Bible Reading Plan: Acts

The Book of Acts marks the beginning of the Church as we know it—in fact, it’s where Christians were first called “Christians.” It all started with a small movement of people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who represented Jesus by showing generosity, healing, and preaching to others. Their actions sent shockwaves wherever they went, changing minds and hearts in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond. This fall, join us as we find inspiration in the first generation of Christians who changed the world together.


Key Thought/Summary

We pick up our story right where the Gospel of Luke left off, following Jesus’ disciples after the resurrection. The risen Jesus gives His followers one last commission: to go as His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. After He ascends to heaven, His followers receive the Holy Spirit, just as He promised. This early church starts spreading the good news in Jerusalem, and they build their community around kingdom values. Notice how, empowered by the Spirit, they start to look a lot like Jesus! The mission of the kingdom has just begun, and God’s people are invited and equipped to be a part of it.


Key Thought/Summary

Conflict is brewing in Jerusalem. The followers of Jesus have become like mobile temples—walking, talking, dwelling places for the Spirit of God. They offer mercy, generosity, and healing to those they encounter, which rubs the leaders of the physical temple in Jerusalem the wrong way. As you read, can you feel the tension mounting? Look for differences between the values of the early Church and the society it resides within; notice the friction it creates between them. Spreading the good news about Jesus and His resurrection has serious repercussions, but these early disciples resolve to obey God rather than men. They are now in the business of bringing heaven down to earth.


Key Thought/Summary

Thus far, our story has taken place within the city limits of Jerusalem, but it is no longer a safe place for followers of Jesus. When the conflict in Jerusalem boils over, the believers scatter across the surrounding land, and a wave of intense persecution hits the church as temple leaders like Saul of Tarsus hunt them down and arrest them. Ironically, this tragedy will actually propel the church towards the next part of its mission from Jesus: to go to Judea and Samaria. Pay attention to this paradox as you read, noticing how God moves through the obstacles and opposition to bring more people to Himself, including Saul! This church is no longer just a small religious sect in Jerusalem. It is turning into the multiethnic, global movement God promised it would be.


Key Thought/Summary

Peter has a very strange vision involving reptiles, birds, and other animals that were considered unclean for a Jewish person to eat, and God uses it to teach Peter a lesson that has nothing to do with animals and everything to do with His Church. God opens the eyes of these Jewish Jesus followers to the truth that the Gospel is not just for their people. In His kingdom, everyone is in, including the Gentiles! God has always had a worldwide restoration plan, and His Church is now going to be the vehicle of this blessing to every nation.


Key Thought/Summary

This is a watershed moment in the movement of Jesus. After making disciples and stirring up quite a ruckus in Asia Minor during their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem. A meeting has been called because there is mounting tension surrounding what it looks like to welcome Gentiles into the Kingdom of God, and the church is forced to face it head-on. Do Gentiles need to convert to Judaism to be saved? The leaders of the church declare, based both on Scripture and their experience of God sending His Holy Spirit to the Gentile believers, that the answer to this question is definitively no. All are saved by grace, Jew and Gentile alike. The doors to the Kingdom are swinging wide open, and it is very good news!


Key Thought/Summary

The early Christians are now on a collision course with the Greco-Roman world. As Paul continues his missionary journeys, he arouses more than just suspicion. In the eyes of these pagan cultures, the message of the Gospel and the lifestyle of the church are actually disruptive and threatening! Romans accuse Paul and the Christians of rebelling against Caesar, disrupting the economy, and bringing their gods into disrepute. And this is understandable! They correctly see that the way of Jesus challenges their values. Yet, the only crime Christians are really guilty of is disrupting the status quo. These communities of Jesus' followers don’t fit into familiar boxes; they are something entirely new.


Key Thought/Summary

Paul wraps up his third missionary journey in Greece where he continues to encourage the believers there and stir up controversy. Finally, Paul turns his sights toward home and seeks to visit Jerusalem. Despite warnings from his friends and colleagues about the dangers awaiting him there, Paul presses onward. He gathers the leaders of the church in Ephesus and delivers a powerful farewell address encouraging them to remain faithful to the Gospel that inspires them to both love God and love others. When he arrives in Jerusalem, Paul is welcomed warmly by some in the church, but with suspicion by others who believe Paul is against the Law of Moses. As this week's reading comes to a close, Paul is placed under arrest by Roman guard. From now until the end of Acts, Paul will never regain his freedom.


Key Thought/Summary

Paul is back in Israel, where he used to persecute Christians, but this time he is suffering like Jesus did. He remains a prisoner for years, being passed from court to court, even though each trial fails to declare him guilty. All he is doing is announcing that his hope of resurrection has been fulfilled in Jesus! It is hardly a crime, but the Romans won’t let him go. So he appeals to Rome’s highest court – to Caesar himself. Paul has wanted to go to Rome for a while now, and the Lord appears to Paul and tells him to keep up his courage because he is about to get his wish. He is going to be a witness for the Kingdom of Jesus right at the heart of the world’s most powerful empire.


Key Thought/Summary

Despite all obstacles, including deadly shipwrecks and snakebites, Paul makes it to Rome, and the curtain falls on the Book of Acts with one final image of Paul under house arrest, proclaiming the Gospel. And that’s it. Why does Luke leave it so open-ended? For Luke, this story has been about the mission Jesus gave to build His Kingdom from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, and that mission isn’t over. Luke chronicles what it looks like when the Kingdom bursts forth into the world through the Church and ends by turning to us: “Dear reader,” he seems to say, “The mission is now yours, so what are you doing to be a part of it?”



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