The book of Acts is Volume 2 of Luke. He tells us as much in 1:1 of Acts when he says that his first book was about “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” Acts then is what the Jesus continues to do and teach through His body, the church. So we wouldn’t be going astray if we looked for further parallels between Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts.
William Willimon suggests that the place to begin is with the birth of Jesus and the birth of the church. Both occur very early in their respective narratives (the second chapter in each). Luke gives us the earthly Jesus among us in the flesh, while Acts is about the exalted Jesus among us in the Spirit. The Spirit has a pivotal role in the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:35) and in birth of the church (Acts 1:4-5). Both births serve as the launching point for their books.
Willimon suggests another helpful parallel—Genesis 1 and Acts 2. There are echoes of creation in the account of the church’s beginning. Before creation, the Spirit is “hovering” over the waters before words that bring life are spoken (Genesis 1:2). Before the creation of the church, tongues of fire representing the Spirit “rested” (ESV) over the apostles before words are spoken that bring new life (Acts 2:3-4, 22-39). And just as the earth becomes the place for man, the church becomes the place for God’s new creation.
To appreciate this last statement we need to debunk a commonly held idea—that people can be followers of Christ without apart from the church. This is like saying you can swim without being in the water. This view is fashioned much more from our culture of individuality than from the Scripture. From a biblical point of view, it’s not a possibility.
People do not become disciples independent of the church/body of Christ. Paul makes it clear that baptism into Christ is baptism into His body (Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The three thousand baptized in Acts 2 wouldn’t have thought in the individualistic terms we do today—they would have understood they were part of the larger community of Christ. So “Jesus—yes, the church—no” isn’t an option that God gives us. Meeting with a local group of disciples where we can flesh out community should be as natural as finding a body of water to swim in.
Luke would have us to see that God is making all things new through Jesus and He’s starting with the church. It is entered through the new birth of water and Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; John 3:3-5). Paul will say, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s why he will write, “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3:21).