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Acts - Introduction

Bible Study Notes

As Luke makes clear in the prologue to his Gospel, he wrote to give Theophilus (and the others who would read his work) a “narrative of the things” that Jesus had accomplished during his earthly ministry. Accordingly, Luke’s Gospel records those momentous events “in consecutive order”. Acts continues that record, noting what Jesus accomplished through the early church. Beginning with Jesus’ ascension, through the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, to Paul’s preaching at Rome, Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church.

Colossians 4:14 indicates that Luke was a physician. Luke was Paul’s close friend, traveling companion, and personal physician. He was a careful researcher and an accurate historian, displaying an intimate knowledge of Roman laws and customs, as well as the geography of Palestine, Asia Minor, and Italy. In writing Acts, Luke drew on written sources, and also no doubt interviewed key figures such as Peter, John, and others in the Jerusalem church. Paul’s two-year imprisonment at Caesarea gave Luke ample opportunity to interview Philip and his daughters (who were considered important sources of information on the early days of the church). Finally, Luke’s frequent use of the first person plural pronouns “we” and “us”  reveals that he was an eyewitness to many of the events recorded in Acts.

“Luke” is a Greek name, and both books are written in excellent Greek. His thorough acquaintance with the OT may reflect that Luke was a converted God-fearer (a Gentile who attended the Jewish synagogue) or Jewish proselyte (convert), though he could have gained his biblical knowledge after becoming a Christian.

In Acts, believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ among both Jews and Gentiles, and in doing this they establish the church. In addition to this, Acts explains how Christianity, although it is new, is in reality the one true religion, rooted in God’s promises from the beginning of time. In the ancient world it was important that a religion be shown to have stood the test of time. Thus Luke presents the church as the fulfillment and extension of God’s promises.

As the first work of church history ever penned, Acts records the initial response to the Great Commission. It provides information on the first three decades of the church’s existence—material found nowhere else in the NT. Though not primarily a doctrinal work, Acts nonetheless emphasizes that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, shows that the gospel is offered to all men (not merely the Jewish people), and stresses the work of the Holy Spirit (mentioned more than 50 times).

Acts abounds with transitions: from the ministry of Jesus to that of the apostles; from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant; from Israel as God’s witness nation to the church (composed of both Jews and Gentiles) as God’s witness people.

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