Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Acts

THE Bible book of Acts provides a comprehensive history of the establishment of the Christian congregation and its subsequent expansion. Written by the physician Luke, it presents a dynamic account of Christian activity over a period of some 28 years​—from 33 C.E. to 61 C.E.

The first part of Acts is primarily about the activity of the apostle Peter, and the latter part is about that of the apostle Paul. By using such pronouns as “we” and “us,” Luke indicates that he was present when certain events occurred. Paying attention to the message of the book of Acts will heighten our appreciation for the power of God’s written Word and his holy spirit. (Heb. 4:12) It will also move us to be self-sacrificing and will build up our faith in the Kingdom hope.

PETER USES “THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM”

(Acts 1:1–11:18)

After receiving the holy spirit, the apostles give a bold witness. Peter uses the first of “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens” to open the door of knowledge and opportunity for Jews and proselytes who “embraced his word” to enter the Kingdom. (Matt. 16:19; Acts 2:5, 41) A wave of persecution scatters disciples, but this results in expansion of the preaching work.

Upon hearing that Samaria has accepted the word of God, the apostles in Jerusalem dispatch Peter and John to them. By opening up the Kingdom opportunity to the Samaritans, Peter uses the second key. (Acts 8:14-17) Perhaps within a year of Jesus’ resurrection, an amazing transformation takes place in Saul of Tarsus. In 36 C.E., Peter uses the third key, and the free gift of the holy spirit is poured out upon uncircumcised people of the nations.​—Acts 10:45.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:44-47; 4:34, 35—Why did believers sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds? Many who became believers had come from faraway places and were without enough provisions to extend their stay in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, they desired to remain there longer in order to learn more about their new faith and to bear witness to others. To help such ones, some Christians sold their property, and the funds were distributed to the needy.

4:13—Were Peter and John illiterate or uneducated? No, they were not. They were  called “unlettered and ordinary” because they did not attend rabbinic schools for religious training.

5:34-39—How could Luke know what Gamaliel had said in a closed session of the Sanhedrin? There are at least three possibilities: (1) Paul, formerly a student of Gamaliel, informed Luke; (2) Luke consulted a sympathetic member of the Sanhedrin, such as Nicodemus; (3) Luke received this information through divine inspiration.

7:59—Was Stephen praying to Jesus? No, he was not. One’s worship​—and therefore one’s prayers—​should go only to Jehovah God. (Luke 4:8; 6:12) Under normal circumstances, Stephen would have appealed to Jehovah in the name of Jesus. (John 15:16) In this instance, though, Stephen had a vision of “the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:56) Fully aware that Jesus had been given the power to resurrect the dead, Stephen spoke, but did not pray, directly to Jesus, asking Him to safeguard his spirit.​—John 5:27-29.

Lessons for Us:

1:8. The worldwide work of witnessing done by Jehovah’s worshippers cannot be accomplished without the help of the holy spirit.

4:36–5:11. Joseph of Cyprus was surnamed Barnabas, which means “Son of Comfort.” The apostles may have given him the name Barnabas because he was warmhearted, kind, and helpful to others. We should be like him and not like Ananias and Sapphira, who resorted to pretense, hypocrisy, and deviousness.

9:23-25. To elude our enemies in order to continue preaching is not cowardly.

9:28-30. If witnessing in certain neighborhoods or to some individuals becomes physically, morally, or spiritually hazardous, we need to be prudent and selective about where and when we preach.

9:31. During relatively peaceful times, we should strive to fortify our faith through study and meditation. This will help us to walk in the fear of Jehovah by applying what we learn and to be zealous in the ministry.

PAUL’S ZEALOUS MINISTRY

(Acts 11:19–28:31)

In 44 C.E., Agabus comes to Antioch, where Barnabas and Saul have been teaching “for a whole year.” Agabus foretells “a great famine,” which takes place two years later. (Acts 11:26-28) “After having fully carried out the relief ministration in Jerusalem,” Barnabas and Saul return to Antioch. (Acts 12:25) In 47 C.E.​—about 12 years after Saul’s conversion—​Barnabas and Saul are sent out by the holy spirit on a missionary tour. (Acts 13:1-4) In 48 C.E., they return to Antioch, “where they had been entrusted to the undeserved kindness of God.”​—Acts 14:26.

Some nine months later, Paul (also known as Saul) selects Silas as his companion and sets out on his second tour. (Acts 15:40) Timothy and Luke join Paul along the way. Luke stays in Philippi as Paul continues on to Athens and then to Corinth, where he meets Aquila and Priscilla and spends a year and six  months. (Acts 18:11) Leaving Timothy and Silas in Corinth, Paul takes Aquila and Priscilla with him and sails away for Syria early in 52 C.E. (Acts 18:18) Aquila and Priscilla accompanied him as far as Ephesus, where they remained.

After spending some time in Syrian Antioch, Paul embarks upon his third tour, in 52 C.E. (Acts 18:23) In Ephesus, “the word of Jehovah [keeps] growing and prevailing.” (Acts 19:20) Paul spends about three years there. (Acts 20:31) By Pentecost of 56 C.E., Paul is in Jerusalem. After being arrested, he gives a fearless witness before the authorities. In Rome, the apostle is placed under house arrest for two years (c. 59-61 C.E.), and from there he finds ways to preach about the Kingdom and teach “the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.”​—Acts 28:30, 31.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

14:8-13—Why did people in Lystra call “Barnabas Zeus, but Paul Hermes”? Zeus was the ruler of the gods in Greek mythology, and his son Hermes was known for his eloquence. Since Paul took the lead in speaking, the people of Lystra called him Hermes and Barnabas they called Zeus.

16:6, 7—Why did the holy spirit forbid Paul and his associates to preach in the district of Asia and Bithynia? There were just a few workers. Hence, the holy spirit directed them to more fruitful fields.

18:12-17—Why did Proconsul Gallio not interfere when onlookers began beating Sosthenes? Gallio perhaps thought that the man who seemed to be the leader of the mob action against Paul was getting what he deserved. However, this incident apparently had a good outcome in that it led to Sosthenes’ conversion to Christianity. Later, Paul speaks of Sosthenes as “our brother.”​—1 Cor. 1:1.

18:18—What vow did Paul make? Some scholars suggest that Paul had taken a Nazirite vow. (Num. 6:1-21) However, the Bible does not state what Paul’s vow was. Moreover, the Scriptures are silent as to whether the vow was made before or after Paul’s conversion or if he was starting or ending the vow. Whatever was the case, the taking of such a vow was not sinful.

Lessons for Us:

12:5-11. We can and should pray for our brothers.

12:21-23; 14:14-18. Herod readily accepted glory that should be given only to God. How that differed from the immediate and emphatic rejection of undue praise and honor by Paul and Barnabas! We should not desire glory for whatever accomplishments we may have in Jehovah’s service.

14:5-7. Exercising prudence can help us remain active in service.​—Matt. 10:23.

14:22. Christians expect tribulations. They do not try to escape them by compromising their faith.​—2 Tim. 3:12.

16:1, 2. Christian youths should apply themselves spiritually and seek Jehovah’s help to build up a good reputation.

16:3. We should do all we can within Scriptural bounds to make the good news acceptable to others.​—1 Cor. 9:19-23.

20:20, 21. House-to-house witnessing is an essential aspect of our ministry.

20:24; 21:13. Maintaining integrity to God is more important than preserving our life.

21:21-26. We should be willing and eager to accept good advice.

25:8-12. Christians today can and should make use of available legal provisions “in the defending and legally establishing of the good news.”​—Phil. 1:7.

26:24, 25. We should declare “sayings of truth and of soundness of mind” even though they are foolishness to “a physical man.”​—1 Cor. 2:14.

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When did Peter use “the keys of the kingdom”?

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The worldwide work of witnessing could not be done without the help of the holy spirit