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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After a successful First Missionary Journey, it seems like all Christians would have been rejoicing with Paul and Barnabas that God was bringing in people of all ethnic groups. But many of the Jewish Christians were unhappy because they wanted all new believers to follow both the tenets of Christianity and the laws of Moses.
From a distance of two thousand years, this controversy may seem troubling, but not crucial. However, Paul and Barnabas understood that it struck to the heart of the Gospel and would greatly determine the growth of the Church. They believed that new Christians did not have to follow the laws of Moses.
The controversy came to a head in Antioch. Peter was visiting the city, rejoicing that so many Gentiles were being saved and quite satisfied to spend time in the company of the converted Gentiles who did not follow the laws of Moses. However, when Jewish Christians criticized him for doing so, he quit fraternizing with the Gentile converts. This insinuated that these converts were not true Christians, which incensed Paul. The church at Antioch appointed Paul and Barnabas to meet with the Christians leaders in Jerusalem to address this question.
This first great confrontation among the Christians was addressed at the so-called Council of Jerusalem. After a significant amount of discussion, it was agreed among the leaders that new Christians did not have to follow the laws of Moses. This ruling was given by James and cemented his leadership position.
This determination to open up the practices of Christianity was crucial in its growth. Now, there were no hindrances to keep people from coming to faith in Jesus. The men did not have to be circumcised. Nobody had to follow the dietary laws, rules of feasts, and complicated sacrifices. Christians truly had freedom in Christ.
Paul and Barnabas could not wait to take the letter from the leaders and resume their evangelical efforts.
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