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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.
Purpose - At least three purposes seem to clearly emerge for the composition of Acts.
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.
2. It is the unanimous testimony of church tradition that Luke authored the book of Acts. (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Tetullian, Irenaeus, etc.)
b. Through a process of elimination, the list is reduced to Luke.
1. The first purpose was to complete what Luke began in his gospel.
I. Background of the Book
a. Luke and Acts are two parts of a whole.
2. A second purpose in writing Acts was to give a written defense of Christianity.
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.
3. A third purpose in the writing of Acts was to provide stability to the new faith.
A. When was Acts written?
1. The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul's imprisonment in Rome.
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.
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.
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)
III. Outline of the book.
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)
A. The Early Spread of the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:1- 7:60)
1. Jesus ascends to heaven. (1:1-11)
B. The Church Spreads to Samaria. (Acts 8:1 -9:31)
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).
1. With increased persecution, the church scatters throughout Judea and Samaria. (8:1-4)
C. The Church Spreads to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. (Acts 9:32-12:25)
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)
1. Peter raises Dorcas from the dead. (9:32-43)
D. The Extension of the Church from Antioch to Galatia. (Acts 13:1 -15:35)
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)
1. Paul takes his first missionary journey. (13:1-14:28)
E. The Extension of the Church to Macedonia. (Acts 15:36 - 21:16)
2. A council is held in Jerusalem to determine behavior for Gentile Christians. (15:1-35)
1. Paul's second missionary journey is recorded. (15:36-18:22)
F. The Years of Paul's Imprisonment. (Acts 21:17-28:31)
2. Paul's third missionary journey is recorded. (18:23-21:16)
.1 In Jerusalem. (21:17-23:35)
IV. Key Themes of the book.
2. In Caesarea. (24:1-26:32)
3. The voyage to Rome. (27:1 - 28:15)
4. In Rome (28:16-31)
A. The Growth of the Early Church.
1. In the earliest days, the preaching of the gospel stayed in Jerusalem.
B. The man Paul.
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)
3. After about a decade, the first record of Gentile conversion is detailed in Peter's encounter with Cornelius. (Acts 10)
b. He converted an Ethiopian. (Acts 8:26-39)
c. Philip preached in the Gentile city of Caesarea. (Acts 8:40)
a. Not surprisingly, objections are raised. (Acts 11:1-3)
4. At about the time Cornelius was converted (ca. A.D. 40) the gospel came to Antioch. (Acts 11:19-30)
b. However, the right of Gentiles to hear the gospel was affirmed. (Acts 11:4-8)
1. The influence of Judaism on Paul.
C. The Central Personalities of Acts - Peter and Paul.
a. Paul was a Hebrew patriot. (cf. Romans 3:1; 9:1-3)
2. The influence of Hellenism on Paul.
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)
a. Paul was from Tarsus, the capital city of the Roman province of Celicia.
3. Paul's personal life.
 Tarsus was founded as a Greek city-state in 171 BC by Antiochus Epiphanies.
b. As a Jew in the Hellenistic world, Paul must have been well acquainted with the mythological gods and the mystery religions.
 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)
 Tarsus was also a seat of learning, having a university there.
a. Saul was his Hebrew name; Paul was his Latin name.
b. Paul was not married, (cf. I Corinthians 7:8)
 He may have never married.
c. God used Paul's (Saul's) zealous persecution of the church to spur its growth. (Acts 8:1-4)
 Some scholars have speculated that his wife died or perhaps left him when he became a believer in Christ.
d. His conversion (cf. Acts 9:22-26) is one of the great apologetics (defense) of the Christian faith.
1. Luke divides the material book proportionately around the two
key leaders of the early church.
D. The missionary tours of Paul.
a. Peter, apostle of the circumcision, is the principal figure of the first 12 chapters.
2. Luke not only gives the men equal space, but notes how their miraculous acts parallel:
b. Paul, apostle to the un-circumcision, is the focal point of the remainder.
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)
1. The church at Antioch was apparently founded by fugitives from Saul's persecution in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19)
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a. Gentiles became Christians here. (Acts 11:19-21)
2. Ironically, Barnabas sought Saul's help' in building the church at Antioch. (Acts 11:25)
b. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to look into this situation. (Acts 11:22-24)
a. Barnabas had already vouched for Paul's integrity of conversion. (Acts 9:26-27)
3. As the church there grew, three great missionary tours were sponsored from Antioch.
b. Now he saw a place for Saul's unique background and education.
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)
4. After these journeys, Acts tells us Paul spent time as a prisoner in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome.
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.
5. Tradition relates a fourth missionary journey to the West (possibly to Spain) following his release from his first confinement in Rome.