Monday, February 27, 2012

Introduction to the Book of Acts


• Sequel to the gospels (5th historical book in the NT)

The gospels show Jesus who died for our sins. Acts shows the power of the sanctifying Holy Spirit.

The gospels show what Jesus began to do. Acts shows the Holy Spirit continuing that work.

The gospels show the crucified and risen Savior. Acts portrays Him as the ascended and exalted Lord.

In the gospels Jesus teaches. In Acts the apostles teach.

• Forms a background and setting for most of Paul’s writings

But it is Luke that we have to thank for the coherent record of Paul’s apostolic activity. Without [Acts], we should be incalculably poorer. Even with it, there is much in Paul’s letters that we have difficulty understanding; how much more there would be if we had not Book of Acts.”- F.F. Bruce

• Provides basic information about the early church (tensions, persecutions, theological problems, gestations)
• The first and best book of church growth!
• Peter and Paul are the main characters
• Key Word – witness (30+ times)
• Key Verse – Acts 1:8
• A bridge to the epistles (letters)


• Luke the physician (see notes from The Gospel of Luke)
• Luke may have used three sources. First, his own experiences, seen clearly in the “we” sections (16:10-40; 20:5-28:31). Second, Paul was a source. Third, Luke contacted other witnesses (20:4-5; 21:15-19). During Paul’s incarceration Luke was free to investigate in Casesarea (24:27; Lk 1:1-3)

C. PURPOSE – to show the continued work of Jesus through His church by the power of the Spirit

• Resumes history where the gospels leave off.
• Acts records the continuing work of Christ. Note the last word in the book -  “unhinderdly.” Acts 28:31 is most literally translated “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness unhinderdly.” So, the book of Acts shows us that the work of Jesus is to continue on.
• Title – The Acts of the Holy Spirit

Luke’s great aim was to show the expansion of Christianity, to show how that religion which began in a little corner of Palestine had in a little more than 30 years reached Rome.- William Barclay

The Empire, which gave the varied peoples of Europe and the Mediterranean a common language and permitted free movement of persons and ideas, was essential to the spread of Christianity. Christians preached and wrote in Greek. Missionaries freely crossed borders that in later nationalistic ages would have blocked their passage. Chrisitans found a hunger unsatisfied by the Greek philosophies. God was at work, preparing the world for the spread of the gospel. - The Revell Bible Dictionary


• Acts is a transitional book.

Between the gospels and the epistles.
Between the ministry of Christ and that of the apostles.
Between the focus on Israel and the law vs. the church and grace

I like to think of Acts as a revolving door. A hinged door is a one-way door, but a revolving door is designed to allow people to go in and out at the same time. The book of Acts is like that – Old Testament Judaism is going out and the New Testament church is coming in. Both are there at the same time for a while. But don’t live in a revolving door! It is not designed for habitation, it is designed for transition – for movement.

In the same way, we should not rely exclusively on the book of Acts for doctrine and teaching. It is not designed for that. It is a book of history – of fast moving events, of transition. So it is important that we read it and compare it with the doctrinal books of the Bible. Acts is designed to stir us up and encourage us and bless us and to show us what God intends to do through the church – but it is not primarily a book of doctrine. - Ray Stedman

• Acts is more descriptive than prescriptive.

All of the events in Acts are not necessarily a pattern for every generation. For example, all liars are not immediately struck dead today (5:1-11), nor are all prisoners released by angels (12:7), nor will all believers experience the rushing wind, fiery tongues, and speaking in tongues (2:45; 4:34). The doctrinal books are the prescriptive ones, prescribing for us how to live today. The historical books are descriptive ones.

• Acts introduces the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit introduces was bestowed in a spectacular manner on four occasions in the book of Acts, having to do with the entrance of different groups into the Church. God indicates His approval of each group by a special manifestation of His Spirit:
 The original Jewish believers (ch. 2)
 The Samaritans (ch. 8)
 The Gentiles (ch. 10)
 Old Testament saints, or half-taught disciples of John the Baptist (ch. 19)

The book has often been called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is referred to more than fifty times in this one book, particularly in relation to baptism with the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and being led by the Holy Spirit. Acts begins with Luke’s second account of the ascension of the Lord and terminates with Paul’s residence in Rome as a prisoner, covering a period of more than thirty years. – Scofield

Introducing Dr. Luke:

• His name only mentioned in the NT in Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Pm 24
• Luke refers to himself in the “we” sections of Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16) – thus a travel companion of the apostle Paul
• Luke a doctor and Paul’s personal physician. Perhaps they had known each other since college days at the University of Tarsus. Both books have a number of medical and nautical terms. Some speculate that Luke may have been a ship doctor.
• Probably a Gentile (Col. 4:10-14)
• Writes with the mind of a polished historian, the heart of a loving physician, and the beauty of a gifted artist
• Luke was in Caesarea during Paul’s two-year imprisonment (Acts 27:1) and may have conducted his investigation during that time. If so the book must have been written between A.D. 58 and 60.

His writing:

• The language is some of the NT’s most beautiful: polished literary Greek, well-trained, skilled in the use of language

Note: Peter wrote just the opposite. He a rough fisherman was not polished nor very educated. The Holy Spirit used individuals and did not obscure their personalities; therein is no reducing of the Scripture. They are providentially prepared vessels to give a particular emphasis.

• His method – very orderly

Whereas the other gospels are closer to the genre of a Greco-Roman biography, Luke’s gospel is the first volume of a two-volume work, Luke-Acts, which is in many ways closer to a Greco-Roman history than to a biography. (Keener)

• His emphasis – very first
• His motive – very certain

Luke substantiates the certainty and accuracy of his work with four reasons:

1. His concern with early origins and eyewitnesses
2. His aim to be comprehensive
3. His aim to be chronological
4. His aim to be accurate (J. Hayford)

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