The start of Acts is a transition between the resurrection & pentecost. There might have been the expectation that the kingdom of God would come with a flash, and that’d be it, but God has other ideas. His plan is to raise up people, give them His Spirit, and send them out into the world as witnesses of the risen Lord Jesus.
See the Acts GG Studies for some general background information on Acts.
You can’t read the start of Acts (in fact any of Acts) without putting it in the context of Acts Part I, Luke’s Gospel.
Luke begins his Gospel saying he spoke to eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2) and ends it with those who saw the risen Jesus saying they were to be “witnesses of these things” (24:48 – i.e. martyrs). Of the three scriptural necessities Jesus identifies in Luke 24:45-47 (1- The Christ will suffer; 2- Rise from the dead; 3- Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preaching in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem) the first two have come to pass. In the book of Acts we’ll see how the third of these comes to pass.
Structure / Flow
1:1-3 – The first book (Luke’s Gospel) was about the coming, death & resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus.
1:4-8 – The second book (Acts) is about the sending of God’s Spirit on His people so that they become witnesses to the ends of the earth.
1:9-14 – Waiting for God’s promised gift.
1:15-26 – The Completion of the Twelve.
Observations on Verses
v.1 – Note the “all that Jesus began to do and teach”. What we’ll see in Acts is what Jesus continued to do.
v.2 – The Apostles are the primary witnesses anointed by Jesus. And just as Jesus gives orders through the HS here, so in the next chapter he’ll pour it out on them. He is both the source and the giver.
v.3 – Luke’s writings are for Theophilus, and he’s at pains to make sure both the most excellent Theo, but also any other readers, are assured that what he writes is true and accurate.
v.4-5 – In line with OT prophesies such as in Ezekiel 36, the coming of the Kingdom of God would be accompanied by an outpouring of the Spirit of God. So just as his death & resurrection were foretold, so was the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all His people.
v.6-8 – Verse 8 is the key one. They will do two things, both of which are connected. They will receive power (in the form of the HS) and they will be Jesus’ witnesses. The connection here is important. Power is not some nebulous idea – it’s always connected to the HS. And the HS isn’t some strange force that does weird things – it’s purpose is to witness to the resurrected Christ. Acts will unfold how this happens.
v.9-14 – One of the marks of the new community throughout Acts is their unity, often in prayer and praise. (v.14)
v.15 – Numbers aren’t always significant…but they can be. The number “about 120” in this verse, just as the number of Apostles having to be 12, is significant. My hunch is that it’s making a statement about the new covenant. There were 12 tribes of Israel, and here we’re seeing the complement – 12 Apostles, and 120 (12*10) people who make up the first people of God. A new covenant, and a new people.
v.22 – Note how the 12 must be complete, and that the one who makes up the 12 must have been with Jesus and witnessed what he did, what he suffered and particularly his resurrection.
Two areas of application to explore:
1 – That what we see happening is not the work of men, but the work of God.
Reminder from Acts – every key event in Acts begins with the HS and/or Prayer (v.4, 14).
Prayer – 1:24; 8:14-17; 9:11-12; 10:4,9,30; 13:2-3
We are participants in God’s mission, and we can align ourselves with it and express our gifts in shrewd & smart ways…but it’s actually ultimately God who brings about his good purposes.
And the message of his mission is this – a resurrected King.
2 – That the work of God in this era is the declaration of the resurrected Jesus.
We are not eyewitnesses or earwitnesses. But we do witness through the proclamation of the eyewitnesses and the demonstration of the gift of the Holy Spirit.