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Intro to the Book of Acts

We are diving into a brand new verse-by-verse study of a pivotal book of the New Testament. In some ways this exposition of the Acts of the Apostles should feel familiar because the human author, Dr. Luke, is the same author of the Gospel we just wrapped up this year. Not only are thefirst verses of both books addressed to “Theophilus” (Lk.1:3 & Ac.1:1), but the 750 unique Greekvocabulary words found only in Luke and Acts show the common source of these two books. And with Dr. Luke’s medical education, the polished style and use of medical terms make perfect sense.

One of the most interesting things about the authorship of Acts is that Dr. Luke himself ends up in the action of the narrative describing the Apostle Paul’s travels and preaching experiences.Luke’s use of pronouns shifts from third person (“him,” “he,” and “they”) to first person (“we” and “us”) in chapters 16 through 28. Of the seventeen ministry partners of the Apostle Paul that henames in all of his New Testament writings, cross-referencing them throughout the book of Acts eliminates all of them except for Dr. Luke. This is why there has been unanimous agreement among God’s people and biblical scholars that Luke is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Many have wondered about the initial recipient of these two books. He is named “Theophilus” which means “loved by God.” Beyond his name we can only speculate about who this manwas. Some suggest he was not only the recipient but also the benefactor who underwrote this research project. Of course there is a broad audience in view, not only from Luke’s perspective andintention, but certainly from the Holy Spirit who governed the “God-breathed” superintendenceof the writing of these two books.

The abrupt ending of the book of Acts has always been a curious feature. Chapter 28 records Paul’s imprisonment by the Romans, as Paul finds himself under house arrest in Rome for two years. Paul comes to Rome in AD. 61 and the story leaves off in AD. 63. Of course, we’d like closureas to how it all turned out, but this sudden ending leads us to the obvious conclusion that the“pause in the action” is the period of time when Luke finished composing this book. So, the dating of the writing of Acts can confidently be pinned at AD. 63. And add to this, that with all thecoverage of Roman leaders and persecutions in the book, Luke makes no mention of EmperorNero’s notorious persecutions of AD. 64 or General Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70.

While the book of Luke seeks to give us an orderly account of Christ’s earthly ministry, the book of Acts is intending to show us the ongoing work of Christ in the world through the Holy Spirit inhis authoritative Apostles. In one sense Luke’s first volume is “the works of Christ,” and his second “the work of Christ through his Apostles.” The book of Acts covers a 30-year period of history, from Christ’s ascension to the expansion of the church through Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) all theway to Greece and Rome.

The book of Acts chronicles the unstoppable nature of God’s work through the Church. As therecord of Christ’s words in Acts 1:8 mandates, the witness of Christ’s people will invincibly move from “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The book of Acts carefully defends the fact that Christianity is not an “unbiblical cult” or some politically subversive group. Theselection of recorded sermons is strategic in proclaiming Christianity as the logical and necessary extension of the prophetic hope of the Old Testament.

In Ephesians 2:20 Paul wrote that the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” with “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” We have in the book of Acts a divinely intended record of this unique foundational period in which the Apostles and prophetsauthoritatively and miraculously established and expanded the Church from which everysuccessive generation of Christians would benefit.

I look forward to studying this book verse-by-verse in the months and years ahead. May God blessour mutual study and my exposition of this critically important book. Below I have provided a short list of select resources, which I hope you find helpful as you dig deeper into Acts between our weekend studies. All of these will be available through the Compass Bookstore and can also be acquired electronically through Logos Bible Software (Logos.com). May God prepare us fortransformational spiritual and numerical growth in the days ahead.

— Pastor Mike

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