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Morrish Bible Dictionary

Acts of the Apostles

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The introduction to this book compared with the introduction to the gospel by Luke makes it plain that the two were written by the same person. The Acts ends with the two years' imprisonment of the apostle Paul at Rome: it could not therefore have been written before the end of that time, and was probably written very soon afterwards or it would have given the issue of Paul's trial. This would place the date about A.D. 63.

The 'Acts' forms a link between the Gospels and the Epistles, as the ascension of Christ formed a link between the Gospels and the Acts. It occupies a sort of transition time, for though the church was soon formed, the doctrine of the church was not made known until Paul's epistles. The title, 'Acts of the Apostles,' might have led us to expect a more general account of the labours of all the Twelve; but their mission in the ways of God is superseded by that of Paul, both as minister of the gospel of the glory of Christ, and of the church. A wise selection of the fruits of apostolic energy has been made, verifying some things stated in the Gospels, and forming an indispensable introduction to the Epistles.

After the ascension of the Lord, and the choosing an apostle to fill the place of Judas, the first great event recorded is the day of Pentecost. The Lord had said, "I will build my church," Matthew 16:18 ; and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is the answer to the question, when did the incorporation of the church begin? 1 Corinthians 12:13 proves that it was by the gift of the Holy Spirit, though, as it has been said, the doctrine of the church was not revealed till afterwards.

Ananias was charged with lying to the Holy Spirit, by whom God was then dwelling in the church. Our Lord had promised that on His departure He would send them another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to abide with and be in them. This also was fulfilled at Pentecost. Peter, Stephen, etc. were full of the Holy Spirit: cf. Acts 4:31 .

After this another call was made to Israel to receive Jesus as the Christ. They had killed the Prince of life, but God had raised Him from the dead, and now in mercy and on the ground of their ignorance one more appeal was made to them to repent and be converted that their sins might be blotted out, and that God might send again Jesus Christ who was then in heaven. The rulers however were grieved that they preached by Jesus the resurrection from among the dead, and commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Stephen, being accused before the Sanhedrim, rehearsed the history of Israel from the beginning, and charged them with resisting the Holy Spirit, as their fathers had done. The indictment of Israel as man in the flesh, and the exposure of his enmity to God led to the final sin of rejecting the glorified Christ, expressed by the stoning of Stephen who calling upon the Lord not to lay the sin to their charge, exemplified the life of Christ in his body.

This ends the first phase of the acts of the Holy Spirit, and clears the way for the going out of the gospel and the revelation of the truth of the church. The persecution that followed led to the spread of the gospel. Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans and many believed. Peter went from Jerusalem, laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit. Peter was then used at Caesarea in opening the door to the Gentiles (answering to his having the keys of the kingdom committed to him, Matthew 16:19 ), and they also received the Holy Spirit.

In the meantime Saul had been converted, and immediately preached that Jesus was the Son of God. The churches had rest, and walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied. Acts 9:31 . Herod Agrippa however soon began to persecute the church; he killed James the brother of John, and put Peter into prison, who was however miraculously delivered. Herod died a miserable death; and the word of God grew and multiplied. Acts 12 . This ends the phase of the church's history in connection with the remnant of Israel.

Antioch, instead of Jerusalem, now became a centre of evangelisation, independent of apostolic authority, yet without breaking the unity of the Spirit by forming a separate church. Barnabas and Saul are separated to the work by the Holy Spirit, and with John Mark take a missionary journey.

Certain persons from Judaea insisting at Antioch that the Gentile converts must be circumcised or they could not be saved, the question was referred to the church at Jerusalem. In their decision they could say, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves ye shall do well. Fare ye well." Acts 15:28,29 .

Paul with Silas took a second missionary journey, extending to Europe and returned to Antioch. Acts 18:22 . From thence Paul went a third journey. (For the particulars of these journeys and from whence Paul wrote some of his epistles, see the article PAUL.) It may be noted that while at Ephesus, because of the opposition of the Jews in the synagogues, Paul separated the disciples and they met in a building distinct from the synagogue, commencing a further development of the church's history. Acts 19:9 .

At the close of the third missionary journey Paul, led by deep spiritual affection for his nation, but forbidden by the Spirit in whose energy the ministry entrusted to him had hitherto been carried out, went up to Jerusalem, where he was arrested. The rest of the book details his trials and danger from the Jews; his journey to Rome, where he calls together the chief of the Jews, to whom he preaches Jesus. We read no more of any of his labours, and the Acts leaves him a prisoner.

The book embraces a period of about thirty years: the mystery ofthe church, and the gospel of the glory committed to Paul, as well as the state of the assemblies must be gathered from the Epistles. During the above period Paul wrote the two epistles to the Thessalonians, the two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, Romans, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians.


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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Acts of the Apostles '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/mbd/a/acts-of-the-apostles.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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