Acts is the history of the development of the first churches and the spread of Christianity. For about the first decade after the death of Jesus, Christianity existed almost exclusively among the Jews. The first part of Acts portrays the meaning of Christianity, how it was shared, and how it was lived out in a closed community of Jews whose common culture was based on the Old Testament.
After about the first decade, Christianity started growing in other people groups and cultures having beliefs and understandings quite different from the Jews. Much of Acts deals with keeping a consistent and complete Gospel message, how it is shared, and how it is lived out in different people groups and cultures. The lessons learned from Acts are applicable to modern Christians and churches, and are also essential when trying to understand Paul’s letters (which comprise much of the New Testament).
A purpose of the Acts Series is to tell some of the information of the book of Acts from different vantage points. Luke said that he made a careful investigation of the facts before writing Luke and Acts. His three primary sources of information probably were: his own experiences, written sources, and talking to people who were personally involved. Acts Series illustrates the stories that he might have heard from a dozen of the characters featured in his book of Acts.
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For the first few years after Pentecost, the apostles and believers in Jerusalem continued to practice Judaism while teaching about Jesus. This allowed them to meet and teach in the synagogues and in the Temple, but as the early Church grew, so did the conflict between Christians and the Jewish leaders.
As the Christians became excluded from Jerusalem’s Jewish society, they began replicating the social services inherent in the Jewish culture, including the feeding of widows and orphans. Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to help equitably distribute food and other services. This allowed the apostles to continue spending all of their time in preaching, teaching, and in prayer.
It is quite interesting that the apostles let the people choose among themselves who would be responsible for the food distribution. The people wisely chose men who were among those who felt mistreated.
Stephen’s preaching was so effective that the Jewish leaders put him on trial. Stephen began his defense by recounting the history of the Jews. His words were so articulate and accurate that they had no cause to argue against him. But when he compared them to their ancestors, the leaders exploded and had him put him to death. Apparently, something had changed since the trial of Jesus, when the leaders could not sentence Jesus to death. Whatever changed appears to have been permanent, since it inaugurated a wave of capital punishment by the leaders.
Luke – Troy Powell
Peter – Francis Fuselier
Stephen – Jonny Gallegos
Philip – David Smith
Barnabas – Bob Hess
John Mark – Matthew Oakley
Holy Spirit – Garrett Schenck
Paul – Brian Shoop
James – Andy Axewell
Silas – Tony Schneider
Timothy – Paul Christian
Tabitha – Allyn Carrell
Lydia – Gayla Gower
Priscilla – La’Netia D. Taylor
Theophilus – Michael Page