Book of Acts


Table of Contents

I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

A few references in the book of Acts not matching Protestant doctrine and practice, but supporting Catholic teaching. (Some passages are troublesome only for certain Protestant groups.)

This article does not present a systematic view of Catholic teaching; the emphasis is lopsided, being limited to those of Protestant divergence from Catholic teaching.

   Why I Became Catholic


The Church

(Acts 1:1) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.

The word 'began' implies Christ's work is ongoing. According to Catholic teaching, he performs his work today through the Church, the Catholic Church, the Church that in the early centuries fought heresy, defined dogma, and determined the canon of scripture.

I think the Catholic Church has overstated its case in claiming to have historical continuity from the apostles.

(Acts 1:5) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Baptized by the Holy Spirit — the birth of the church. This implies the Church is more than merely the abstract set of all believers; that it's a human institution established by God.This does not match the Protestant idea of the church.

(Acts 1:14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Since the Protestant reformation, being in one accord in prayer is no longer possible. But this is only because the various opposing groups chose to make each other enemies. And the Catholic Church became more and more heavy-handed over the centuries in dominating its members.

Prayer — I can't imagine they prayed continuous extemporaneous prayer for 9 days, especially since the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them. They must have recited various Jewish prayers and other liturgical recitations as well as new liturgical forms Jesus developed. These were passed-on to the early church and became part of the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

(Acts 2:2,3) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

This event could be seen and heard. It was not windy, but sounded like wind. There was no fire, but looked like flames of fire. These "tongues of fire" rested upon all 120, not just the 12.

God gave visible signs to show Jesus was the promised Messiah, and God gave visible signs to show he established his Church. The Protestant concept of the Church as merely the set of all believers falls short of this grand image.

Charismatics use this passage to prove their charismatic practices. Non-charismatic Protestants use this passage to show God's call upon Christians to evangelize. Both fall short of the full intent of this passage and others like it. God is showing that the Church is a human (and divine) visible institution, not merely the abstract set of all believers.

Sadly, over the centuries, uninspired and materialistic bishops morphed the Church into something Jesus never intended.

(Acts 3:22) For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

Jesus was a prophet like Moses who was the leader of a nation, and not merely of an abstract set of people. Likewise, the Church Jesus established is more than merely the body of Christ; it is also a human institution having apostolic succession.

Sadly, over the centuries, uninspired and materialistic bishops morphed the Church into something Jesus never intended.

(Acts 4:32,37) And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. . . . Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

They share their possessions just like in Catholic orders. Protestants today do not do this but if they were truly following scripture as they claim, they would do this.


Sola Scriptura

(Acts 1:2) Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.

Jesus gave instructions to the 11 apostles after his resurrection and before his ascension into heaven but these are not recounted in the Bible. A "Bible only" view (Sola Scriptura) limits Jesus' commandments to these...

John 20:30 states Jesus did many other things, but the Bible nowhere mentions any additional commandments from Jesus. The Catholic Church claims these were passed-on from the apostles to the Catholic Church. This is a dubious claim, but in any case, Sola Scriptura("Bible only") is a false doctrine; certainly we should look to the teaching and practice of the early church to see exactly what the apostles taught them, to see what the church was to do once the apostles were gone. But the Bible doesn't record this info, we must look elsewhere.

(Acts 2:27,31) Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

When Jesus encountered the disciples of Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-32) he interpreted many Old Testament passages as referring to himself yet only a few of these references are explicitly mentioned in the New Testament. Over the centuries the Church has recognized many more of the Old Testament references to Jesus, but these are outside of scripture. Therefore, Sola Scriptura is incorrect.

(Acts 2:32) This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Peter refers to the authority of those who witnessed the resurrection, even those who were not apostles, and even those apostles who did not write any New Testament books or letters. Their authority was real even though they didn't write the New Testament. This disproves Sola Scriptura which claims only the Bible is authoritative; Peter didn't think that.

(Acts 2:42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Apostles' doctrine — Notice it is the spoken teaching of the apostles which is the authority, not the scripture. This refutes Sola Scriptura. In fact, there was no New Testament for about 300 years and even then there were no readily-available printed copies; this had to await the invention of the printing press in the 1400's and improved living conditions and education for the masses.

What was the authority after the apostles died? Certainly not the New Testament writings since it wasn't yet known which writings belonged in this category; nor were these New Testament writings always available to the next generation of teachers.

(Acts 4:4) Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

Notice they heard preaching, not Bible reading. Thus, the phrase "word of God" does not refer exclusively to those words in the Bible; other words not contained in the Bible are also the "word of God".

(Acts 4:31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

They spoke the word of God but didn't have a New Testament; likely they spoke what they had been taught by the apostles. Thus, this unwritten, apostolic teaching is the word of God (the Catholic Church calls Tradition). In any case, this refutes Sola Scriptura.

I should mention the Catholic Church began teaching things the apostles never taught claiming them to be "passed-on from the apostles" or "apostolic tradition". Bit if the apostles didn't teach it, it is not apostolic tradition.


Pope

I don't accept Catholic teaching about the Pope and the Papacy; I believe it is based on historical revisionism. Peter was never a bishop of Rome (but he was martyred there); even if he was, he certainly was not the first bishop of Rome. That being said, I believe God honors the Pope as best as he can. Sometimes, the Pope is the spokesman for the entire Christian Church and gets more news time on TV than any other Christian leader.

(Acts 1:13) And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

Peter is always listed first and is the leader of the apostles, at least at first.

The Catholic Church claims Peter was the first pope (but no one considered him so until generations later). This is a clear example of historical revisionism. Neither was Peter a bishop of Rome even though we was martyred there.

(Acts 1:16) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

Many Protestant sermons claim Peter was not operating under God's will. This is hard to accept considering Jesus renamed him to "rock" (Matthew 16:18); gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19) and the power to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19); and commanded him to feed Jesus' sheep (John 21:16). Rather, this passage supports the idea that Peter was, indeed, the first pope, having a special anointing of God.

This passage also supports my view that God blesses us when he can even when we act out in faith something God did not specifically command; thus, we have creative power given by God and honored by God. The best example of this is the woman who touched Jesus' robe for healing; Jesus never instructed people to do this, but he honored their faith.

(Acts 2:14) But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.

Peter at first was the spokesman for the group and had a clear understanding of what was going on; just what we would expect of the first pope. (But later Paul rebuked him.)

(Acts 3:4) And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

Peter was usually the spokesman and leader of the apostles; just what we would expect if he was the first pope.

(Acts 3:6) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Peter could perform supernatural healing.

(Acts 5:3,4) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

In lying to Peter, Ananias lied to God and to the Holy Spirit. Thus, Peter represents God. We clearly see that God honors this role of Peter; the immediate judgment of Ananias is shocking proof. This is just what the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy teaches: that the Pope represents God and can act on behalf of God.


Mary

(Acts 1:14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was present at the founding of the Church. It is easy to believe she shared many stories about her life with Jesus, and that she had a big role in the spirituality of the apostolic church.


Perpetual Virginity (Did Jesus have blood brothers?)

(Acts 1:14,15) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)

The word 'brethren' is the greek word 'adelphos.' This is the same word used in Matthew 13:55 which refers to the brothers of Jesus.

Brethren — If we assume these are blood brothers of Jesus, then Mary must have had 100 children or so which is, of course, impossible. Therefore, these 'brothers' of Jesus are not necessarily blood brothers of Jesus. Based on the common use of the word 'brethren' in the book of Acts, these brethren are likely those who believed and followed Jesus — they were the main part of the 120 who first received the Holy Spirit

(Acts 3:22) For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

The word "brothers" is used for someone other than biological brothers.


Apostolic Succession

(Acts 1:20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.

During my 11 yeas as a Protestant I never once heard any mention of this verse. I now recognize the significance. God established the office of bishop and expects there to be a succession of bishops throughout all time. The Protestant "reformers" severed this apostolic succession by becoming schismatics (in earlier centuries schismatics such as these were considered heretics and apostates).

(Acts 1:22) Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

Peter defines what it is to be an apostle — one must have been with Jesus from the time of his baptism by John the baptist. After this, there were others also called apostles (Paul, Barnabas) — presumably the definition of the term 'apostle' was expanded at some point. The Catholic Church uses this to support the idea that the other 11 apostles in union with the pope (Peter) were to select new apostles. This apostolic succession was broken during the Protestant "reformation" in which people proclaimed themselves to be apostles (they were self-ordained).

(Acts 2:42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Apostles' doctrine — Notice it is the spoken teaching of the apostles which is the authority, not the scripture. Notice also that it is the teaching of the apostles which is authoritative, not the teaching of the 120. What was the authority after these apostles died? Certainly not the New Testament writings since it wasn't yet known which writings belonged in this category nor were these New Testament writings even available to the next generation of teachers. Thus we see that authoritative teaching is via apostolic succession — it is passed-down from generation to generation. And it is not just anybody who wants to teach who is an authoritative teacher, they must be ordained to this role by those who were themselves ordained to ordain others. This does not match the Protestant model of self-ordination (the first teacher of any new denomination ordained himself/herself — what denomination would ordain a schismatic to divide the denomination and create a new, schismatic denomination with contradictory teachings?)


Eucharist (Communion)

(Acts 2:42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Breaking of bread. This phrase seems to refer to more than merely having regular potlucks (although in Acts 27:35 the phrase seems to mean the mere breaking of the bread). Breaking of bread is a part of their corporate worship. Many Protestant denominations do not consider regular Eucharist (communion) as important. But the "breaking of bread" is an integral part of the worship service.


Salvation — the role of works

The Catholic Church teaches that both faith and works are necessary for salvation. Since I am highlighting the passages which refer to works it may seem I am claiming we are saved by works only or that works are more important than faith. This is not the case. This article emphasizes works-only because I am highlighting verses which refute the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide (faith only).

There are two ways in which works are necessary for salvation:

  1. To become saved we must perform works of faith: We must be baptized, we must call on the name of the Lord, we must confess Jesus as Lord, we must repent, etc.
  2. Once a person has been saved, they must avoid mortal sin. Those who commit mortal sin fall from grace and lose fellowship with God.

(Acts 2:21) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Those who call on the name of the Lord are saved. The act of calling is something we do, it is a work. Also, there is no reason to believe we are to perform this calling only one time, at the moment we are "saved." We must call on the name of the Lord as a lifestyle to be redeemed when we die. The reference to apocalyptic physical events (Acts 2:19-20) refers to God's final judgment. We are ultimately saved at that time if we habitually called on the name of the Lord while alive.

(Acts 3:23) And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.

Those Christians who don't listen to and obey Jesus will be destroyed. This doesn't bode well for the many cultural Christians who do not practice the faith. Works have a role in the salvation of Christians.


Baptism

(Acts 2:38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Those who desire salvation must both repent and be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven, Those who claim baptism is merely a symbol must ignore this verse. Baptism is necessary for salvation and sins are remitted by baptism; that is what this verse states. Just because other things are required for salvation (such as repentance and the calling on the name of the Lord — Acts 2:21) does not negate the fact that baptism is required.


Baptism by Immersion?

(Acts 2:41) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Baptism was the way these people were added into the church. It is unlikely these 3,000 were baptized by immersion — the logistics of transporting them all to a body of water adequate for immersion would prevent it. Also, John the Baptist's baptism was likely not by immersion either since the Jordon River is shallow. Some Protestant denominations that we must be baptized by immersion.


Liturgy

(Acts 2:42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Prayers. This seems to refer to something other than mere extemporaneous praying. The prayers are fixed, defined, liturgical rites which are an integral part of the corporate worship service. Many Protestant denominations including the evangelical and fundamentalist denominations have done away with liturgy in violation of this passage.

(Acts 3:1) Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

Several points:

  1. They attended Jewish liturgical prayer and saw no problem with this.
  2. These liturgical prayers occurred daily at a certain time.

When the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. would it then become improper for Christians to attend Jesish liturgical prayers? Likely not. And what about those Christians who did not live in Jerusalem, would they attend liturgical prayers in the Jewish synagogues? Likely so. And what would have happened when the Christians and Jews became alienated from one another? Would daily, scheduled, liturgical prayers be abandoned by the Christians? Likely not. They would have incorporated these into their Christian worship services. This all matches very well with the Catholic Church but not with many Protestant denominations.

(Acts 4:24) And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.

They lifted their voices together and said a long, complex recitation. Perhaps they recited a liturgical prayer which they had all memorized or perhaps it was call and response. In any case the practice of evangelical fundamentalist Protestants doesn't match this.


Charismatic

(Acts 2:38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Gift of the Holy Spirit — Note that the gift of the Holy Spirit is imparted at baptism, not at some later second event.

(Acts 4:8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, . . .

Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. He does not speak in tongues nor does he ever have a baptism of the Spirit. I am troubled when I hear Charismatic Christians speak what they claim to be words from the Holy Spirit but which contradict church dogma.


Tongues

(Acts 2:4,6,8) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. . . . Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. . . . And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

The 'tongues' they spoke was actually speaking in a language unknown by the speaker but known by the hearer. I wonder how many references to 'tongues' in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 refer to this? Typically, charismatics who emphasize speaking in tongues are referring to utterances which are not a real language and they often refer to these verses to support their practices. However, these verses simply do not support this use of speaking in tongues.

(Acts 2:11) Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Those speaking in tongues were speaking of the "mighty works of God." The use of tongues by charismatics is often used for "body (of Christ) ministry". This verse simply cannot be used to support this practice. In Acts 2:11 the content of the messages spoken in tongues was the "mighty works of God." These messages resulted in the conversion of 3,000 people after Peter's speech (presumably in Latin, a language which all understood).


Healing

(Acts 3:6) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Peter had a supernatural power which he could give to help others. In this passage what he had was the power to heal. The modern health-wealth so-called faith healers certainly don't have this power like Peter and the other apostles did, even though they claim to have it.

(Acts 3:16) And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

It was Peter's faith that healed the man. The man who was healed didn't have any faith at all. This contradicts the "word-faith" teaching.


Holy Spirit

(Acts 4:31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

They were filled with the Holy Spirit but didn't speak in tongues. The spectacular displays were for the purpose of validating the church and the authority of the apostles. Thus, speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit as many charismatics claim.


Eschatology (End Times)

(Acts 2:16,17) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

This passage from Joel 2:28 which Peter quotes is often used by fundamentalist, evangelical Protestants to refer to a yet-future time, but Peter applies it to the church age. Therefore, the "last days" (Acts 2:17) is the church age — we are currently in the last days.

(Acts 2:18) And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

Many Protestant denominations deny that prophesy is for today but some accept it, particularly charismatic denominations. The Catholic Church also teaches that prophecy is for today. It is unlikely this verse is limited to the apostles, especially since all 120 were speaking in tongues.


Calvinism

(Acts 2:23) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.

Foreknowledge — This verse contains evidence that God's foreknowledge (see Romans 8:29) does not cause God's actions. God's plan of redemption was not motivated by his mere foreknowledge that man would sin and require redemption. If God's foreknowledge in Romans 8:29 is not what motivates God to save some, then God's predestination is not the source of why some are saved and some are not saved.

(Acts 2:27,31) Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

David foresaw there would be a future Messiah who would conquer death via resurrection. This foreknowledge of David did not cause the future events (see Acts 2:23). In like manner, God's foreknowledge does not cause God to predestine people to be saved.


Apparitions

(Acts 2:6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

Sound — These heard the sound but there is no mention whether or not they saw the tongues as of fire. Apparitions are similar in that the recipients see and hear everything while the onlookers often miss much of what is going on.


Misc

(Acts 2:5) And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Devout — Those who witnessed the birth of the Church were devout Jews, those who were willing to make a long, arduous pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Some of these were what is termed "God-fearing", those Gentiles who were in various stages of converting to Judaism. Note that God first revealed the Church to devout men (and women), not to pagans.

(Acts 2:42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Fellowship. A key aspect of Christianity is fellowship. A church is not functioning in its full capacity if it does not have fellowship.


Table of Contents


Overview

Salvation — the role of works

The Church

Apostolic Succession

Baptism

Eucharist (Communion)

   

Sola Scriptura

Apparitions

Charismatic

     Tongues

     Healing

     Holy Spirit

        

Eschatology (End Times)

Pope

Mary

Calvinism

Liturgy

Misc