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An Introduction to the Book of Acts

The Lord Jesus Christ is living. His body was not decayed in the tomb, but he truly rose from the dead, and appeared during forty days to his disciples. Then he ascended to heavens, and sat at the right hand of his Father, where he lives and reigns with him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God from everlasting to everlasting. Since his ascension to heavens, Christ has been building his church with silence and planning, and developing it in spite of all the powers against God, for his church is the fruit and the result of his triumph on the cross. All the Acts.of the apostles are built on the complete reconciliation to God, and all the members of Christ are participants in his triumphal procession. The cross is the basis of the legitimate right of the Acts.of the apostles and the whole church of Christ. Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to expect the Promise of the Father in Jerusalem that he might fill them with the power of the Holy Spirit who would enable them to spread the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, the then capital of the world culture. Thus Christ’s command to the apostles to preach the world signified sending and commissioning them. The Holy Spirit that dwelt in them, and no other power, was their impetus in preaching and in church.

The Theme of the Acts of the Apostles

He, who reads this unique book, finds soon that the book is not intended to trace the Acts.done by the apostles themselves, but the Acts.of Christ continued by his Spirit in his disciples after he was taken up. The book mentions but a little about the Acts.of some apostles, primarily Peter and Paul. Beginning from chapter 13 we read but a little about Peter whom we can trace nothing about his death. Even Paul’s ministries that are mentioned in detail break off at the close of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, for the author’s design was not to describe the apostles’ Acts.exactly, chronologically, and minutely, but to inform about the spreading of the gospel of Christ, and the foundation and extension of the church from Jerusalem to Rome. The Lord’s ministers became like a race team, each one delivering the torch of the gospel to the other until the gospel of salvation reached the capital. Thus the theme of the Acts of the Apostles is the truthful and triumphant course of the gospel of salvation guided by the living Christ from Jerusalem to Rome.

The Constitution of the Book

The apostles did not form a detailed plan for the spiritual battle of spreading the kingdom of God, but the living Lord interfered personally time and again in the life of the early church, until it became strong in the end, and spread first in Samaria and Antioch, and then reached Rome. The Lord chose the Jewish Paul himself, who spoke Greek, to realize the triumphal procession of his gospel to Rome. A short time before choosing Paul, the deacon Stephen and his Greek co-operators of Jewish origin had a great influence on the Christians of Jewish origin who settled in Palestine. Therefore an open struggle broke out between both parties. This is why the Lord gathered his apostles in the spirit of love that they might hold their first apostolic meeting at Jerusalem (chapter 15), having received the grace as the only reason for salvation, and refused the righteousness by Acts. With this development, the churches of the Gentiles became free from the Jewish tinge, and the chains of the law, and the knowledge of the love of Christ became a world religion ready to move forward. At the same time, the living Lord himself founded in Antioch a second center of Christianity, in addition to the first one in Jerusalem. And the spread of the gospel began from Antioch until it covered Asia Minor. With this power the gospel leaped to Europe, broke through the Greek cities and provinces, and finally reached Rome.

The book is divisible into three portions:

The Early Church in Jerusalem chapters 1-7
The gospel’s spread from Samaria to Antioch chapters 8-12
The preaching in Asia Minor and Greece until Paul’s arrival in Rome chapters 13-28

Who is the Author?

The author of this book did not identify himself by name, nor did he provide us with any clear evidence bout himself, having regarded himself of no importance. However there was a unanimous agreement, from the beginning, that Luke, the Greek physician from Antioch was the author of this unique book, for he knew exactly the situations in that Christian center. Luke himself was skilful in the Greek language. He wrote his reports with love and kindness, and mentioned the words and the speeches of the apostles in his fluent good style. In his book, he refers to devout men among the Gentiles, for he was one of them before he was born again according to the gospel’s testimony. Luke met Paul in his second missionary journey, and accompanied him from Troas to Philippi. He participated in preaching in that military city, and Paul left him there to build and look after the new church after his departure. The apostle took him once again with him on the return to Jerusalem where Luke left his teacher Paul to gather information for his gospel and his book of the Acts of the Apostles. We find that Luke had always visited Paul during his imprisonment in Caesarea and thereafter. He continued with him, served him, became impressed with his spirituality, and recorded his defense for himself. He did not leave him in his long, fearful traveling, until he arrived in Rome. The numerous “we” sections indicate where Luke joined Paul as an eyewitness, and fellow traveler.

To Whom the Book Was Written

Luke, the evangelist wrote clearly that this book was dedicated to Theophilus, the same person to whom he addressed his holy gospel. Luke addressed both his works, forming one whole in two parts, to him. We knew something about the person of Theophilus in (Luke 1: 1- 3). Theophilus whose name signifies “lover of God” was a prominent man of high rank in the Roman Empire. His belief in Christ began during his service in Antioch. He wished to get more exact details about the development of Christianity spiritually and historically. How the Roman officials treated the churches, (justly or unjustly). To what extent could the principles of the gospel be a foundation for a new world. During his accompaniment of Paul, the apostle, and guided by the Holy Spirit, Luke gathered all the details from Christ’s birth to the entrance of Paul, the apostle into Rome, and presented this orderly written narrative history about the course of God’s power to Theophilus to establish him who had believed and to support his certainty, as Paul said to the keeper of the prison in Philippi: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

The Date

Whereas Paul’s arrival in Rome was most probably in A.D. 61, and whereas the situation thereafter was disturbed, and there were many gospels found at the time when Luke’s gospel was written; therefore, it is most probably that Luke, the physician wrote the Book of the Acts of the Apostles during the years A.D. 62- 70 as the second part, and the continuation of the account of Christianity begun in his gospel, when he had enquired with accuracy, diligence, and prayers, and talked with eyewitnesses of Christ’s life, also with Mary, Christ’s mother, and Philip, the deacon. He derived from the written sources the most important texts, which he considered necessary to describe Christ’s person, Acts. and apostles, and presented them to the governor Theophilus.
We thank the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts for he called the Greek Physician and guided him not to stop his writing at the end of his gospel, but enlightened him with the knowledge that the living Lord would not come immediately, but would preach the nations before his arrival. As the twelve apostles together with the Early Churcharound them waited in Jerusalem for the coming of Christ, the Christians in Antioch received an insight from the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel of salvation all around the world, and to push the procession of the gospel towards Rome. If Luke had not worked with diligence and accuracy, we would have not learnt exactly how Christ spread his kingdom in the Greek world. Now that the Lord has written to us in this book an example for preaching and for founding churches, we are able today to learn how the Holy Spirit renews the believers, prompts them to service, and triumphs in their weakness. There is no better training for the Lord’s ministers than to study the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, where they may see the hand of the Lord Jesus at work with those who obey his call.

What are Luke’s purposes of writing the Book of the Acts of the Apostles? What do you know about Theophilus?