OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF ACTS
AUTHOR AND DATE: The Book of Acts does not specifically identify its author. However, from Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, it is clear that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts. The tradition from the earliest days of the church has been that Luke, a companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both books, most likely from Rome (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11). The Book was likely written between 61-64 A.D.
PURPOSE OF WRITING: The Book of Acts was written to provide a history of the early church and forms an important bridge between the gospels and the epistles. Great emphasis is placed on the day of Pentecost and how the Holy Spirit can empower us to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. Acts records the apostles, primarily Peter and Paul, witnessing for Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the known world at that time. The book could also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit, since it demonstrates how He empowers, guides, and teaches us and serves as our Counselor in whatever type of situation we might find ourselves in, especially in times when we face opposition.
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND HIGHLIGHTS:
Chapters 1-6:7. Reports the events that surround Jerusalem and the infancy of the church. The contents of these passages surround the early evangelistic work in Jerusalem. It describes the events of Pentecost, and the amazingly bold sermon presented by the Apostle Peter to all the Jews who gathered for the Feast of Weeks. The result of this sermon was 3,000 new believers surrendering to Jesus Christ.
Chapters 6:8-9:31. Reports a shift in the focus of evangelism to other areas. Although the ministry continued in Jerusalem, witnessing the Gospel also included those who were not completely Jewish (Samaritans and Proselytes). In 8:5, Philip traveled down to Samaria, "and began proclaiming Christ to them". Stephen is falsely accused and stoned to death while he preaches to the religious leaders. As Stephen was dying, he prayed to Jesus Christ, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (7:59). Stephen's executioners laid their robes at the feet of a young persecutor named Saul, who would soon become known as "Paul the Apostle". Saul spent his early days oppressing Christians and imprisoning them, until he had a life changing experience with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus in chapter 9:3.
Chapters 9:32-12:24. Reports the earliest efforts to reach the Gentiles with the gospel. Peter received a revelation that the gospel was also to be shared among the Gentiles. Cornelius, a Roman Commander and some of his men become followers of Christ. Saul (the persecutor), after his conversion on the road to Damascus, has become a passionate follower of Christ and immediately begins preaching the gospel. We also find that the term "Christians" is first used in Antioch.
Chapters 12:25-16:5. The gospel is shared geographically to the Gentiles in different regions farther outside Jerusalem. Saul changes his Hebrew name to Paul, a Greek name, to reach the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas begin their first and second missionary journeys to the Gentile world with both success and opposition. In chapter 15, the Jerusalem Council takes place to authorize spreading the gospel message to the Gentile nations.
Chapters 16:6-19:20. After being forbidden to enter Asia, Paul receives a vision. He and Silas head farther West to Macedonia to preach the gospel message in the Gentile European regions. Lydia, a woman who sold purple fabric, became the first convert along with her entire household. Paul preached to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill and next sets out on his third missionary journey. "The word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing" (19:20).
Chapters 19:21-28. The final chapter describes Paul's travel to Jerusalem where he was arrested, and then his difficult travel to Rome to be put on trial. When he arrives, he is imprisoned in house arrest and the book of Acts abruptly ends without describing the events of his trial before Caesar.