The emphasis in the book of Acts is overwhelmingly on the Holy Spirit.
The book could be said to be the Acts of the Holy Spirit, as New Testament Scholar William Barclay notes in his book, The Promise of the Spirit.
The Book on the Holy Spirit
Writing in an article "The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts", Hubel L. Drumwright, Jr. notes this regarding the simple observation of the emphasis Acts has on the named activity of the Holy Spirit in the book:
"In the American Standard Version of Acts there are fifty-six references to the Holy Spirit. By comparison to other portions of the New Testament the special significance of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts can be demonstrated. The combined sixty-eight chapters of the Synoptic Gospels contain only thirty-four references to the Holy Spirit. The combined chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians (thirty-two), which are Paul’s longest letters, contain only forty-five references to the Spirit. In the Johannine literature, the Gospel and the Epistles, a combined total of twenty-eight chapters contain only twenty-one references to the Holy Spirit. With fifty-six references to the Holy Spirit in twenty-eight chapters, Acts can with justification be said to be especially the book of the Spirit."
I did a word search check in my bible software of the ESV (A version of the bible that is strong on accurate rendering of the original texts), and found, by comparison, when searching the term "Holy Spirit":
Acts contains 83 references to Him.
The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark & Luke) contains 46 references.
Romans contains 12 references.
1 Corinthians contains 7 references.
In the whole Johannine literature (including Revelation), there are a total of 9 references.
In other words, the total references in all this combined NT literature does not surpass the total references in the book of Acts alone.
At Every Key Moment
At every key moment in the book of Acts, it is the Holy Spirit taking centre stage, or the lead role in what is happening in this early church history:
The promise made by Jesus in Acts 1:8 is that the apostles and disciples would "receive power when the Holy Spirit" came upon them.
We see this promise being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
The Apostle Peter explains - what you are seeing of the Holy Spirit is the promise of God in the OT (Acts 2:33).
Peter also assures - any who repent and believe in Jesus shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
When Peter is brought before the Sanhedrin, he is filled with the Holy Spirit and with great boldness explains what he had just done in bringing healing to a lame man at the temple (Acts 4:8).
When the church is reprimanded for preaching Jesus by the Jewish leadership council, the Sanhedrin, and told not to proclaim Jesus anymore, the Holy Spirit fills them and gives them great boldness to continue proclaiming Jesus (Acts 4:31).
When Ananias & Sapphira lie about their level of generosity, they are said to be lieing against the Holy Spirit, and are struck down dead for their falsehood (Acts 5:3).
When the church is struggling with growing pains in Acts 6, it is men full of faith and the Holy Spirit who are appointed to leadership positions to help with leadership in the growing church (Acts 6:5).
When the word begins spreading into Samaria, the Apostles come down from Jerusalem to pray for the believers there to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15).
When Saul is confronted by Jesus in a vision, and then blinded, a Christian man named Ananias is sent to him to restore his sight and specifically pray for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17), which happens, and then Paul begins boldly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ thereafter.
After this conversion of Paul, the church is said to walk in the fear of the Lord and the "comfort of the Holy Spirit", and "it multiplied." (Acts 9:31).
Jesus life and ministry is explained in terms of being anointed by God "with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (Acts 10:38).
The Holy Spirit expands the church towards the wider Gentile world by falling upon and filling the eager Gentiles who gathered at the Roman Centurion Cornelius' house in Acts 10.
Barnabas is used by God in Acts 11 to encourage the spread of the Gospel to the Gentile world and was a man described in these terms: "full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (Acts 11:24).
The Holy Spirit is the one who commissions Barnabas and Paul (formerly the persecutor, Saul) for the work of the Gospel to which He was now calling them - the first of a number of missionary journeys Paul was commissioned to go on to expand the work of the Gospel in the world (Acts 13:2, 4).
And this is just 15 of the 83 references to the work of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. And we're not even halfway through the book of Acts in terms of its number of chapters. As far as span of time is concerned, we're talking around 10 years of actual historical time passing.
One thing is clear. The inspired author of Acts, Luke, is pointing out an undeniable reality. The lead actor, mover and shaker, and activator of the people of God in the book of Acts is the Holy Spirit Himself.
Can we afford to be any different?
We cannot be, as a church, nor as individual believers. We are a people, as the Apostle Paul declared in Romans, "led by the Spirit of God." And as Acts amply demonstrates, this is an active, specific, and powerful leading.
What was clearly demonstrated in the history of the call, mission, and expansion of the church in Acts is assumed and explained theologically in the rest of the New Testament. The work of God in their midst is reflected on, understood, and explained in the pastoral Epistles of Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude. And of course, the book of Revelation could be described as the book of Holy Spirit revelations (starting in Revelation 2:10).
I really desire to grow in this area, more and more! I have so much more to learn in being led by the Spirit, and so much more to discover in walking with Him!
So, how do we live led?
Acts 13:1-3 gives us three simple (and challenging) steps to take, everyday:
Check it out more closely, here:
"Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." [Acts 13:1–3]
Here you clearly see:
Earnest prayer - not just prayer, but prayer with fasting.
Listening for the voice of God the Holy Spirit - who speaks to them a specific instruction.
Obedient action - they responded in obedience to the clear instructions of the Holy Spirit, sending Barnabas and Saul off for missionary work.
We can do no better than what is demonstrated here in Acts 13.
Joining with you in being led by the Holy Spirit - as a believer, and as a church! Let's go!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh