If there was one book of the Bible that I would have to say is the most exciting book, it would have to be the book of Acts.
Imagine you are one of Jesus’ followers. You stood at the foot of the mountain and watched Him ascend in the air up unto heaven. The last few weeks have traversed the ultimate emotions – from the depths of despair as you have never felt before. The man who claimed to be the Son of God, who healed the sick and lame, who brought others back to life was arrested, framed in an illegal court, tortured unbearably, hung up in the most humiliating way, and then cold bloodedly murdered. You saw Him buried and dead and amongst all this anguish was the fear of the same fate for yourself and your other companions. (Matthew 27:32-66)
Then wonder of all wonders! There was no question He was dead – He rose again as He promised. This affirmed everything He had claimed for three years . . . He was the Son of God, the Messiah. (Matthew 28:5-8)
However, He was not the Messiah of war that the Israelites thought He would be, but a Messiah of truth and love and compassion. Furthermore, He gave what was most needed in the world and something that would last through centuries – forgiveness. (Acts 5:31)
Now this Messiah, this Christ ascended into heaven leaving His followers with a mission – to spread the word of His love, His sacrifice, and His eventual return. (Luke 24:50-53)
A new religion was born. There is a new respect and value system for each other. Children are held in high esteem rather than a sign of virility. (Matthew 19:14) Women are respected and honored and no longer treated as property without voice. (John 4:7; John 8:1-11; Matthew 28:5) A new change in the world has happened that no Other could have accomplished.
Then an even more amazing phase occurs . . . the promised Comforter descends on the followers. (Acts 2:1-6)
It was the time of great festival in Jerusalem. People from all over the known world were visiting the city . . . all nations and all tongues. The followers felt the fire of the Holy Spirit descend on them magically giving them the gift of language . . . sharing Christ’s message in all languages. (Acts 2:1-12)
The Acts continues on from there, building up the church and establishing Christ’s will for his followers. People were healed in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:1-10) People were raised from the dead in the name of Jesus Christ. People of all nations were given the ultimate gift of forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 13:46-49)
Moreover, people were and are sacrificed in the name of Jesus Christ. Stephen (Acts 7), James (Acts 12), one by one, the new Christians are persecuted, tortured and alienated and all for one distinct message . . . Christ’s love and sacrifice, “love one another.”
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. “ John 15:12
Then amazement of all amazements, one who fervently persecuted was knocked flat and blinded but can see clearly for the first time, Saul of Tarsus (which became Paul). (Acts 9:1-9) He and others shared the gospel across the known world. Little did the Romans know that building the amazing roads and other travel accoutrements that would last until this day would enable the message of Christ to spread quickly and rapidly which defeated worship of non-existent gods and destruction of pagan occult temples.
Many die and many were tortured but none deny their purpose and cause. Evil still reeks but the word of Jesus Christ flourishes and builds and lasts strong to this day.
What other religion, belief honors God and values human life to that extent? What other religion gives a purpose and meaning to life . . . “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31a)? “There is no other commandment greater than these.” ((Mark 12:31b)
The Acts is an exciting and strong book of belief and determination . . . a belief of the One who sacrificed for us all . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Ever wonder what happened to some of the Apostles of Jesus?
- Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
- Mark died in Alexandria , Egypt , after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead
- Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
- Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died. Before he died, he saw his beloved wife murdered as well.
- James was, leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club.
- James, son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer Walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and Knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
- Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.
- Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: ‘I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it. He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.
- Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent.
- Jude was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
- Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.
- Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational Doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
- John, faced martyrdom when he was scalded in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution In Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve As Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
And yet, the Christian faith lives on . . . What would you do for your faith?
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