Click link or picture for video!
The book of Acts gives us a wonderful account of the inception and growth of the early church. In great detail, we see what parts of the early church are instructive for us in the church age. Provided in this video is a short summary of the history of the church found in Acts.
In Jerusalem around AD 30, Jesus dies on the cross and is resurrected on the third day. Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He meets the disciples and gives them the command to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. “You heard from me; for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” After several questions from the disciples, Jesus delivers His last words – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” It is at this point, 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father promising He will return in the same manner He left. 50 days after the Resurrection at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples, giving them power, purpose, and a plan. The church is born.
Empowered by the Spirit, Peter gives his first sermon, and 3,000 hearts respond to the life giving message of Jesus. Hearing, receiving, and repenting, the young church walks together in great unity and garners praise. The church, the fellowship of believers, is birthed from the preaching of the Gospel.
From this point, Peter and John continue to spread the gospel through preaching and miracles. In chapter 3, we see the power of God exampled as a lame beggar is healed, and the persecution that follows those who proclaim the message of Jesus. Yet, the church continues to grow in number and unity. Unity comes at a cost.
Ananias and Saphira provide an example for all to see that God is dedicated to the purity and unity of the church. When those attributes of the church are threatened, God will discipline and allow the church to see His power and might.
As the church grew, a new system of ministering to the church is adopted. Instead of the disciples being in charge of all tasks, they chose 7 men who could help them serve the people of the church. One of the seven is Stephen who was full of grace and power. Because of his commitment, Stephen is attacked by those seeking to destroy the church. In fact, there only ammunition is lies. Stephen is brought before the council and he gives a powerful sermon connecting the Old Testament to Jesus and rebuking the people for their hard hearts. Enraged, the people stone Stephen, making him the first Christian martyr.
At the stoning of Stephen, an adversary of the church emerges – Saul. Saul holds the cloaks of those stone Stephen and Saul’s life is dedicated to eradicating the name of Jesus from the world. Saul travels from place to place seeking to arrest people who are preaching the Way.
Amidst the persecution, the Gospel does not stop. In fact, it spreads rapidly. The persecution of the church only fuels the Gospel to be taken to the ends of the earth. In Acts 8, we see this in the life of Philip. During the persecution, Philip travels to Samaria and many people believe in the Lord Jesus. In fact, so many people in Samaria believe, Peter and John come to help Philip. Philip is called by God to leave the place where great ministry is taking place. He is told to travel south and Philip leaves in obedience. As he travels, Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch and has a divine encounter. The eunuch believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized. The eunuch then travels back to his country and the Gospel is spread to the ends of the earth.
Around AD 34, on the road to Damascus, the Lord transformed the heart of Saul, a man who persecuted countless Christians.
After Saul’s conversion, the gospel continues to spread through the ministries of Paul and Peter. God gave Peter a vision of a sheet filled with animals. A command is issued for Peter to “Rise, Kill and eat.” Peter responds – never and the vision occurs three more times. While God is speaking to Peter, He has already spoken to Cornelius who sent a team to go and bring Peter back to Caesarea. It is in Caesarea where Peter realizes the Gospel is for all who will believe – including the Gentiles. Peter reports this to the church.
In AD 44, King Herod Agrippa I executed the apostle James and has Peter arrested, but an angel rescues Peter, leading him out of the prison. As the believers were scattered because of persecution, the epicenter of the church turns from Jerusalem to Antioch, where the church is instructed by the Holy Spirit to send Paul and Barnabas out on their first missionary journey.
Through their ministry, the church multiplies. Yet, growth comes with at a cost. Paul and Barnabas encounter strong opposition and Paul is stoned in Lystra. After completing their journey, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch in Syria.
In AD 49, an argument arises over whether it was necessary for Gentiles to follow Jewish traditions and customs, particularly circumcision. The Jerusalem council sends a letter to the Gentiles affirming that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation.
Paul and Barnabas are ready to set out on their second missionary journey. Paul desires to go back to the churches they established on their first journey strengthening and encouraging those who are followers of Jesus Christ. However, their journey does not leave Antioch as there is a sharp disagreement between them over John Mark. They part ways but never part with their main mission – taking the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Paul does not set out on his own because the Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. Paul takes Silas on his second journey traveling to cities he had previously visited. While in Galatia, Paul and Silas are prevented from going through with their original plan of visiting Asia. As they seek to move north, they are prevented from their endeavors again. Wanting to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, Paul receives a vision while sleeping. A man begs him to come to Macedonia. The next day Paul and Silas begin their voyage into Macedonia and beyond. During their journey, we see the Gospel effect the lives of individuals and groups. The Gospel, when proclaimed, never returns without effect.
As well, God’s people are always on mission. Paul continues preaching the Gospel as he leaves out on his third missionary journey. Paul’s example is instructive for us all! Speak the Gospel to those that so desperately need to hear it!