Summary of Acts

Summary of Acts

Acts begins with Jesus’s commandment to the Twelve Apostles to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Peter serves as the leader of the apostles and the small congregation of the faithful, first “Christains” in Jerusalem. The Apostles, by means of Revelation call Matthias as the twelfth Apostle, replacing the traitor Judas Iscariot. During the year of Jesus’s death and resurrection, the Apostles are gathered for Pentecost. The Holy Ghost descends upon them, and as a result of the Holy Ghost’s presence, they begin speaking other languages. Peter explains the miracle, saying that the gift of tongues is given to everyone through the laying on of hands. He explains that the Gift of Tongues or speaking in Tongues means other languages.

Peter summarizes the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. He gives scriptural proof that Jesus is the Messiah, the savior whom God promises in the Old Testament to send to save Jews from their adversity. Responding to Peter’s testimony, 3,000 people are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. A man named Barnabas is particularly praised for his generosity, and a couple that defrauds the church are stricken dead. Going to the temple to pray, Peter and John cure a crippled beggar. Peter tells a crowd the story of Jesus’s persecution and his eventual resurrection, concluding with a reminder that the Jews are favored by God and a call to repentance. The Sadducee high priests of the temple, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, bring Peter and John before the Jewish high court, where Peter preaches the Gospel. The court, which is called the Sanhedrin, recognizes that public opinion is in favor of the Apostles and releases them.

The high priest imprisons the Apostles, but they are miraculously freed by an angel, and they continue their preaching. Brought again before the court, Peter leads the apostles in their defense, saying, “…We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).

A controversy ensues between Stephen and some Jews, who accuse him of heresy before the Sanhedrin. Stephen delivers a long speech, in his defense,  detailing the history of Jewish leadership in the Bible. For his words, Stephen is stoned to death, with the approval of a young man named Saul of Damascus, a vigorous persecutor of the Christians. Stephen is the first Christian martyr. Saul is a Jewish leader who has been trying to wipe out the new community of Christians because he believes that they are trying to destroy Jewish law. While traveling to persecute Christians, Saul is blinded by a light and hears the voice of Jesus asking, “…Saul, Saul why persecutes thou me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul is converted and sets out to be one of the best missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ. He travels to the coast, performs miracles, preaches the Gospel, and converts Gentiles.

Barnabas and Saul, who is renamed Paul, depart on a missionary journey.

  • In Cyprus, Paul blinds a magician, Elymas, who tries to prevent Paul from teaching.
  •  At Antioch in Pisidia, Paul preaches to a Jewish congregation, telling his listeners about forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus.
  • At Iconium, they have some success until nonbelievers, including both Jews and Gentiles, drive them from town.
  • At Lycaonia, Paul cures a cripple, and the local Gentiles take them for the pagan gods Zeus and Hermes before Paul is able to convince them otherwise. As usual, however, the missionaries are chased from town, and Paul is nearly stoned to death.
  • In Greece, Paul meets with mixed success, converting some but meeting opposition from many Jews and some Gentiles.

Later Paul travels to Jerusalem, where he meets with James and the church leaders, who are concerned that Paul has been urging Christians not to follow Jewish law. They plan for Paul to go to the Temple and explain that he is not encouraging breaking Jewish Law. In the temple, however, Jews seize him, accusing him of profaning the temple and preaching against the law. Paul tells the crowd his personal history; he relates the stories of his past persecution of Christians, his miraculous vision of Christ, and his conversion to Christianity and mission to preach to the Gentiles.

The crowd becomes outraged, and the Roman tribune seizes Paul. The tribune then has him brought before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, where Paul creates dissent by setting the two factions in the court, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, against each other. The tribune saves Paul from the ensuing riot, and, hearing of a Jewish plot against Paul’s life, sends him for his own protection to Felix, the governor of Palestine, in Caesarea. At the trial in Caesarea, Paul professes to worship God and adhere to Jewish law. Hearing that Paul collects and distributes alms, Felix holds him in jail for two years, hoping for a bribe. After Felix’s death, Paul is tried before the new governor, Festus.

Paul appeals to Caesar’s judgment, and Festus; who does not believe Paul guilty, but who wants to appease the Jews calling for his execution. Finally Festus decides to send him to Caesar, in Rome. First, however, Paul is brought before King Agrippa.  Again, Paul recounts the story of his vision of Jesus and conversion to Christianity, and argues that his missionary activity is merely a fulfillment of Jewish hopes and Old Testament prophecies. King Agrippa is impressed, but Paul is sent to Rome. On the way to Rome, Paul’s ship is wrecked, and through a series of sailing mishaps it takes months to arrive at Rome. Awaiting his hearing at Rome, Paul begins to spread the Gospel to the Roman Jews, who disbelieve him. He turns his emphasis again toward the Gentiles. Paul goes throughout, preaching; “…no man forbidding him.” (Acts 28:31)

Acts 28

Acts 28: Paul Heals Many

Paul arrives at the island called Melita, the people on the island welcome the survivors and build a fire and provide shelter for them. As Paul gathered sticks for the fire; “…there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whome, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook of the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen: but after they saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.” (Acts 28:3-6)

Paul heals the father of Publius, a famous citizen, and many others. Because of his great works and miracles the people praise him and provide him with the things he needed for his travels. Paul finally arrives at Rome, where he meets the Jewish leaders, and again stresses that Moses and the prophets prophesied the coming of Christ. Paul quotes Isaiah; “…Go unto this people, and say,Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed….” (Acts 28:26-27) The Jews dispute amongst themselves. Paul spends two years in rented accommodation in Rome before his trial in Caesar’s court, freely preaching the gospel.

Acts 27

Acts 27: Paul Travels to Rome

Paul is taken by ship to the island of Crete. The decision is made to sail on, instead of wintering at the city of Fair Havens on the island of Crete. A good start is made from Crete, but the ship quickly encounters great difficulty in a storm. Paul reveals to the crew that they will not perish, because an angel appeared to him and told him it was God’s intention that he appear before Caesar. On the fourteenth night of the storm, Paul ministers to the passengers and crew. The ship runs aground and all are safe, this was in fulfillment of God’s promise through Paul. The centurion, wanting to save Paul, prevents the soldiers from killing the prisoners to stop them escaping.

Acts 26

Acts 26: The First Vision – Paul and Joseph Smith

King Agrippa comes to Paul and tells him that he is free to speak. Paul gives an autobiographical account of his dealings and explains his side of the story. He asks King Agrippa to hear him “…patiently…” (Acts 26:3) Why is that so important? Because what Paul is about to tell King Agrippa is easy to immediately dismiss without hearing the entire thing. After all, that is what his accusers did! They heard him speak as if he was a messenger of God (which he was), however those who accused him were too quick to judge and thought he spoke blasphemies, comparing himself to God. So it is important that King Agrippa hears Paul with an open heart and mind. Paul begins by stressinh that Moses and the prophets predicted the coming of Chris and that in his name they raised the dead and cast out evil.

Paul explains his vision and conversion story;

“At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, [Saul is Paul] why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:13-18)

Paul explains to King Agrippa that he was not disobedient unto this heavenly vision. He explains that he first traveled to Damascus, then to Jerusalem and throughout all the coasts of Judea and finally to the Gentiles that they would repent and turn to God, doing works “…meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:20) Paul continues to explain, that for preaching about Jesus, the Jews caught him in the temple, desiring to kill him.

Paul continues his testimony to King Agrippa; Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

As Paul spoke, Festus interrupted with a loud voice said to Paul; “…thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” (Acts 26:24-25)

Paul dismisses Festus’ claim that he is mad. King Agrippa says he is almost convinced to become a Christian, and comments that Paul would have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

The story of Paul is very similar to the story of Joseph Smith, at least in the sense that no one believed him. Joseph Smith did not persecute any church, for during his time, the TRUE church of Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth. However, as a young boy Joseph Smith was curious as to which of all the sects was the correct one for him to join. For years Joseph Smith wondered which church to join, however he was confused for they all seemed to say that they had the truth. Joseph Smith explained his story;

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“I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five [1805], on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont. … My father, Joseph Smith, Sen., left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) county, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts. In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario— His family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my mother, Lucy Smith (whose name, previous to her marriage, was Mack, daughter of Solomon Mack); my brothers, Alvin (who died November 19th, 1823, in the 26th year of his age), Hyrum, myself, Samuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy.

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia. During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty [1820]. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

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My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith History 1:3-19)

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and through him, God himself opened the door the last dispensation, or the “…dispensation of the fullness of times…” (Ephesians 1:10) by calling another Prophet [Joseph Smith], it is important to note that in Mormon Doctrine, Joseph Smith is looked at as a Prophet, like Moses. Some believe that Mormons worship Joseph Smith; however he is not looked at on the same level as Jesus Christ or God. Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God, and nothing more.

Acts 25

Acts 25: Paul Appeals unto Caesar

When Felix is replaced by Festus, Paul’s Jewish accusers decide to re-try the case against Paul. Paul asks Festus to appeal unto Caesar; “…I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.” (Acts 25:10) Festus explains the case involving Paul to the visiting King Agrippa. Shortly after, the trial begins, and Festus makes an opening speech explaining the situation of the Jews desiring his death and Festus explains that the Jews made warrantless claims and false accusations with no evidence against Paul. Festus explained that this was contrary to Roman Law, explaining; “…It is not the manners of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.” (Acts 25:16) Festus desired that King Agrippa hear from Paul himself, and he agrees.

Acts 24

Acts 24: Paul is accused and bound

Ananias the high priest and an orator named Tertullus make accusations toward Paul. Paul is accused of profaning the temple and sedition. Paul declares that there are no witnesses or evidences to support their claims or accusations during his visits to the temple. Felix (the governor of Judea) defers a decision, later taking his Jewish wife Drusilla to hear Paul speak of Christ. Felix hoped that Paul would bribe him to be released.

Acts 23

Acts 23: 40 Jews try to kill Paul

                Paul goes before the Sanhedrin  and opens up by saying; “…Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) and before Paul could finish, Ananias the high priest commanded the guards standing next to Paul to smack him across the face for his words. Paul quickly responds; “…God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” (Acts 23:3)

The Sanhedrin’s reaction to Paul statement is divided between Pharisees (who do believe in the resurrection of the dead) and the Saducees (who do not). It gets so bad at one point that Paul has to be rescued by the Roman commander, so he doesn’t get pulled apart from the mess. Paul is told in a dream that he will go to Rome and testify there. Forty Jews vow not to eat or drink until they have accomplished in killing Paul. Paul is warned by his nephew, who learns of the plot. Paul escapes to Caesarea  with a full military escort and a letter referring his case to the governor of the providence. The letter says that Paul is not worthy of death. Paul awaits trial in Caesarea.