The book of Acts forms a bridge between the gospels and the letters. A better title could be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because it records the birth of the church (Acts 2) on the day of Pentecost through the Holy Spirit, after the ascension of Jesus, and its spread from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria and as far as the capital of the Roman Empire and even into Africa ( Acts 8 – the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch), under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1-12 centres mainly on the ministry of Peter while the rest of the book records Paul’s three missionary journeys and his final imprisonment in Rome.
Luke was the probable author for the book. The recipient is the same person, Theophilus, as the person addressed in Luke’s gospel. Acts is, therefore, a sequel to the gospel of Luke.
The theme of the book is summarised in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The main purpose of the book is:
- To present a history
One of the unique features of Christianity is its firm historical foundation which Acts provides for the beginning and spread of the church. It records the founding of the church, the spread of the gospel, the beginning of congregations and the apostolic pattern for evangelism.
- To give a defence
Acts has a number of Christian defences, the apostles before the Sanhedrin, Paul before Jewish and Roman officials, with the purpose of leading their hearers to conversion. I shows how the leaders of the church coped with pagan and Jewish thought, the Roman government and Hellenistic society.
- To provide a guide
The church began as a group of believers who met together under the leadership of the apostles. However as it spread across the empire, and the small congregations became more widespread, the apostles has to guide the local groups and provide leadership that would steer the church in the right direction.
Acts provides the simple guidance that the apostles gave in the context of problems and persecutions. Problems were dealt with as they arouse and provided the principles for godly leadership for the church throughput the ages.
- To depict the triumph of Christianity in the face of bitter persecution
“The success of the church in carrying the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome and in planting local churches across the Roman Empire demonstrated that Christianity was not a mere work of man. God was in it.” (NIV Study Bible, page 1642).
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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