During this Easter season we’ve been reading from the book of Acts where we would normally have Old Testament readings. I do miss having an Old Testament reading, and we’ll hear them again soon, but the lectionary switches to Acts because we don’t really have another place for Acts. It’s not a gospel, and it’s not an epistle. And it’s not technically an Old Testament lesson either, but it does have this in common with much of the Old Testament: it’s theological history. That is, it is the history of God’s activity in the world. More specifically, it is the history of the Holy Spirit’s work following the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
It’s really a continuation of The Gospel of Luke. It’s written by the same author, Luke, and is addressed to the same recipient, Theophilus (compare Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1). And it picks up exactly where Luke’s gospel ended, with the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven.
Jesus gave his Holy Spirit to the Church so that the Church could continue his work on earth. This included some healing of the sick and care for the poor. But most especially it meant proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47). The apostles were constantly concerned with this work.
About one-third of the material in Acts is sermons and speeches. Luke includes this teaching from the apostles because he’s not just writing plain history. It is also devotional. Reading the book of Acts is often like listening to a sermon.
Acts also has significant apologetic importance for us. The sermons and speeches are the testimony of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. It also records how they were willing to suffer, and did suffer, for this testimony. It helps us to see that our confession of faith in Jesus Christ is not a legend that developed several hundred years later. The eyewitnesses publicly testified of Jesus’ resurrection beginning at Pentecost, only fifty days after his death and resurrection.
Acts is a marvelous book. I hope you are blessed by the readings from Acts during the Easter season, and I encourage you to read through it on your own as well.
The peace of Christ be with you all,