CERTAINTY: THE BOOK OF ACTS
Last week we saw that in his Gospel account, Luke wrote to Theophilus that he “might know the certainty of those things in which [he had] been instructed” (Luke 1:4). Over and over, throughout the Gospel record, Luke spoke of certain men, certain women, certain groups (Pharisees, Sadducees, et. al.), certain places, certain days, certain parables, certain events, and other certain things, etc. One would have to be spiritually blind to miss Luke’s emphasis.
When Luke came to his second volume, the Book of Acts (also addressed originally to Theophilus, but preserved by the grace and providence of God for all people thereafter), his emphasis on certainty continues. Travel with me this week through the exciting Book of Acts, the only divinely inspired account we have of the history of the early church and the record of what God wants His church to be and do in all ages until the end of time.
Luke tells about “a certain man lame from his mother’s womb” who was healed by the apostles Peter and John (3:2). He speaks of “a certain man named Ananias” who “brought a certain part (of a contribution) and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (5:1-2). He points out how “there arose certain of the synagogue of the Libertines” (along with others) “disputing with Stephen” (6:9). In Acts 8:9 “there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery” who went on to obey the gospel, but then later tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money (13-24). At verse 36 of Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch “came to a certain water” and the eunuch was baptized. (Interestingly, the “certain water” was not brought to the eunuch, but he and Philip came to it, and both went down into it and the eunuch was baptized.)
In Damascus “there was a certain disciple…named Ananias” (9:10) (not to be confused with the Ananias of Acts 5). Following his conversion, Saul spent “certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus” (9:19). In the town of Lydda, Peter encountered “a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed” (32-33). At Joppa there was “a certain disciple named Tabitha” (36).
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius,” and he and his family went on to become the first Gentile converts to Christ (Acts 10:1ff). In the process of being convinced by God to preach to Gentiles, Peter saw “a certain vessel descending (from heaven, hf), as it were a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth” (11). “Certain brethren from Joppa” accompanied Peter to the household of Cornelius (23). Following his and his family’s baptism, Cornelius asked Peter and the accompanying brethren to stay with him and his family “certain days” (48). In recounting the story of Cornelius’ conversion to the church in Jerusalem, Peter told about the “certain vessel” that descended from heaven (11:5).
In 12:1, Herod vexed/harassed/afflicted “certain of the church.” In the church at Antioch “there were certain prophets and teachers” (13:1). On the island of Cyprus, in the city of Paphos, Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark encountered “a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus” (13:4-6). In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas found “a certain man without strength in his feet [who] was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked” (14:8). “Certain Jews” came from Antioch (of Pisidia) and Iconium and persuaded the people to stone Paul (14:19).
“Certain men came down from Judea” and taught the brethren in Antioch (of Syria) that “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (15:1). Paul and Barnabas and “certain others of them” (from the church in Antioch), went up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question” (2). “Certain of the sect of Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them (Gentile believers), and to command them to keep the law of Moses’ ” (5). The apostles, elders, and brethren of the Jerusalem church sent a letter to the church at Antioch in which they said, “Since we have heard that certain went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls…to whom we gave no such commandment” 24). In Lystra “a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed” (16:1). At Philippi Paul and his traveling companions encountered “a certain woman named Lydia,” to whom they taught the gospel and baptized her and her family (14-15). Later, they encountered “a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination” (16). In Thessalonica, Jews who did not believe became envious of Paul and Silas and “took unto them certain vile men from the rabble” and “set the city in an uproar” (17:5, ASV). They “dragged Jason and certain brethren before the rulers of the city” (6). In Athens “certain philosophers of the Epicureans and the stoics” encountered Paul (18) who said that he brought “certain strange things to our ears” (20). In his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul quoted “certain even of your own poets” (28). “Certain men joined [Paul] and believed” (34).
In Corinth Paul “found a certain Jew named Aquila” (18:1-2), and “entered the house of a certain man named Justus” (7). “A certain Jew named Apollos…came to Ephesus” (24). Paul came to Ephesus “and found certain disciples” (19:1). “Certain of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits” (13). In Ephesus there was “a certain man named Demetrius” (24). “Certain of the Asiarchs (officials of Asia, NKJV), who were [Paul’s] friends” pleaded with him not to “venture into the theater” (31). In Troas, as Paul preached, “a certain young man named Eutychus” went to sleep while sitting in an open window, “fell down from the third story and was taken up dead” (20:9). In Caesarea “a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea” (21:10). “Also certain of the disciples from Caesarea” accompanied Paul and his other companions on their way to Jerusalem (16).
In Jerusalem “certain of the Jews banded together…saying they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (23:12, KJV). Paul’s nephew knew “a certain thing” that Paul wanted him to tell the chief captain (17, KJV). Accompanying Ananias the high priest and the elders of the Jews to Caesarea to bring charges against Paul was “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1). Paul spoke of “certain Jews from Asia” (18). “After certain days” Felix…”sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ” (24). Later, “after certain days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus” (25:13). Festus told Agrippa about “a certain man (Paul) left a prisoner by Felix” (14). Festus explained to Agrippa that the charges against Paul had to do with “certain questions against him about their own religion and about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (19). Still later, Festus reported that he had “nothing certain” to write to the Caesar in Rome concerning Paul (26).
In time, Paul “and certain other prisoners” were turned over to the authorities for the purpose of sending them to Rome (27:1). During the perilous voyage to Rome the ship came near “a certain island which is called Clauda” (16, KJV). When the ship wrecked on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, they discovered “a certain creek with a shore” (“a bay with a beach,” NKJV) on which they planned to run the ship (39).
Once again, in Acts Luke stresses “certainties,” matters of which we can be sure. Rather than trivial and mundane details, the texts we have examined show that the apostles of Christ in carrying out the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47) dealt with real people in real time, were involved in real events and dealt with real situations, proclaimed real truths and taught real principles. We cannot be more certain of anything than we can of the reality of Christ and the church that He purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). Indeed, “this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26)!
July 20, 2021
I will be speaking at the Shackle Island Church of Christ on Long Hollow Pike between Gallatin and Goodlettsville, TN for the next several Wednesday evenings, D.V. Visitors are welcome and we would be happy to have you join us at 6 p.m. each Wednesday.