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.
It was about fifteen years after the resurrection of Jesus before the Christians made a determined, organized effort to take the Gospel to the ethnic groups other than the Jews, an undertaking often called the First Missionary Journey. This was possibly the first major effort by any religion to find followers among different ethnic groups and cultures in the Roman Empire.
After Barnabas and Paul took a relief offering from the church in Antioch to the church in Jerusalem, they returned to Antioch. They brought John Mark, a relative of Barnabas, with them from Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit led the church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Paul for a special work. The church did so, and placed hands on them after prayer and fasting. They probably didn’t know where the church was sending them, only that they were to be sent.
Soon, Barnabas, Paul and John Mark were on their way to Cyprus, the first stop on the First Missionary Journey. Barnabas was probably quite familiar with the island since he was from there.
They set a pattern they would follow for many years: share the Gospel with the Jews first, then the Gentiles. This pattern also allowed them to address the God-fearers, people who knew God from staying around the synagogues, but who were unwilling to convert to Judaism.
After traversing the island of Cyprus, the three men sailed north to modern-day Turkey, where John Mark chose to abandon the other two and go back to Jerusalem. This would prove to be an important event.
Paul and Barnabas continued into the mainland of Turkey where they shared the Gospel in many places and established many churches. Their success showed that God blessed their efforts to share the Gospel to non-Jewish people. With this good news, they returned to Antioch to find out what the Holy Spirit wanted them to do next.
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