Over the years, I’ve written and published a few hundred articles, winding up with a huge pile of hard copy tear sheets. I’m trying to purge extras and threatened to have a bonfire. My daughter said, “Don’t you dare!” I decide to save them electronically.
The next decision was organizing them. I decided chronologically. Some are already on my computer and the rest are going through my scanner and saved as .pdf files. It takes time yet putting pounds of paper into the recycle bin is very satisfying.
The New Testament starts out in chronological order, sort of. The gospels are not arranged completely in the order events happened, but Acts is a timely bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles and therefore has close ties to each of these writings. It continues the narrative begun in the Gospels of Christ’s earthly life followed by the ministry of His apostles.
Also, Acts shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the Church. “Simon Peter said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock (Peter’s confession of who Jesus is) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” (Matthew 16:13–18)
Acts clarifies this subject in the Epistles as it answers questions concerning the Church’s beginning, early leaders, and growth into a universal fellowship. It also provides a background for several of Paul’s epistles by giving details concerning the founding of the churches to which these letters were subsequently written. The nature of each city, its people, and the problems in each church are better understood by reading certain parts of Acts before reading the letters Paul wrote to them.
For instance, the epistle to the Galatians seems to be addressed to all Christians living in the provincial areas of Galatia. Paul began with these words . . .
“Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia.” (Galatians 1:1–2)
These churches were in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Paul spent some time there beginning with Antioch. His arrival is described in Acts 13:14 and his journey through the area is described in the remainder of that chapter until Acts 14:28 where they returned to Antioch . . .
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:24–28)
Galatia was an important area. Paul passed through or was sent there three times to help the Christians there:
When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:22–23)
In this account, the chronological order seems important because of the repetition. The churches in Galatia had a problem with faith vs. works and were in danger because of it. The Lord used this to suggests that if I read through my writings over nearly forty years, I might see patterns and repetitions of the struggles I’ve had too. I would certainly notice the challenges, changes, and certainties that developed in my understanding of the Gospel.
Lord Jesus, this reading and study of Acts is a thought-provoking look at the big picture of what You did in starting and building Your church. Just as in life, I often get caught up in the details and miss seeing the grandeur of Your grace and power. It is also easy to overlook how one event connects to other events. This study is helping me remember that You are leading me through life, even when I forget to connect the dots!
Some day life's journey will be o'erAnd I shall reach that distant shore,I'll sing while ent'ring Heaven's door"Jesus led me all the way."Jesus led me all the way,Led me step by step each day;I will tell the saints and angelsAs I lay my burden down"Jesus led me all the way.”