Bible Book Number 44—Acts
Place Written: Rome
Writing Completed: c. 61 C.E.
Time Covered: 33–c. 61 C.E.
1, 2. (a) What historical events and activities are described in Acts? (b) What time period does the book cover?
IN THE 42nd book of the inspired Scriptures, Luke gives an account covering the life, activity, and ministry of Jesus and his followers up to the time of Jesus’ ascension. The historical record of the 44th book of the Scriptures, Acts of Apostles, continues the history of early Christianity by describing the founding of the congregation as a result of the operation of the holy spirit. It also describes the expansion of the witness, first among the Jews and then to people of all the nations. The greater part of the material in the first 12 chapters 1-12 covers the activities of Peter, and the remaining 16 chapters 13-28, the activities of Paul. Luke had an intimate association with Paul, accompanying him on many of his travels.
2 The book is addressed to Theophilus. Since he is referred to as “most excellent,” it is possible that he occupied some official position, or it may simply be an expression of high esteem. (Luke 1:3) The account provides an accurate historical record of the establishment and growth of the Christian congregation. It commences with Jesus’ appearances to his disciples following his resurrection and then records important events of the period from 33 to about 61 C.E., covering approximately 28 years in all.
3. Who wrote the book of Acts, and when was the writing completed?
3 From ancient times the writer of the Gospel of Luke has been credited with the writing of Acts. Both books are addressed to Theophilus. By repeating the closing events of his Gospel in the opening verses of Acts, Luke binds the two accounts together as the work of the same author. It appears that Luke completed Acts about 61 C.E., probably toward the close of a two-year stay in Rome while in the company of the apostle Paul. Since it records events down to that year, it could not have been completed earlier, and its leaving Paul’s appeal to Caesar undecided indicates that it was completed by that year.
4. What proves that Acts is canonical and authentic?
4 From the most ancient times, Acts has been accepted by Bible scholars as canonical. Parts of the book are to be found among some of the oldest extant papyrus manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures, notably the Michigan No. 1571 (P38) of the third or fourth century C.E. and Chester Beatty No. 1 (P45) of the third century. Both of these indicate that Acts was circulating with other books of the inspired Scriptures and hence was part of the catalog at an early date. Luke’s writing in the book of Acts reflects the same remarkable accuracy as we have already noted marks his Gospel. Sir William M. Ramsay rates the writer of Acts “among the historians of the first rank,” and he explains what this means by saying: “The first and the essential quality of the great historian is truth. What he says must be trustworthy.”*
5. Illustrate Luke’s accurate reporting.
5 Illustrating the accurate reporting that so characterizes Luke’s writings, we quote Edwin Smith, commander of a flotilla of British warships in the Mediterranean during World War I, writing in the magazine The Rudder, March 1947: “The ancient vessels were not steered as those in modern times by a single rudder hinged to the stern post, but by two great oars or paddles, one on each side of the stern; hence the mention of them in the plural number by St. Luke. [Acts 27:40] . . . We have seen in our examination that every statement as to the movements of this ship, from the time when she left Fair Havens until she was beached at Malta, as set forth by St. Luke has been verified by external and independent evidence of the most exact and satisfying nature; and that his statements as to the time the ship remained at sea correspond with the distance covered; and finally that his description of the place arrived at is in conformity with the place as it is. All of which goes to show that Luke actually made the voyage as described, and has moreover shown himself to be a man whose observations and statements may be taken as reliable and trustworthy in the highest degree.”*
6. What examples show how archaeological findings confirm the accuracy of Acts?
6 Archaeological findings also confirm the accuracy of Luke’s account. For example, excavations at Ephesus have unearthed the temple of Artemis as well as the ancient theater where the Ephesians rioted against the apostle Paul. (Acts 19:27-41) Inscriptions have been discovered that confirm the correctness of Luke’s use of the title “city rulers” as applying to the officials of Thessalonica. (17:6, 8) Two Maltese inscriptions show that Luke was also correct in referring to Publius as “the principal man” of Malta.—28:7.*
7. How do the speeches recorded show the record of Acts to be factual?
7 Further, the various speeches made by Peter, Stephen, Cornelius, Tertullus, Paul, and others, as recorded by Luke, are all different in style and composition. Even the speeches of Paul, spoken before different audiences, changed in style to suit the occasion. This indicates that Luke recorded only what he himself heard or what other eyewitnesses reported to him. Luke was no fiction writer.
8. What do the Scriptures tell us of Luke and his association with Paul?
8 Very little is known of the personal life of Luke. Luke himself was not an apostle but was associated with those who were. (Luke 1:1-4) In three instances the apostle Paul mentions Luke by name. (Col. 4:10, 14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24) For some years he was the constant companion of Paul, who called him “the beloved physician.” There is a shifting back and forth in the account between “they” and “we,” indicating that Luke was with Paul at Troas during Paul’s second missionary tour, that he may have remained behind at Philippi until Paul returned some years later, and that he then rejoined Paul and accompanied him on his trip to Rome for trial.—Acts 16:8, 10; 17:1; 20:4-6; 28:16.
CONTENTS OF ACTS
9. What things are the disciples told at the time of Jesus’ ascension?
9 Events till Pentecost (1:1-26). As Luke opens this second account, the resurrected Jesus tells his eager disciples that they will be baptized in holy spirit. Will the Kingdom be restored at this time? No. But they will receive power and become witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth.” As Jesus is lifted up out of their sight, two men in white tell them: “This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner.”—1:8, 11.
10. (a) What memorable things happen on the day of Pentecost? (b) What explanation does Peter give, and what results from it?
10 The memorable day of Pentecost (2:1-42). The disciples are all assembled in Jerusalem. Suddenly a noise like a rushing wind fills the house. Tongues as if of fire rest on those present. They are filled with holy spirit and begin speaking in different languages about “the magnificent things of God.” (2:11) Onlookers are perplexed. Now Peter stands up and speaks. He explains that this outpouring of the spirit is in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32) and that Jesus Christ, now resurrected and exalted to God’s right hand, ‘has poured out this which they see and hear.’ Stabbed to the heart, about 3,000 embrace the word and are baptized.—2:33.
11. How does Jehovah prosper the preaching work?
11 The witness expands (2:43–5:42). Daily, Jehovah continues to join to them those being saved. Outside the temple Peter and John come upon a crippled man who has never walked in his life. “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” commands Peter. Immediately the man begins “walking and leaping and praising God.” Peter then appeals to the people to repent and turn around, “that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.” Annoyed that Peter and John are teaching Jesus’ resurrection, the religious leaders arrest them, but the ranks of the believers swell to about 5,000 men.—3:6, 8, 19.
12. (a) What answer do the disciples give when commanded to stop preaching? (b) For what are Ananias and Sapphira punished?
12 The next day, Peter and John are taken before the Jewish rulers for questioning. Peter testifies outspokenly that salvation is only through Jesus Christ, and when commanded to stop their preaching work, both Peter and John reply: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” (4:19, 20) They are released, and all the disciples continue to speak the word of God with boldness. Because of the circumstances, they pool their material possessions and make distributions according to the need. However, a certain Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sell some property and secretly keep back part of the price while giving the appearance of turning in the entire sum. Peter exposes them, and they drop dead because they have played false to God and the holy spirit.
13. With what are the apostles charged, how do they reply, and what do they continue to do?
13 Again the outraged religious leaders throw the apostles into jail, but this time Jehovah’s angel releases them. The next day they are again brought before the Sanhedrin and charged with ‘filling Jerusalem with their teaching.’ They reply: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Though flogged and threatened, they still refuse to stop, and ‘every day in the temple and from house to house they continue without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.’—5:28, 29, 42.
14. How does Stephen meet martyrdom?
14 Stephen’s martyrdom (6:1–8:1a). Stephen is one of seven appointed by holy spirit to distribute food to tables. He also witnesses powerfully to the truth, and so zealous is his support of the faith that his enraged opponents have him brought before the Sanhedrin on the charge of blasphemy. In making his defense, Stephen tells first of Jehovah’s long-suffering toward Israel. Then, in fearless eloquence, he comes to the point: ‘Obstinate men, you are always resisting the holy spirit, you who received the Law as transmitted by angels but have not kept it.’ (7:51-53) This is too much for them. They rush upon him, throw him outside the city, and stone him to death. Saul looks on in approval.
15. What results from persecution, and what preaching experiences does Philip have?
15 Persecutions, Saul’s conversion (8:1b–9:30). The persecution that begins that day against the congregation in Jerusalem scatters all except the apostles throughout the land. Philip goes to Samaria, where many accept the word of God. Peter and John are sent there from Jerusalem so that these believers may receive holy spirit “through the laying on of the hands of the apostles.” (8:18) An angel then directs Philip south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road, where he finds a eunuch of the royal court of Ethiopia riding in his chariot and reading the book of Isaiah. Philip enlightens him as to the meaning of the prophecy and baptizes him.
16. How does the conversion of Saul come about?
16 Meanwhile, Saul, “still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” sets out to arrest those ‘belonging to The Way’ in Damascus. Suddenly a light from heaven flashes around him, and he falls to the ground blinded. A voice from heaven tells him: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” After three days in Damascus, a disciple named Ananias ministers to him. Saul recovers his sight, gets baptized, and becomes filled with holy spirit, so that he becomes a zealous and able preacher of the good news. (9:1, 2, 5) In this amazing turn of events, the persecutor becomes the persecuted and has to flee for his life, first from Damascus and then from Jerusalem.
17. How does the good news go to uncircumcised Gentiles?
17 The good news goes to uncircumcised Gentiles (9:31–12:25). The congregation now ‘enters into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walks in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit, it keeps on multiplying.’ (9:31) At Joppa, Peter raises the beloved Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead, and it is from here that he receives the call to go to Caesarea, where an army officer named Cornelius awaits him. He preaches to Cornelius and his household and they believe, and the holy spirit is poured out upon them. Having perceived “that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him,” Peter baptizes them—the first uncircumcised Gentile converts. Peter later explains this new development to the brothers in Jerusalem, at which they glorify God.—10:34, 35.
18. (a) What next occurs in Antioch? (b) What persecution breaks out, but does it achieve its object?
18 As the good news continues to spread rapidly, Barnabas and Saul teach quite a crowd in Antioch, ‘and it is first in Antioch that the disciples are by divine providence called Christians.’ (11:26) Once again persecution breaks out. Herod Agrippa I has James the brother of John killed with the sword. He also throws Peter into prison, but once again Jehovah’s angel sets Peter free. Too bad for the wicked Herod! Because he fails to give glory to God, he is eaten up with worms and dies. On the other hand, ‘the word of Jehovah goes on growing and spreading.’—12:24.
19. How extensive is Paul’s first missionary journey, and what is accomplished?
19 Paul’s first missionary trip, with Barnabas (13:1–14:28).* Barnabas and “Saul, who is also Paul,” are set apart and sent forth from Antioch by holy spirit. (13:9) On the island of Cyprus, many become believers, including the proconsul Sergius Paulus. On the mainland of Asia Minor, they make a circuit of six or more cities, and everywhere it is the same story: A clear division appears between those who gladly accept the good news and the stiff-necked opponents who incite rock-throwing mobs against Jehovah’s messengers. After making appointments of older men in the newly formed congregations, Paul and Barnabas return to Syrian Antioch.
20. By what decision is the circumcision issue settled?
20 Settling the circumcision issue (15:1-35). With the great influx of non-Jews, the question arises whether these should be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas take the issue to the apostles and the older men in Jerusalem, where the disciple James presides and arranges to send out the unanimous decision by formal letter: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (15:28, 29) The encouragement of this letter causes the brothers in Antioch to rejoice.
21. (a) Who are associated with Paul on his second missionary trip? (b) What events mark the visit to Macedonia?
21 Ministry expands with Paul’s second trip (15:36–18:22).* “After some days” Barnabas and Mark sail for Cyprus, while Paul and Silas set out through Syria and Asia Minor. (15:36) The young man Timothy joins Paul at Lystra, and they journey on to Troas on the Aegean seacoast. Here in a vision Paul sees a man entreating him: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” (16:9) Luke joins Paul, and they take a ship to Philippi, the principal city of Macedonia, where Paul and Silas are thrown into prison. This results in the jailer’s becoming a believer and getting baptized. After their release, they push on to Thessalonica, and there the jealous Jews incite a mob against them. So by night the brothers send Paul and Silas out to Beroea. Here the Jews show noble-mindedness by receiving the word “with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily” in search of confirmation of the things learned. (17:11) Leaving Silas and Timothy with this new congregation, as he had left Luke in Philippi, Paul continues on south to Athens.
22. What results from Paul’s skillful speech on the Areopagus?
22 In this city of idols, high-minded Epicurean and Stoic philosophers deride Paul as a “chatterer” and “a publisher of foreign deities,” and they take him up to the Areopagus, or Mars’ Hill. With skillful oratory Paul argues in favor of seeking the true God, the “Lord of heaven and earth,” who guarantees a righteous judgment by the one whom He has resurrected from the dead. Mention of the resurrection divides his audience, but some become believers.—17:18, 24.
23. What is accomplished in Corinth?
23 Next, in Corinth, Paul stays with Aquila and Priscilla, joining with them in the trade of tentmaking. Opposition to his preaching compels him to move out of the synagogue and to hold his meetings next door, in the home of Titius Justus. Crispus, the presiding officer of the synagogue, becomes a believer. After a stay of 18 months in Corinth, Paul departs with Aquila and Priscilla for Ephesus, where he leaves them and continues on to Antioch in Syria, thus completing his second missionary tour.
24, 25. (a) At the time of Paul’s starting his third journey, what takes place in Ephesus? (b) What commotion marks the conclusion of Paul’s three-year stay?
24 Paul revisits congregations, third tour (18:23–21:26).* A Jew named Apollos comes to Ephesus from Alexandria, Egypt, speaking boldly in the synagogue about Jesus, but Aquila and Priscilla find it necessary to correct his teaching before he goes on to Corinth. Paul is now on his third journey and in due course comes to Ephesus. Learning that the believers here have been baptized with John’s baptism, Paul explains baptism in Jesus’ name. He then baptizes about 12 men; and when he lays his hands upon them, they receive the holy spirit.
25 During Paul’s three-year stay in Ephesus, ‘the word of Jehovah keeps growing and prevailing in a mighty way,’ and many give up their worship of the city’s patron goddess, Artemis. (19:20) Angered at the prospective loss of business, the makers of silver shrines throw the city into such an uproar that it takes hours to disperse the mob. Soon afterward Paul leaves for Macedonia and Greece, visiting the believers along the way.
26. (a) What miracle does Paul perform at Troas? (b) What counsel does he give the overseers from Ephesus?
26 Paul stays three months in Greece before returning by way of Macedonia, where Luke rejoins him. They cross over to Troas, and here, as Paul is discoursing into the night, a young man falls asleep and tumbles out of a third-story window. He is picked up dead, but Paul restores him to life. The next day Paul and his party leave for Miletus, where Paul stops over en route to Jerusalem, to have a meeting with the older men from Ephesus. He informs them they will see his face no more. How urgent, then, it is for them to take the lead and shepherd the flock of God, ‘among which the holy spirit has appointed them overseers’! He recalls the example he has set among them, and he admonishes them to keep awake, not sparing themselves in giving in behalf of the brothers. (20:28) Though warned against setting foot in Jerusalem, Paul does not turn back. His companions acquiesce, saying: “Let the will of Jehovah take place.” (21:14) There is great rejoicing when Paul reports to James and the older men concerning God’s blessing on his ministry among the nations.
27. What reception does Paul receive at the temple?
27 Paul arrested and tried (21:27–26:32). When Paul appears in the temple in Jerusalem, he is given a hostile reception. Jews from Asia stir up the whole city against him, and Roman soldiers rescue him just in the nick of time.
28. (a) What question does Paul raise before the Sanhedrin, and with what result? (b) Where is he then sent?
28 What is all the uproar about? Who is this Paul? What is his crime? The puzzled military commander wants to know the answers. Because of his Roman citizenship, Paul escapes the whipping rack and is brought before the Sanhedrin. Ah, a divided court of Pharisees and Sadducees! Paul therefore raises the question of the resurrection, setting them one against another. As the dissension becomes violent, the Roman soldiers have to snatch Paul from the midst of the Sanhedrin before he is pulled to pieces. He is sent secretly by night to Governor Felix in Caesarea with heavy soldier escort.
29. Charged with sedition, what series of trials or hearings does Paul have, and what appeal does he make?
29 Charged with sedition by his accusers, Paul ably defends himself before Felix. But Felix holds out in hopes of getting bribe money for Paul’s release. Two years pass. Porcius Festus succeeds Felix as governor, and a new trial is ordered. Again, serious charges are made, and again Paul declares his innocence. But Festus, to gain favor with the Jews, suggests a further trial before him in Jerusalem. Paul therefore declares: “I appeal to Caesar!” (25:11) More time passes. Finally, King Herod Agrippa II pays a courtesy visit to Festus, and Paul is again brought into the judgment hall. So forceful and convincing is his testimony that Agrippa is moved to say to him: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” (26:28) Agrippa likewise recognizes Paul’s innocence and that he could be released if he had not appealed to Caesar.
30. What experiences attend Paul’s voyage as far as Malta?
30 Paul goes to Rome (27:1–28:31).* The prisoner Paul and others are taken on a boat for the first stage of the journey to Rome. The winds being contrary, progress is slow. At the port of Myra, they change ships. On reaching Fair Havens, in Crete, Paul recommends wintering there, but the majority advise setting sail. They have hardly put to sea when a tempestuous wind seizes them and drives them along unmercifully. After two weeks their vessel is finally pounded to pieces on a shoal off the coast of Malta. True to Paul’s previous assurance, not one of the 276 aboard loses his life! The inhabitants of Malta show extraordinary human kindness, and during that winter, Paul cures many of them by the miraculous power of God’s spirit.
31. How is Paul greeted on arrival at Rome, and in what does he busy himself there?
31 The next spring Paul reaches Rome, and the brothers come out on the roadway to meet him. The sight of them causes Paul to ‘thank God and take courage.’ Though still a prisoner, Paul is permitted to stay in his own hired house with a soldier guard. Luke ends his account, describing Paul’s kindly receiving all those who came in to him and “preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.”—28:15, 31.
32. Before and at Pentecost, how did Peter testify to the authenticity of the Hebrew Scriptures?
32 The book of Acts adds testimony to that of the Gospel accounts in confirming the authenticity and inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures. As Pentecost approached, Peter cited the fulfillment of two prophecies that “the holy spirit spoke beforehand by David’s mouth about Judas.” (Acts 1:16, 20; Ps. 69:25; 109:8) Peter also told the astonished Pentecost crowd that they were actually witnessing fulfillment of prophecy: “This is what was said through the prophet Joel.”—Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32; compare also Acts 2:25-28, 34, 35 with Psalm 16:8-11 and Ps 110:1.
33. How did Peter, Philip, James, and Paul all show the Hebrew Scriptures to be inspired?
33 To convince another crowd outside the temple, Peter again called upon the Hebrew Scriptures, first quoting Moses and then saying: “And all the prophets, in fact, from Samuel on and those in succession, just as many as have spoken, have also plainly declared these days.” Later, before the Sanhedrin, Peter quoted Psalm 118:22 in showing that Christ, the stone that they rejected, had become “the head of the corner.” (Acts 3:22-24; 4:11) Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch how the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7, 8 had been fulfilled, and on being enlightened, this one humbly requested baptism. (Acts 8:28-35) Likewise, speaking to Cornelius concerning Jesus, Peter testified: “To him all the prophets bear witness.” (10:43) When the matter of circumcision was being debated, James backed up his decision by saying: “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written.” (15:15-18) The apostle Paul relied on the same authorities. (26:22; 28:23, 25-27) The evident ready acceptance by the disciples and their hearers of the Hebrew Scriptures as part of God’s Word sets the seal of inspired approval on those writings.
34. What does Acts reveal concerning the Christian congregation, and is this any different today?
34 Acts is most beneficial in showing how the Christian congregation was founded and how it grew under power of holy spirit. Throughout this dramatic account, we observe God’s blessings of expansion, the boldness and joy of the early Christians, their uncompromising stand in the face of persecution, and their willingness to serve, as exemplified in Paul’s answering the calls to enter foreign service and to go into Macedonia. (4:13, 31; 15:3; 5:28, 29; 8:4; 13:2-4; 16:9, 10) The Christian congregation today is no different, for it is bound together in love, unity, and common interest as it speaks “the magnificent things of God” under guidance of holy spirit.—2:11, 17, 45; 4:34, 35; 11:27-30; 12:25.
35. How does Acts show how the witness was to be given, and what quality in the ministry is emphasized?
35 The book of Acts shows just how the Christian activity of proclaiming God’s Kingdom should be carried out. Paul himself was an example, saying: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.” Then he goes on to say: “I thoroughly bore witness.” This theme of ‘thorough witnessing’ strikes our attention throughout the book, and it comes impressively to the fore in the closing paragraphs, where Paul’s wholehearted devotion to his preaching and teaching, even under prison bonds, is borne out in the words: “And he explained the matter to them by bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God and by using persuasion with them concerning Jesus from both the law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.” May we ever be as singlehearted in our Kingdom activity!—20:20, 21; 28:23; 2:40; 5:42; 26:22.
36. What practical counsel by Paul applies forcefully to overseers today?
36 Paul’s discourse to the overseers from Ephesus contains much practical counsel for overseers today. Since these have been appointed by holy spirit, it is most important that they ‘pay attention to themselves and to all the flock,’ shepherding them tenderly and guarding them against oppressive wolves that seek their destruction. No light responsibility this! Overseers have need to keep awake and build themselves up on the word of God’s undeserved kindness. As they labor to assist those who are weak, they “must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”—20:17-35.
37. By what tactful argumentation did Paul get across his point on the Areopagus?
37 The other discourses of Paul also sparkle with clear exposition of Bible principles. For example, there is the classic argumentation of his talk to the Stoics and Epicureans on the Areopagus. First he quotes the altar inscription, “To an Unknown God,” and uses this as his reason for explaining that the one true God, the Lord of heaven and earth, who made out of one man every nation of men, “is not far off from each one of us.” Then he quotes the words of their poets, “For we are also his progeny,” in showing how ridiculous it is to suppose that they sprang from lifeless idols of gold, silver, or stone. Thus Paul tactfully establishes the sovereignty of the living God. It is only in his concluding words that he raises the issue of the resurrection, and even then he does not mention Christ by name. He got across his point of the supreme sovereignty of the one true God, and some became believers as a result.—17:22-34.
38. What blessings will result from the kind of study encouraged in Acts?
38 The book of Acts encourages continuous, diligent study of “all Scripture.” When Paul first preached in Beroea, the Jews there, because “they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so,” were commended as being “noble-minded.” (17:11) Today, as then, this eager searching of the Scriptures in association with Jehovah’s spirit-filled congregation will result in the blessings of conviction and strong faith. It is by such study that one may come to a clear appreciation of the divine principles. A fine statement of some of these principles is recorded at Acts 15:29. Here the governing body of apostles and older brothers in Jerusalem made known that while circumcision was not a requirement for spiritual Israel, there were definite prohibitions on idolatry, blood, and fornication.
39. (a) How were the disciples strengthened to meet persecutions? (b) What bold testimony did they give? Was it effective?
39 Those early disciples really studied the inspired Scriptures and could quote and apply them as needed. They were strengthened through accurate knowledge and by God’s spirit to meet fierce persecutions. Peter and John set the pattern for all faithful Christians when they boldly told the opposing rulers: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” And when brought again before the Sanhedrin, which had “positively ordered” them not to keep teaching on the basis of Jesus’ name, they said unequivocally: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” This fearless testimony resulted in a fine witness to the rulers, and it led the famous Law teacher Gamaliel to make his well-known statement in favor of freedom of worship, which led to the apostles’ release.—4:19, 20; 5:28, 29, 34, 35, 38, 39.
40. What incentive does Acts give us to bear thorough witness to the Kingdom?
40 Jehovah’s glorious purpose concerning his Kingdom, which runs like a golden thread throughout the entire Bible, stands out very prominently in the book of Acts. At the outset Jesus is shown during the 40 days prior to his ascension “telling the things about the kingdom of God.” It was in answer to the disciples’ question about the restoration of the Kingdom that Jesus told them that they must first be his witnesses to the most distant part of the earth. (1:3, 6, 8) Starting in Jerusalem, the disciples preached the Kingdom with unflinching boldness. Persecutions brought the stoning of Stephen and scattered many of the disciples into new territories. (7:59, 60) It is recorded that Philip declared “the good news of the kingdom of God” with much success in Samaria and that Paul and his associates proclaimed “the kingdom” in Asia, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. All these early Christians set sterling examples of unswerving reliance on Jehovah and his sustaining spirit. (8:5, 12; 14:5-7, 21, 22; 18:1, 4; 19:1, 8; 20:25; 28:30, 31) Viewing their indomitable zeal and courage and noting how abundantly Jehovah blessed their efforts, we also have wonderful incentive to be faithful in “bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God.”—28:23.
St. Paul the Traveller, 1895, page 4.
Quoted in Awake! of July 22, 1947, pages 22-3; see also Awake! of April 8, 1971, pages 27-8.