Lesson 1: The Acts of the Apostles – Acts 1:1-5

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 1 from the sermon series "Acts" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.


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A “treatise” is a formal written composition. When the writer of Acts mentions a “former” treatise he wrote to a man named Theophilus, that tells us Luke wrote Acts (Lu.1:1-3).

The name Theophilus means “friend of God,” and the only man in the Bible called that was Abraham (James 2:23). That tells us the Gospel of Luke was written to the seed of Abraham, the circumcision, since it describes the Lord’s earthly ministry, and His ministry was to the Jews (Rom.15:8).

But if Acts was also written to Theophilus, that tells us it too was written to the Jews.  That’s significant, since most Christians think Acts 1,2 describes something new, the beginning of the Body of Christ.  But if Luke describes what the Lord “began” to teach the Jews (Acts 1:1) then Acts must describe what He continued to teach them—through the 12 apostles.

 The commandments the Lord gave them before being “taken up” were found in Mark 16:15-19.  After He ascended into heaven, you’d think that was all He taught the Jews. But Acts 1:2 implies He continued to teach them through the apostles.

Why’d the Lord teach the 12 “through the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:3)?  Well, that’s how God spoke to men, through the Spirit in the prophets (Acts 21:3,4).  But if the Lord was God, why’d God need to speak through the Spirit when He spoke?  Well, He was also a man, and a prophet (Deut. 18:15,18), so the Spirit descended on Him (Mt.3:16) and God spoke through Him through the Spirit (John 3:34; John 14:10).

And the reason Luke is reminding us of that in Acts 1:2 is that God was about to continue to speak to men through the Holy Ghost through the 12 apostles, who were filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4).  The Spirit didn’t just enable them to speak in foreign languages.  He told them what to say, just as He told the Lord what to say.

The Lord’s “passion” (Acts 1:3) was His suffering and death.  After He died, He showed Himself to be alive by “many” proofs.  The reason He had to do that is that they thought He was dead, and so couldn’t have been their messiah (Lu.24: 19-21).  Even Peter and the 12 gave up on Him, returning to being fishermen (John 21:3).  Peter had a successful business with “partners” and at least two ships (Luke 5:1-10).  The only thing that made them leave fishing again was when the Lord showed Himself alive by many proofs.

What kind of proofs?  Acts 1:3 says He showed himself alive (Luke 24:36,37).  He showed His hands and feet where they nailed Him, and let them handle His wounds (Lu.24:39,40; Jo.20:25,27).  He also ate, further proving He wasn’t a ghost (Lu.24:41-43). He also appeared to 500 others (I Cor. 15:5,6).

What made those proofs all the more “infallible” was that the Lord did them for “forty days” (Acts 1:3).  During that time He taught them about “the kingdom” that Daniel said God would set up on earth (Dn. 2:44).  It’s the same kingdom the Lord taught them about for three years.  The word “kingdom” appears 55 times in Matthew, most of the time referring to the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Of course, much of what He taught them about the kingdom went in one ear and out the other.  But during these 40 days, He opened their understanding (Lu.24:45).  The kingdom was “at hand” when the Lord was here (Mt.4:17), but before it could come, the Lord had to ascend into heaven to get it and return (Luke 19:11-15).

The Lord told them to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but only after they received the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4).  The promise of the Father was power from on high (Acts 1:8), power they received when they were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4), the power to do miracles (Acts 6:5,8). They needed that power to confirm the Word they preached (Mark 16:20), and to give them the boldness to charge Israel with the sin of Messiah’s death (cf.Micah 3:8)

The Jews were to be God’s priests to the world (Ex.19:6) and priests had to be baptized with water and oil (Ex.29:1-4,7).  Oil is a type of the Spirit (cf. I Sam. 16:13).  So Jews had to be baptized with water and the Spirit to be priests to the world (Acts 1:5).

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