This morning we have reached the end of year-long journey through the book of the Bible known as the Acts of the Apostles. Now if you were with us when we began this series way back in May of 2022, you’ll recall that right from the beginning, we noted that, instead of being called the Acts of the Apostles, this book really could more accurately be called “The Continued Acts of Jesus” or perhaps even “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” – since that’s really what the story is all about!
The author Luke, wrote this book as a sequel to his first work, the Gospel of Luke, for a man named Theophilus – and Luke begins the book of Acts by saying:
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach…
The key here being – “everything Jesus began to do and teach”. The work of Jesus didn’t stop when he rose from the grave and ascended into heaven – but rather it continued as Jesus led and directed his Apostles through the Holy Spirit to spread the message of the Gospel throughout the world.
In fact, the final words of Jesus as he returned to heaven were as follows:
8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
That’s really what this book has been all about! In the first chapters, we read how the Holy Spirit did indeed come upon those first disciples and totally transformed them from a small band of timid and fearful men, into a rapidly growing church, filled with the boldness and power of the Holy Spirit!
Then, under tremendous persecution, the believers scattered from Jerusalem and traveled throughout Judea and Samaria, proclaiming the Gospel message all along the way and people everywhere put their trust in Jesus for salvation. We read about God’s work through men like Peter, John, James, Philip, and Stephan – all of whom boldly shared the Gospel even under the threat of imprisonment or even death.
And then, in an amazing turn of events, one of their greatest persecutors, Saul – soon to be Paul, had a personal encounter with the risen Jesus and was miraculously transformed into one of the church’s greatest evangelists. And it’s been his story that we’ve most recently been following as he traveled throughout the known Roman world on three different missionary journeys – planting churches and sharing the Gospel everywhere!
The last few chapters of Acts has been the story of Paul’s journey to Rome – under arrest and on his way to stand trial before Caesar. And today, as we read the final chapter of Acts, we see… not really a conclusion to Paul’s story, but rather the conclusion to the beginning of the story of the Gospel. It’s like the closing scene of the first act in a play – the rest of which would continue to play out over the next two thousand plus years – a story that includes both you and I today – as God continues the story of transforming lives through the Gospel!