The book of Acts, or “the Acts of the Apostles,” is the story of the early church. Written by Dr Luke, Acts continues the story where the book of Luke left off. As such, Luke and Acts are a powerful and compelling two-book combination.
Acts begins with Jesus‘ ascension into heaven and his followers’ (the disciples) efforts to continue on without their leader. They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them; the Holy Spirit would provide them guidance, direction, and counsel.
The Holy Spirit arrives in a mysterious and powerful manner, producing phenomenal results in Jesus’ followers and causing the church to grow quickly.
Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention of the work and function of the Holy Spirit. With about 100 references, Acts provides a close and personal insight into the function and mystery of the Holy Spirit.
Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church can (or perhaps, should) function. If you ever hear of an “Acts chapter two church,” it is a reference to the early church as exemplified in Acts, particularly in chapter two.
For more direct insight into how the church should function, look to the life and example of Jesus in the Gospels.
The book of John, named after its author, is one of the four Gospels, biographies that focus on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
While the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke bear many nearly identical accounts and narratives, John, is the most different of the four Gospels; it contains the fewest similarities and the most unique passages. This is not to suggest the book of John is of lesser value. In fact, its divergence from the other three accounts of the life of Jesus highlight its uniqueness and the value of its contents.
The Gospel of John is respected and revered for its spiritual significance. Therefore, many people recommend John as one of the first books of the Bible for a new follower of Jesus to read, as it lays out profound truths and principles that are not found in the other three books about the life of Jesus.
As you read the book of John, look for the word believe, which occurs upwards of eighty times, depending on the translation.
The author of this book is most likely the disciple John, one of the sons of Zebedee; he is also the generally accepted author of First John, Second John, Third John, and Revelation. Note that this John (the apostle or disciple John) is not John the Baptist, who is mentioned in the opening chapters of this book; they are two different people.
First John is written more as a sermon than a letter. It’s purpose is to reassure the followers of Jesus of their eternal standing with him.
In reading this book, look for the reoccurring theme of love, which is mentioned twenty-four times. Other repeated words to pay attention to are hate (five times), truth (eleven times), spirit (eight times), liar (five times), and fellowship (three times).
This is a personal letter and although it has an audience of one (Gaius), the principles John shares are applicable to all who follow Jesus. The letter encourages the followers of Jesus to provide hospitality and support to traveling missionaries.
Little is known about who Gaius was. His name does appear in isolated passages in the New Testament, all likely referring to the same person.
In addition to the positive example seen in the letter’s recipient, Gaius, Demetrius is also highly commended. Diotrephes, however, is set forth as a negative example, which we are not to follow.
Also, in reading this book, look for the occurrences of the word truth – six times in five of its fifteen verses.
Exploring the Biblical Narrative with Peter DeHaan