We are now over a month into our new series, The Movement. You can watch or listen to the sermons HERE. This year Vintage Church is taking a journey through the book of Acts, looking at The Movement Jesus began with his church. To give us a better understanding of the book of Acts we created a small introduction booklet. You can find an electronic version of this book HERE. Over the past few weeks we have answered several questions related to Acts. First we answered: (1) Who wrote the book of Acts and (2) When was the book of Acts written? You can find that blog HERE. Then we answered: (1) What type of book is Acts? and (2) Why was Acts written? You can find that blog HERE. Finally, we looked at the setting of the book of Acts. You can read about that HERE. This week we are going to discuss the various themes within the book of Acts.
Themes in the Book of Acts
- God the Father
It is important to understand how significant God is in the book of Acts. Throughout Acts, God’s presence and purpose is made abundantly clear (Acts 2:23; 4:28; 5:38–39; 13:36; 20:27). In the book, God “acts in the new community, just as he has acted throughout the centuries in Israel’s history. In Jesus’ ministry, the raising of Jesus, and the direction of those who follow him in the new community this role is particularly evident.”1 Every story in the book of Acts shows us that God is active and in control, saving people and growing his church.
Jesus also is very important in the books of Acts. Unlike the Gospels, Jesus is only on Earth for a very short time in the book of Acts. In Acts, Jesus has already been resurrected and he ascends into heaven. Two things are obvious about Jesus in Acts. First, he is clearly the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Throughout the book of Acts people profess Jesus as the Lord and Christ (or Messiah) (Acts 1:21; 4:33; 7:59; 8:16; 9:17; 11:17, 20; 15:11, 26; 16:31; 19:5, 13, 17; 20:21, 24, 35; 21:13; 28:31). He is seen and believed as the one who was to come and deliver Israel. Second, Jesus is also seen as Lord. “Acts depicts the exalted Jesus as ‘present within the church in the same way that the OT describes transcendent Yahweh as immanently involved with Israel.’”2 Thus in Acts Jesus is both the deliverer and the ruler.
- Holy Spirit
To say that the Holy Spirit is important in the book of Acts is an understatement. Luke mentions the Holy Spirit fifty-seven times in Acts alone.3 From the very beginning to the end of the book, the Holy Spirit is a major and active character throughout the story. He is first mentioned in Acts 1:4 when Jesus promises the disciples that they will be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Then in Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciples to stay in Jerusalem to receive power from the Holy Spirit. The emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Acts is important for two reasons. First, with Christ ascending into heaven and the Holy Spirit descending onto the people, God’s presence does not leave. With the coming of the Spirit, God now dwells in human hearts. Therefore, God is closer than he has ever been. The Holy Spirit also brings empowerment to the church. The Spirit brings “empowerment for mission,” equipping every believer with the message of the Gospel, the power of the Gospel, and the ability to proclaim and live out the Gospel.4
From Acts 2 until the end of the book, salvation is a major topic. In Acts 2:38 Peter declares: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Since the time of the Old Testament, the people of Israel were waiting for God to save them. For the Jews, salvation was both an individual and a corporate issue. Individuals within Israel knew and realized they had sinned against God. The people as a whole, however, also waited for and expected both spiritual and physical salvation. “The salvation that Luke describes is not something that humans can attain for themselves, but is the gift of God.”5 Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone.
- The Church
One of the most important themes in the book of Acts is the church. In the book of Acts we see the beginning of the church. One of the elements Luke illustrates most clearly for us is the importance of community in the early church. In Acts, the church is never referred to as a building. Rather, the church is always referred to as a gathering of people. Of all the passages in Acts which paints a vivid picture of this early Christian community, the most important is Acts 2:42–46. Here, we see the church focused on God’s word, worship, eating together, and taking care of one another. Also important to the church in Acts is the inclusion of gentiles (non-Jews) into God’s people. Prior to Jesus, the people of God was primarily comprised of Jews. However, after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel spread to Gentiles. Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Peter shared the Gospel with Cornelius, a Roman soldier. Paul went all over Asia and Europe proclaiming the Gospel to Gentiles. God’s vision of his people coming from all tribes, nations, and tongues was coming to fruition. “This shows that Acts should not be read as the story of God abandoning the Jewish people, but rather as God redefining the nature of his people.”6 Directly related to the inclusion of the Gentiles was the mission of the church. Jesus did not call the church nor the Holy Spirit to equip the church to sit and remain unmoved with the Gospel. Rather, as people received and believed the Gospel from Jesus’ disciples, the Spirit continued “to equip and motivate disciples to share the message with still more people, urging them to respond with repentance and faith.”7 It is no wonder that the Gospel could not be confined to Jerusalem. Rather, it traveled all the way to the capital of the known world, Rome (see Acts 28).
1Darrell L. Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts: Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 119.
2Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 57.
6Steve Walton, “Acts” in Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, ed. Kevin Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 76.
7Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 83.