The Fifth Gospel
June 30, 2022
-by Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from the Acts Bible Companion
The book of Acts, sometimes called the fifth Gospel, is a continuation of the four Gospels. Matthew concludes with the Resurrection, Mark with the Ascension, Luke with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and John with the promise of the Second Coming—all of these funnel down into the first chapter of Acts. And as all four do, Acts confirms the great missionary call, “Take this good news to the world!”
Acts builds a bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles. Just imagine, Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, likely got together with Peter and Paul many times and shared many wonderful talks about how God was at work in their separate mission fields. Read Acts and their letters together and you get a picture of early church history, along with the personal relationships and struggles that each of the letters address.
One verse summarizes Acts, a promise from Jesus Himself as He returns to heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts records tremendous growth of the church in those first generations. By the end of the first century alone, millions followed the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Luke mentions 110 people by name, in addition to multitudes and crowds.
What was it that got everyone’s attention? Jesus’ resurrection—the center of all gospel preaching. In the early church the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the heart of the message, and no sermon was preached without it. In the early church, “He is risen!” was proclaimed everywhere; every day was a day to proclaim the Resurrection, not just on Easter.
But the book isn’t complete! The narrative of the church is a continuing story. Perhaps Dr. Luke is today in glory writing the next chapters?! Perhaps he is recording what we do for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Although the Lord left the earth, He only has just moved His headquarters to the right hand of the Father. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; 7:37-39; 14:16-17; 20:22; and Acts 1:8) to be the great power of this age and He did. Right now His Spirit lives in us, His believers.
Our commission now is to be His witness. We should make Him the center of attraction. This directive is not only to the church as a body but it is also a very personal command to each believer—personally, privately. Our business is to get the Word of God out to the world. The Lord wants people to be saved. This is our part in His great commission.
In order to get this gospel out, we need power. Jesus promises to be with us through His Spirit and move through us personally, and through His church and through every ministry. Our only choice is whether we permit Him to be powerful.
Jesus said we are to take our testimony, our witness of Him, to the end of the earth. This global reach is His idea. What are you doing to take Jesus Christ to the world?
In order to “take the whole Word to the whole world,” the book of Acts teaches us that we need God’s power. God promises to be with us through His Spirit and move through us personally, through His church, and through every ministry. Dr. McGee reminds us “our only choice is whether we permit Him to be powerful.”
- Would you like to be used by God to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? If yes, ask Him now to fill you with His Spirit and give you the power.
- Dr. McGee whimsically suggested that perhaps Luke is writing the continuing story of Acts today in heaven, including what’s happening in our generation. How would you like your story to be written?