In the book of Acts, Luke records the compelling narrative of the early Church. The risen King Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell among his people—God’s fiery presence no longer resides in a physical temple, but in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. And so the first members of the Church ignite a movement that will spread throughout the world as they bear witness to the truth of the gospel and its power to bring God’s heavenly kingdom to earth.
As Luke begins the book of Acts, he focuses on Jesus, the Risen King, who calls his disciples to move forward on his mission to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As they bear witness of the gospel, the Holy Spirit will empower and move through them. So should we forsake all other things and embrace our identity as ambassadors of Jesus.
In this passage, we see the birth of the Church, which from its inception is an international movement. As God sends his Spirit to dwell among his people, they understand even more acutely their need for a Savior and come together with hearts full of worship, prayer, and generosity.
Peter and John begin the work of the early Church—healing in Jesus’ name and preaching the gospel. Their actions draw the attention of many, and they capitalize on the opportunity to explain the wideness of God’s mercy and how anyone who comes with a repentant heart will be refreshed. So too should we live in such a way that others are compelled to learn of Jesus’ work in our lives.
In this passage, Peter and John face persecution for healing and preaching in Jesus’ name. Even in the face of resistance, they calmly speak God’s truth, obey his calling, and move forward with his mission. So too should we be driven to advance God’s kingdom in a culture that is less and less tolerant of the gospel
The early church faces both corruption from within and opposition from without. However, God uses both of these challenges to build and purify his church, making a people for himself who are growing in holiness, caring well for one another, and advancing his kingdom.
When the early church faces tension and division due to rapid growth, the apostles raise up leaders and put structures in place to address the gap that has been exposed. In order for believers to uphold God’s holiness and see his power at work, sin must be dealt with openly and honestly. Only then can the church engage the needs of the body and grow in unity and maturity.
When faced with persecution from Jewish leaders, Stephen seizes the opportunity to share the gospel. While his fearless love results in death, his sacrifice ignites the spread of the Christianity throughout the world. We also should commit to share the gospel courageously and trust God with the outcome.
After Stephen is stoned, the persecution of the church intensifies, and the gospel begins to spread throughout the world. Like Simon, some hear it, respond positively, and still harbor sin in their hearts. Others, like the Ethiopian eunuch, are captivated wholly by the gospel and submit joyfully in full obedience to Jesus. To be effective witnesses of the gospel, we too must humbly align our lives with God’s mission.
In this passage, we see Jesus pursue and invade the very man who has been violently persecuting the Church. After Saul encounters Christ and is converted, he immediately becomes a force for the gospel, joining the apostles and ultimately suffering greatly in order to advance God’s kingdom.
Through the obedience of both Cornelius and Peter, God advances his mission to bring people from all nations to himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Unlike us, God’s mercy is wide—he desires that all would come to repentance. If we want to be part of his mission, we must humble ourselves and act in obedience even when we have limited information.
As the early church continues to grow, including people from all nations, persecution continues. Peter is imprisoned, fellow believers intercede on his behalf, and he is miraculously delivered. While the outcome for Peter in this circumstance is good, we know God does not always deliver his people from suffering. We do know his plan is good, and we must be utterly dependent on his wisdom.
When Paul and Barnabas embark on the first missionary journey, they encounter acceptance and rejection. And as the gospel takes root and spreads to both Jew and Gentile, persecution intensifies. But God’s hand is on them, they have strength to persevere, and the growth of Christianity is fueled by their sacrifice.
As the church at Antioch grows, they face growing tension between Jews and Gentiles. Leaders meet at Jerusalem to work through the issue, and they find that both Jews and Gentiles must make sacrifices to align their identities with Jesus and maintain unity in the church.
The beginning of the second missionary journey is marked by tension between Paul and Barnabus. However, they are not hindered by their disagreement, and God’s gospel goes forth—bringing hope to those in darkness and moving people to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and join the mission to advance God’s kingdom.
As Paul and Silas continue to travel and preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles, they meet mixed responses. Some immediately receive the gospel with joy, others humbly measure it against the truth of Scripture, and still others reject it altogether. Like the Bereans, we must cultivate a posture of openness and willingness to receive what God has for us.
In Athens, Paul preaches the gospel to a group of people from a radically different context. Yet even apart from the backdrop of Judaism, the gospel is powerful to pierce hearts and reveal the emptiness of idolatry. Our culture is likewise full of idols, and we must grow in awareness of the idols in our own lives and speak the gospel to others with compassion.
During Paul’s third missionary journey, God uses good leadership, miracles, and disruption to advance his kingdom. In his mercy, God meets the Ephesians where they are. Some receive the gospel, others reject it, and the mission moves forward.
As Paul bids farewell to the elders at Ephesus, he both charges them to continue the work of spreading the gospel and entrusts them with shepherding the believers at Ephesus. As leaders in the church, they carry weight and endure hardship to advance God’s kingdom. We in turn must be willing to come under the authority of the church and pour our lives out for those around us.
In this dramatic passage, Paul deals with tension with the Gentile believers as he goes to Jerusalem, where he will be beaten and arrested. However, his deep sense of responsibility towards the Jews drives him to share the gospel even at great cost to himself. He is willing to be humble and vulnerable, creating space for God to work.
Paul’s experience continues to be rife with tension and suffering. However, he is committed to sharing his story and advancing the gospel. We also should be sensitive to the opportunities God gives us to share how the gospel has changed our lives.
Paul faces trials by various Roman officials and spends two years in jail. However, he remains determined to share the gospel and the story of how Jesus has changed his life. Just as Paul shares with boldness and vulnerability, so should our lives be oriented around God’s mission of advancing the gospel.
Paul sets sail for Rome, weathers a dangerous storm, and is eventually shipwrecked. However, because God’s favor is upon him, that blessing extends to all who are with him, and all 276 lives are saved. Paul's faithful presence is a light, anchor, and conduit of blessing to those around him.
These daily readings will help prepare you for the upcoming teaching you will hear this weekend at Grace Church. These passages will create some context for the sermon by showing you Scriptures the teacher might be quoting and some passages that contain related ideas. Our hope is that as you follow this reading plan, it will help you become more defined and directed by Scripture.
WEEK 1: Promise of the Spirit
WEEK 2: Birth of the Church
WEEK 3: Faith, Healing, and Repentance
WEEK 4: Obeying God Rather than Men
WEEK 5: Ananias and Sapphira
WEEK 6: Build the Church
WEEK 7: Stephen
WEEK 8: Responses to the Gospel
WEEK 9: Saul's Conversion
WEEK 10: What God has Made Clean
WEEK 11: Opposition and Deliverance
WEEK 12: First Missionary Journey
WEEK 13: Council at Jerusalem
WEEK 14: Second Missionary Journey Begins
WEEK 15: Responses to the Gospel (Thessalonians & Bereans)
WEEK 16: Paul at Athens
WEEK 17: Third Missionary Journey
WEEK 18: Paul with the Ephesian Elders
WEEK 19: Paul's Persecution and Arrest in Jerusalem
WEEK 20: Paul's Story, Rejection, and the Plot to Kill Him
WEEK 21: Proclaiming the Gospel in Chains
WEEK 22: Preserved for a Purpose
WEEK 23: Until the End