The structure of the Book of Acts is highlighted in ‘The Spreading Flame’. The narrative is of the spreading of the Gospel, according to the express command of Jesus in the key verse:
Acts 1:8 ‘. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Series 1 Episode 1)
Each series marks a different step in the process of taking the Gospel to many parts of the known world of its day. This was the priority of the Apostles at the time - not just for the Jewish people in Israel but across all nations in all the world. They were in Jerusalem at that point. Judea was the immediate area surrounding Jerusalem. Samaria was the next district to the north which was occupied by the Samaritans - another ethnic group. And then the ends of the earth - every nation.
In Early Church traditions, but not in the Bible, we find that Thomas travelled to what is now Iran and Iraq, Andrew went to central Asia, John went to modern day Turkey and Peter went to Rome , in modern day Italy.
It took time for this to happen but the progression is apparent in the events of the Book of Acts. By the end of the book, the Gospel has travelled through many different provinces of the Roman Empire and has reached Rome.
The Spreading Flame is divided up into six sections, or series, to reflect the progress of the book of Acts. At the end of each section there is a summary verse which shows the progression of the spread of the Gospel, despite setbacks and persecution. The first of these six summary statements is found at Acts 6:7 (Series 1 Episode 10) which relates to the success of the Gospel in Jerusalem. Acts 9:31 (Series 2 Episode 7) speaks of the increase in numbers in Judea and Galilee. Acts 12:24 (Series 3 Episode 5) marks the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) for the first time. Acts 16:5 (Series 4 Episode 5) tells us of the increase in faith and numbers in Asia minor. As the Church went into Europe, we have the summary statement in Acts 19:20 (Series 5 Episode 6) which states that the, ‘word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power’. The last statement in Acts 28:31 (Series 6 Episode 14), tells us that Paul was able to proclaim the Kingdom of God ‘boldly and without hindrance’.
In the concluding episode of The Spreading Flame, it is recognised that the book of Acts is like an unfinished story. The Apostles in the immediate years afterwards continued the story but it is still unfolding in the Church today. ‘As modern 21st century Christians take inspiration from the book of Acts, to know that God is with us by the power of his Spirit, and has commanded us to keep spreading the Gospel to every place in the world.’ (Series 6 Episode 14) Despite political and personal opposition, spiritual strongholds, economic hardship, and a lot of difficulties travelling and moving from place to place, the Church succeeded in the original Apostolic period in spreading the Gospel far and wide and it is God’s will that the Church continues on the same mission. That is the mission to which you and I are called.
Acts 1:8 ‘. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'