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Lessons From The Book of Acts

Background Material

For the Book of Acts

John Baugh

August, 2009

 

What is Acts?

 

1 - Acts of the Apostles

-         Actually only three are mentioned in Acts (Peter, James, John)

-         Acts 12:2 James the brother of John is Martyred by Herod

-         John is in the narrative of Acts but nothing he says during the narrative is ever recorded

-         Peter is featured, then disappears

 

2 - Acts of the Holy Spirit - who is presented throughout Acts.

 

Acts 1:1

 

1The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,  2until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.

 

-         The first account (Luke's Gospel) concerns what Jesus began to do and teach.

-         The book of Acts is what Jesus continued to do and teach - as The Holy Spirit.

 

3 - A History of the early Church

 

-         Some histories are day to day narratives.

-         Some histories are great pictures of major events. This is the type of history that Acts presents.

-         Without Acts, we would know almost nothing about the early church, except what we can glean from Paul's letters.

-         However, Acts presents nothing about the churches in Galilee, the evangelism of Egypt or the beginnings of the church in Rome.

 

Who Wrote Acts?

 

-         Luke (Dr. Luke, the beloved physician)

-         Probably in about AD 62 after Paul's first Imprisonment (house arrest) in Rome

-         We know very little about Luke.

-         Only three references to him in the New Testament Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24 and 2 Timothy 4:11

-         He was a Medical Doctor (Beloved Physician)

-         Luke 4:35 Man with spirit of an unclean devil uses the medical word for convulsions when he says that the "man was thrown down".

-         Luke 9:38 Man who asks Jesus "I beg you to look at my son" - uses the word Doctor paying a visit to a patient.

-         Camel and eye of the needle - Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25 use the word Raphis for needle as with a sewing needle - Luke 18:25 uses Belone the technical word for a surgeon's needle.

-         Valued companion of Paul

-         With him when Paul was in prison

-         He was a Gentile

-         Only Gentile author in the New Testament

-         Wrote Gospel of Luke and Acts = 24.3% of the New Testament

-         Some say that Luke presents the ministry of Jesus and Acts presents the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

-         Luke probably met Paul in Tarsus (perhaps to treat Paul's medical condition?)

 

Who was Acts written to?

 

-         Someone Luke calls "Theophilus"

-         Who was Theophilus?

 

Based on the way Luke addresses this person, Theophilus was a person of authority in the Roman Government.

 

(Luke 1:3 - "Most excellent Theophilus" = Roman Official)

 

Luke 1: 1-4

 

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

 

Luke addressed Theophilus as he would have addressed a person of authority in the Roman Government. Evidently Theophilus was a person of power and authority.

 

Did Theophilus become a Christian? We do not know, but we do have Luke's Gospel and Acts today - They were copied and shared and not lost - Theophilus did not destroy them.

 

Acts 1:1 (a fellow Christian?)

 

1The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,  2until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.

 

In Acts, Luke addresses Theophilus as he would write to a fellow brother in Christ.

 

-         Theophilus - means "Lover of God" theos = God philein = to love

-         Was he a real person? Maybe yes and maybe no - The name may have been a code name to keep his true identity a secret

-         May have been written to "all lovers of God"

-         And Theophilus may have been an actual person, as evidenced by the way Luke addressed him in his Gospel "Most excellent Theophilus".

 

 

Why did Luke write Acts?

 

-         To Commend Christianity to the Roman Government.

Acts 13:12 Sergius Paulus becomes a Christian, 18:12 Gallio is fair minded in Corinth, 15:35 Magistrates at Philippi discover they have made a mistake and apologize to Paul, 19:31 Asiacrats in Ephesus are concerned that nothing bad happen to Paul, Luke always pointed out that Roman officials fairly treated Christians. Acts also shows that Christians are always good citizens of Rome.

-         He shows that Christianity is for the people of every nation. This si in opposition to the beliefs of Judaism (God's chosen people).

-         To show how early believers met the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

 

Acts 1:8

8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

 

All of Acts is written to expand this command of Christ. It seems as though Luke intended for Acts to show how the actions of the early Church met the Great Commission of Christ as presented in Acts 1:8.

 

 

Acts may be logically separated into 6 sections:

 

In his New Daily Study Bible Book on Acts (Page 5-6), author William Barclay shares the work of Church Historian CH Turner, who separated Acts into 6 Sections that point toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission:

 

Acts 1:1 - 6:7 - the church in Jerusalem and preaching of Peter. Finishes with the summary "The word of God continued to spread: the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priests became obedient to the Faith."

 

Acts 6:8 - 9:31 - The disciples spread Christianity through Palestine and Stephen is martyred followed by the preaching in Samaria. It ends with the summary: "Meanwhile, the church throughout Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in fear of the Lord and in comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers."

 

Acts 9:32 - 12:24 - This includes the conversion of Paul, the extension of the Church to Antioch, and the reception of Cornelius, the Gentile into the Church by Peter. Its summary is "The word of God continued to advance."

 

Acts 12:25 - 16:5 - This tells of the extension of the Church through Asia Minor and the preaching tour of Galatia. It ends "So the churches were strengthened in the Faith and increased in numbers daily."

 

Acts 16:6 - 19:20 - This describes the extension of the church to Europe and the work of Paul in the great Gentile cities like Corinth and Ephesus. Its summary runs "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed."

 

Acts 19:21 - 28:31 - This tells of the arrival of Paul in Rome and his imprisonment there. It ends with the picture of Paul "Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance."

 

So, Why Does Acts End Where It Does?

 

It finishes with Paul in Prison, awaiting judgment.

 

Did Luke stop here because he had accomplished his Goal? Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, The ends of the Earth.

 

So, was the correct title of Acts "How they brought Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome?

 

 

Where Did Luke Get His Information?

 

Go back to Luke 1:

 

1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,

2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;

4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

 

"Having investigated everything carefully."

 

Luke interviewed the people involved.

 

There is more to the record as written down in Acts than careful research, though. The first 15 chapters involve things that Luke had no personal knowledge of. In the first 15 Chapters of Acts, when Luke refers to Paul's missionary efforts or the work of others, he uses the word "they". When he wrote these chapters, he had the records of the local churches (The Church in Jerusalem Chapters 1-5) (The Church in Caesarea 8:26-40 and 9:31 - 10:48) (The record of the church in Antioch 11:19-30 and 14:28).

 

He and Paul met all of the people in involved in the churches he mentions. All of their stories would have been shared with him.

 

Acts 16:10

 

Then we come to verse 10 of chapter 16, where Luke begins to use the word "We". (Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-16, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16). From Verse 10 of Chapter 16, on (Chapters 16 - 28) Luke was with Paul. From that point on, Luke writes from first hand knowledge of the events he records.

 

 

Copyright 2009, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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