DR. C. S. LOVETT'S
MARANATHA FAMILY NEWSLETTER
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ACTS
Luke was a Greek, a Gentile Physician. His home was in Macedonia. He was already a Christian when he met Paul and became his traveling companion. Luke was a scholar, beautifully educated, and easily able to check sources and examine records. He was qualified to interview eyewitnesses and set down the facts after he had verified them. He wrote in flawless Greek. It was not only the literary language but also his native tongue.
Whenever Paul was imprisoned, Luke made good use of his time. When the apostle was held in Caesarea for two years awaiting trial, Dr. Luke began to put together a history of Christianity. He had been taking notes on his journeys with Paul and collecting data from many eyewitnesses to events in the life of Christ. Numerous accounts concerning the Lord had begun to appear, but apparently, they weren’t reliable enough to suit Dr. Luke. So he understood to compile a trustworthy history of the Lord’s earthly life and the establishment of His church on earth (Luke 1:1-4).
During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, which extended over several years, Luke completed his two-volume history. Apparently, he had also become acquainted with a member of the Roman nobility by the name of Theophilus. For a reason unknown to us, he dedicated his two-volume work to him. Luke himself gives us no title for his work. Scholars have since called volume one of his histories, The Gospel according to Luke. His second volume bears the same dedication to his friend Theophilus, whom scholars have since named, The Acts of the Apostles. Most modern teachers regard them as a single work, referring to them as Luke-Acts. It can be shown that the opening verses of the Gospel are really the dedication of the entire two-volume work.
In arranging the New Testament, the church fathers separated Luke’s two volumes. They placed his first scroll (the Gospel) with Matthew, Mark, and John. His second scroll (Acts) was placed between the gospels and the epistles to make it serve as a bridge. The epistles would be isolated without this book to connect them with the gospels. Much that is in Paul’s epistles will be less meaningful without the background of his journeys as reported by Luke. Acts of the Apostles picks up the story exactly where the Four Gospels leave off.
Luke’s Two-Part History of the Lord Jesus
In his first volume (the Gospel) Luke tells of Jesus’ earthly ministry from His birth to His ascension. His second volume continues the history of Jesus after His ascension and carries it on for some thirty years. The latter is an account of the Lord’s spiritual ministry as Christianity spread from Judea to Rome. It ends with the great Apostle Paul proclaiming the Gospel in the heart of the Roman Empire. The events will not be seen in their true light unless readers understand that the experiences of the apostles are an extension of Jesus’ ministry.
Luke confines himself to facts. He does no preaching. He doesn’t have to. The facts speak eloquently by themselves. There is no way to account for the survival of Christianity if it is not a supernatural movement. The church had no wealth in those early days, and certainly, no military might. There was no political power behind it. When you think of the unfavorable conditions under which it developed, you wonder how it ever got started. Its founder was a discredited Jew, and His followers were insignificant nobodies.
But there was something unique about it. Those who got involved were utterly transformed. Christianity not only survived but spread because people were changed as they came in contact with the unseen risen Christ. We read how two of these transformed nobodies astonished those who challenged them:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
What happened to those two fishermen to make them so outstanding? Luke tells us about his history. He will show how the church began at Pentecost—the day the Lord returned in the Spirit to indwell His disciples. He will also show how receiving the Spirit transformed them into outspoken evangelists. It was Pentecost that made ordinary people supernatural agents for Christ on earth. Without Luke’s record, we would never know the Holy Spirit came precisely as Jesus promised. Apart from his account, we would have no idea what happened when the disciples began to carry out the commission.
Dr. Luke felt he could best interpret the spiritual history of the Lord by showing how He worked in the lives of two of His apostles, Peter, and Paul. Others are mentioned, but these two are the heroes. No doubt they should be taken as representative of the rest. Surely the Lord used them all in a mighty way. Thus, the first 12 chapters feature Apostle Peter, while the last 16 focus on the ministry of Apostle Paul to the Gentiles. Luke closes his history with Paul still in prison, enjoying unhindered freedom to preach the Gospel. One thing is clear, Christianity is not a movement carried on in memory of a dead founder, but one which is energized by His presence as the Resurrection and Life!
Jesus’ Great Work in the Spirit!
The risen Lord appeared and disappeared 10 times in the 40 days that followed His resurrection, until His final appearance and ascension on the Mount of Olives. Jesus’ disappearances were vital. The Lord wasn’t trying to make headlines. He was performing a delicate task. He was trying to get His disciples familiar with the idea that even though He was out of sight, He was still alive. Through frequent appearances and disappearances, He was teaching them by drama to live by faith in the fact that He was still alive, though absent from view, He kept it up until their faith was ready for the day when they wouldn’t see Him physically again and still be able to trust in the fact that He was alive and doing as He said He would.
But why was that so important? The Lord had a mission for His disciples which required them to be convinced He was alive though they didn’t see Him in the flesh again. And He used the method of appearing and disappearing to bring them to a solid conviction about it. And it worked! When they finally saw Him for the last time and knew it was for the last time, they were ready to wait for His return in the Spirit.
Disciples Were Well Prepared
Jesus’ foundation work for His church consisted of 3½ years of personal teaching ministry in the flesh. During that time He performed those preparatory tasks which only He could do:
1. He revealed to the world what God is like as a Person. The personality of Jesus is precisely that of the Father in heaven.
2. He accomplished the atonement. Since He was the only perfect sacrifice, He alone could die for our sins. And since His church was going to be composed of blood-washed sinners, it required His death before sinners could be made clean. During the 3½ years of His ministry, He also selected and taught His Twelve disciples. Thus, His cry from the cross, “It is finished,” is as though He were looking at the foundation work being done. Actually, it was preliminary to the construction of His church.
With the cross behind Him, the Lord could begin the bigger task of building the church on the foundation He had laid. Why was His greater ministry laid beyond the cross? His church couldn’t be built while He was in the flesh. Only His disciples were to operate in the flesh, while He alone operated in the Spirit. They were to take His place on earth, performing the human part while He supplied the supernatural power. The building of His church was going to be a supernatural creation!
Christ’s Church—Supernatural Creation
Gathering souls into an invisible body has to be a mysterious event. You don’t get acquainted with it overnight. As humans, we are familiar with physical things only. It was not easy for Jesus to teach them about a supernatural creation. Yet, that’s what His church is—an invisible body. That’s why Jesus spent so long teaching His disciples. It wasn’t easy to shift their thinking from physical to spiritual things. Day after day He tried to move their minds to matters of the Spirit. Much of what He told them was necessarily beyond them at the time. He said, “I have more to say to you, but it is all beyond you right now” (John 16:12).
Nonetheless, He wanted to get as much into their minds as He could. Even though they didn’t understand it, He knew they would comprehend it later when He returned in the Spirit as their indwelling Teacher: “Now I have told you all this while I am still here with you, but My Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My behalf, will be your Teacher. He will recall to your minds all that I have said to you and make it plain” (John 14:25, 26 Lovett’s Lights).
Jesus’ frequent appearances and disappearances were geared toward getting the disciples to think beyond the flesh. It was not an easy task. They did not yet have the Holy Spirit to explain things to them. Even so, the Lord insisted on having at least three mysteries stored in their minds before His final disappearance:
1. His return in the Spirit to indwell all believers.
2. His greater work of building His church, using His disciples.
3. The Spirit baptism method of adding members to His church.
If we are to understand the book of Acts, we must lay hold of them too. This book is Dr. Luke’s way of showing how the Lord kept His Word to His disciples and brought these mysteries to fulfillment. Since the Lord Jesus did return in the Spirit to be their internal Teacher, we can expect Him to explain the mysteries to us too. Once He does, we may no longer wish to call this book The Acts of the Apostles, but . . .
The Acts of Jesus Christ in the Spirit.
C. S. Lovett
Copyright © 2023 Personal Christianity
NEW BOOK--LOVETT’S LIGHTS ON ACTS (2023 EDITION): 407 pages. Available on Amazon.com; sells for $15.99 HERE.
LOVETT’S LIGHTS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (2022 edition): 372 pages. Available on Amazon.com and sells for $15.99 HERE.
LOVETT’S LIGHTS ON JOHN (2021 edition): 381 pages. Available on Amazon.com sells for $15.99 HERE.
WITNESSING MADE EASY (2019 edition): 213 pages. Purchase on Amazon.com for $14.99 HERE.
DEALING WITH THE DEVIL (2018 edition): 241 pages. Available on Amazon.com and sells for $14.99 HERE.
THE PREPARED LIFE (2017): 159 pages. This book is available on Amazon.com and sells for $13.99 and is also available in Kindle form for $7.99 HERE.
You may order these books on Amazon.com. Barnes and Noble bookstore can also order these books for you. Tell them they are print-on-demand books.
If you would like to send us a letter, comment, or prayer request, you may contact us at:
Personal Christianity, PO Box 918, Middleton, ID 83644
“Preparing for His Appearing” Since 1951