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The book of Acts is the only historical record of the birth and early days following Christ's establishing His church. Acts, then, is a book of history. Without this historical record, little would be known about the expansion of the church. The author's primary purpose was to give a detailed account of how men and women were converted to Christ and how churches were planted throughout the Roman world.

Name - From the time of the Septuagint, this book has been called the Acts of the Apostles.

Author - Internal and external evidence point to Luke as the Spirit-inspired author of Acts.
    1. Internal evidence is found largely in the "we" sections of the book. (Acts 16:10-17; 20:6-21:18; 27:1 -28:16)-see notes on Luke.
      a. In compiling a list of Paul's companions from the period of time covered by the "we" sections, a total of seventeen individuals is found.
      b. Through a process of elimination, the list is reduced to Luke.
    2. It is the unanimous testimony of church tradition that Luke authored the book of Acts. (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Tetullian, Irenaeus, etc.)
Purpose - At least three purposes seem to clearly emerge for the composition of Acts.
    1. The first purpose was to complete what Luke began in his gospel.
      a. Luke and Acts are two parts of a whole.
      b. In volume I (Luke), Luke related the words and works of Christ. In volume II (Acts) he told the story of the words and works of Christ that were done through His apostles.
    2. A second purpose in writing Acts was to give a written defense of Christianity.
    3. A third purpose in the writing of Acts was to provide stability to the new faith.
I. Background of the Book
A. When was Acts written?
    1. The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul's imprisonment in Rome.
    2. The most probable explanation for leaving the reader in suspense is that the outcome of Paul's appeal had not yet been decided when the book was being written.
    3. We know that Paul and his associates arrived in Rome in A.D.60 and stayed there two full years before going to trial. (Acts 28:30)
    4. Therefore Acts must have been written early in AD 62.
    5. Note: Acts makes no mention of the persecution Nero would bring upon the Christians in AD 64.
B. Where was Acts written? - Since Luke was with Paul in Rome at the time, it is reasonable that Rome was the place of writing.

II. Main Message of the book.
A. The main message of the book is found in Acts 1:8. "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

B. Luke traces that pattern of the spread of the gospel in the following way:
    1. The gospel is preached in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1 - 8:3)
    2. The gospel is taken to Judea and Samaria. (Acts 8:4-11:18)
    3. The gospel spreads to the uttermost parts of the world. (Acts 11:19 -28:31)
III. Outline of the book.
A. The Early Spread of the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:1- 7:60)
    1. Jesus ascends to heaven. (1:1-11)
    2. Matthias is chosen to replace Judas. (1:12-26)
    3. The Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles on Pentecost. (1-13)
    4. Peter preaches that the Jesus they crucified, God has made Lord and Christ. (2:14-36)
    5. The church begins. (2:37-47)
    6. Persecution begins. (3:1-4:31)
    7. The believers share generously with each other. (4:32-37)
    8. Ananias and Sapphira are slain for lying to God. (:1-11)
    9. A second wave of persecution erupts. (5:12-42)
    10. Provision is made for neglected Grecian widows. (6:1-7)
    11. Stephen is arrested (Acts 6:8-15), preaches (7:1 -53), and is stoned (7:54-60).
B. The Church Spreads to Samaria. (Acts 8:1 -9:31)
    1. With increased persecution, the church scatters throughout Judea and Samaria. (8:1-4)
    2. Philip preaches in Samaria. (8:5-8)
    3. Simon the sorcerer is "converted" and seeks miraculous power. (8:9-25)
    4. Philip teaches an Ethiopian. (8:26-40)
    5. The account of Saul's conversion is given. (:1-31)
C. The Church Spreads to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. (Acts 9:32-12:25)
    1. Peter raises Dorcas from the dead. (9:32-43)
    2. God uses Peter to take the gospel to the Gentile Cornelius. (10:1-48)
    3. Peter explains his actions to Jewish Christians in Judea. (11:1-18)
    4. A Gentile church starts in Antioch. (11:19-30)
    5. Peter is imprisoned by Herod and released by God. (12:1-19)
    6. Herod dies. (12:20-25)
D. The Extension of the Church from Antioch to Galatia. (Acts 13:1 -15:35)
    1. Paul takes his first missionary journey. (13:1-14:28)
    2. A council is held in Jerusalem to determine behavior for Gentile Christians. (15:1-35)
E. The Extension of the Church to Macedonia. (Acts 15:36 - 21:16)
    1. Paul's second missionary journey is recorded. (15:36-18:22)
    2. Paul's third missionary journey is recorded. (18:23-21:16)
F. The Years of Paul's Imprisonment. (Acts 21:17-28:31)
    .1 In Jerusalem. (21:17-23:35)
    2. In Caesarea. (24:1-26:32)
    3. The voyage to Rome. (27:1 - 28:15)
    4. In Rome (28:16-31)
IV. Key Themes of the book.
A. The Growth of the Early Church.
    1. In the earliest days, the preaching of the gospel stayed in Jerusalem.
    2. The persecution of Christians that followed Stephen's stoning led to the evangelizing of the larger region of Judea and Samaria. (Acts 8:1ff)
      a. Philip preached in Samaria. (Acts 8:4-25)
      b. He converted an Ethiopian. (Acts 8:26-39)
      c. Philip preached in the Gentile city of Caesarea. (Acts 8:40)
    3. After about a decade, the first record of Gentile conversion is detailed in Peter's encounter with Cornelius. (Acts 10)
      a. Not surprisingly, objections are raised. (Acts 11:1-3)
      b. However, the right of Gentiles to hear the gospel was affirmed. (Acts 11:4-8)
    4. At about the time Cornelius was converted (ca. A.D. 40) the gospel came to Antioch. (Acts 11:19-30)
B. The man Paul.
    1. The influence of Judaism on Paul.
      a. Paul was a Hebrew patriot. (cf. Romans 3:1; 9:1-3)
      b. He was a "Pharisee of Pharisees". (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5)
      c. Paul was therefore a great student of the Old Testament. (Acts 22:3)
    2. The influence of Hellenism on Paul.
      a. Paul was from Tarsus, the capital city of the Roman province of Celicia.
        [1] Tarsus was founded as a Greek city-state in 171 BC by Antiochus Epiphanies.
        [2] Evidence points to the fact that Jews settled in Tarsus from the founding of the city and were given rights as citizens. (e.g. Acts 21:39)
        [3] Tarsus was also a seat of learning, having a university there.
      b. As a Jew in the Hellenistic world, Paul must have been well acquainted with the mythological gods and the mystery religions.
    3. Paul's personal life.
      a. Saul was his Hebrew name; Paul was his Latin name.
      b. Paul was not married, (cf. I Corinthians 7:8)
        [1] He may have never married.
        [2] Some scholars have speculated that his wife died or perhaps left him when he became a believer in Christ.
      c. God used Paul's (Saul's) zealous persecution of the church to spur its growth. (Acts 8:1-4)
      d. His conversion (cf. Acts 9:22-26) is one of the great apologetics (defense) of the Christian faith.
C. The Central Personalities of Acts - Peter and Paul.
    1. Luke divides the material book proportionately around the two key leaders of the early church.
      a. Peter, apostle of the circumcision, is the principal figure of the first 12 chapters.
      b. Paul, apostle to the un-circumcision, is the focal point of the remainder.
    2. Luke not only gives the men equal space, but notes how their miraculous acts parallel:
      a. The healing of lame men. (Acts 3:22ff; 14:8ff)
      b. Miracles of harm. (Acts 5:1ff; 13:6ff)
      c. Healings through secondary means. (Acts 5:15; 1912)
      d. Casting out demons. (Acts 5:16; 16:18)
      e. Confronting sorcerers. (Acts8:18ff; 13:6ff)
      f. Raising the dead. (Acts 9:36ff; 20:9ff)
D. The missionary tours of Paul.
    1. The church at Antioch was apparently founded by fugitives from Saul's persecution in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19)
      a. Gentiles became Christians here. (Acts 11:19-21)
      b. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to look into this situation. (Acts 11:22-24)
    2. Ironically, Barnabas sought Saul's help' in building the church at Antioch. (Acts 11:25)
      a. Barnabas had already vouched for Paul's integrity of conversion. (Acts 9:26-27)
      b. Now he saw a place for Saul's unique background and education.
    3. As the church there grew, three great missionary tours were sponsored from Antioch.
      a. The first tour (Acts 12:25 -14:28) occurred between A.D. 46-47 and was followed by a conference in Jerusalem which debated the issue of Gentile acceptance into the church. (Acts 15:1-35)
      b. The second missionary journey began ca. A.D. 48 and extended into late 51 or early 52 (Acts 15:36 -18:22). The gospel was carried to Europe.
      c. The third tour began in A.D. 52 and ended with Paul's arrest in Jerusalem in A.D. 57 (Acts 18:23 - 21:16). During this time, Paul stayed in Ephesus 2 to 3 years.
    4. After these journeys, Acts tells us Paul spent time as a prisoner in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome.
    5. Tradition relates a fourth missionary journey to the West (possibly to Spain) following his release from his first confinement in Rome.
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