Acts History The Experience

In Acts 19, Paul’s understanding of theology, coupled with his personal experience became the basis of his discussion. Experience should not be the starting point for biblical interpretation, usurping biblical authority, but should not be locked outside the door either. Charles Parham and his students did not have the experience but were looking for what was expected or could be considered normative.


“Luke is very careful to describe his method of researching and compiling material.”


Validation of eyewitnesses – “…Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:2)

Meticulous handling of truth – “…handed down…” (v.2) and “carefully investigated” (v. 3).

All-inclusive study – “Investigated everything from the beginning” (v. 3); “All that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).

Correspondence of written material with divine purposes and activities – “Certainty” (v. 4).

Systematic, organized presentation – “Draw up an account” (v. 1).

Role of the Spirit in directing the writer for the origin and certainty of prophecy – “…For no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s private interpretation…” See 2 Peter 1:19-21

Confirmed by revelation – “From the beginning” (v. 3) This phrase is from a Greek word translated elsewhere by “from above.” Luke suggests that what he writes, derived from those that were eyewitnesses, is also confirmed by revelation (Scofield 2004 Edition, 1338).

Traditionally, Pentecostals have hidden behind their experience, and probably over-emphasized it, coming up short on other aspects of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation and exegesis). This author recalls, after conversion, often hearing others say, “Pentecost; it’s not a religion, it’s an experience.” Still others advised: “People can argue with your doctrine; but they cannot argue with your experience.” We would do well to present both doctrine and experience in a way that it cannot be easily discarded.Pentecost happened for our example. It was recorded by Luke for our instruction. It is the pattern for the church in all ages. Scripture sets the stage for this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

This writing concentrates on the experiences found in the Pentecost narrative concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is not limited, however, to Acts 2 (the Jerusalem Pentecost), but extends briefly to the Samaritan Pentecost (Acts 8); Gentile Pentecost (Acts 10); and the outpouring on the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19). We should ask: What took place in the first century church which must happen in the ongoing church?

Finding Myself in the Book of Acts

I genuinely, undeniably, indescribably love the Book of Acts. Surprising since I do not enjoy history! Arnold Cook probably had me in mind when he advised, “Those who live in the past are blind in one eye. Those who never consult the past are blind in both eyes.” I am an enjoy-the-present, don’t-mess-me-up-with-reality, let-me-help-make-a-better-future kind of guy. I find it ironic that the Book of Acts, the history of the first century church, is my favorite New Testament book. I am fascinated with its twenty-eight chapters that provide thirty-three years of history. I find myself striving to walk as the early church walked—in the power of the Spirit. I struggle to preach with boldness and desire to see God at work in my ministry. Yet, I am convinced that Acts’ then and there, in the first century, has much to say to the here and now, twenty-first century church.


Acts compels me to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. I cannot get away from its message. It calls me to be an effective Christian witness, to walk in holiness, looking for the Lord’s soon return, and desiring to turn the world upside down with truth that changes lives.

I want to be victorious, to overcome obstacles, and run the race that is set before me. Like the men and women in the early church, I will not retreat into compromise or be lulled to sleep by a world calling me into tolerance. I will not conform to this world but seek to be transformed into the image of God.

I must admit, I come short of my expectations and occasionally fall flat on my face. Acts encourages me to get up, brush myself off, and try again. The ninety-five people introduced in Acts encourage me to press on. They provide role models of what I ought to, and can, be. Sixty-two of my friends are never mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. The twenty-four missionary messages of Acts correct me, convince me, convict me, challenge me, and change me. Collectively, they teach me that God has a team consumed with a passion for reaching the world. Individually, they caution me not to be afraid of standing alone and that I can make a difference. Acts has spoken hundreds of lessons to my soul, and I have felt the tug of the Spirit to write so that others may learn.

I will consult the past, but will skip living in it, choosing to face the challenges and opportunities God has given us today. As much as I love Acts, I really would not want to exchange places with Stephen, or be let down in a basket like Paul, or even knocked down on the road to Damascus. I prefer to write lessons from my corner at home, instead of a prison cell, or nestled in the belly of a ship destined for shipwreck. I will skip walking miles delivering a letter to the new Christians, and stick with the convenience of sending e-mail. I will pass when it comes to messy, time-consuming inkwells and stick with the modern convenience of my trusty laptop.

I will learn from history (even if I do not like the subject), but I am thrilled to live in the finest hour ever. We cannot live in yesteryear and have no promise of tomorrow. God continues to move all over our world, and miracles are happening that cast a shadow on the events of Acts.

Back-tracking to the First Day

The first day of the twentieth century marked the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement. That evening Agnes Ozman received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A few days later, Charles Parham, his wife, and twelve of his students received their personal Pentecost. Parham had been leading a small group of students into a study of the Acts of Apostles. They started out studying Acts, but ended up living it. The doctrine of the first church was restored as a step was made toward the Book of Acts.

Throughout the last century, the Pentecostal movement has exploded. Never has a group grown more rapidly than the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. As we wade ankle-deep into the twenty-first century, God’s army continues to sweep across the globe undaunted by worldliness and modernistic thinking, still burning with the fire ignited at Pentecost. I applaud the Pentecostal movement of the past and look forward to greater things from God and His church. I’m glad to be part!

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photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC via photo pin cc