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Acts - Introduction

Book Introduction - Acts

Read first chapter of Acts

WRITER: In the Acts of the Apostles Luke continues the account of Christianity begun in the Gospel which bears his name. In the "former treatise" he tells what Jesus "began both to do and teach"; in the Acts, what Jesus continued to do and teach through His Holy Spirit sent down.

DATE: The Acts concludes with the account of Paul's earliest ministry in Rome, A.D. 65, and appears to have been written at or near that time.

THEME: This book records the ascension and promised return of the Lord Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter's use of the keys, opening the kingdom (considered as the sphere of profession, as in Mat. 13) to the Jews at Pentecost, and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius; the beginning of the Christian church and the conversion and ministry of Paul.

The Holy Spirit fills the scene. As the presence of the Son, exalting and revealing the Father, is the great fact of the Gospels, so the presence of the Spirit, exalting and revealing the Son, is the great fact of the Acts.

Acts is in two chief parts: In the first section (1- 9:43 ) Peter is the prominent personage, Jerusalem is the center, and the ministry is to Jews. Already in covenant relations with Jehovah, they had sinned in rejecting Jesus as the Christ. The preaching, therefore, was directed to that point, and repentance (i.e. "a changed mind") was demanded. The apparent failure of the Old Testament promises concerning the Davidic kingdom was explained by the promise that the kingdom would be set up at the return of Christ ( Acts 2:25-31 ; Acts 15:14-16 ). This ministry to Israel fulfilled Luke 19:12-14 . In the persecutions of the apostles and finally in the martyrdom of Stephen, the Jews sent after the king the message, "We will not have this man to reign over us." In the second division ( 10:1 - 28:31 ) Paul is prominent, a new center is established at Antioch, and the ministry is chiefly to Gentiles who, as "strangers from the covenants of promise" ( 2:12 ), had but to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" to be saved. Chapters 11,12, and 15 of this section are transitional, establishing finally the distinction, doctrinally, between law and grace. Galatians should be read in this connection.

The events recorded in The Acts cover a period of 32 years.