Acts of the Apostles is an exciting book. It is full of action and drama. It reads like a story from a fantasy movie. In fact, the beginning of Acts might have looked and sounded like this. [show movie clip] Exciting isn't it.
Acts is full of signs and wonders. [examples] It is similar to the gospels. In fact, the book of Acts is actually Luke Chapter 2. It was written for the same person and by the same author.
Acts records what the apostles did after Jesus' ascension. Some have said Acts should be titled Acts of the Holy Spirit because of the miracles. Indeed, the story of Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit are most often preached when there are sermons on Acts.
Sometimes, we wish we are as faithful and powerful as the apostles. Able to heal the sick, cast out demons and preach the gospel powerfully where thousands are saved. But, we are also encouraged by their sacrifices and weaknesses. It is encouraging to read how God chooses to work through their limitations. It is indeed exciting times.
What is the source their strength and power? Of course, it is the Spirit, some of us will say. It is so obvious with the signs and wonders. But is it really just the Holy Spirit alone? Or is there something else? Any answers? [prayer, fellowship, fasting, faith, obedience, etc.]
Let's take a closer look at the lives of the apostles and the Scriptures. Let's rewind the story 50 days back. The apostles were scared and in denial after Jesus' death. They were scattered. Not knowing what to do. They did not understand why there was an empty tomb. They did not have faith when they heard stories about Jesus' resurrection. Jesus scolded them for their unbelief. This was 50 days ago. What changed the apostles?
The resurrected Lord, obviously! Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit, of course! But is there another element. Let's take a look at what Peter did after Jesus' ascension. Remember, Peter was a total wreck when Jesus died. Now, a different Peter stood up to take a leadership role. Peter, based on the scriptures, reassigned another disciple to take the place of Judas. Suddenly he has the wisdom and vision of a CEO! What changed him?
Peter on the day of Pentecost, again based on scriptures, preached about the meaning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the devout Jews gathered from all over the world. From a cowardly person who denied Jesus not so long ago, he dared now to say that he was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection even though he knew he could end up like his Lord. The sermon he preached was so, in modern sense, doctrinal. Yet, thousands believed and were saved. How did Peter get his understanding and his courage?
At the temple compound, Peter and John perform a miracle and again Peter stood up courageously to tell the crowd what was happening. Again, Peter’s speech to the people was so ‘theological’. And even when threaten by the religious authorities, they still continued to witness for Jesus’ resurrection. They continued even when they were suffered punishment and were thrown into the prison. What power transformed them in mere 50 days!
There is a Chinese saying, “Kingdoms can rise and fall easily, but the character of a man can never be changed.”
There are some clues to be found in Acts that hint to the apostles’ change of character. I have already shown you some of them. It’s found in the speeches of Peter quoted earlier. How could Peter preach such ‘doctrinal’ sermons when he was a mere fisherman? How could his understanding of the Scriptures changed in 50 days for him to preach so convincingly? How could a scared fisherman be teaching daily to the masses and influence them greatly? The answer to these questions is also found in the book of Acts.
The enemies of the apostles spotted the reason for their ability to teach and preach. They had been with Jesus. The presence of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ changed the apostles from being cowardly men to heroes of the faith. In fact, this is the strongest evidence for the resurrection of our Lord, but I will leave that to another sermon.
But what did Jesus do after the resurrection to enable the apostles to teach and preach so powerfully? Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter’s understanding of God’s purpose was so poor that he tried to stop the Lord from going to the cross. Jesus rebuked him sternly. What changed that?
The answer again is found in the book of Acts. In fact, in the first few verses which are normally not given much attention to. Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God. He changed their understanding of the kingdom and gave them a true sense of God' plan and purpose.
In other words, he taught them the Scriptures. He taught them doctrines. He gave them theology. Here is another verse from Luke that confirms this.
Jesus’ opening of their minds to understand the Scriptures is the powerful answer to the question “What changed the apostles?” Without such understanding, the apostles would not be able to teach and preached as they did. Peter would not understand the event of the Pentecost. The thousands would not be saved. Without understanding of the Scriptures, the apostles would not be able to teach the new disciples. Without the proper preaching of the Scriptures, God would not have confirmed with signs and wonders.
Without the new disciples being taught, we would not have Stephen’s great sermon to his enemies. Without Stephen’s witness, Paul would not have converted. Without Paul, the gospel would not be preached to the Gentiles. And if the Gentiles did not receive the gospel, then we would not have our salvation today. We would not have the New Testament if the Lord Jesus Christ did not teach the Scriptures to the apostles. Everything and every event are linked. And it is linked to the Jesus’ opening of the apostles’ minds to the Scriptures.
What is the conclusion?
Often, we turn away from a proper study of the Bible. Often, we are considered doctrines as impractical, too theoretical, not applicable, or worse still a waste of time. But this is not how Paul tells Timothy. This is not the case when Jesus’ open the apostles’ minds to the Scriptures. If we want to be changed, if we want to be effective for the Lord, we do not just need the power of the Holy Spirit, we must first be trained in the understanding of the Scriptures. So that when God releases His power, we will be able to understand it and preach about it effectively to bring many people to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters. Give ourselves to the study of the Scriptures while we still can before this privilege is taken away from us. More importantly, if we want to see true outpouring of God’s Spirit and revival, prepare ourselves with the understanding of the Scriptures so that we can contain the power of the Spirit and be used mightily by our Lord.
Peter the CEO - Act 1:16-22 ESV
• Act 1:16-22 ESV "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which
the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David
concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested
Jesus. (17) For he was numbered among us and was allotted
his share in this ministry." (18) (Now this man acquired a field
with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he
burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. (19)
And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so
that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that
is, Field of Blood.) (20) "For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
"'May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to
dwell in it'; and "'Let another take his office.' (21) So one of the
men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord
Jesus went in and out among us, (22) beginning from the
baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--
one of these men must become with us a witness to his
Peter @ Pentecost - Act 2:14-40 ESV
• Act 2:14-40 ESV But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and
addressed them: "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be
known to you, and give ear to my words. (15) For these people are not drunk,
as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. (16) But this is what
was uttered through the prophet Joel: (17) "'And in the last days it shall be, God
declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old
men shall dream dreams; (18) even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (19) And I will
show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and
fire, and vapor of smoke; (20) the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon
to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. (21)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved.' (22) "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man
attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did
through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- (23) this Jesus, delivered
up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and
killed by the hands of lawless men. (24) God raised him up, loosing the pangs
of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Peter @ Pentecost - Act 2:14-40 ESV
• (25) For David says concerning him, "'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right
hand that I may not be shaken; (26) therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope. (27) For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let
your Holy One see corruption. (28) You have made known to me the paths of life; you will
make me full of gladness with your presence.‘ (29) "Brothers, I may say to you with
confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is
with us to this day. (30) Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with
an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, (31) he foresaw and
spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his
flesh see corruption. (32) This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (33)
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the
promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and
hearing. (34) For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said
to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, (35) until I make your enemies your footstool.' (36) Let all
the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified." (37) Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart,
and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (38) And Peter
said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise
is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our
God calls to himself." (40) And with many other words he bore witness and continued to
exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
Peter & John - Act 3:12-26 ESV
• Act 3:12-26 ESV And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why
do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or
piety we have made him walk? (13) The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered
over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. (14)
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted
to you, (15) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this
we are witnesses. (16) And his name--by faith in his name--has made this man strong
whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this
perfect health in the presence of you all. (17) "And now, brothers, I know that you
acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. (18) But what God foretold by the mouth
of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. (19) Repent therefore,
and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, (20) that times of refreshing may
come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for
you, Jesus, (21) whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things
about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (22) Moses said,
'The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall
listen to him in whatever he tells you. (23) And it shall be that every soul who does
not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.' (24) And all the
prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also
proclaimed these days. (25) You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant
that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your offspring shall all
the families of the earth be blessed.' (26) God, having raised up his servant, sent him
to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness."
Common Chinese Saying
“Kingdoms can rise and fall easily, but
the character of a man can never be
Clues & Questions
• How could Peter preach such ‘doctrinal’
sermons when he was a mere fisherman?
• How could a scared fisherman be teaching
daily to the masses and influence them
• How could his understanding of the
Scriptures changed in 50 days for him to
preach so convincingly?
• Act 2:41-42 ESV So those who received his word
were baptized, and there were added that day
about three thousand souls. (42) And they devoted
themselves to the apostles' teaching and the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the
• Act 5:41-42 ESV Then they left the presence of the
council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to
suffer dishonor for the name. (42) And every day,
in the temple and from house to house, they did
not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the
Answer – Part 1
• Act 4:13 ESV Now when they saw the
boldness of Peter and John, and
perceived that they were uneducated,
common men, they were astonished.
And they recognized that they had
been with Jesus.
• The fact of our Lord’s resurrection
• But what did Jesus do after the
resurrection to enable the apostles to
teach and preach so powerfully?
Answer – Part 2
• Act 1:1-3 ESV In the first book, O
Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus
began to do and teach, (2) until the day
when he was taken up, after he had given
commands through the Holy Spirit to the
apostles whom he had chosen. (3) He
presented himself alive to them after his
suffering by many proofs, appearing to
them during forty days and speaking
about the kingdom of God.
Power of Teachings!
• In other words, Jesus taught the
apostles the Scriptures. He taught them
doctrines. He gave them theology.
• Luk 24:44-47 ESV Then he said to them, "These
are my words that I spoke to you while I was
still with you, that everything written about me
in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the
Psalms must be fulfilled." (45) Then he opened
their minds to understand the Scriptures, (46)
and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the
Christ should suffer and on the third day rise
from the dead, (47) and that repentance and
forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his
name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Preaching – Signs & Wonders
• Mar 16:20 ESV And they went out and
preached everywhere, while the Lord
worked with them and confirmed the
message by accompanying signs.
• 1Ti 4:6 ESV If you put these things
before the brothers, you will be a good
servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in
the words of the faith and of the good
doctrine that you have followed.
• The Spirit without the Word, we will
• The Word without the Spirit, we will dry
• With the Spirit and the Word, we will