Jan 28 2018: Introduction to Acts

Introduction to Acts*

Introduction

Acts is a sequel or the second part of the two-volume work (with the Gospel of Luke being the first one) by Luke who was a physician and travel companion of the apostle Paul (cf. “we” in Acts 16:10-17; 21:19; 27:1-28:16; mention of “Luke” by Paul in Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24).

Literary Structure: The key to your reading of Acts is to recognize the “movement” of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, narrated in six parts and signaled by Luke’s little summary statements in 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5 and 19:20)

  1. The gospel begins in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7): The first part tells the story of the spread of the good news about Jesus in Jerusalem by the apostles.
  2. The gospel spreads to Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31): The second part makes the first geographical expansion to neighboring Judea and Samaria (cf. 1:8), where Stephen and the Hellenists play the major role.
  3. The gospel spreads to the Gentiles (9:32-12:24): The third part narrates the first expansion to the Gentiles (Cornelius) and the conversion of the key figure (Paul) in what is to be its still greater expansion. Peter as the main character of Acts ends here.
  4. The gospel spreads to Asia (12:25-16:5): The fourth part narrates the expansion to Gentiles in Asia with Paul as the central figure. This part begins the second major section of the book.
  5. The gospel spreads to Europe (16:6-19:20): The fifth part marks the movement of the gospel from Asia to Europe; the church is now steadily more Gentile than Jewish.
  6. The gospel (and Paul) reaches Rome (19:21-28:31): The sixth and last part tells how Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) finally got to Rome (then considered as “the end of the earth”) with the good news.

Key Themes:

  1. The spread of the gospel is worldwide (Judea, Samaria, and ‘end of the earth’), and is inclusive of all kinds of people: Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, the physically handicapped, a prominent merchant woman, a jailor and his family, Greek philosophers, governors, and kings. No one is beyond the scope of God’s saving power.
  2. The spread of the gospel is guided by the providence of the sovereign God, who preserves his witnesses for their testimony through all sorts of threats. The coming of God’s Kingdom in Christ through the power of the Spirit cannot be stopped; the expansion and spreading of the gospel cannot be ceased. With the coming of Jesus and the Spirit, the time of God’s favor has come. The gospel is God’s activity in history, and nothing can hinder it. 
  3. The power behind the gospel witness is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is connected to Jesus and is ultimately responsible for every major turning point in the narrative. Christ, the great bearer of the Spirit, is also the great ‘baptizer’ in the Spirit so that others will receive the Spirit and thus bear witness to Christ. In that sense, the book is about “Acts of the Holy Spirit” through his apostles.
  4. The movement of the gospel and multiplication of the disciples through the Spirit’s work goes hand in hand with the prayer of the church (1:14; 2:42; 4:23ff) and the increase of the Word of God (6:7; 12:24; 19:20). 
  5. While divine providence and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit is the driving force of the gospel expansion, the witness to the gospel calls for response (repentance of one’s sins in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of sins). Most speeches in Acts end with some sort of invitation. The gospel is accepted in joy by some and rejected in anger by others.

* Adapted from ESV Study Bible & How to Read the Bible Book by Book.

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Luke 22 Thursday: Acts 1
Tuesday: Luke 23 Friday: Acts 2
Wednesday: Luke 24 Saturday: Acts 3

Bible Column & Reading Plan by Rev. Chang Soo Lee
Mississauga Camps Lead Pastor