What does the Book of Acts have to say to us today?

09 October 2017

Acts is one of my favourite Bible books. Although I know the story almost by heart, it never ceases to inspire and challenge me. I could wish I was one of those characters doing that stuff for Jesus, or rather being used by the Holy Spirit in His power and grace. I must admit, however, I don’t covet the trials and difficulties they experienced.

This is part of the problem when we read Acts. We’d love to see those miracles, that fervency, those results, and that growth and impact which the apostles had. It was all so fresh and daring, not like the aged Christianity we often experience (not in your church, of course!). But we don’t really want to experience persecution, floggings, riots, shipwrecks, Roman oppression, or the limitations and inconveniences of a world without jet planes, cars, computers, mobile phones, the internet and flush toilets (I think that’s the biggest one for me). The problem is, their world was different from ours.

This is a problem when we try to take ideas out of Acts and apply them to our life or ministry today. Some basic principles obviously still apply: we have the same Holy Spirit, we worship the same God, we believe in the same Jesus, and we (hopefully) preach the same core gospel message. But we face a lot of different issues: we don’t play the same music, we certainly don’t face the same kinds of people or culture, we don’t even read exactly the same Bible, and the worldview of our hearers is radically different, at least in Australia.

So what does Acts have to say to us today, especially as believers and as church leaders? Is it just an inspiring narrative? Or does it have applications that can guide us in our lives and ministries? Some authors try to copy Acts in detail: We should have apostles like the early church did. We should have plural elders like those early churches. We should experience the Holy Spirit the same as they did. The problem is, how much should be the same? Most of the believers in Acts were baptised in the Holy Spirit (and probably spoke in tongues, though Acts doesn’t always say) right at the outset of their Christian lives, almost immediately after being baptised in water. Most of us tend to receive this experience some time after being saved, if at all.

These are the kinds of issues we wrestle with in the undergraduate (and soon graduate) subject, ‘Spirit-filled Leadership and Acts’. In this subject we identify some of the key issues for ‘Spirit-filled’ churches and pastors today, we take a good look at what kind of book Acts is, and we try to work through the difficulties in applying what we read there to our contemporary situation. We have included some great interviews with Pentecostal leaders. But ultimately this subject requires you to do some serious thinking about your life and ministry and the text of Acts.

This post was written by Dr Jon Newton, Dean of Research & Postgraduate Studies of Harvest Bible College.

Theological study with Harvest Bible College means experiencing practical theology from experts in the field and hands-on ministry training in your home church and beyond. Find out more about our courses.