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Bible book summary: Acts

Acts

author and date:

From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, we read that the same author wrote both the books of Luke and Acts. In his writings in the late second century, Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in Gaul, attributes the books of Luke and Acts to Luke. Throughout the later chapters of Acts, there is repeated use of the first-person narrative, which affirms that the author of Acts was someone who personally traveled with Paul. In addition to the writings of Irenaeus and the use of first-person narrative, it is widely accepted through church tradition that Luke is the author of Acts. There is additional external evidence that refers to Luke as the author, as well.

Acts
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Luke was a personal friend of Paul’s, traveling with Paul on his second (Acts 16:6-11) and third (Acts 20:5) missionary journeys and also spending time with Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome (2 Timothy 4:11). While not much is said about Luke in the Bible, Paul mentions him 3 times in his epistles, telling us that Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14).

The Book of Acts was written circa A.D. 62, likely between the dates AD 61 and 64. Because church history supports a fourth missionary journey for the apostle Paul, it seems likely that Acts was written before those events, with Luke writing everything he knew and experienced to date at the time of writing. Based on the events listed in the last chapters of Acts, Luke likely wrote Acts during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (when he was under house arrest) but before his release and additional missions endeavors.

theme

Believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Because of the Holy Spirit living inside them, ordinary people can be used by God to do amazing things. God used fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and others to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6) for His glory and His kingdom. God used Paul, who once hated and murdered Christians, to write nearly half of the New Testament and take the Gospel outside of Jerusalem, becoming who many would agree to be the greatest missionary who has ever lived. God continues to use believers, in the same way, today as he did in Acts, empowering believers through the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Him by sharing the Gospel with the world.

background and purpose

Acts was written to record a history of the early church following the resurrection (Luke 24:1-7) and ascension (Acts 1:9) of Jesus Christ. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to Theophilus. While there is not much information about Theophilus, we do not have reason to doubt that he was a real person. It is believed that Theophilus was a man of wealth, having a prominent position in society. Luke wrote for Theophilus “an orderly account” that he would have “certainty concerning the things” he had been taught (Luke 1:3-4).

While the book of Acts is addressed to Theophilus, the broader intended audience is Gentile Christians. Acts provides its readers with a fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and knowledge of the Holy Spirit which indwells every believer. Acts is encouraging for believers as it tells the story of the early church and how the Gospel was spread throughout the world.

christ in acts

While Jesus Himself is quoted speaking to His disciples in Acts 1, most of Acts takes place after His ascension to Heaven. Christ is throughout the entire book of Acts as His church is established and His Gospel is spread throughout the world. Literally, the “Acts of the Apostles” tells the story of how God miraculously used men and women to magnify the name of Christ and grow His church.

key verses

Acts 1:8

Acts 2:4

Acts 4:12

Acts 4:19-20

Acts 9:3-6

Acts 16:31

Acts 17:11

Acts 20:28

Acts 20:35

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