had been crazy as to claim they were with Christ or that they healed the lame man. However, they let them go telling them not to preach in the name of Christ anymore. • Other dignitaries – these were some of the people gathered in the council/place during the trial. • Christians (and albeit non-Christians) – these were to whom that Peter preached, and was busy preaching unto when the persecution began. • The Holy Ghost/God – The Holy Ghost had filled many people who believed, and they gave glory and praise unto God, as well as praying when needed. • Barnabas – He was one who had given much and was so generous and encouraging, that he was named “Barnabas” that means, “son of encouragement.”
When Peter and John was brought before trial by the Sanhedrin, they were asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Peter answered in 4:8-12, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead…” The stone which was set at nought, but has now become the “Head of the Corner!” And there is “Salvation in no other!”
Mentions of the stone
• Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”
• Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”
• Matthew 21:42, “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Similar in Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17)
• Romans 9:33, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
• 1 Peter 2:7-8, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
They didn't pray for ceasing
They did not pray for the persecution to cease, but for courage to speak the Word of God. 24-30, “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”
Peter and John were perceived as “unlearned” and “ignorant” men, and yet, they continued in boldness, which caused the counsel to marvel at their knowledge that they had been with Jesus. They wondered, “what shall we do to these men?” They decided that the miracle they did is manifest to all those dwelling in Jerusalem, so they cannot deny it, but they don’t want it to spread any further among the people, so they want to threaten them that they don’t speak to any man in this name (the name of Jesus). (15-17). They spoke their threat of commanding them to not speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus (18). In verse 19, Peter and John answered and said, “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”
Condition the church was in
• Unity and faith produced power (“one heart, and of one soul”) • No beggars among them (“they had all things common”) • With “great power” gave they witness of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ” • No one was lacking – more stuff was brought and laid before the Apostles’ feet so they could be distributed as needed.
Signs and wonders
Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
We see the first sin and the first deaths in this chapter. The first sin and the result of this sin; Ananias and Sapphira his wife – they sold a possession and kept back part of the price for themselves bringing the remainder to the Apostles. Peter called it a lie to the Holy Ghost; tempting the Spirit and a lie to God, not Man. The first deaths recorded in the early Church because of sin – and great fear came upon the Church. Ananias and Sapphira were removed from the company of believers. Great fear came upon all the Church. Ananias and Sapphira were removed from the company of believers. Signs and wonders, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and continuance in one accord meeting in Solomon’s porch were a couple of examples. In addition, more believers, men and women, were added to the Church. The gifts of the Holy Ghost were exercised. Sick people were brought in and were healed – and miracles happened through the Apostles that caused a great stir and the works of Jesus Christ was manifested as He promised. Those that were vexed with evil spirits were also healed, and the magnitude of such was great.
The Sanhedrin could not tolerate them anymore, especially with the growth and popularity of the Church overall, to which, they were also disobedient to the command not to preach in the name of Jesus. Therefore, the High Priest and others were filled with indignation, and placed the Apostles into the common prison. The miraculous escape took place the night when the Angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out charging them to “Go, stand, and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” Give them words of physical and spiritual life, this would be the Resurrection message that the Sanhedrin bitterly opposed. Early in the morning, the Apostles entered the Temple and began teaching again. This was unknown to religious leaders. Immediately, the Sanhedrin Council gathered their elders and others and called for the Apostles to be brought to them from the prison. However, they were not found in their cells. They didn’t know what happened, until a report came in that those that were put in prison were now teaching the people.
Peter again answered them “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Peter also said in 5:30-32, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
Gamaliel was one of the most celebrated and honored Jewish Rabbis, was a grandson of Hillel, and had succeeded as president of the Sanhedrin upon the death of his father, Rabbi Simeon. He was the thirty-fifth receiver of the traditions and the Law, which had been given at Mt. Sinai. In addition, he was one of Paul’s teachers. He spoke about the whole situation in 5:35-39, “And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
(Paul was taught by Gamaliel... 21:39-22:3, “But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”)
The Sanhedrin agreed with Gamaliel; beat the Apostles for disobedience, and commanded them not to teach based on Jesus’ name and dismissed them once again. The Apostles left “rejoicing,” honored to be dishonored. They ceased not to preach Jesus Christ, “every day,” from “house to house,” and “in the Temple.”
Acts 6:7, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
There were two types of Jews normally, it seems, ones brought up in Palestine who spoke Aramaic, and ones brought up in other places (such as Jews of the Dispersion) who only spoke Greek. These were known as Hellenists or the Grecians. The Grecians were Hebrews with a background in Greek culture, and speaking Greek. The Grecians felt neglected and demanded more provisions for their widows; to be equal with the Hebrews or those still following the Mosaic Law. The Apostles were having issues attending to those needs and trying to pray and preach. Therefore, they appointed seven deacons to help out with the everyday tasks (such as attending to the provisions table), while they, the Apostles, could attend more to prayer and preaching.
Qualifications of these deacons
• Men of honest report. • Full of the Holy Spirit. • Full of wisdom – which is application of spiritual truth. • Men of conviction. • Full of faith.
The seven deacons
• Stephen • Philip • Prochorus • Nicanor • Timon • Parmenas • Nicolas
Stephen and Philip had taken a major role and were the most prominent in the labor. (They likely acted in characteristic leadership.)
Anointing of the deacons
The anointing designated these men for office and representation of the corporate body of believers, which was similar to Moses’ anointing to Joshua in Numbers 27: 18-23, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.” These deacons would be given authority, but not have quite the amount of authority as the Apostles had.
There arose from the Synagogue of the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicias, and of Asians certain sects that were unable to resist the wisdom of the Apostles, and therefore, these people hated the Apostles. Stephen was preaching, and there were a large number of priests (not Sadducees) that bound closely in ties with the Temple. The preaching of Stephen saw those ties break soon, especially the Grecians. Stephen was one of seven men who administered the church’s work, and he was also a prominent preacher and miracle-worker. He saw that Christianity and Judaism couldn’t be together, and therefore, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, Judaism was finished. The Jewish Religious System, along with laws, ceremonies, priests, and the Temple had fulfilled its purpose and should now have something new (Christianity). When the Jews heard Stephen preaching (especially thinking he was preaching against them), they went and reported him to the Sanhedrin for preaching against Judaism. The Sadducees had an accusation that could gain popularity against the Christians, because they knew that the people wouldn’t tolerate his threat to their national religion.
“to suborn” as “to procure witnesses secretly for the purpose of false declarations.” Therefore, in verse 11 of this chapter, the people had hired false witnesses to say that they heard Stephen speak against Moses and God.
Out of all the people to be arrested, we have seen the following arrests so far in this book:
• Peter and John ◦ We see he’s first arrested in chapter 4 with John, because of his preachings about Jesus, and taken before the Sanhedrin – where, after having a trial, they were released and told not to preach about Jesus anymore. ◦ Due to the outstanding growth, as we see in chapter 5, Peter and John were arrested again, because of the jealously angry Sadducees. They were brought before the Sanhedrin again, had a trial, and were let go amid Gamaliel’s advice that this might be something important from God – and that if God doesn’t want it to occur, it’ll fail anyway. • Stephen ◦ Stephen was a deacon, and he preached also. The Sadducees took him in for “preaching against Judaism” – to which, coming before the Sanhedrin, Stephen pled his case, especially by demonstrating what knowledge that he had (as we see in chapters 6-7) of the OT times and God’s People. However, they didn’t like his blasphemy and were too angry, so they took him out of the city and stoned him.
• Stephen had a theme for this defense of the perpetual rejection of God and His servants by His professed people. • When he was asked by the high priest, “are these things so?,” he gave his defense. His main argument was the unbelief, bondage, and the rebellion of Israel – with many examples. Stephen was well informed of Hebrew history, and so he begins his five-part sermon as a deacon full of the Holy Ghost: ◦ Acts 7:2-8, He begins with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Promises and the Covenants – referring to Genesis 12-22. ◦ Acts 7:9-16, he continues with Joseph, the Jewish nation had always been rebellious – referring to Genesis 37:28-34; 41:1-50:14. ◦ Acts 7:17-43, he talks about the account of Moses and the rejection of his brethren at his first attempt to deliver them – referring to Exodus 2:10-15 (and more rebellion builds). ◦ Acts 7:44-50, and he finally talks about Israel’s Apostasy and rejection of God, because of continual rebellion – referring to Judges 2:11-14 and Amos 5:25-27. ◦ Acts 7:51-53, he has a rebuke given, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
The enemies of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection were the Jews (specifically those who killed Jesus) who were, “cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”
Stephen was the first Christian Martyr; he was full of The Holy Ghost.
He envisioned all the splendor of heaven and he fastened his eyes “stedfastly” (so much that his eyes could not be moved from the sight he saw) upward and beheld his Eternal Home, his Savior and his God! He declares what he saw: The heaven opens, he saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. He saw “both” of them, two holy beings and the third, The Holy Ghost, was in him. The trinity was present in his vision.
The first mention of Paul then called Saul, “…and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (58). His is Saul of Tarsus who was a witness and a leader in this event of martyrdom, but he was a part of killing the Christians. The anger and conviction of the religious crowd drove them into frenzy, as Scripture tells us in verse 57-58, “They cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon Stephen with one accord. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…” This “fell asleep” tell us that his body became dormant-asleep, however, his Spirit he had commended upon God and Jesus just as Jesus commended His Spirit to the Father. The spirit of man returns to its Creator, and the body awaits its resurrection day.
Acts 7:55-56, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Stephen’s response to their stones identified with Jesus. He called upon God and Jesus asking them to receive His Spirit, however, in that time, he also asked for forgiveness for the people that were stoning him (which took upon Christ’s appeal that He said “forgive them, for they know not what they do”). At the heart, he was Christlike, because he was not only forgiving of them in that instant, I believe, but also asked forgiveness for them, as in they don’t know what they are doing. People get to the point where they don’t understand something, and that was the case with wise Stephen – is that they didn’t understand him and mistook it as blasphemy (similar to the way they treated Jesus). The Council of that day was similar to the time of Jesus, and therefore, they acted in similar ways. What may misalign with their standards would be considered heresy and lawful disobedience. It was inexcusable in their sense, and therefore, anyone appearing to break the Law or speak against their religion would be punished per trial.
Acts 8:14-17, “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Christians driven out
Part 1 (verses 1-3) starts when Christians are driven out of Jerusalem. With the killing of Stephen, persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem. The Pharisees did not favor the Christians anymore, and Saul led the persecution. The Christians were attacked, imprisoned, or driven violently from the city, but they did not deny their faith. They went to the Temple daily before, however, they saw now the truth of Stephen’s teachings, and were prepared to suffer because of it. Only the Hellenist/Grecian Christians were driven away from the city. The other ones (probably the Aramaic speaking ones) were allowed to stay. This would only make Church growth more difficult.
Ministry to the Samaritans
Part 2 (verses 4-25) speaks about Philip, the Grecian/Hellenist, who appeared to have been the first one to teach or preach in Samaria. Because of his preaching and miraculous works, many Samaritans believed and were baptized. Simon, the local mage/magician, was quite impressed that he was baptized, as well. He did this to learn the secret of Philip’s power. When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard of so many conversions in Samaria, they had sent Peter and John to Samaria to pray that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Ghost. Apparently, the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit immediately on belief in God is because God probably wanted the Apostles to be convinced that the Samaritan believers shared similar privileges as Jewish believers. There was quite a hostility between the Jews and Samaritans, and therefore, they did not want that carried over into the Church. God demonstrated publicly then that the Samaritans were accepted into the Church, by using the Apostles to administer the Holy Ghost unto the Samaritans.
Intro into Philistia
Part 3 (verses 26-40) talks about Christianity’s introduction into Philistia, to which, from Samaria, Philip headed south toward Philistia. On the way there, he had met another non-Jew who liked his preaching. The one who liked his preaching was a government official from Ethiopia, who was already a studious one on God. When Philip had explained the Scriptures to him, the man learned about Jesus’ death, and then became a believer receiving baptism also. He was overjoyed and continued to journey home; probably talking about Jesus along the way. Philip preached around the area of Philistia, and then moved north until he arrived in Caesarea.
“As for Saul…He made havock of the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” This is explained as treating the Christians shamefully, injuring them, take revenge against them as a ferocious animal seeking its prey; dragging them out into the streets wither they be male or female, young or old, and forcing before the magistrates of the land. Romans could put them to death, but the Sanhedrin of which Paul was employed could not imprison them. Some were killed, but only by permission from the Romans. Paul admits his wrongdoing on several occasions.
Philip was one of the Twelve Disciples, and comes forward as the chief witness abroad after the death of Stephen. He journeyed down to Samaria. Revival broke out in Samaria with many miracles, signs and unclean spirits came out, and people with palsies and the lame were healed as well. Great joy came to this city. A Jew was preaching to the Samaritans and racial barriers were removed. In steps Simon the sorcerer/magician, for he used sorcery and bewitched people of Samaria. People gave tribute as if he had great powers of God. Simon decides to convert, however, and as the revival breaks out, they turn from Simon and believe Philip. They are baptized in water, and Simon believes also. Simon was captivated by the miracles and thus he had believed. He followed because of the miracles or magic in that moment. Simon then became baptized and also became a good friend of Philip. He wasn’t truly converted, however, for he wanted to pay for the gift of the Holy Ghost that he might use it for profit and publicity. A thought: It was great to see that the Lord moved so well upon an area, and through time, many things were exposed as working and not working. One thing that obviously didn’t work is trying to buy a free gift, The Holy Ghost – but then to try and use it as profit and publicity was even more crazier. No wonder why it didn’t work.
Other notes on Samaria ministry
We see in 8:14-17 the first mention of the Apostles leaving the revival at Jerusalem. Peter and John were selected to go and examine, and then encourage the work at Samaria. They prayed with believers that they’d receive the Holy Ghost. Jesus set the example, “He must needs go through Samaria.” He stopped at the well and made an evangelist out of a woman and therein we have the Scripture in John 4, “The fields are white unto harvest.”
We see an Ethiopian Eunuch. The Angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and exhorted him to go South from Jerusalem toward the desert of Gaza. Philip immediately obeyed, and the revival was likely astonishing. There were miracles, Holy Ghost Baptisms, and more. Philip responds to the angelic voice and moves out from the crowd to minister to one. Philip meets the Eunuch of Ethiopia who had great authority under Queen Candace of the Ethiopians. He had charge of all her treasure and was on his way to Jerusalem to worship. He was a worshipper and believer of God, and he is reading the Book of Isaiah as he is being transported. Philip was now directed by the Holy Ghost to “Go near, and join thyself to the chariot.” Philip “ran” and soon he is invited into the Chariot and the message of Salvation is given beginning right where the man is reading the Book of Isaiah. A Baptism ensues, as the Ethiopian Eunuch asks, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip answered him in Acts 8:37-38 saying that if he believes with all his heart in Jesus (he could be saved). The chariot stood still, and they went down into the water, and the Eunuch was baptized. When they came up out of the water, Philip was “caught up” by His Spirit, and was found in Azotus preaching in all the cities until he came into Caesarea. The revivals continued, and the Eunuch kept rejoicing.
In Samaria, we see the Holy Ghost being poured out upon people. However, first they were saved, but didn’t receive the Spirit immediately. Apparently, the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit immediately on belief in God is because God probably wanted the Apostles to be convinced that the Samaritan believers shared similar privileges as Jewish believers. There was quite a hostility between the Jews and Samaritans, and therefore, they did not want that carried over into the Church. God demonstrated publicly then that the Samaritans were accepted into the Church, by using the Apostles to administer the Holy Ghost unto the Samaritans.
Saul is corrected by GOD
Acts 9:16-17, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.”
Around this time, the Gospel had spread north probably around Damascus, which had a lot of Jews in population. The Sanhedrin sent the young Saul to arrest any Christian who still attended the Synagogue, and bring them to Jerusalem for trial. However, before he reached Damascus, he had an encounter with the risen Jesus that convinced him that Jesus was Lord and Christ. This persecutor became a disciple of Jesus Christ. Through one of those local Christians, God revealed that He had chosen Saul to go to different places and share the Gospel – whether it be to Gentiles and Jews. God prepared him, though, to fulfill this difficult task. He went to new life through Baptism, which was miraculous. All of that rough background of Saul will be used only for good, because God had a plan from the start. Soon, Saul moves to Jerusalem so he could study Jewish Law, to which, his teacher was the great Rabbi Gamaliel. Similar to all the Jewish young men, he learned a trade, which was tent making. All of the different influences that Saul had affected his life and ministry. God used all of it for good!
People through the land of Damascus soon knew of the conversion of Saul. He openly joined with the Christians and argued against the Jews, and then went on to spend around three years in Arabia, before returning to Damascus. A violent opposition was stirred, to which, Saul fled for his life. He arrives in Jerusalem, to not be welcomed by Christians. People feared him, in that he was only pretending to be a Christian. Therefore, when he found out who the true Christians were, he could imprison them. Barnabas knew better, though, and introduced Saul to the Apostles at the time in Jerusalem: Peter and James (the Lord’s brother). He made use of his time in Jerusalem by preaching the Gospel, which just made the Jews angry. When they wanted to kill Saul, he escaped quickly to his home in Tarsus. The rest of the churches in Judea didn’t know Saul personally, however, they did know of his conversion, and therefore, the persecution died down so peace could be welcomed back.
While God prepared Paul for a Gentile mission soon, he was helping Peter and other Church leaders. Peter had moved out from Jerusalem and visited some Christian groups that had formed. At Lydda, he healed a paralyzed man, and at Joppa, he brought a woman back from the dead. News spread and many people had believed.
With the resurrection of Dorcus and the passing of about 8 years since the outpouring of Pentecost – we come to realize the Gospel has been preached primarily to Jews. A Jew for the Jews brought the Church into existence – and therefore, the Apostles busied themselves preaching and teaching Jews. It was prophesied that the Jews would reject the Gospel, so it shouldn’t have been a problem when the Gospel began to spill over to the Gentiles. God is now ready to take the Gospel Message to the Gentiles. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was no small plan of God’s – for God wanted Saul to be brought to the Church to be used for great things.
Gospel to the Gentiles
Luke sets forth in this Chapter the events which occasioned the opening of the door of Grace to the Gentiles. God wanted to teach Peter a lesson, so He gave him a vision to show him that the old Jewish food laws were of no use any further, and there was no distinction between the two. Therefore, Peter was free to eat all foods. God tells him to go to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius. He compared the issues of clean and unclean foods with the way that people are – that they are clean and shall not be called unclean. Peter then summarizes the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and then concluded by repeating that forgiveness was available to people of any nationality. Cornelius and his household then received the gift of the Holy Ghost from God. Peter then saw that He clearly accepts Gentiles, and was also willing to baptize them.
Peter is in prayer on the housetop and becomes hungry – and then falls into a trance. A sheet knit at four corners was let down from Heaven containing every kind of beast, bird, and more – Clean and unclean (four footed animals, wild beasts, creeping things and fowls of the air). A voice speaks to Peter; “arise, kill, and eat.” Peter replied, “Not, so Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” This happens once and twice more. The next time the Lord speaks to Peter, he says, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Upon the third time, the sheet is received back into Heaven. Peter mused upon this with some doubt, Scripture tells us that behold, the messengers that Cornelius were not at the gate. While Peter thought on the vision, he was told by the Spirit, “Behold three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.”
Cornelius’ messengers arrive, and Peter invites them into the house and suggests that they spend the night and in the morning, he will go with them. Meanwhile, Cornelius has called in his friends and a kindred with great anticipation of Peter’s coming. Peter takes a trip to Caesarea, and reluctantly enters the house of Cornelius. Cornelius is quick to fall prostrate before him. He has been brought up in a pagan culture and did not know any better. Peter responded by lifting him up and speaking to him; “Stand up, I myself also am a man” meaning I am not a god to be worshipped. Peter already knew why they had sent for him – for “God had showed him.” He was not to call any man common or unclean. Peter asks what Cornelius’ intent was in sending for him then.
Cornelius related his vision to Peter and told him, “We are all present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” This time of the Holy Ghost falling upon the Gentiles was their own “Gentiles Pentecost” – Peter and his men are astonished, that the Gentiles also receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. They speak with other tongues just as it was in the Upper Room experience on the Day of Pentecost – to which, they praise God. God would save them and baptize the Gentiles in the Holy Ghost. Peter’s message ended with an invitation to accept Jesus. This visitation of the Holy Ghost to the Gentiles has been labeled Gentiles Pentecost. Peter then commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord that is upon the authority of Jesus. Jesus taught them to Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Then were the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house baptized.
The first time being called Christians
This chapter (11) presents the intense hatred of the Jews toward the Christians and their complete rejection of the Gospel, forcing its teachings upon the Gentiles. The Gentiles open the door to receive the Holy Ghost and all the benefits of Salvation. The center of Christianity was Antioch. The group of people that contended with Peter were known as “those of the circumcision.” The Church becomes satisfied, as we see in 11:18, “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Missionary work begins full scale, and they, which were scattered abroad in Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch; they preached to the Jews only. Revival also comes to Antioch of Syria. Barnabas is the first missionary that is sent out from the Church.
• The believers in Antioch were the first to be called “Christians.” • The first missionary sent out was Barnabas. • The first missionary team was of Paul and Barnabas, as they went to Antioch. • The first prophet of the Church was Agabus (among others). • The first prophecy of the Church was in Acts 11:28, “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” • The first relief was for the poor saints at Jerusalem.
This was marvelous that we saw many firsts in the Church, which helped it continue in growth, because even though many were martyred, He still was alive and His Will was to be done!
Barnabas went to Tarsus seeking Saul, so that they could go together to Antioch, as we see in 11:25-26. They wanted to deliver relief to the brethren who dwelt in Judaea. The first prophet of the Church was Agabus and his prophecy was in Acts 11:28, “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” What stands out to me was that just when people thought that the Church was on a decline, many firsts had occurred, which showed that God was not done making miracles, and that He wanted to continue demonstrating His Glory.
Acts 12:7, “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” It was neat to see that Peter was smote on the side and arose quickly, so that the chains fell off his hands. This is awesome, because Peter is able to escape because the Lord did this miracle in a moment. This would allow him to go to a safer place.
(James had good character in his life and his teaching, which helps us learn how to deal with our issues of faith, trials, and temptations. He was exemplary in many ways.)
The fourth persecution began through Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. He killed James, the brother of John with a sword. The Rabbis considered death by the sword disgraceful, and therefore, they were rather pleased at the death of James. The murderer of the Apostle was a relative of the Herod that killed John the Baptist. James was the first Apostle to be martyred. He was beheaded before the Jews.
Consolation from the Gospels about persecution
Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Luke 6:22, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.”
John 15:18, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”
Romans 12:17-21, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-12, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Hebrews 12:3, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
1 Peter 3:14, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.”
1 Peter 3:16, “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”
1 Peter 4:12-14, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”
1 John 3:13, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
Peter's third arrest
God’s sovereign will and purpose permits Peter to be delivered, and James to be executed. Herod saw that the murder of James pleased the Jews. Herod had carried out one murder and was planning another, which was Peter’s murder. Peter’s arrest occurred during the time of “unleavened bread.” Herod was careful to avoid disturbing the Jews and shedding blood during the feast. Peter was then imprisoned in the town of Antonia where Paul was later imprisoned. Four quaternions of soldiers (being chained to two guards, with two shifts for each), which guarded him until after Easter (Passover) when they planned his death. Herod was careful to respect the Holy Days. Paul had been arrested twice before and once he had escaped. The strength of the early Church was continual, prevailing prayer for Peter by the Church. “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” –Acts 12:5.
The Angel of the Lord delivers Peter for the second time. He is sleeping chained to two guards when the Angel of the Lord awoke him and a light shined upon him. The Angel of the Lord smites Peter on the side (wake up). The Angel lifted Peter up and the chains had fallen off. Peter was told to gird up his self, bind on his sandals, cast his garment about, and follow him. Peter thought he was having a “vision.” The Angel led him through the first and second ward, the Iron Gate that lead to the city opened of its own accord before them, they came into the street of the city and the Angel had left Peter. It would seem the Angels are doing the Father’s business, and when it’s completed, they just disappear. Peter seemed to have been in a state of stupor and not being fully aware of what was happening. The Scripture tells us some things, that Peter assured to himself that the Lord sent His Angel to deliver him from the hand of Herod, and from the expectation of the people of the Jews – to which, he means the anticipation of the Jews to see Peter killed as James.
Peter heads to John Mark’s house (the Church had met in homes, for there wasn’t a church building). They met in Mary’s home, who was the mother of Mark. They may have been travail, “desperate prayer” for Peter and the Church. Peter hurried over and knocked on the door. Rhoda came, and she often had heard Peter preach, so she recognized his voice, and ran to the others in joy that he had come. There was a lack of belief, but prayer continued. They thought she was “mad crazy” and said it must be an angel for they believed in guardian angels. Peter still knocks. They were astonished at the sight of seeing Peter, and he beckons them with his hand and signals them to have peace. It seemed that he was quite hurried to get inside and explain the situation to them. Peter leaves them for a destination that he didn’t mention, and wanted to talk to them for a moment before he left. A brief conversation ensued, where he told them how the Lord delivered him out of prison. He wanted them to know it was the Lord and not some tall tale that the keepers of the prison would concoct. He admonished them to tell these things to James, the Lord’s brother, and to the rest of the brethren and he departed.
Herod’s wrath was vehement toward the jailers, for it was a matter of life and death to the soldiers when a prisoner was left in their charge. Herod then ordered an extensive search and finally the few guards were drilled and executed to save face for Herod. Herod then left Jerusalem and went to Caesarea where he stayed; the persecution seemed to subside for a season. Usually, when a leader is over a team, whatever happened to the team or if they get in trouble, people then point to the leader for full responsibility. Herod had them executed so they didn’t try to put responsibility upon him for the escape.
The Word of God “grew and multiplied.” Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem having fulfilled their mission. They had taken famine relief to the saints in Judea. John Mark joined them in this journey. Saul and Barnabas took Mark on their first missionary journey, but he got homesick and left the team. Saul and Barnabas separated over Mark at the beginning of the second missionary journey. Mark was a convert of Peter, and was then restored to Paul later. As the Chapter ends, we see the leaders of the Gospel going to the uttermost part of the earth. The program began to gradually turn toward the Gentiles. It wasn’t that the Gospel had changed, but just began to move through the Gentiles because the Jews were quick to reject Christ. The Gospel Message began to “purge” out the demands of the Law of Moses. Quickly, Gentile Ministers came on the scene and Gentile Churches were formed. The Apostle’s council came to agreement for the program of the Gentile Church.