“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” or so says George Santayana in “The Life of Reason.” This quotation seems to suggest that the past is something we should avoid repeating.
The book of Acts turns those connotations on their head. In fact, the history we read in Acts is something we should desire to repeat. Studying the Acts of the Apostles with our students helps open our minds and hearts to experience some of that history over again. Consider the following three truths Acts shows our students about the Church’s history that can inform the way they live their lives in Christ.
The book of Acts has a number of themes, but God’s providence and care for his people is perhaps the most prominent. From the moment Acts begins, we see that God has anuthority over everything. He chooses who replaces Judas as an apostle, he opens a jail cell to showcase his glory to a jailer, and he converts one of the most hostile opponents to Christianity, Paul, to following the Lord Jesus. Acts shows us that God is a God who orchestrates everything that comes to pass. And that truth doesn’t change when the book ends in Acts 28. If God was bringing things to pass for the good of his people and for his glory 2,000 years ago, he’ll continue to do so today and in the future. As students read Acts, they can trust that God is sovereign over every detail of their lives, just as he was with the early church.
God’s Mercy and Grace Displayed
The book of Acts is another chapter in the over-arching story of God’s grace and mercy for his people. Acts shows us, from start to finish, that God is in the business of showing undeserved favor to the most unlikely of people. Acts follows right on the heels of the Gospels, wherein the disciples bumble through all of Jesus’s teaching and eventually abandon him in his deepest hour of need. In Acts, those same disciples are restored and cared for by the risen Lord. We see Paul, a fierce enemy of God, drawn to Jesus and eventually become one of the greatest evangelists of all time. We see how Gentiles who are far from God are made part of his family. In perfect step with the rest of the story of Scripture, Acts shows us a picture of God that emphasizes his mercy and grace to his people, despite how far they’ve strayed. Acts reminds our students that they are included in this story, too. As your students read Acts, they will see that, like Paul and Jesus’ disciples, they are never too far from the reach of God’s love for them.
Finally, the book of Acts gives Christians a taste of our own family history. In it, Luke (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) shows us not only what happened in the early church, but how early Christians lived according to God’s Word in a world that was hostile to them. It’s certainly true that the West is more hostile to Christianity than it once was, so it would do our students well to see how Christians faithfully lived with and trusted in the Lord in a hostile Greco-Roman world. And even if the West were largely culturally Christian, Acts shows them how to live in a way that is characterized by contentment in Christ in a culture of materialism and worldliness.
The Acts of the Apostles provides a number of helpful correctives and encouragements to modern Christians; especially for students living in the age of identity, comparison, and TikTok. As you read Acts with your students, we pray that they will encounter the sovereign, merciful, family-building God who reveals his own glory on every page.
If you’re interested in teaching Acts but don’t know where to start, check out Rooted’s new curriculum on the book of Acts.