In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.—Acts 1:1–2
Much of the Bible is history. It’s full of names, dates, people, and places. Yet, rather than being irrelevant facts, biblical history instructs our faith and informs our lives. It shows God’s faithfulness to his troubled people and shows how God was with his people, saving them in all their sufferings.
The apostle Paul taught, that the Bible’s history was written to give hope and guidance (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). Let me explain Paul’s point.
1. Biblical characters are examples of faith and life.
Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Isaiah, Esther, the apostle Peter, and the apostle Paul were flawed people just like us. They failed. They suffered. Occasionally, they displayed great faith in action. In reading the stories of these men and women, we need to recognize that they are examples of faith and life. They teach us with all their flaws how to trust God in difficult times. They give us examples of what it means to live for God, to worship him, and glorify him.
This is also true in the book of Acts. Not everything the early church did was right, but they are an example for us to follow in their faith and their life. We should devote ourselves to ordinary worship that includes Bible teaching, prayer, fellowship, and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42).
The Book of Acts gives us an example of radical generosity to follow, and we should seek to share with other Christians in need (Acts 4:32). Like Stephen, we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have as Christians testifying to the saving work of Jesus Christ (Acts 7). The book of Acts shows faith in action.
2. The God who was faithful in past times is still faithful today.
God does not always promise to do everything he did in the past, but God always promises to save those who trust in Jesus (John 3:16). In reading biblical history, we find flawed men and women trying to live by faith in a crazy world. People may fail, lose hope, or question God, but even as they do, God is working to save them.
The Old Testament and the book of Acts are filled with miracles. These miracles were not simply God showing off. God gave his people signs for good reasons (Exod. 4:28; 7:30; Deut. 4:34; Ps. 135:9; John 11:47; John 12:37; Acts 2:22; 2 Cor. 12:12).
People often wonder why God doesn’t perform signs today. In Scripture, God performed signs at key stages in history to verify the words and witness of the prophets and apostles. We have the Scriptures confirmed in times past; we have no need for a sign today.
This is not to put God in a box. God is capable of performing signs as he wills. People can get so caught up in signs that they ignore what God has clearly said. Jesus made this point in dealing with the Pharisees (Matt. 16:1–4). Paul also made the same point in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:22–24).
The signs had a point. They were given to turn our eyes in faith to Jesus Christ and his saving work. Anyone who trusts that Jesus is the savior of the world who died for sin and rose again will be saved (Rom. 10:9–10). Yet, what God was doing in history was even more important than signs.
In history God was showing himself to be the savior of the world. In the book of Acts, God is accomplishing his mission to gather all the nations to himself. Jesus commissioned the disciples to make other disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:16–20). Jesus promised to be with them. This was to assure the apostles that they would be effective. In the book of Acts, we learn about our God who is faithful to save.