The book of Acts is the Spirit-inspired narrative of the church in formation. If your church is in need of being motivated to carry the gospel to the world, then Acts may very well be the book through which to lead your church in order to experience a divine change for the sake of the Great Commission.
When preparing to preach from the book of Acts, it is wise for the preacher to have a basic framework from which to work in order to accomplish the intended goal. The framework should be a sound theology developed from biblical exposition. In preaching the book of Acts, I suggest there are at least four doctrinal themes the pastor should emphasize: missiology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and christology. I would briefly summarize these in homiletical form in the following way.
The Mission of the Church: Carry the Gospel to the World
First, the narrative of Acts presents a doctrinal emphasis for missions. The macro-structure of Acts fits into a two-fold division. The first twelve chapters emphasize the formulation of the Jerusalem church into a church fit for the task to which God has called it, while the remaining chapters focus on the Gospel being taken to the world. God prepares the church for mission through multiple circumstances. We see scenes where many people come to know the Lord (2:41; 4:4; 19:17-20), as well as seasons of physical persecution. Both were divine means to accomplish the mission.
An exposition of Acts cannot ignore that Christianity is to be outward moving rather than inward resting. The book of Acts presents no category for a non-missions minded church.
The Activity of the Church: Prayer and Proclamation
Second, the book of Acts presents the church as fulfilling their mission through two interrelated activities. Prayer guides the church in making significant decisions (1:24; 6:6; 13:3), it emboldens the church in the face of opposition (4:31; 16:25), and prayer expresses love for one another by seeking God’s blessing (20:36-38; 21:5-6).
Not only is there an emphasis on the church praying, but there is also an emphasis on the church proclaiming the Gospel. After the sending of the Holy Spirit the Bible shows us how He affected the bold proclamation of the Gospel. This is demonstrated early in the text as Peter proclaims the Gospel concluding with a call to repentance in Acts 2. In chapter 3 the healing of a lame beggar provides Peter an opportunity to address the crowds outside of the temple. Throughout the text it seems that there is a constant movement toward opportunities to preach the Gospel, whether it is Peter before the Sanhedrin or Paul before the Gentiles (Acts 17:22-34 and elsewhere). Of course, there is no shortage of proclaiming the Gospel to individuals such as the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8.
The relationship of prayer and preaching in the life of the church is repeated often throughout Acts. Upon reading through the book of Acts, one will notice that prayer and proclamation are present in the beginning and end of the narrative and is regularly dispersed throughout the text.
The Power of the Church: The Holy Spirit
One could see Acts 1:8 as the outline of the narrative as the Gospel progresses from Jerusalem to Rome. This being the case, Jesus commands the disciples to wait upon the Holy Spirit because the Spirit is necessary for the church to fulfill its mission. God has called us to do something that is beyond us, and yet He has equipped us to accomplish the impossible task through the giving of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Spirit who ushers in Pentecost (ch. 2). It is the Spirit who enables bold preaching (4:31). The Spirit serves judgment on those seek their own glory (5:3-9), strengthens those undergoing persecution (7:55), and becomes the seal of approval for those who have been converted (8:17, 10:44-45, 19:6).
As the pastor leads his congregation through the book of Acts, he should be reminded that the church cannot accomplish its mission, and the pastor cannot fulfill his calling, apart from the divine aid of the Holy Spirit.
The Message of the Church: Jesus Christ
The narrative of Acts is not focused on the crucified Savior, but on the resurrected Savior. The frightened apostles were able to stand before the Sanhedrin and the Roman government, not because they believed in a dead teacher, but because they believed in a living Lord. At the center of the book of Acts stands the crucified yet resurrected Savior. One can hardly read a chapter where the Lord’s resurrection is not at least implied, if not clearly stated.
The churches to which we preach are greatly emboldened through the resurrection of Christ. By often returning to the theme of the resurrection of the Lord, an exposition of the book of Acts provides hope for the widow who has just lost their spouse, comfort for the parent whose child has passed unexpectedly, encouragement to the missionary who seems to be making no difference, and inspiration to the pastor whose church is struggling.
When expositing the book of Acts, the preacher should read each scene with these four theological categories in mind. By doing so, each local congregation will be equipped to fulfill God’s will for their area of service.
Furthermore, whether it is a new church plant, a church in need of revitalization, or a church suffering from a lack of unity, the book of Acts is a rich resource that addresses the needs of every local church. The pastor who faithfully exposits the book of Acts with these doctrinal matters in mind will see his church’s heart renewed for fulfilling the Great Commission through prayer and proclamation as the congregation depends upon the Spirit and focuses upon Christ.