Overview of Acts of Apostles and how it relates to our day
1-6. Relate an experience showing that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach under a wide variety of circumstances.
REBECCA, a young Witness of Jehovah in Ghana, regards her school as her own preaching territory. She always has Bible-based literature in her schoolbag. During break time, she looks for opportunities to give a witness to fellow students. Rebecca has started Bible studies with several of her classmates.
2 On the island of Madagascar, just off the east coast of Africa, two pioneers regularly walk some 15 miles (25 km) in the tropical heat to get to a remote village. There they conduct a number of Bible studies with interested ones.
3 To reach people living along the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, Witnesses in Paraguay together with volunteers from 15 other countries worked to build a riverboat. The 45-ton boat can accommodate up to 12 people. From this floating home, zealous Kingdom preachers have spread the good news into areas that were otherwise inaccessible.
4 In the Far North, Witnesses in Alaska take advantage of a unique opportunity to preach during the summer tourist season. When warmer weather brings cruise ships loaded with visitors of many different nationalities, local Witnesses station themselves on the dock with an attractive display of Bible literature in a wide variety of languages. In that same region, an airplane proved invaluable in reaching isolated villages, thus allowing the good news to be spread to Aleut, Athabascan, Tsimshian, and Klinket communities.
5 Larry, in Texas, U.S.A., has a special territory—the nursing home in which he resides. Although confined to a wheelchair as a result of an accident, Larry keeps busy. He shares with others the Kingdom message, including his Bible-based hope that under Kingdom rule he will one day walk again.—Isa. 35:5, 6.
6 To attend an assembly in upper Myanmar, a group of Witnesses made a three-day journey by ferryboat from Mandalay. Eager to preach the good news, they took along Bible literature, which they offered to fellow passengers. Each time the ferry stopped at a town or a village, the energetic preachers got off and quickly went through the settlement, offering literature. In the meantime, new passengers boarded the ferry, becoming “fresh territory” for the returning Kingdom publishers.
7. In what ways do worshippers of Jehovah bear witness about God’s Kingdom, and what is their goal?
7 As these few examples show, zealous worshippers of Jehovah around the world are “bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 28:23) They call from house to house, approach people on the street, and speak to them over the phone. Whether riding on a bus, walking in a park, or taking a break at their place of secular work, they eagerly look for every opportunity to give a witness about God’s Kingdom. The specific methods may vary, but the goal is the same—preach the good news wherever people can be found.—Matt. 10:11.
8, 9. (a) Why is the expansion of the Kingdom-preaching work nothing short of miraculous? (b) What intriguing question is raised, and what do we need to do to find the answer?
8 Are you, dear reader, among the throngs of Kingdom proclaimers who are now active in more than 235 lands? If so, you play a part in the thrilling expansion of the Kingdom-preaching work! What has been accomplished in the worldwide field is nothing short of miraculous. In spite of formidable obstacles and challenges—even governmental bans and outright persecution—Jehovah’s Witnesses are giving a thorough witness about God’s Kingdom to people of all nations.
9 An intriguing question to consider is, Why has no obstacle, not even satanic opposition, been able to stop the forward movement of the Kingdom-preaching work? To answer that question, we need to look back to the first century C.E. After all, we modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah are continuing the work that started back then.
A Far-Reaching Commission
10. To what did Jesus devote himself, and what did he know about this work?
10 The Founder of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ, devoted himself to the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom; it was his lifework. He once explained: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43) Jesus knew that he was initiating a work that he could not complete all by himself. Shortly before his death, he foretold that the Kingdom message would be preached “in all the nations.” (Mark 13:10) How, though, would this be done, and by whom?
11. What weighty commission did Jesus give his disciples, and what support would they have in carrying it out?
11 Following his death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and gave them this weighty commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) The words “I am with you” indicated that the disciples would have his backing in the preaching and disciple-making work. They would need such support, for Jesus had foretold that they would be “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matt. 24:9) The disciples could count on something else for support. Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus told them that they would be empowered by holy spirit to be his witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
12. What important questions arise, and why is it vital that we know the answers?
12 Now some important questions arise: Did Jesus’ apostles and the other first-century disciples take their commission seriously? Did this relatively small band of Christian men and women bear thorough witness about the Kingdom of God even in the face of vicious persecution? Did they really have heavenly backing and the support of Jehovah’s holy spirit in their disciple-making work? These and related questions are answered in the Bible book of Acts. It is vital that we know the answers. Why? Jesus promised that the work he commissioned would continue “until the conclusion of the system of things.” So this commission applies to all true Christians, including those of us living in this time of the end. We therefore have a keen interest in the historical record contained in the book of Acts.
Overview of the Book of Acts
13, 14. (a) Who wrote the book of Acts, and how did the writer obtain his information? (b) What does the book of Acts contain?
13 Who wrote the book of Acts? The book itself never names its writer, but the opening words make it clear that the writer of Acts was also the writer of the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1, 2) Thus, from early times, Luke, a “beloved physician” and a careful historian, has been held to be the writer of Acts. (Col. 4:14) The book covers a period of about 28 years, from Jesus’ ascension in 33 C.E. to the apostle Paul’s imprisonment in Rome about 61 C.E. The fact that Luke changes from “they” to “we” in his narrative suggests that he was present at many of the events that he describes. (Acts 16:8-10; 20:5; 27:1) A meticulous researcher, Luke no doubt obtained information firsthand from Paul, Barnabas, Philip, and others mentioned in the record.
14 What does the book of Acts contain? Earlier, in his Gospel, Luke wrote about the things that Jesus said and did. In the book of Acts, however, Luke reports what Jesus’ followers said and did. Acts, then, is about people who accomplished an extraordinary work, although many of them were viewed by outsiders as “unlettered and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13) In brief, the inspired record tells us how the Christian congregation was founded and how it grew. Acts shows how the first-century Christians preached—their methods and their attitude. (Acts 4:31; 5:42) It highlights the role of holy spirit in spreading the good news. (Acts 8:29, 39, 40; 13:1-3; 16:6; 18:24, 25) Acts picks up the Bible’s theme, which involves God’s Kingdom under Christ, and shows the triumphant spread of the Kingdom message in the face of fierce opposition.—Acts 8:12; 19:8; 28:30, 31.
15. In what ways will we benefit from examining the book of Acts?
15 Indeed, it is thrilling and faith-strengthening to examine the Bible book of Acts! If we reflect on the bold and zealous example of Christ’s early followers, our hearts will be touched. We will be moved to imitate the faith of our first-century counterparts. We will thus be better equipped to fulfill our commission to “go . . . and make disciples.” The publication that you are now reading is designed to help you make a careful study of the book of Acts.
A Bible Study Aid to Assist Us
16. What is the threefold objective of this publication?
16 What is the overall purpose of this publication? The threefold objective of this book is (1) to strengthen our conviction that Jehovah by means of his holy spirit is backing the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work, (2) to stimulate our zeal for the ministry by examining the example of first-century followers of Christ, and (3) to deepen our respect for Jehovah’s organization and for those taking the lead in the preaching work and in overseeing the congregations.
17, 18. How is this publication organized, and what features will prove helpful in personal Bible study?
17 How is this publication organized? You will notice that it is divided into eight sections, each covering a portion of the book of Acts. The aim of the chapters that follow is, not to provide a verse-by-verse discussion of Acts, but to draw lessons from the events recounted in that Bible book and help us to see how we can make personal application of points learned. At the beginning of each chapter, a focus line explains the thrust of that chapter and a Scripture citation indicates the portion of Acts that will be discussed.
18 There are other features of this publication that will prove helpful in personal Bible study. Beautiful artwork portraying exciting events in the book of Acts will help you to visualize what was happening as you reflect on the Bible account. Many chapters include boxes that supply helpful supplementary material. Certain boxes provide a profile of a Bible character whose faith is worthy of imitation. Some offer more details about places, events, customs, or other characters mentioned in Acts. Wide margins allow you to make notes as you study.
19. What self-examination should we make from time to time?
19 This publication can help you to make an honest self-examination. No matter how long you have been serving as a Kingdom publisher, it is good to pause from time to time and analyze your priorities in life and your view of the Christian ministry. (2 Cor. 13:5) Ask yourself: ‘Am I maintaining a sense of urgency in my ministry? (1 Cor. 7:29-31) Am I preaching the good news with conviction and zeal? (1 Thess. 1:5, 6) Am I having as full a share as possible in the preaching and disciple-making work?’—Col. 3:23.
20, 21. Why is our commission so urgent, and what should be our determination?
20 Let us keep ever in mind that we have been commissioned to do an important work—to preach and make disciples. With each day that passes, the urgency of that commission becomes greater. The end of this system of things is rapidly approaching. Never before have so many lives been at stake. We do not know how many more rightly disposed ones may yet respond to our message. (Acts 13:48) But it is our responsibility to help such ones before it is too late.—1 Tim. 4:16.
21 It is vital, then, that we imitate the example of zealous Kingdom preachers of the first century. May your careful study of this publication move you to preach with ever greater zeal and boldness. And may you be strengthened in your determination to continue “bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God.”—Acts 28:23.
IMPORTANT DATES IN THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY DURING THE FIRST CENTURY C.E.
Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples
Outpouring of holy spirit at Pentecost
Christian congregation founded
Ethiopian eunuch baptized
Saul of Tarsus converted
Saul preaches in Damascus
Paul first visits Jerusalem as follower of Christ
Paul visits Peter in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18)
First Gentiles become Christians
Matthew’s Gospel written
Paul’s vision of “the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2)
Agabus prophesies famine
James (son of Zebedee) martyred
Peter imprisoned, miraculously released
Herod Agrippa I dies
Foretold famine strikes
Paul brings relief ministration to Jerusalem
Paul’s first missionary tour
Circumcision issue at Antioch
Conference in Jerusalem
Paul resists Peter (Gal. 2:11-14)
Paul’s second missionary tour
Barnabas and Mark preach in Cyprus
Claudius expels Jews from Rome
Luke joins Paul at Troas
Paul’s vision of Macedonian man
Paul visits Philippi
Philippian congregation founded
Thessalonian congregation founded
Paul visits Athens
Paul visits Corinth
1 Thessalonians written
2 Thessalonians written
Paul’s third missionary tour
Paul visits Ephesus
1 Corinthians written
Titus sent to Corinth
2 Corinthians written
Paul resurrects Eutychus in Troas
Paul and Luke stay with Philip in Caesarea
Paul arrested in Jerusalem
Paul in custody in Caesarea
Luke’s Gospel written
Festus succeeds Felix
Herod Agrippa II hears Paul
Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome
Mark’s Gospel written
1 Timothy written
Titus left in Crete (Titus 1:5)
1 Peter written
2 Peter written
Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome
2 Timothy written
Titus leaves for Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10)