As many of you know, back in the year 2000 I preached four sermons on this chapter and then I quit. How embarrassing! And the reason for quitting was that two Puritans totally stumped me on a subject that comes up in chapter 2 because they challenged the traditional view of the baptism of the Spirit, and did so rather convincingly, And then I discovered that it wasn't just these Puritans, but Southern Presbyterians that I respect – like Dabney, Thornwell and Palmer also argued rather persuasively for this minority Reformed view.
I have studied the subject a lot in my spare time in the intervening years, and have become convinced that the traditional Reformed view that I held to is correct for the most part, but that a failure to distinguish multiple benefits that the Spirit conferred in Acts 2 (not just baptism, but multiple benefits) is what has led to the stalemate. I think that both sides are right on what the Spirit confers, but that the meaning of the traditional view of baptism is correct. And we will get to that at a later time.
But I am eager to get back into this book for three reasons. First, I believe with Peter Hammond, and Derek Carlson and others, that this book is an incredibly important training manual for the kind of radical, culture transforming Christianity that (for example) a William Carey held to. Now it's true that the book of Acts has been hijacked by extremists, but we shouldn't allow that fact to make us miss the important lessons that are found here.
The second reason I decided to start this series is that it will help to explain some of the passions that I have for bringing Reform to the church in America, Africa, Asia and other places, should God prosper me in my weakness. And I admit that I am weak, but I believe that God is calling me to this, and I believe that Glenn will be a huge help in achieving these goals. I will be leaving on a short two week trip to Asia to gather information. And God has wonderfully opened the door to network with some of the most influential Christian pastors in Asia. I just heard last week that the central government is making a new crackdown on these pastors, and they are having to lie low, so we will see what happens. I am also networking with a leading Reformer on doing some possible work with government officials in South America. And I hope that this series will help this church to get excited about it's own role in advancing the kingdom here in Omaha and to the ends of the earth.
The third reason I wanted to start this series is that I want to show ways in which the third world church can teach us some lessons. The American Church is not exactly an exemplar of Biblical Christianiaty. And it is rather interesting that the weaknesses and strengths of the church in Asia and America complement each other. Several underground missionaries who have worked in Asia for decades have said that the weaknesses and strengths of each are opposites – they are the inverse of each other. And I think the book of Acts is a great way of highlighting both. And I think you will find this to be a series that is both encouraging and challenging.
And I'm not going to repeat the information that I gave in the year 2000. Those four sermons were all true and good, but I hate repeating myself. So there will be other lessons that I want to highlight this morning. And I'm going to dive straight into verse 1.
"The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." The former account is the Gospel of Luke. Luke shows what Jesus began to do and teach and Acts shows what He continues to do and teach, especially through the apostles. We will be seeing that the book of Acts, and the epistles are the teaching of Christ. But Christ continues to "do" as well. We must not think of Jesus being on vacation in heaven for 2000 years waiting for His real job to begin at the Second Coming. Read 1 Corinthians 15:28 some time and you will discover that the Second Coming is precisely when His mediatorial kingdom will end and He will hand a Christianized world back to the Father. 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that Jesus will remain at the right hand of the Father, reigning until all enemies are subdued under His feet and every square inch of planet earth is conquered for King Jesus. His last words to His disciples were, "Lo, I am with you always, even till the end of the age." When we do our kingdom work of discipling the nations Christ promises to be by our side. In fact, without His promise, "I will build My church,"" what could "we" accomplish? Christ's words, "without Me you can do nothing," continue to be true.
The second thing to notice is that doing and teaching belong together. One of the things that frustrates Peter Hammond is that so many Christians have simply become arm-chair theologians. They have their Christianity when they talk with other Christians, but in their business, in their entertainment and in their dominion, they are pagans. There should not be one square inch of our lives that does not follow both the actions of Christ and the theology of Christ. Doing and teaching belong together. Don't be arm-chair theologians.
A third thing that I want you to notice is the order of these words: "all that Jesus began both to do and teach." Frequently doing precedes teaching when you are displaying your Christianity to the world. And we are going to be seeing this all through the book of Acts. Now it is true that we cannot practice our Christianity until we know our Christianity, so the order in our own Christian growth is the reverse. We need to know the truth before we can practice it. But the first thing that a pagan witnesses is not usually your teaching, but your actions. In fact, you may not get an opportunity to teach until Christians are blown away by your consistent Christian actions.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what so many Christians do when they seek to be a witness at work. They make a nuisance of themselves with their words, and buttons and their bumper stickers, all the while being a terrible witness with the kind of labor they are providing. It's like the bumper stickers that say, "Honk if you love Jesus." But they are being such jerks in their driving that the honking is not about loving Jesus. Talk to most of the business men in our congregation and they will tell you that some of their worst experiences have been with Christians. That is sad! That speaks of Christians who talk before they do. Paul grieves over this in Romans 2:17-24. He talks to those who "are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish" (in other words, they are eager to be a witness), and then he goes on to blast them by saying, "Why would people want to be Christians when they see such hypocrisy?" For example, He says,
You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?
I know pastors who have pilfered from the offerings. I know Christians who have stolen time from their employers, and employers who have robbed their employees of promised gain. What kind of a reception do you think their teaching has? Not a very good one. Christians have been a stench in many a business with their obnoxious witness and their careless doing. Paul goes on to say in Romans 2, "You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery?" You know what one of the greatest stumbling blocks to unbelievers has been (at least that I have run across in Omaha)? Many pagans have told me about the adulteries of pastors; it's Christians who justify their pornography; it's Christians whose actions don't line up with their profession. We're not talking about being perfect. We are talking about being honest, and confessing our sins, and hating our own sins as much or more than we hate the sins of others. And Paul ends his long list of failures of Christians to do and to teach with these words:
You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 'For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'
Listen brothers and sisters, if we are to be a church that makes a difference in our culture, we must be holy. Let's make sure that we live our Christian walk before we talk it or we will blaspheme God's name. Now He does command us to talk, so it's not as if you can say, "OK, I won't do either." No. Let's do like Christ did in the Gospels: He practiced His Christianity and then He explained His Christianity when His practice drew interest. If we get on our government's case for dishonoring the law and then we go out and break the Sabbath with impunity, the pagans notice. They are going to think that we are hypocrites because we pick and choose which commandments we keep. If we talk big talk about holiness and then get drunk, don't think that Satan doesn't notice this inconsistency. No one is perfect, but it is important that we not pretend to be. If we talk grace, then we need to have the humility of letting others know that we have had to go before the throne of grace for cleansing. Let's make sure that our walk lines up with our talk, which involves humility and confession and getting up and trying again. Doing and teaching.
We are going to see later in the book that one of the best witnesses that you can have is to be the best employees and employers that the world has ever seen. 1 John 3:18 says, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth". There's that order again. If you don't have loving deeds, your loving words are discredited. 1 Corinthians 4:20 says, "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power". Luke 24:19 says that Jesus was a "Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people". Psalm 119:68 says to God, "You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes". It was in seeing God's goodness that the desire was aroused to be taught by God. And so I really think this is a pattern for us.
A fourth thing to notice about verse 1 is that it was written to a believer by the name of Theophilus. Even his name means "lover of God" or "friend of God." This is not a book on getting unbelievers saved. The Gospel of John was written for that purpose. This is a manual for believers on how to live in the kingdom era and how to expand the kingdom.
A fifth lesson can be found in the phrase in verse 2 which says, "after He through the Holy Spirit…" The whole verse says,
Until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen.
Because I spent quite a bit of time on the implications of that in one of the sermons on the Trinity, I won't belabor it now. But Jesus stood as an example for us on how to submit to the Spirit and how to live by the Spirit. He could have done all of those things in His own divine power, but He chose to serve by the Spirit. And the book of Acts will be illustrating how we too can do that in later chapters.
I'm going to skip over most of verses 2 and 3 since I dealt adequately with them in 2000, but I do want you to notice the last phrase of verse 3. I think this captures the theme of the whole book. Verse 3 says about Jesus,
to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Why did Christ spend His whole 40 days "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" if that kingdom was postponed? That's what I was taught in Bible School – that we are not living in the time of the kingdom. In fact, I was taught that this is the Great Parenthesis that was totally unseen in the Old Testament. So on that interpretation, Jesus was spending all of His time teaching the disciples about something that wouldn't happen for another 2000 years. It makes no sense. The true interpretation was that Jesus was preparing them for the inauguration of the Kingdom at Pentecost. The kingdom of God came with power at Pentecost and it has been growing non-stop ever since then. Now there is a sense in which the kingdom came in the Gospels because Christ had the Spirit without measure, and He was the prince. But the Gospels don't tend to speak that way.
Let me give you some examples: The Gospels begin with John the Baptist preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Not 2000 years later, but at hand. It's near. Then in the next chapter Matthew says that Jesus had exactly the same message. It says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" It wasn't there yet, but it was near. But Acts begins with Jesus speaking about the kingdom of God, it ends with the last verse of the book saying that Paul was "preaching the kingdom of God." And in between it is advancing the kingdom of God over every area of life. This is a kingdom manual. And I think it is important for us to see that it is a kingdom manual.
Now dispensationalists agree that the Old Testament constantly anticipated the coming of the kingdom of God. But then they claimed that once the Jews rejected Jesus, Jesus took away the promise of the kingdom and that the church age was utterly unanticipated by the Old Testament. But look with me at Acts 26:22. This is one of many verses in Acts that indicates that the Old Testament was precisely anticipating our age. Acts 26:22 says that Paul was "saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come." There wasn't anything he said that wasn't already anticipated. Look at Acts 3:24. The whole section is a marvelous kingdom passage, but I just want to read Acts 3:24. "Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days."" He is saying that the entire Old Testament was anticipating the glories of Pentecost and the age it ushered in. This is a kingdom manual.
And so Acts really demonstrates the truth of Isaiah 9 – that Jesus would ascend to His throne (which Acts 2 talks about), would receive a kingdom, would send forth His power, and that,
of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Yes, God uses His people, but without Jehovah's power and zeal, it could not be achieved. So this is a kingdom manual, showing how it is that God's zeal advances the kingdom through the weakness of His people.
Let's go back to Acts 1 and verse 4: "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem…" Prophecy said that the kingdom had to start in Jerusalem and expand to the ends of the world. Ezekiel said that the Spirit had to be poured out in the temple and he speaks of a river of spiritual water that would flow from that temple and would bring healing to the ends of the world.
Verse 4 goes on to say, "but to wait for the promise of the Father, 'which' He said, 'you have heard from Me.'" Ten days wait was not the longest prayer meeting ever, but I wonder how many of us would be able to tarry in prayer and worship for ten days? Those were not wasted days. Without the Spirit's empowering, what can we accomplish? We tend to be an activist people, hurrying with our devotions and our times with God and then wanting to get on to the real work. But prayer is the real work of the church, and the things that flow from prayer are what God blesses or does not bless. This ten day wait was only the first of many such prayer meetings in the book of Acts. Acts tells us that they continued steadfastly in prayer. But there is a balance here. Some people are forever preparing before they get into action. That tends to be the main problem with some people – never acting. And so we could say, "It was only ten days" and then they got busy. So there is a balance here.
I spent a lot of time on verse 5, and we will look at the Baptism of the Spirit when we get to Acts chapter 2. But just keep in mind that what happens in chapter 2 is called a baptism in this verse, and it is what is pictured in water baptism, and it is what was prophesied by John the Baptist. By the way, if you have ever wondered what mode of baptism we should use, it is rather easily settled by asking what mode did God use when He baptizes in the Spirit? God poured out the Spirit. And if water baptism pictures Spirit baptism, it too should be by pouring. The action is not with us. The action is with the water, which speaks of salvation by grace alone. Verse 8 says that the Spirit would come upon them. And we will look at that more at a later time. But over and over again it speaks of the Spirit being poured out, shed upon, resting upon, coming upon and falling upon people. He is the active agent.
Verse 6 goes on to say,
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'
Many say that this question reflects bad theology, but I don't think so. Christ has been talking for forty days about the kingdom. I think they know something about the kingdom by this time. In verse 5 He promises the Spirit of the kingdom, and verse 6 says, "Therefore". It was natural for them to conclude that if the Spirit would be poured out in Jerusalem, that the kingdom would be restored to Israel. But there were enough things that Christ had taught about the kingdom that they knew they couldn't assume this to be true. For example, Christ had already taught them that the synagogues would persecuted Christians. But they don't know how long that is going to be before Israel is finally saved. Look at Acts 3:19. Even though they are inspired, they still don't know the timing of Israel's repentance, but in 3:19 Peter says,
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…
The word "therefore" in chapter 1:6 shows that Luke at least thinks that their question is a natural question. There is coming a time when the natural branches which have been broken off of the Olive Tree will eventually be grafted back in.
And to further support that, I want you to notice in verse 7 that Jesus does not deny that the kingdom will be restored to Israel. He just denies that it will happen right away.
And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.'
Before Israel is saved and has the kingdom enveloping that nation, two things must first happen. Verse 7 indicates that times and seasons must pass. That's indicating a long span of time. The second thing that must happen according to verse 8 is that the Gospel has to go to the ends of the earth. We won't get into it much today, but Romans 11 picks up on this and outlines this history of waiting for the fullness of the Gentiles to come in. The word "fullness" means majority, and so Romans 11 says that before the fullness or majority of Israel as a nation will be saved, the fullness or majority of the Gentiles must become Christian. That's why missions is so critical. That's why nation discipling missions is so important. And Romans 11 says that once Israel is saved as a nation, that event will itself usher in such change in the world that it will be almost like life from the dead. That's what Acts 3 is referring to when it longs for the "times of refreshing" and also calls those times the "times of restoration of all things…" And we will have more to say on that when we get to chapter 3.
But there was one part of their question that is rebuked in verse 7 and I think it's important that we look at that. The rebuke is that we must not inquire into things that the Father has not revealed. Jesus said, "It is not for you to know…" If the Father chooses not to give us information about the future or any other subject, then it is folly for us to inquire. John Calvin very rightly said,
Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds to which God has willed to confine us and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray.
He is saying that we need to discipline our thinking and corral our thoughts to restrict themselves to what the Bible says. In the olden days, Pastor Durham and I would often quote 1 Corinthians 4:6 on the radio. It says, "that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written." Derek Carlson has some great things to say on this, and I want to quote this missionary at length. He says,
The godly person seeks to know everything that the Lord has revealed but he also doesn't want to go beyond what the Lord has revealed… God has revealed everything we need to know and told us many things that we need to do, however, many people refuse to do what God has clearly told them to do, but still want to ‘know' more. If you cannot be faithful with the knowledge you have, why do you think you will be faithful with more knowledge?… Such curiosity arises when we are not doing what we should be doing (being idle), or if we don't trust the Lord (lack of faith). If we faithfully do what God has clearly told us to do, there will be no need, time or desire to have many curious little questions answered.
And I say, "Amen." Deuteronomy 29:29 says,
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The extremists who have hijacked thebook of Acts don't want to be bothered with the law of God; certainly not with doing the law of God. They don't want to be bothered with diligent study of the Bible. They insist that the Spirit reveal what they need to know without study, and they often treat those so-called revelations with more authority than they do the Bible. I have talked a number of times with one person who despises libraries and books. In fact, talking about reading commentaries of the Bible or theology books makes him mad. He says, "He only wants to be taught by the Spirit." I told him that he was being inconsistent, because he was teaching other people rather than letting the Spirit teach them. What is the difference between his teaching a book's teaching. But that's enough said on that.
In our studies in Acts we are going to be seeing that while the Book of Acts will put cattle prods under our own Reformed apathy, it will also instruct us that the apostolic deposit [in other words, the revelation given to the apostles] is all we need for life and godliness. The very word "apostle" indicates that there can be no such thing as apostolic succession. An apostle is directly commission by Christ. Verse 2 speaks of "apostles whom He had chosen." Later on in this chapter we are going to be seeing that the apostles themselves believed that there can be no apostles of Christ after the first century. An apostle so represents Christ that what he says, Christ says. And so there are no more apostles of Christ today. In the loose sense there are apostles of the church or apostles of a Presbytery, or even your own apostles. I have an attorney who represents me, and what he says for me legally, I have said. In a loose sense, he is my apostle. But there are no apostles of Christ living today; only their writings. Ephesians says that the apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the church and once the foundation is laid, we don't keep laying foundations. And we'll get into that in future sermons. But let's take seriously Christ's rebuke that it is not for us to know that which has not been revealed to the apostles. I think that is so important. It is not for us to know what has not been revealed to the apostles. This is our only infallible guide.
There are just two more things that I want to comment on in this passage. The first is that, while we reject power religion (in other words, religion that forces people to embrace what we believe – we absolutely reject such power religion), that does not mean that we believe that Christians should be powerless. You get the impression from some Reformed people that they believe in a powerless religion. Look at verse 8. Verse 8 says, "But you shall receive power…." He wants us to have power to the end of the age so that we can be witnesses to the end of the age. It's not governmental power. In fact, we believe in small church government and small civil government. No. This is spiritual power. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…" And even the Spirit does not use the power centers of this world to impose His kingdom. Instead, He delights to exalt His strength by working through our weakness. If you feel weak and helpless as a witness, then you are a perfect candidate to advance the cause of Christ. Verse 8 says, "and you shall be witnesses to Me…" He took despised Jews to convert the world. He took despised Galileans to convert Jerusalemites. He took bumbling Peter, tax collector Matthew. He took James and John who were called sons of thunder because they had a problem with their tempers, and not only turned them into humble, loving servants, but used them to advance the grace of His kingdom. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 says,
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
He ends the chapter by saying, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD." Are you weak in your Christian walk? Then depend upon the power of the Spirit. We need His power. Are you base and despised? Then rejoice that you are perfectly qualified to be His foot-soldiers, if you will be humble and depend upon Him.
That power of the Spirit was so profound, that even though these lowly peasants were turning the world upside down. It doesn't matter that we are a small church. They started with less people than we have. It doesn't matter that I am weak. What matters is if we have the power of the Spirit. During the time of Christ's earthly ministry he said that there were few that were being saved. But in the next chapter (Matthew 8) he said that all of that would change in the future and that "many will come from east and west."" I'll just give a few samples from Acts to show how what was remnant and few in the Old Testament became many and multitudes in the New Covenant. Acts shows the great reversal of history. Everything in the Old Testament was getting worse and worse down to the time of Christ with only a few reversals. And all abandoned Christ at the cross. But from that time on, the mustard seed has been growing non-stop with only a few minor reversals.
Look at chapter 2:41. The church grew from 120 into over 3000. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them." Look at verse 47, second phrase. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." Turn to chapter 4:4. "However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand." Look at verse 32. "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart…" Look at chapter 5:14. "And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women." Look at verse 16. "Also a multitude." Look at 5:28, second sentence. "And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine…" Look at chapter 6:1. "Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying." And then look at the last verse of this first section dealing with Jerusalem. It's in chapter 6, verse 7.
And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Every section of Acts illustrates this phenomenal growth of the kingdom just as Christ had predicted in the parables of the kingdom. Don't be expecting this world to be getting worse and worse as so many people think. Expect the opposite. Isaiah 9 promises that of the increase of Christ's kingdom and of peace there will be no end.
And even the structure of the book shows that the advance of the kingdom prophesied in Daniel was beginning to happen. Acts 1:8 speaks of this geographical and ethnic spread of the kingdom from Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. Well, the book is organized that way, with each section ending with a summary statement of the invincible advancement of Christ's kingdom. It is a book designed to stir up our faith and action. So let me close by quickly giving you the six sections of the book of Acts.
The first section is Jerusalem and goes from chapter 1:1 to chapter 6:7. I've already read the concluding statement in 6:7. Luke said that the faith spread, it multiplied greatly, there were a great many. The next section is just as encouraging.
Part II of Acts covers the spread of the kingdom into Judea and Samaria, and that section goes from chapter 6:8 to chapter 9:31. Look at the summary statement at the end of this section. Chapter 9:31 says,
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified [or literally, "built up"]. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Section three goes from the next verse where Peter travels to Herod's jurisdiction and encompasses all of Syria. So that is chapter 9:32-12:24. And 12:24 says, "But the word of God grew and multiplied." Luke doesn't want us to miss the fact that when the kingdom starts and the power of the Spirit has come, nothing can stop the advancement of His cause.
Next section deals with Asia. That's chapter 12:25-16:5, which ends, "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."
The Fifth section is Europe (and especially Greece), and it runs from 16:6-19:20. Chapter 19:20 ends with the same summary. "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed." To prevail means to conquer or to win a fight. God's kingdom is not meant to decrease, but to increase; not to be defeated, but to defeat this world and submit it under Christ's feet.
The last section shows Rome itself beginning to crumble to the Gospel just as Daniel prophesied. It runs from 19:21 to the end of the book. And the last verse of the book says,
Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
And that's just a sneak preview of the conquering of Rome over the next three centuries. By the time of Constantine, more than 50% of the Empire was Christian.
What an optimistic book! What a vision for the future! Now it's a realistic book as well because it talks about persecution, death, Satanic opposition. It talks about God's call that we be willing to lay down our lives for His cause. But what a cause it is! It is worth laying down our lives to see the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. And it's my prayer that each person here would commit himself and herself to living out the kingdom principles of this book and advancing His cause. Amen.
Introductory Outline of the Book of Acts
Spread of kingdom through Jerusalem (Acts 1:1 - 6:7). "And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Spread of kingdom through Judea, Galilee & Samaria (6:8 - 9:31). "Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
Spread of kingdom through Herod's jurisdiction and all of Syria (9:32-12:24). "But the word of God grew and multiplied."
Spread of the kingdom through Asia (12:25-16:5). "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."
Spread of the kingdom through Europe - especially Greece (16:6-19:20). "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed."
The image of Rome beginning to crumble (19:21-28:31). "Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him."