The Holy Spirit comes to Jesus’s disciples in Acts 2

What is in Acts?
Acts is the 44th book of the Bible and the fifth book of the New Testament. Acts picks up after the Gospels, particularly Luke’s, in following what Jesus’s disciples did after His death and resurrection. Eventually the focus shifts to Paul and his journeys for Christ.

Acts begins after Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead. Jesus tells them that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel far and wide. Jesus then ascends into heaven, and so the disciples pray on what to do next. One day, the disciples are all gathered in a room in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit descends on all of them. The power of the Holy Spirit is immediately demonstrated when Peter gives a sermon proclaiming the gospel to those who had heard the commotion. People of many languages all understand Peter, and about three thousand people are converted to Christ that day. Through other sermons and miracles, more people believe every day, and many follow Jesus with all their hearts. The Jewish authorities arrest Peter and John, but they are unable to offer any explanation for the miracles they perform, or their sudden boldness in proclaiming Jesus, who they had already killed. The authorities warn them not to speak of Jesus, but the two disciples do not listen, and are released because the Jewish authorities are unable to charge them with any crime and fear public reaction.

Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, the beginnings of the Christian church form throughout the region. The disciples teach and gather the followers of Christ, who then go on to preach elsewhere. Stephen, a Christian who the Holy Spirit was working through, is sentenced to death while proclaiming Christ. Attending his execution was a man named Saul, who was extremely zealous in hunting down Christians and handing them over to the authorities. While traveling to Damascus, Saul encounters the voice of Jesus. He is told to go to the city, and becomes blind. At the same time, a disciple of Jesus named Ananias is instructed in a vision to meet Saul and restore his sight. Ananias initially protests because he knows of Saul’s reputation, but the Lord replies that Saul is to be instrumental in spreading the gospel. Saul regains his sight, and immediately baffles the people by claiming Jesus is the Son of God, exactly the opposite of what he was doing before. The authorities try to kill him too, but he escapes. Saul, who is renamed Paul, then embarks on several missionary trips to spread the gospel in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Most of the rest of it is filled with Paul’s travels, his appearances before rulers to proclaim the gospel, his opposition, the miracles happening throughout, and, like the first half of the book, how the Holy Spirit spreads the beginnings of the Christian church like wildfire. Near the end of Acts, Paul is captured in Jerusalem. Saddled with false charges, Paul keeps on testifying about Jesus, and even uses his time in jail to continue teaching and writing, where the book ends.

Who wrote it?
Acts begins with a dedication to Theophilius, the intended recipient of the Gospel of Luke, and states that it is a continuation of that gospel. We do know that Luke traveled with Paul (Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24, all written by Paul), so he would be in a good position to record these events.

When was it written?
Acts was written either with or after the Gospel of Luke. Acts ends in about 62 A.D., and does not feature significant events following that time like the martyrdom of Paul a few years later. Since Acts deals heavily with Paul, the omission suggests that Acts was written no later than 62 A.D., although some dispute that suggestion, dating Luke up to the 80s.

When does it take place?
Acts picks up where the Gospel of Luke left off, around 30 A.D. The last event is Paul spending two years in Rome, ending in A.D. 62.

Why was it written?
As in his Gospel, Luke is concerned with creating an account of the early church, so that Theophilius, the original recipient of the book, could have ‘certainty concerning the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).

Who is in Acts?
The book of Acts starts off with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus ascends to heaven very early on, after that the disciples spread out and create new disciples, and eventually the focus shifts to Saul/Paul and his travels (Luke, assuming he did write Acts, is one of his traveling companions). The Holy Spirit also deserves a mention for guiding many of the happenings in Acts, and is explicitly mentioned as such.

How does Acts apply to me today?
Acts tells the story of the early church, and it is careful to ascribe the works done in this book to the Holy Spirit, who comes to the disciples and other Christians and emboldens them to spread the word of the Gospel, giving them various gifts to do so (Miracles, speaking in tongues, etc.). The Holy Spirit of God is still active today, providing spiritual gifts to Christians, enabling them to perform God’s work, and facilitating spiritual growth through knowledge of God.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project videos on Acts (Part 1) (Part 2)

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0