We pointed out that last week, the books of Luke and Acts belong together as a two-volume defense of the gospel, likely to be presented during Paul’s trial in Rome. One of the most striking features of the second volume (Acts) is the progression of gospel preaching, riot, followed by revival. Throughout the book we see the Apostles, and especially Paul, proclaiming the gospel near and far, and almost always there was some controversy, fight, riot. But in the end, saints were always added to their number.
The reason this is striking is that some of the most famous sermons of the early church, which are recorded in Acts, are in the setting of civil hearings, trials, public debates, etc. It is easy for modern American Christians to look at civil society through the grid of “separation of Church and State.” In many ways this hinders us from provoking the society to deal with the political claim at the heart of the Christian faith: “Jesus Christ is King.”
Another interesting progression found in Acts is that, as Jesus promised, they would “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).” Like the concentric circles from the ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond, the book “moves outward” from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. The Messiah had come in relative obscurity, but within a generation his gospel was being declared to the ends of the earth all by the power of the Holy Spirit.