The Book of Acts
A. It is probable the book originally had no title. The older manuscripts give the title in
several forms, including just plain "Acts," "Acts of Apostles," and "The Acts of the
Apostles." The Siniatic manuscript, dating from around 300 A. D. has at the beginning the
title "Doings." The title in its present accepted form, "The Acts of the Apostles," is early,
dating to around 400 A.D. Clearly there was no title that commanded general acceptance.
"It is very likely that the book was called simply 'Acts,' and for some time this designation was
sufficient to distinguish it from other books. But after some time, before this book came into
circulation, other books were written by uninspired writers with such titles as 'The Acts of
Peter and Paul,' 'The Acts of Timothy,' 'The Acts of Barnabas,' and several others of like title;
hence it became necessary ...to enlarge the title of this original volume of 'Acts'..."1
B. The title, Acts of the Apostles, can be rather misleading by giving the impression that all
the apostles' acts are contained in the book. In reality, this book only treats a few of any of
the apostles acts, and almost none of the acts of the majority of the apostles.2 "It contains no
detailed account of the work of any of the apostles except Peter and Paul; John is mentioned
on three occasions, but he appears rather as the companion of Peter than as the doer of any
special act by himself. We have no notice of James except of his execution by Herod; more
space is devoted to Stephen and Philip, who were not apostles, than to some of the apostles."3
C. The Book is not a history of all early Christianity. There is little mention of all but two
apostles, but we cannot assume the other apostles were not active. There is much early
tradition that places the apostles beyond the lands of the Bible.
A. The author of Acts, who alone relates the origin of the most significant organization in the
world and the mightiest movement in history, makes no mention of his name.4
B. All evidence indicates it was written by Luke.
1. It is addressed to Theophilus( Acts 1:1 ), to whom he had written "the former
treatise," which was the Gospel of Luke ( cf. Luke 1:1-4 ). Acts is a continuation of the
narrative of the Book of Luke, connecting the life and death of the Savior with the institution
for which he died and the spread of the message of his redemptive sacrifice.
2. There are more than 50 words found in both of the books not found anywhere else
in the New Testament. This indicates the vocabulary of the same author.
3. Luke is called the "beloved physician"( Col. 4:14 ). Acts uses several words peculiar
to the medical profession of his day( see Acts 28:3, 8; Luke 8:43 ). He was apparently
4. The frequent usage of the pronoun "We"( 16:10-17; 20:6-16; 21; 27; 28 )
indicates that the author was a frequent travelling companion of Paul and was even with him
during the Roman imprisonment ( Acts 28:16 ). McGarvey makes a good point when he
notes that Paul's common companions are named in both Philemon 23, 24 and Col. 4:10-14 as
being Aristarchus, Jesus called Justus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Then on the last
journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:4-6 records Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy,
Tychicus, and Trophimus as going on before Paul to Troas; then in verse 5 the author says
they waited for "Us," and in verse 6, "We" sailed away. Luke's name is missing from this
latter list of names; as then the writer was none of these, and yet he journeyed with Paul on
this visit to Jerusalem, and thence to Rome, it is with great certainty that Luke is the author.5
5. Finally the evidence of the early Christians is unanimous and conclusive. They are:
Irenaeus, 178 A.D., Clement of Alexandria, 190 A.D., Tertullian, 200 A.D., and Eusebius,
C. Was with Paul during first imprisonment in Rome( Acts 28:16 ), and during the final days
of his life ( 2 Tim. 4:11 ).
D. Luke was not an apostle himself.
A. Was guided by the Holy Spirit.
B. Was present during many of the events.
C. Conversed with others who witnessed the events.
A. The abrupt close of the book is an indication of the date of the book. The most natural
explanation of this close is that there was nothing else to report at that time.
B. The book ends with Paul in prison in Rome, kept there two years awaiting trial. If the trial
before Caesar took place, if it resulted in acquittal or conviction, the book closes without a
word on the subject. The indication is that Luke wrote the last sentence of Acts at the close
of the two years imprisonment which he mentions.
C. History shows that Festus was sent to Judea when Felix was recalled in the year 60 A.D.
Paul's arrest two years previous was on Pentecost, 58. His departure to Rome was in the Fall
of 60. He reached Rome in Spring of 61. The narrative closes in the Spring of 63.
D. Just as significant are events that are not recorded in the book of Acts. There is no
mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, nor of the burning of Rome in 64 A. D.
and its being blamed on Christians by Nero. It is just as significant that a book that deals with
detailed accounts of the deaths of Stephen and James would not say anything about Paul's
death, release or trial.8
E. Thus the book was probably written in 63 A.D. from Rome.
A. Acts takes up where the gospels leave off, giving us an exciting account of the events after
the death of Jesus and his ascension.
B. Neither the gospels nor the epistles could thoroughly "furnish all the light the church
needed on its own origins. In fact, the Gospels did little more than to anticipate the church,
whereas the Epistles presuppose it. A work was needed to describe the rise and development
of this great spiritual entity that would at the same time be a binding element between the
Gospels and Epistles. The Book of Acts fills exactly that need. It is no wonder that Harnack
pronounced it the pivotal book of the New Testament. The Acts is the bridge between
Gospels and Epistles."9
C. The aim of this book can be seen in the theme and events to which the historian devotes
the most space - this proves to be detailed accounts of conversions, or of unsuccessful
attempts at the same.10
"1. The first chapter shows us how the apostles were prepared for the work of
2. The second gives the account of converting 3,000 people.
3. The third recounts the conversion of many others, followed by the first arrest and
trial of Peter and John.
4. The persecutions in the next four chapters ( 4-7 ) all grew out of opposition to these
5. The 8th, 9th and 10th chapters are devoted to the conversions of the Samaritans, the
eunuch, Saul of Tarsus, and Cornelius.
6. The 11th, mainly to establishment of the church in Antioch by the baptism of Jews
and Gentiles there.
7. The 12th is an episode, showing the benevolence of the new converts, and another
persecution in Jerusalem.
8. The 13th and 14th give the sermons and conversions on Paul's first journey with
9. The 15th describes the controversy on circumcision which grew out of the
conversions on Paul's first tour.
10. The 16th describes the conversions of Lydia and the Jailor in Philippi.
11. The 17th, the conversions in Thessalonica and Berea, followed by a nearly fruitless
effort in Athens.
12. The 18th, the conversions in Corinth, occupying a year and a half.
13. The 19th, the many conversions followed by persecution in Ephesus.
14. The 20th, Paul's last journey to Jerusalem, followed by his arrest and his futile
attempts to convert the mob in Jerusalem, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. And his journey to
Rome, where he attempts in vain to convert the leaders of the unbelieving Jews in that city.
Undoubtedly, then, the writer's chief design was to set forth to his readers a
multitude of cases of conversions under the labors of apostles and apostolic men, so that we
may know how this work, the main work for which Jesus died and the apostles were
commissioned, was accomplished. The cases recorded represent all the different grades of
human society, from idolatrous peasants up to priests, proconsuls and kings. They represent
all the degrees of intellectual and religious culture; all the common occupations of life; and all
the countries and languages of the then known world, thus showing the adoption of the one
system of life and salvation to all the inhabitants of the earth - The cases herein
recorded...were directed by the infallible teaching, and ...they were selected by infallible
wisdom from among the thousands which had occurred, because of their peculiar fitness for a
place in the inspired record. If, then, modern conversions accord with these, they must be
right; if they do not, they must be to that extent wrong." These conversions in Acts passed
the inspection of the Holy Spirit on two occasions: ( 1 ) when they occurred, and ( 2 ) when
they were recorded by Luke in the book of Acts.
C. Another theme of the book is that of showing the establishment of the Lord's church ( in
fulfillment of his promise, Mat. 16:18 ), its growth, something of its organization; its simple
but spiritual worship, and its work under the direction of the apostles.
D. A secondary aim of the book is evident as it shows the work of the principle agent
bringing about these conversions in directing the labors and teaching of the apostles - this was
the work of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the Lord's promise ( see John 14 - 16; Luke
24:46-49; Acts 1:9; 2:1-ff ). Some have called the book "The Gospel of the Holy Spirit."
E. In Acts Luke undertakes to trace the fulfillment of the earthly mission of Jesus in terms of
the establishment of his church by men whom he had trained, and the spread of the movement
under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit whom he had promised.11 One sees in Acts the deeds
of the Apostles as they carried out their duties in executing the Great Commission.
F. It must not go untold that Acts answers Jewish opposition to the gospel. Opposition is not
confined to persecution in Palestine, but bled over into all the lands the apostles evangelized.
They were accused of disturbing the peace and disloyalty to Caesar wherever they went by the
Jews( 17:7; 18:13 ). Whenever he can Luke makes a point that the lawbreakers were the Jews
themselves. The apostles are continually vindicated by the civil authorities( 18:14-15; 16:35-
40; 26:30-32 ). And the book shows the rejection of the gospel on the basis of prejudice, and
the Gentiles thoughtful acceptance of it.
A. Acts furnishes the background and setting for 10 of Paul's epistles - 1 & 2
Thes., 1 &2 Cor., Galatians, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and
B. Record five visits of Paul to Jerusalem:
1. 9:26-30 ( cf. Gal. 1:18-19 ). 4. 18:21-22.
2. 11:28-30 5. 21:15-23:30
3. 15:1-29 ( cf. Gal. 2:1-10 ).
C. In chapters 1-12, Peter is prominent; in chapters 13-28 Paul is.
D. There are 24 addresses and excerpts in Acts.
E. Acts 1:8 gives a brief outline of Acts:
1. "in Jerusalem" ( 1 - 8:4 ).
2. "in all Judea and Samaria" ( 8:5 - 12 ).
3. "unto the uttermost part of the Earth" ( 13-28 ).
F. Like Genesis, the book of beginnings, Acts records several beginnings.
1. The fulfillment of the Great Commission.
2. The Holy's Spirit's work as God's Paraclete.
3. The Church, the Kingdom of prophecy.
4. The revelation to man of God's plan of forgiveness.
5. Christ's absolute, universal rule, the dispensation of Jesus.
6. A series of wonders that would take place in the "last days."
7. In Acts 11:15 Peter calls the events of Acts 2 "the beginning." Acts 2 is
to the church what Genesis is to creation.
In order to summarize some of the information in Acts and that we might use what we
learn, each member of the class is encouraged to complete the following assignments. One
should work on the assignments as we proceed through our study of the text. It would seem
good to list each assignment at the top of a piece of paper and then add information about
each topic as we go along.
Procedure: state the main thought of the chapter, list and identify the names in that
chapter, learn how to pronounce the names correctly. You will find over 100
names in Acts.
A. Preparation for its beginning.
B. Its miraculous beginning.
C. Its means of entrance( how one becomes a member ).
D. Its growth.
E. Its worship.
F. Its organization.
G. Its work.
H. Its trials.
I. Problems in the church.
J. What its members were like
K. Can the church of Christ exist today?
Some congregations are specified. In some instances it just mentions conversions
at a place. This would indicate the presence of a congregation.
Briefly give the details about the establishment of the congregation Paul writes to,
when Paul wrote to them, from where, etc.
What were they told and how did they respond. Describe the failures to teach
and factors involved.
Research their qualifications, powers, work...what made them peculiar.
A. Key verses noted in the outlines.
B. Peter's sermon in Acts 2, 3, and Paul's sermon in Acts 17.
1 H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, and I. S. B. E.
2 John Coffman, Introducing the New Testament, p. 72.
3 Boles, p.13.
4 Jim Rury, Acts Class Material, p. 6.
5 John Coffman, Introducing the New Testament, p. 72
6 Jim Rury's, Acts Class Material, p.6.
7 Jim Rury's Acts Class Material, p. 6.
8 Everett F. Harrison, Introducing the New Testament, p.226.
9 ibid, p.222.
10 McGarvey's, New Commentary on Acts of the Apostles.
11 op. cit., Harrison, p.225
12 from Rury's OUTLINES ON ACTS.
13 op. cit. , Rury.