Introduction and Outline
The book of Acts is definitely one of the most important books in the entire Bible. Without it the New Testament would be incomplete. This book is the “linchpin” (connection) between the Gospels and the Epistles. If we had to leap from the Gospels to the Epistles without any knowledge of Acts we would know very little about the birth and development of the early church. This is the transition book from Judaism to Christianity.
The title is interesting — “The Acts of the Apostles.” Although all the Apostles are mentioned in the first chapter and are referred to from time to time, only two (Peter and Paul) take an active role in the book. From the contents, it would seem that the most suitable title would be “Acts Concerning The Spirit.”
The amount of spiritual food you will receive from the Book of Acts will be in direct proportion to the amount of time you spend in the study of the Book. There are no “instant” Bible studies. You cannot “microwave” (simply warm it over) the material and expect to feed people later in your ministry.
The Book of Acts provides an account of how the Church was born, how it developed, how it spread from Jerusalem (Jewish) to “the uttermost parts of the earth” (Gentile), and how its program of world-wide evangelization was instituted.
The Book of Acts is of Dispensational importance. It describes how the great changeover took place, when God set aside the nation of Israel and reached out to gather a Gentile people for His name (the Church). Here we find the process of Christianity displacing Judaism, the Church replacing the Temple and Synagogue, and worldwide blessing overtaking national privilege.
The Book of Acts is of Historical importance. It documents the giving of the Holy Spirit in His ministry as “the Comforter” and “the Indweller.” It provides a vivid account of the actual birth of the Church at Pentecost. It pictures the movement of the infant Church from a Jewish context to a Gentile contest. And it portrays the importance of witnessing, the process of worldwide evangelization.
The Book of Acts is not a book of doctrine, but it is of tremendous Doctrinal importance. The great doctrinal discourses of the Epistles find their germination in the Apostolic preaching in Acts.
The Book of Acts is of Supreme Spiritual importance. The early Church was Holy Spirit directed and Holy Spirit empowered. Her method was simple-preaching the Word. Her ministry was witnessing; individual Christians were soul-winners, and the Church was missionary-minded. This Book is the greatest missionary story ever told. The Gospel was spread from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome. The first two letters of the word “Gospel” are “Go.” The word “Go” is found some 49 times in Acts. This makes it a book of action. Thus Acts has become the authorized Missionary Manual for the present-day Church. Remember, anything that does not continually spread, will ultimately die. Thus the Great Commission is repeated in some form in the first five books of the New Testament.
In Acts we have:
The Apostleship of the Disciples
The Workmanship of the Spirit
The Lordship of Christ
Luke is mentioned by name only three times in the entire New Testament (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; II Tim. 4:11). In Colossians he is called a physician; in Philemon Paul refers to Luke as his “fellow-labourer;” in II Timothy Luke is Paul’s only companion in prison.
Thus from these references we learn three things about Luke. First he was a physician. There are many medical terms used in both books that Luke authored. Second, Luke was a traveling companion of Paul. Luke uses personal pronouns “we” and “us” in several sections of Acts – 16:10-17; 20:5 – 21:25; 27:1 – 28:16. And finally, Luke was a Gentile. In Colossians 4:10-11 Paul lists his companions of circumcision — that is, Jews — to distinguish between Epaphras, Demas and Luke as uncircumcised Gentiles. Thus Luke is the only Gentile writer of the entire Bible.
Another fact that points to Luke’s authorship is that Acts is a continuation of Luke’s Gospel. His Gospel closes with the promise of the coming Spirit and the command to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power (Luke 24:49). Acts begins where Luke ends (Acts 1:4).
Luke’s Gospel is a record of what Jesus began both to do and teach until His ascension; and Acts is a record of what Jesus continued to do through that Holy Spirit and the Apostles after His ascension.
Luke and Acts have the:
Same author – Luke;
Same addressee – Theophilus
Same attraction – Jesus.
The plan is built around the key verse (1:8). This verse reveals how Christianity developed and spread from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, to “the uttermost part of the earth.” This verse sets forth the three great divisions of the book.
Chapter 1:1 – 8:3 is the record of their witnessing in Jerusalem.
Chapter 8:4 – 12:25 records their witnessing in Judea and Samaria.
Chapter 12:26 – 28:31 records their witnessing throughout the “world”.
The Jewish element dominates the first part of the book (chapters 1-7). Here Peter is the main character. The Gentile element dominates the last part (chapters 13-28). Here Paul is the main character. And the way from the one to the other is explained in the middle part (chapters 8-12). Here both Peter and Paul share the spotlight.
The Gospels set forth the acts of Jesus during His humiliation. In Acts, we have a summary of what Jesus continues to do during his exaltation.
Acts is a record of a Divine Plan as declared by Acts 1:8, which is four-fold:
1. The Subject of Christian Witness is Christ
2. The Center of Christian Witness is the Church
3. The Source of Christian Witness is The Comforter (Holy Spirit)
4. The Sphere of Christian Witness is The Created (Whole World)
I. Witnessing in Jerusalem and Judea (1:1-8:3)
A. Chapter 1 - The Ascension of Christ (1:1-26)
B. Chapter 2 - The Day of Pentecost (2:1-47)
C. Chapter 3 - The Healing of a Lame Man (3:1-26)
D. Chapter 4 - The Beginning of Persecution (4:1-37)
E. Chapter 5 - Purging and Persecution (5:1-42)
F. Chapters 6 & 7 - Stephen, the First Martyr (6:1~8:3)
II. Witnessing in Samaria (8:1-12:25)
A. Chapter 8 - The Ministry of Philip (8:4-40)
B. Chapter 9 - The Conversion of Paul (9:1-31)
C. Chapter 10 - The Conversion of Cornelius (10:1-48)
D. Chapter 11 - The plea of Peter (11:1-18)
E. Chapter 12 - The Christian Persecution (12:1-25)
III. To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth (13:1-28:31)
A. Chapter 13-14 - 1st Missionary Journey (13:1-14:28)
B. Chapter 15 - The Council at Jerusalem (15:1-35)
C. Chapter 15-18 - 2nd Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)
D. Chapter 18-21 - 3rd Missionary Journey (18:23-21:26)
E. Chapter 21 - 28 - The Journey to Rome (21:27- 28:31)