The Book of Acts is an account of the works of the Holy Spirit through the lives of the early Jesus followers. Here are three significant events in the book: 1) the coming of the Holy Spirit, 2) the conversion of Saul, 3) the Jerusalem Council.
1) After Jesus’ resurrection and before his ascension, Jesus appeared to his disciples and told them to stay in Jerusalem until they have been “clothed with the power from on high” (Luke 22:48). He was referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised by the Father (Acts 1:4). Jesus explains to his disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them which would enable them to be Jesus’ “witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). At the Jewish Festival of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the followers of Jesus, so they could become part of God’s new transformative work in the world. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, believers can live by the energy and influence of God’s Spirit empowering them to love others and share the good news about Jesus’ kingdom and his new humanity.
2) The next significant event is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul. Saul’s background information is best summarized in his own words in Philippians 3:5-6 where he describes himself as “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (NIV). These statements point to his strong Jewish heritage, education and commitment to the Jewish faith. Saul was driven to protect his Jewish heritage and faith, and so he sought to eradicate the Jewish Christian sect. This attempt to squash the Christian faith was the nature of his trip to Damascus, but while on the road, he was confronted by the risen and exalted Christ which led him to become Christ’s follower (Acts 9). At this point, Saul became the Apostle Paul, and he became the most influential missionary to the Gentiles. Most of the Book of Acts details his missionary journeys throughout the Greco-Roman world. Everywhere Paul went, he preached the Gospel of Jesus and established Jesus communities. God used Paul in a powerful way in order to fulfill his Old Testament promises concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles.
3) With the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God, the early church experienced some challenges between the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians which led to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). As the number of Gentile Christians grew, some Jewish Christians became concerned about the moral standards of the church. Therefore, they proposed that Gentile Christians needed to keep the Jewish law and undergo circumcision. After much debate on the matter, Peter explained that God had already revealed his will in the matter by giving the Holy Spirit to the Gentile Christians. God purified the hearts of the Gentile Christians and made no distinction between them and Jewish Christians. Paul and Barnabas concurred and spoke about the miracles and wonders that God had been doing among the Gentiles. Then, James spoke to the issue saying, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). Thus, the leaders of the church were in agreement which prevented a major schism between the Jewish and Gentile Christians.