Introduction to the Book of Acts – A History of the Early Church

The Book of Acts

A history of the Early Church

The book of Acts also called The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke, the same author of the gospel of Luke. Both documents were adressed to a “most excellent Theophilus” who may have been a high ranking Roman government official. The book of Acts was written sometime between 61 and 64 AD. The book ends with Paul’s house arrest in Rome in 61AD. The book makes no mention of Paul’s death or Nero’s persecution nor of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This places the date of this book at least before 70 AD. Luke was a very accurate and detail oriented historian and would have included these events if they had happened at the time of writing. The book of Acts is a condesned history of the early Apostolic church, it is an eyewitnmess account of the spread fof the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. The recurring theme in the book is the empowerment of the early believers from the Holy Spirit and it is this same Holy Spirit that empowers believers yet today. While being a historical narrative it also is theologically profound. We as believers do not have “blind” faith, but a FAITH that rests on the facts of history. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are historical facts recorded by Luke in the gospel that bears his name. The book of Acts gives believers the reassurance that our faith in Christ is based on and rests on historical facts.

1 Corinthians 15:17

New Living Translation (NLT)

17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.

Acts 1:1-5

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In my first book[a] I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with[b] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 24:36-53

New Living Translation (NLT)

36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.

44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[a] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.

49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

The Ascension

50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 24:47 Or all peoples.

2 Peter 1:16

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes

It is in the first cahpter of this book that is recorded Jesus ascedning into Heaven, Jesus is the prominent figure of this book. The central theme of the all the sermons, defenses, and the life of the church throughout this book is that of the Resurrected Christ. It is in this book that we meet Saul of Tarsus, and learn of his dramatic conversion experince and how he becomes the Apostle Paul, and of his missionary ecxperinces and influenc over the early church.

Outline of the Book of Acts

              1. The apostle’s witness in Jerusalem

              2. The Early Church’s Witness to All of Judea and Samaria

              3. The Witness to the End of the Earth

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