THE BOOK OF ACTS
Introduction to the Book of Acts
Formation and Spread of the Church -- Extension of the Gospel to Gentiles -- Life and Work of Paul.
I. TITLE -- The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles are really not two works but two parts of one work. Bible students differ as to what the title really should be, but we follow the title used in the King James' version, which is the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. This is the title given the book early by The early Christian Church. This title suggests the two fold division of the book: "Peter" (Chapters 1-12) and "Paul" (Chapters 13-28); for these two men are the prominent figures in the narrative. Perhaps a better title would be "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," for it is the Spirit of God who carries on the work of the ascended Christ in His Church.
II. AUTHORSHIP -- Among reverent Bible students there is almost universal acceptance of Luke's authorship. Luke probably wrote The Acts no later than A. D. 63-65, for the book does not mention the great fire of Rome, the persecution of Christians by Nero that followed, or the Jewish War (A. D. 66-70). Luke, according to tradition, was a Gentile native of Syrian Antioch, and his literary style suggests a Greek outlook. Luke was present at a number of the events which he narrates in The Acts (16:10; 20:5; 27:1). It is believed he attended the Apostle Paul as a personal physician. In such a case he would have much opportunity for firsthand information about many events. He was an extremely careful writer and is acclaimed to be "the Greatest Historian that ever lived".
Luke's stated object was to give Theophilus a trustworthy account of the early days of the Christian faith. One other obvious aim is "to demonstrate that the Christian movement was not a menace to law and order throughout the Roman Empire." Luke does this by citing the testimonies of imperial representatives -- the praetors of Philippi (16:19, 35); the politarchs of Thessalonica (17:6-9); Gallio, pro-consul of Achaia (18:12-17); and the town clerk of Ephesus (19:35-41).
The Acts is a masterly defense of Christianity. It tells the stirring story of the growth of Christian New Testament churches. It is a superb piece of literature. And, above all, it is a book of tremendous importance to Christ's churches today. Here we learn that the Christian message -- THE GOSPEL -- Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and coming again -- was the dynamic of the early New Testament Church. Here we find the method prescribed by our Lord Himself for the work of His Church. As we study The Acts closely, with hearts and minds open to His instruction, we cannot help but glimpse a vision of the sort of Christians God would have us to be and the manner in which it is possible for us to become such men and women.
III. THE CHRONOLOGY -- The following dates may be regarded as approximately correct.
AD 30, Death of Jesus.
AD 35, Conversion of Paul, Chapter 9.
AD 44, Death of James, son of Zebedee, Chapter 12.
AD 45-51, First Missionary Journey, Chapters 13-14.
AD 51, Conference at Jerusalem, Chapter 15.
AD 51-54, Second Missionary Journey, Chapters 18-21.
AD 58, Paul's arrest in Jerusalem, Chapter 21.
AD 58-60, Caesarean imprisonment, Chapters 24-26.
AD 61-63, First Roman Imprisonment, Chapter 28.
IV. THE PURPOSE -- Undoubtedly the purpose is to show that the things Christ "began to do and to teach" on earth He is now doing and teaching from Heaven by the Holy Spirit through His apostles and other witnesses.
A. The Plan. WITNESSING. (1:8)
1- In Jerusalem and among the Jews. (Chaps 1-7).
2- In Samaria, Caesarea, and beyond, (Chaps 8-11)
3- At Antioch, and "to the uttermost part of the earth." (Chaps 12-28)
B. The Method. illustrated all through the book.
1- Public proclamation of the Gospel.
2- Individual witness of all believers.
3- Establishment of local churches throughout the known world.
(This plan and method can be seen in the following scripture; 1:8; 2:4,14,41; 4:2; 5:14,42; 6:7; 8:1,4; 9:31; 13:24; 16:5; 19:20.)
V. SOME CHARACTERISTICS.
A. The work of the Holy Spirit is outstanding. We find the doctrine of the Holy Spirit set forth principally in the epistles. Here we see Him mightily at work in the apostles and believers. As a source of their power and wisdom. He dominates the entire record.
B. Human instrumentality stands out. New characters are brought on the scene in nearly every chapter. We have counted over 75 names of persons. Some because they were witnesses.
C. Prayer. (All through the Book.)
D. The Cross and the Resurrection, with particular emphasis on the latter, is emphasized in all testimony.
E. We find several apostolic sermons that should be carefully studied.