If you’re enjoying the video summaries, here’s an outline of the second half of the book of Acts.
Paul sets off on his three missionary journeys in this section of Acts. His first journey is reported in Acts 13:1-14:28, his second is found in Acts 15:36-18:22, and his third is Acts 18:23-21:17. For an excellent overview of these three trips, including maps and timelines, see http://www.ccob.org/women/docs/pauljourneys.pdf
The missionary work of Paul becomes the focus of the second half of the book of Acts. From the text, we discover that mission is at the heart of the church’s identity. We have always been sent out to share the story of Christ with our neighbors and the world.
Paul’s travels are fascinating because he often remains in cities for only a short period of time - days, weeks or months. Only twice does he remain longer - in Corinth, for a year and a half, and in Ephesus, for two years. It is astonishing what he is able to accomplish in such a short time, and it serves as a reminder that it is not Paul who works, but Christ-in-him who makes the growth of the church possible.
In Acts 15, the first gather of church leaders occurs - we call this the Jerusalem Council. They meet to discuss whether one must become Jewish to be Christian, and resolve that we do NOT need to obey the law (aka become Jewish) in order to partake in Christ. This is a seismic shift and transforms our entire conception of the Christian faith. Too often, we ask people to get their lives in order before they can follow Jesus; the Jerusalem Council reminds us that we receive grace before we attain obedience.
The conclusion of Acts focuses on Paul’s arrest, trials and imprisonments. His status as a Roman citizen figures strongly in this section, as his ultimate appeal to Caesar shapes the course of the narrative. Paul’s story ends with something of a cliffhanger; he is in Rome under house arrest but we aren’t told whether he survives or is executed.
We know that eventually Paul is beheaded in Rome. However, some believe that Paul was released and completed a fourth missionary journey before his final arrest and execution; others believe that he is never again set free between the end of Acts and his final punishment.
Either way, Paul’s impact on the life of the early church is unmatched; we remain eternally grateful for his witness for Christ.
Stick with it this week!
Grace and Peace,