Warren Wiersbe has divided his commentary of Acts into two books, the first of which is Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People.
Wiersbe has commented on longer books than Acts in one volume. But I think he must have divided his notes on this book of the Bible because it is such a pivotal book.
Acts was written by Luke as a sequel to the gospel bearing his name. Both books are addressed to Theophilus.
At the beginning of Acts, Jesus had already died, been buried, and been resurrected. He spent 40 days teaching His disciples, then He ascended back to heaven. The last thing He told His disciples to do was to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. He promised the power of His Holy Spirit would enable them to accomplish this task. The book of Acts tells the story of how that witness spread.
Perhaps another reason Wiersbe divided this commentary in two is that Peter is the main character in the first twelve chapters. Then the focus shifts to Paul.
Yet a third possible reason: there were so many changes over the course of Acts, some of which are confusing to people to this day. For one, Jesus’s ministry had been primarily to Jews, though He ministered to Samaritans and Gentiles as well. But when God used Peter to open the doors of the gospel to Samaritans and Gentiles (which most believe is what is meant by his being given the keys of the kingdom), many disciples were confused. But they couldn’t argue with the definite way God had led. Then came the whole question of what part the OT law had in the life of a NT disciple. They had to meet together and hammer out these issues, which some of the epistles go into further.
Another change was the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, as promised by Jesus in Acts 1:4-5 and 8. In the OT, the Spirit came upon certain people at certain times for specific tasks. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to inhabit every believer all the time.
The filling of the Spirit has to do with power for witness and service (Acts 1: 8). We are not exhorted to be baptized by the Spirit, for this is something God does once and for all when we trust His Son. But we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5: 18), for we need His power constantly if we are to serve God effectively. At Pentecost, the Christians were filled with the Spirit and experienced the baptism of the Spirit, but after that, they experienced many fillings (Acts 4: 8, 31; 9: 17; 13: 9) but no more baptisms (p. 35-36).
Another controversy has to do with Acts 2:44-45: “ And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Some have said that this is a form of Communism. Wiersbe says it is not, because “the program was totally voluntary, temporary (Acts 11:27-30), and motivated by love” (p. 43).
One striking feature of this era is that the church took persecution for granted as part of life.
They did not pray to have their circumstances changed or their enemies put out of office. Rather, they asked God to empower them to make the best use of their circumstances and to accomplish what He had already determined (Acts 4: 28). This was not “fatalism” but faith in the Lord of history who has a perfect plan and is always victorious. They asked for divine enablement, not escape, and God gave them the power that they needed (p. 68).
In one of my favorite chapters in Acts, chapter 12, Peter is delivered from prison and goes to the home of Mary, where the disciples were praying. If you remember the story, Rhoda comes to the door and is so astonished to hear Peter that she forgets to open it. She runs back in to tell everyone, and no one believes her. Almost every sermon or lesson I’ve heard from this chapter ridicules the disciples for praying without faith. Here they were praying for Peter, yet they couldn’t believe God had set him free. Even Wiersbe takes this view.
But Dr. Layton Talbert (one of our former Sunday School teachers), in his book Not By Chance: Learning to Trust a Sovereign God, brings up a different viewpoint. We don’t know that they were praying for Peter’s deliverance from prison. Dr. Talbert points out that the text doesn’t say. James was killed by Herod earlier in the chapter: since he was not delivered they may not have expected Peter to be, either. “The only precedent we have for the church’s prayer under similar circumstances is in Acts 4:23-30. There, in the face of recent imprisonment, persecution, and renewed threats, the church made only one request. And it wasn’t for deliverance from prison or persecution; it was for boldness in the face of both (4:29)” (p. 203).
A few more quotes from Wiersbe:
Repentance is not the same as “doing penance,” as though we have to make a special sacrifice to God to prove that we are sincere. True repentance is admitting that what God says is true, and because it is true, to change our minds about our sins and about the Savior, (p. 52).
If Satan cannot defeat the church by attacks from the outside, he will get on the inside and go to work (20: 28–31) (p. 79).
God has no grandchildren. Each of us must be born into the family of God through personal faith in Jesus Christ (John 1: 11–13) (p. 108).
Luke summarizes the events up to this point in Acts 12:24: “But the word of God increased and multiplied.“
As always, Dr. Wiersbe’s notes were very helpful in studying the Bible.