I really want to see in my day what I see in the New Testament. In its pages I see the gospel multiplying out across the Roman Empire reaching rich and poor alike. I see disciples being made, churches being planted and leaders being sent to new places that have yet to hear the good news.
When I see these extraordinary events, I feel compelled to ask myself, “what’s it going to take to see this happen in my own city?” That makes me start to think that maybe if we do what they did in the Bible, we might just also see what they saw.
In my intro Bonus Bible Episode, I made the case that as the author of Acts and of the gospel that bears his name, Luke was trying to suggest that the leaders of the early church were copying Jesus’ mission strategy. I have found that the results of the actions of people like Peter and Paul look eerily similar to the outcomes of Jesus’ actions.
So if the early church tried to make disciples like Jesus made disciples, why shouldn’t I try to do the same?
Where’s the proof?
In the aforementioned podcast episode, I went over the evidence that showed how the disciples in Acts patterned their ministry off of Jesus’ model in the gospel of Luke. The author showed the parallels in three ways:
I have gone over how Luke did this in three successive blog posts, this being the third and last.
Overarching Narrative Patterns
In the previous posts, I more or less figured out those parallels through my own study of the Bible. However, I must confess that this post is almost entirely drawn from other sources. So check out those as well!
Luke And Acts Have The Same General Structure
I was geeking out when I first saw this. It’s really so cool. The books of Luke and Acts seem to broadly mirror one another:
- Jesus starts His ministry with the Holy Spirit descending on Him and Him getting baptized in water (Luke 3)
- The church starts its ministry with the Holy Spirit filling them and 3000 people get baptized in water (Acts 2)
- Jesus gets rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4)
- The apostles get rejected at Jerusalem (Acts 3-5)
- Herod Antipas wants to kill Jesus (Luke 13)
- Herod Agrippa wants to kill Peter (Acts 12)
- Jesus journies to Jerusalem (Luke 9-19)
- Paul journies to Jerusalem (Acts 19-21)
- Jesus gets arrested and undergoes four trials (Luke 20-23)
- Paul gets arrested and undergoes four trials (Acts 21-26)
Others have pointed out more parallels, but I found these to be the most striking. It blows my mind how closely these books reflect one another.
Pauls copying Peter?
There are some pretty clear parallels between Luke and Acts, but it seems like the ministries of Peter and Paul seem to reflect one another as well:
- Peter begins his mission with an evangelistic sermon (Acts 2:22-36)
- Paul begins his mission with an evangelistic sermon (Acts 13:16-41)
- Peter confronts Simon the magician (Acts 8:18-24)
- Paul confronts Bar-Jesus the magician (Acts 13:6-11)
- Peter has to prevent gentiles from worshiping him (Acts 10:25-26)
- Paul tries to prevent gentiles from worshiping him (Acts 14:13-15)
- Peter is defended by Pharisees (Acts 5:34-39)
- Paul is defended by Pharisees (Acts 23:9)
So based on this and my previous posts in this series, did Peter copy Jesus and then did Paul copy Peter?
It seems like the Holy Spirit was orchestrating these laborers to work in similar ways. There are some things that these men can control, like preaching evangelistic sermons, and some things that they couldn’t control, like being defended by Pharisees. Therefore, it was ultimately God directing them to copy one another.
Can We Apply This?
From my own studies on the parallels between Luke and Acts, it really seems like there was a pattern to the ministry work that was being guided by the Holy Spirit. This galvanizes my own resolve to try to use the New Testament as my primary handbook for how to do missions. If God left a pattern to follow, then I want to replicate it as best as I can.
I know that I can’t apply everything, but it seems that whenever I get stuck in trying to multiply disciples and churches, my best course of action is to surrender to the Spirit and dig into His word. Usually God reveals some key principle that I am not applying or am applying incorrectly to my ministry. As I seek to carry out these new lessons, a more fruitful harvest is usually the result.
I encourage you to study Luke, Acts and the rest of the New Testament and discover for yourself how these laborers encountered lost people, proclaimed the gospel, discipled new believers, started churches, and raised up leaders who could multiply. After this study, prayerfully apply what God has shown you and trust that the Holy Spirit will work!