“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” Acts 1:8

The book shows how that from Jerusalem, the Truth extended into Judea, up to Samaria, and was taken  by Paul and others to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Theme of Acts–The Truth Triumphant

The record of Acts provides us with a dynamic account of the triumph of the Truth despite all the forces which would endeavour to crush it. It also provides us with a model upon which to pattern our lives, with regard to the outworking of the power of the Truth in our lives.

Every time the pressure of persecution bore heavily upon the ecclesia, it overcame, and the Truth prospered. This is the way the ecclesia of the 21st Century needs to respond to the encroachments made by the world upon it.

The 1st Century ecclesia was formed after the ascension of Christ; formed from his body, out of his side; converted upon the basis of hearing the sufferings and the glory of Messiah. Acts records Peter using the two “keys of the Kingdom” that Jesus gave to him (Matt 16:19). The first key was revealed when on the day of Pentecost. Peter’s hearers asked, “what shall we do?” He declared the formula for salvation, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:37–38). The second key was used to unlock the “door of faith to the Gentiles”. Again Peter was involved and he was commissioned to proclaim the Truth to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10). Thus “the mystery [or secret]… that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” was made known (Eph 3:6).

Progress Report

Note the following progress reports. Acts records the  formation and growth of the ecclesias in the 1st Century:

  • 1:15 “… the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty”
  • 2:41 “… there were added unto them about three thousand souls”
  • 2:47 “… added to the ecclesia daily such as should be saved”
  • 4:4 “the number of the men was about five thousand”
  • 5:14 “… the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women”
  • 6:7 “… and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith”
  • 9:31; 11:24; 12:24; 13:48–49; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30–31; “… were multiplied”, “… and much people was added”, “… and increased  in number daily”.

The Author of Acts

The record of Acts never once mentions the name of  its author, for the singular reason that the writer was  so well known to Theophilus, to whom the book was  dedicated, and the wider circle of readers amongst  whom it was circulated. However, though the name  of the writer is not mentioned, indications in the  book enable us to reach a positive conclusion.

  1. The opening statement of Acts reveals that its author was also the writer of the Gospel of Luke.
  2. It is evident that the writer of Acts was a companion of the Apostle Paul, for in several passages he uses the first person plural—“we”. These passages  include the accounts of (i) Paul’s work at Philippi  (Acts 16:10–17); (ii) Paul’s visit to Troas (Acts  20:5–15); (iii) the journey from Miletus to  Jerusalem (Acts 21:1–18); (iv) the voyage from  Caesarea to Rome (Acts 27:1–28:16).
  3. Luke was a companion of Paul, and was with him during his imprisonment at Rome (Col 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Tim 4:11). This harmonises with  Acts 27 and 28 which indicate that the author  accompanied Paul to Rome.
  4. Luke was a physician (Col 4:14), which accounts for the use of medical terms, one of the characteristic features of his gospel and Acts.

The Objective of Acts

Luke’s desire in Acts is to set forth a record of the  progress of the ecclesia after the resurrection of  Christ, and is a continuation of his gospel. In the preface of his gospel, he declares his purpose in  plain terms:

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set  forth in order a declaration of those things which are  most surely believed among us… it seemed good to me  also, having had perfect understanding of all things  from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most  excellent Theophilus”. These are words which apply  to Acts as much as to the Gospel, and make it clear that  Luke’s aim was to provide an historical account of the  development of the early ecclesia, and to follow the  means whereby the commission which the risen Christ  gave to the Apostles was fulfilled (Acts 1:8).

However, although Luke intended to give us an  historical account, he also intended to tell us how  the Truth was proclaimed. Acts provides us with  some outstanding speeches which set forth the basis  of the Truth for all ages.

Moreover, Luke intended that his record be  an encouragement and a comfort to those in the  ecclesia suffering at that time. Consider the words  uttered by Peter and John as they stood before  the Sanhedrin: “Whether it be right in the sight  of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,  judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things  which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19). These  words are intended to be a rallying-cry for Luke’s  contemporaries, and incentive to courage in the face  of repression. The whole of Acts breathes the spirit  of undaunting loyalty to Christ. Thus the message  which Luke has to impart is twofold·

  1. No opposition or persecution must be allowed to silence our witness for the Truth.
  2. Persecution is part of the disciple’s life, and a powerful agent in the dissemination of the Truth.

The Contents of Acts

Acts is “a book of origins” relating to the Truth.  Here are the beginnings of the ecclesia, of apostolic  miracles, of apostolic teaching and proclamation,  of the persecution, of the martyrdom of Gentile  converts, and so forth.

The key word in the title of this book is ACTS—it  is “The Acts of the Apostles”. These are not the  words, theories or speculations of the apostles,  but their acts, their deeds, that which they actually  accomplished. Luke is vitally interested in setting  on record the development of the Truth from small  beginnings to the great development we see at  the end of the book. He commences with a very  small ecclesia in Jerusalem of Jewish extraction  and consisting of 120 (Acts 1:15). The book closes  with many ecclesias dotted over the vast Roman  Empire. Thousands heard the Word and believed,  many being Gentiles who received full recognition  and acceptance. The whole world was astir with  the remarkable doctrine of the risen Christ. Indeed,  it was a time when men set the world on fire with  the Truth, through their courageous and determined  efforts. Behind it all, however, Luke sees a far greater  influence than the mere efforts of men; he sees the  Divine hand guiding and directing the affairs not  only of the ecclesia, but of the world as well. In the  Acts of the Apostles Luke sets forth God as the Great  Controller of the ecclesia and of the world.

A Two-Fold Sphere of Work—Yet One Gospel

The book of Acts can be divided into two main  spheres of work, the first of which records the  preaching of the Gospel throughout Palestine,  and the second, the proclaiming of it through  out the world. A close examination will reveal  a remarkable repetition of experiences. The two  movements, though distinct, are yet harmonious.  Therefore the two spheres of work, though bearing  their own characteristics, are yet of the one Faith  and one Hope. For example, Peter is a Jew yet  he is involved with Cornelius, the first Gentile  convert (Acts 10); while Paul the messenger to the  Gentiles spoke to the Jews first (eg Acts 13:46).

                               Part 1:ch 1–12               Part 2:ch 13–28

The chief figure             Peter                           Paul

Apostle to the                Jews                           Gentiles

The Centre                    Jerusalem                   Antioch

Taken out to                  Samaria                      Rome

Rejected by the Jews   Of the Land                 Of the Dispersion

First Address                Ch 2                            Ch 13

Lame man healed         Ch 3                           Ch 14

The sorcerer                 Simon Ch 8                Elymas Ch 13

Laying on of hands       Ch 8                          Ch 19

Worship of                    Peter Ch 10               Paul Ch 14

Raising of                     Tabitha Ch 9              Eutychus Ch 20

Imprisonment of            Peter Ch 12              Paul Ch 28

Thus the signs and wonders performed by Peter in Jerusalem,  Judea and Samaria were replicated in Paul’s ministry when he took  the Gospel “to the uttermost parts of the earth”.