Acts 001 – Introduction to the Book of Acts (pt. 1)

Acts 001 – Introduction to the Book of Acts (pt. 1)
Acts 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 2, 2022 • Acts


Acts 001

Introduction to the Book of Acts, Part 1

Acts 1:1

November 2, 2022

Dr. Andy Woods


Very good. All right. Well, as folks are filing in, in the back there is a handout. It’s-it’s about 47 pages. We’re going to cover it all tonight. No, just kidding. But this is your summary of the Book of Acts. So this is something that you can refer to as we’re engaged in this series together that will go many weeks. Online people, don’t panic. We’re going to get you one of these as well. We’ll probably have it posted on our website in the form of a PDF next week. So, you know, as you know, last week completed our study on Zechariah. And now we’re starting a new book. We’re going to start tonight the Book of Acts. And I hope you like that little newspaper clipping there. Pastor Gabe made that. So that’s pretty cool. One of the things that is important for a Bible student to do before you just embark on going through the text, is trying to look at the background. Background issues. The better you can understand background issues- I’ve got 14 of them, I don’t think I’ll finish all 14 tonight either, by the way. But the better you can understand the background of a book, the better you can appreciate the contents of the book. So, these are really 14 things you can look at before you start to study any book of the Bible. So let’s start to walk through these to sort of orient ourselves to the book of Acts.

The first issue is the title. You’ll notice in your study Bible if you have one, it says right there at the top, the Acts of the Apostles. And that actually is not a title that God gave the book. That’s not part of the inspired biblical text. But, as I show in this document here, this was of the most ancient versions of the book of Acts that we have. That was basically the title given by Christianity or Christendom to the Book of Acts. So people think the title of the book is Acts of the Apostles. I, for one, am not really thrilled with that title because the book is really not about the acts of the Apostles. It’s really about the acts of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is mentioned in this book 50 times. So the title Acts of the Apostles is a little misleading. And the title is a little bit misleading because it doesn’t really factor in the geographical reach that’s recorded in the Book of Acts. So what you’re going to see in the Book of Acts is a lot of geography. The book is going to start in Jerusalem and it’s going to end up in Rome. So the title, The Acts of the Apostles, really doesn’t cover that geographical outreach. And then the title is a little bit misleading because the Acts of the Apostles.

Really the Book of Acts is going to focus on two apostles, not all the apostles. And as I’ll be showing you, those two apostles are number one, Peter, and number two, Paul. So even though Christianity has labeled this the Acts of the Apostles, I’m not really happy with that title because it really doesn’t do justice explaining the contents of the book for the three reasons that I’ve mentioned. But the title of it by Christianity is The Acts of the Apostles. The second issue is authorship. And you want to always ask yourself that when you study any book of the Bible. Authorship, In other words, who wrote it? Well, the problem here is the book’s anonymous. The author never said- it’s not like Paul’s letters where, Paul identifies himself as the author in many of his letters, if not all of his letters. So there’s no author given anywhere in the text. But most people believe that this book was written by, anybody know? Luke. And how would people know that if the book never says Luke wrote the book? Well, there’s two things people look at when they try to figure out who authored a book. They look at external evidence. That’s evidence from outside the biblical text. And then they look at internal evidence. So when you go outside the text, what you see is the earliest church fathers. After the death of the Apostles, the church fathers became prominent in the church. And the earliest of the church fathers and the most prominent church fathers believe that Acts was written by Luke.

So that’s what you call external evidence. But then there’s some internal things that you can look at which I think clearly have Luke’s handwriting, so to speak, on the book. Over in Acts 28:16. It’s the very end of the book. You might flip over there if you wanted. Look at the author. I’m trying to show you why we think it’s Luke. The author at the end of the book says, “When we entered Rome.” So, there’s some sections in the Book of Acts where the author says they did this, they did that, they did this, they did that, and then all of a sudden, right in the middle, he’ll say, We did this. And we did that. And I’ll show you where those sections are in just a little bit. But Acts 28:16, The author, whoever he was, inserts himself into the narrative. And basically says when we entered Rome. In other words, he claimed to be with Paul in Rome during his first Roman imprisonment. So by process of elimination, when you look at all of the people that were with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment, and he mentions many of them in Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, the only one that really makes any sense is Luke.

So some of the people that were with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment, according to his prison letters; those are the four books he wrote from Roman prison in his first Roman imprisonment. Again, those are Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. Some of the people that were with him were Epaphras, Epaphroditus, and Onesimus. But when you study out all of those names, what you see is those individuals came late. Paul was in a Roman prison for about two years and they kind of showed up later. Acts 28:16, says, the writer was there when we arrived in Rome. So the writer was there at the beginning of the Roman imprisonment. So Epaphras, Epaphroditus, Onesimus wouldn’t fit. Other people that were there with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment were Aristarchus, Mark, Tychicus, and Timothy. But they’re not a good fit for the authorship of Acts because Acts mentions them in the third person. The author mentions himself in the first person, in the “we” sections. “When we arrived in Rome…” Another guy that was with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment is Demas. And so some people think Demas wrote this, but he’s not a very good fit either. Because Paul would later say of Demas in Second Timothy 4:10, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me…” So why would a deserter be the author of the Book of Acts? There’s another guy that was with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment, and his name was Justus.

But there’s no external evidence at all connecting Justus to this particular book, like there is Luke connecting Luke to this book in terms of authorship. So you just kind of start going down the list. And… can’t be that guy, it can’t be that guy, it can’t be that guy, and can’t be that guy. And the only guy left standing that was with Paul early on in his Roman imprisonment was Luke. And he’s the only one that fits by process of elimination. You’ll find Luke’s name mentioned with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment in Colossians 4:14, where Paul says, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.” So that’s an example of what we would call internal evidence. Why we think Luke is the author of the Book of Acts. Let me give you some more internal evidence, if I could. Luke, the Gospel, and Acts, the book that we’re studying- they go together. Luke is the prequel, Acts as the sequel. Luke is all about the Ministry of Jesus when he was on the earth as the Son of Man. How he reached out to everybody, you know, for salvation. Acts is the sequel to Luke’s Gospel. Because Acts is simply the record of how Jesus continued that same ministry through the church in His position at the Father’s right hand.

Luke the Gospel covers the earthly Ministry of Christ. The Book of Acts records or covers the same Ministry of Jesus through the church. But he just wasn’t on the earth. He continued it from the Father’s right hand as the head of the church. And so if you accept the fact that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Luke and Acts go together like hand in glove then it’s very logical that Luke also wrote Acts. I mean, if he wrote Luke the prequel and if we accept that, then he also wrote the Book of Acts as well. Because there’s a lot of similarities between the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. For example, if you look at Acts 1:1, it says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” So you’ll notice he mentions his first account. His first account would be the Gospel of Luke. So that would be the prequel. What he’s writing here is the sequel, and you’ll notice who he’s addressing in both. He’s addressing a man named Theophilus, who we will talk about. If you look at Luke chapter 1 for just a minute and you look at verse 3. This is Luke’s prologue; how Luke started his gospel. He says, “It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus.” So the Gospel of Luke was written to Theophilus, and you’ll notice that the Book of Acts is written to the exact same guy. So that’s a similarity between Luke, the Gospel, and Acts and here the writer refers to the first account, which would be Luke’s gospel. And then the sequel would be the Book of Acts. The language and style between the Gospel of Luke and Acts are almost identical. You know, they’re very, very similar. The theme of both books is almost identical. It deals with the worldwide outreach of Jesus. Where Jesus as the Son of Man is ministering to everybody, even the down and outers or the rejects of society, like women and Gentiles. Both were treated very, very poorly in first-century Israel. Luke records Christ reaching out to such people, and that’s the exact kind of thing you have happening in the Book of Acts, where all of these people that you think are unsaleable are getting saved. So Jesus is just continuing a ministry through the church that he started on the Earth as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. The Ending of the Book of Luke. The Gospel of Luke. Luke 24. You know, if you were to read Luke 24 and Acts chapter 1, you would say, Well, it’s obvious that these two books go together. Both the ending of Luke’s Gospel and the beginning of Acts feature the post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus. Jesus is speaking.

And the emphasis in both chapters is the coming of the Holy Spirit. So what’s the poin I’m trying to make? I’m trying to give you some more internal evidence why we think Luke wrote the Book of Acts, even though. Luke doesn’t give us his name as the author in the Book of Acts. I mean, if the two books go together, and Luke wrote the prequel, and the sequel reads a lot like the prequel then it’s not too much of a leap to conclude that Luke the physician wrote the Book of Acts. As you know, Luke was a doctor. Colossians 4:14, calls him the beloved physician. So he obviously was what we would call educated. He was literate. He knew how to organize information. He was a detail-man, which is what you have to be as a physician. I mean, if you have a physician and he’s not a detail-oriented person, you might think about getting a new doctor, so to speak. So Luke would have the literary skill and ability to put Acts together, just like he put the gospel of Luke together. And Luke was affiliated with Paul, one of the key guys that’s going to show up in Acts 9, his conversion anyway. And even before that, he’s mentioned that around Acts 7, Acts 8 is Saul of Tarsus, who would become Paul the Apostle. Luke keeps putting the spotlight on Paul, and that would fit with Luke being the author because Luke was connected with Paul.

In fact, in the Second Timothy 4:11, Paul, at the very end of his life says, “Only Luke is with me.” So whether it’s external evidence or internal evidence, like some of the things I’ve tried to cover here that are on this slide, we’re pretty confident that Luke wrote the Book of Acts just like he wrote Luke’s gospel. So the title of the book is The Acts of the Apostles. Not the greatest title. The authorship of the book is Luke. And then the third background issue is, well, tell me about Luke. Because the more you can understand about the writer of a particular book, the more the things that he brings up start to make sense. So that would get into biography. So who is this guy, Luke? Well, as I mentioned before, he’s very connected with Paul the Apostle. Second Timothy 4:11, Paul mentions Luke only being with him at the end of his life. So obviously Luke would be qualified to write a book featuring Paul the Apostle. Luke was a physician, as we talked about. And if you understand the fact that he’s a physician, the more it makes sense why he brings up information like he does. So if you look at chapter 1 verse 18 for a moment, it talks there about Judas. Suicide. And the apostles had to pick a replacement for Judas.

And it describes his suicide this way In Acts 1:18, it says, “Now this man…” that’s Judas, “…acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.” And I read that and I say, That’s more information than I need. I don’t need to know about his intestines. Well, if you’re a physician, I mean, those are the kinds of things you’re interested in, right? That’s why in Luke’s Gospel, Luke mentions the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist more than any other gospel writer. Because Luke is a physician. Those are details that are interesting to him. It’s kind of like reading Matthew’s gospel. There’s a story, I think it’s in Matthew 18 about how Jesus and Peter go fishing and they catch a fish and there’s a coin in the fish’s mouth and He says, Use that to pay the temple tax. I mean, why would only Matthew record that? Well, it makes sense if you understand that Matthew is a tax collector. And only Matthew mentions the parable of the stewards. Where different people are given talents, which is a monetary sum. And they’re supposed to invest those on the Lord’s behalf until He comes back. I mean, a tax-gatherer or money type of person would be interested in that kind of subject. Peter, in First Peter and Second Peter, talks more about the flood than any other gospel writer. What was Peter’s occupation? A fisherman. So he liked to talk about water and things like that. So it’s sort of interesting how the Lord used these biblical writers. We believe in what’s called the dual authorship of Scripture. Obviously, God, Capital A, is the primary Huthor. But when God came upon these biblical writers and use them to supernaturally record his truth without error in the original manuscripts, God did not override their personalities. He used each of them exactly as they were which is very different than how Satan works. You’ll notice in the Gospels when Satan possesses someone, he subjugates the person. God doesn’t do that. He respects who the person is, how the person is wired. And you can see the different literary styles and personalities coming out in all of these biblical books because God is the author of those personalities as well. So God doesn’t override people. He guided them as the Author, capital A, and used them supernaturally as authors, little a- dual authorship of Scripture- to record God’s Word. And you see the same type of thing happening here with Luke, who is a physician. He brings up medical information that you would expect from a physician. The majority view on Luke is that he was not Jewish, but he was Gentile. Why do people think that? And if that’s true, that would make Luke the only Gentile author of Scripture.

If Luke was a Gentile and he wrote Luke and Acts, then Luke and Acts are the only books of the entire Bible that were written by non-Jews. Why is it that the majority opinion out there is that Luke was a Gentile? A couple of reasons. One is Colossians 4:11. Where Paul in his first imprisonment mentions his ministry partners that were of the circumcision; that were Jewish in other words. But he doesn’t mention Luke. He says in Colossians 4:11, “and Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the Kingdom of God who are from the circumcision.” Jewish, in other words. “For they have proved to be an encouragement to me.” So Paul says, here are my Jewish co-laborors in the ministry. He mentions a couple of names, he uses the word “only”, and he doesn’t mention Luke’s name, even though Luke was with Paul in his first imprisonment. So that becomes one of the reasons why people think that Luke was not Jewish but was a Gentile. Another reason, if you go down to Acts 1:19- we were just in verse 18. Verse 19, he’s quoting there Hebrew. And also he could be quoting Aramaic, which was a language dominant in the land of Israel. And the writer who we think is Luke says this, “And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their language…” He doesn’t say our language.

He says their language, the language of the Jews. That field was called Hakeldama. That is the field of blood. And he’s quoting their Jewish language, Hebraic language. He doesn’t say our language, he says their language. So those two things, Colossians 4:11, Acts 1:19 are probably the main reasons why people think that Luke was not Jewish but was a Gentile. However, there is a very strong minority opinion. It’s not the majority opinion out there amongst commentators. It’s a minority opinion that Luke was also Jewish. Dr. Tom McCall, who is now with the Lord who worked with Zola Levitt for many years, published a little article that you can find on the Internet, probably, I don’t know, 20 years ago arguing that Luke was Jewish. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who just released a commentary on the Book of Acts- and you guys know how closely I’ve been following Arnold Fruchtenbaum in our Genesis series. He’s someone I hold in very high regard. He’s of the view that Luke was Jewish. The main reason people think Luke was Jewish is because of Romans 3:2, where Paul is answering the question, What benefit is it to being a Jew? In Romans 3:2 Paul says, “Great in every respect. First of all, they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” God has decided to bless the world through the Jewish nation.

Genesis 12:3 to the patriarch Abraham, God said, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” There are three great blessings that have come to the human race because of God’s work through the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. They are, number one, the Scripture. Number two, the Savior, who was Jewish. Number three, the coming kingdom, which will be located not in Washington, D.C., but in Jerusalem. But you’ll notice blessing number one, Paul says to them, that’s Israel, was given the oracles of God. So if that’s true, according to the thinking of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, according to the thinking of Tom McCall, Luke had to have been a Jew in order to be the author of the Book of Acts and Luke’s Gospel. That’s a strong opinion. It’s not a majority opinion, but it is floating out there. But the majority opinion is Luke was not Jewish for reasons I’ve tried to explain, but was Fentile. Fourth issue is place of writing. When Luke put this together, where was what was he writing from? Well, I mentioned a little earlier that “we” sections. So Luke in Acts is describing what’s happening. “They did this”, “They did that.” Then all of a sudden he says, “We did this”, And “We did that.” So he inserts himself into the story. That happens three times. It happens in Acts 16:10-40. It happens again in Acts 20:5 through 21:18.

And then as I mentioned a little earlier, it happens at the very end of the book, as Paul is making his way to Rome, Acts 27:1 through chapter 28:16. So what we believe is Luke was writing this book. You know, it’s not like he sat down at a table and put the whole thing together. The idea is he’s putting the book together as he’s moving with these missionaries, particularly Paul. So we don’t believe that there was one place of writing for the Book of Acts. He probably wrote some of it when Paul was in prison in Caesarea, which is in Israel, for two years. You know, Paul is in jail a lot and he spent two years in Caesarea in prison, Acts 24:27. You know, it’s logical that Luke was with Paul or near Paul during that imprisonment. And so he probably wrote some of the book then Luke inserts himself into the voyage to Rome at the end of the book, so he probably was writing the book as they were traveling on boat to Rome, on land and then boat. He inserts himself into Paul’s journey to Rome, he says, “When we arrived in Rome.” Now we know that Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years. And in the book of Colossians, he mentioned Luke, the physician being with him. So somehow Luke had access to Paul for that two-year period.

And so he probably wrote some of the book at that point. So you shouldn’t get the idea that this is like a typical book that someone just sat down and wrote in one sitting. You get the idea that the author, Luke, is putting information together as the events are unfolding and as he’s given a pause in the action and an opportunity to write. So he probably wrote some of the book in Caesarea, some of it on the voyage to Rome, some of it during the first Roman imprisonment. And the book came into existence because of some combination of all of the above. The next issue, I think this takes us to number five, and this is a big deal. If you can understand this, the whole book will make sense. The things that Luke mentions in Acts become crystal clear if you understand this one point. And this is the problem with modern Bible study is most people don’t go through the discipline of these 14 introductory matters. And so as they’re reading a book like Acts, they’re sort of lost as to why the author would bring up this subject or that subject. So who is the recipient of the book? Well, go back to Acts 1:1. “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” So he tells you exactly who he’s writing to.

He’s writing to this guy named Theophilus. If the Book of Acts is a sequel to the prequel which is Luke’s gospel, we would expect Theophilus to be the addressee of Luke’s Gospel also. And he was. If you go back to Luke 1:1-4, just for a minute, this is what’s called the prologue in Luke’s gospel, and he tells you exactly who he’s writing to. How does Luke begin his gospel? He says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully…” Sounds like a doctor, right? “…from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” So both books- Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts- are written a specific person. And this guy is named Theophilus. Now, the better you understand who Theophilus is the better you’ll understand the contents of Luke and Acts. Who is this guy Theophilus? Well, we have to piece things together through this brief prologue in Luke 1:1-4. You’ll notice at the end of verse 3 that Theophilus is called “most excellent Theophilus.” Now, the best of the best that have looked into this will tell you that that expression “most excellent Theophilus” is a title that belongs to a Roman official.

I mean, it looks like based on everything we know about letters of that time period addressed to Roman officials, “most excellent Theophilus” is most likely a title for a Roman official, which means that Theophilus- was he a Jew or was he a Gentile? He was a Gentile. That’s the first thing to understand about this guy Theophilus. He was not Jewish, but he was a Gentile. The second thing, and this is huge. Was Theophilus saved or unsaved? I think when you look at the evidence in Luke’s prologue in Luke’s gospel, you see that Theophilus was already saved. He is a believer. Because verse 4, Luke says, “so that you…” Theophilus, “…may know the exact truth about the things you had been you have been taught.” In other words, Theophilus had already been taught about Jesus. He knew about Jesus which probably means he was already a believer. Now, it’s interesting that the name Theophilus, when you break that down, it’s Theos, God, and phileó, love. His name actually means God lover or lover of God. So I would have to guess that this guy is a Gentile Roman official who was already a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, that’s the direction, I think, the evidence it moves us in. So why in the world is Luke addressing a Gentile who’s already saved? He’s not trying to get him saved.

He already is saved. He already is a God lover. What he’s trying to do, Luke is, is he’s trying to confirm him in what he already believed. Because Theophilus apparently was having doubts about Christianity. Now, has it ever happened to you? I mean, you’re saved and then you kind of look back at the whole thing and you go, Is this really real? The doctrine of eternal security says once saved, always saved. Just because you have doubts doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Christian. In fact, James says, when we doubt as Christians speaking to save people, we’re sort of like, you know, the waves that are tossed to and fro by the wind. So Theophilus was a gentile, saved person who was having doubts about Christianity. What was he doubting? As a gentile, and this is just an educated guess on my part. I think what was bothering him is this whole Christianity thing, this whole Jesus thing is so Jewish. I mean, everything is Jewish. In fact, Matthew, the first gospel writer, I mean, he connects Jesus back to David and Abraham, and Jesus was Jewish. And you read through John’s gospel, and Jesus, five times, is going to Jerusalem to participate in the various feasts because he’s Jewish. In fact, Jesus in Matthew ten versus 5 and 6 when he’s sending out the 12, He drops this whammy.

He says, “These 12 Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go the way of the Gentiles.” Are you going to read that verse at your mission’s conference? Do not enter any city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, which if you followed us on our Kingdom series, we interpreted that as the kingdom was being offered to Israel up until Matthew Chapter 12. So Theophilus is probably aware of all these texts. He’s aware of the Ministry of Jesus, and yet he’s a believer in Jesus as a Gentile. And he wants to know, have I believed the right thing? I mean, am I in the right place? Is this Christianity stuff really for me? Because it sure looks very Hebraic. It surely looks very Jewish. And he wants to know, Am I really contemplated in the plan and program of God? Because who am I? I’m just a Roman Gentile believer. I mean, am I in the right place? have I believed the right thing? Have I got the right Savior? And so he’s having doubts about the whole thing. So once you understand this, then you understand exactly what Luke is doing. Not only in Luke’s Gospel, but in the Book of Acts. And that takes us to number six: the purpose of the book. The purpose of the book answers the why question. In other words, when this was written what kind of rhetorical impact was this supposed to have on Theophilus? And the better you can put yourself in the shoes of Theophilus

the more it makes perfect sense why Luke is bringing up the things that he’s bringing up in the Book of Acts. So the purpose of the book then is to present Theophilus with an orderly account, first of all, of the Ministry of Jesus when he was on the earth. But then Jesus ascended back to heaven. And Luke is trying to explain to Theophilus that the ministry that Jesus started as He reached out to everybody, Gentiles, prostitutes, tax-gatherers, He’s still doing through the church. He’s just doing it at the Father’s right hand as the head of the church. So the purpose of the Book of Acts is to present Theophilus with an orderly account of the birth and growth of the church so as to affirm him in what he has already believed. In other words, Theophilus is supposed to read the Book of Acts, and he’s supposed to say, Yeah, Lord, forgive me for being foolish. Of course I’ve believed in the right Messiah, the right Savior. Of course, I am contemplated in the outworking of Your purposes. I’ve always been contemplated in the outworking of your purposes. Look what You did to get the gospel to me in Rome. And he’s supposed to see the sovereignty of God and the supernatural hand of God as he reads through these, what are now- we’ve divided in 28 chapters. And as he’s reading it, he is developing certainty-

he’s not getting saved, he’s developing certainty that Christianity is for him. And his doubts are being assuaged, I guess is what I’m looking for. So the purpose of Luke and Acts together is an apologetic purpose. It’s not a evangelism purpose. Now John’s gospel, which we’ve done at this church, which we’re not getting into in our study here, but I just want to show you that John’s gospel is totally different, totally different. John gives you his purpose in writing in John 20, 30, and 31. Where he says, “Therefore many other signs that Jesus-” “many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…that…you may have life in His name.” John is written so that an unsaved person who knows nothing about Jesus can read John’s gospel. They can see the seven signs Jesus did. They can see the seven discourses that Jesus gave. And they can read the “I Am” statements that Jesus made in John’s gospel. And they can become convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. And so believing it, then they would get saved. They know who Jesus is so they’re supposed to believe in Jesus and get saved. So John’s gospel is written to evangelize.

That’s why when people come to you and they say, Oh, I noticed you’re a Christian. I noticed you have a Bible on your desk at work. Da da da da da. You know I’m- and people will do this to you. They’ll say, you know, I’m really investigating Christianity. What part of the Bible should I read? But what are you going to tell him? Yeah, go read Leviticus in Numbers and get back to me. You send them to John’s gospel. Because John’s gospel is set up to evangelize. That’s his purpose. The Book of Acts is a wonderful book for anybody to read, but that’s not what its purpose is. Its central purpose- now, now there are some strong clues on how we should evangelize today by reading the Book of Acts, and I’ll show those to you. But if you put yourself in the position of the recipient and the addressee, the Book of Acts is not set up to evangelize Theophilus. It’s designed to give him confirmation to ease his mind concerning doubts. And his issue is, I’m a gentile. And everything about Christianity is Jewish. Is this for me or not? And Luke is recording history to show Theophilus that it is for you. You’ve always been contemplated in the mind of God. And here’s the sovereign move of God in the church age via the church to get the gospel to you.

So this takes us to the message of the book. The purpose is Why. The message is What. What is the book about? I mean, if you had to step back and give a one-sentence definition of the book of Acts, how would you do it? And your one-sentence definition needs to cover the contents of the whole book of Acts. So that’s what we mean by a message statement. And here’s what it’s about. Someone asks you, what’s the book of Acts about? Give them this definition. The Book of Acts is about the birth and the growth of the church. That’s how the church was born and how the church matured in three areas numerically, geographically, and ethnically. How did the church mature numerically? There are several places in the Book of Acts that give us a numerical progress report. For example, in Acts 2:47, it will say about 3000 were saved on the day of Pentecost. It gives you a number. And you keep going through and it starts to give you more numbers, then it says the number is up to 5000. And it keeps over and over again saying the church was growing in great numbers. So the point is, to Theophilus, God’s hand was obviously on the church. This is a supernatural work of God. And Theophilus, this is how you got saved through the church. So don’t question whether you’re contemplated in the mind of God.

So at the first bullet point are the clearest progress reports. The second bullet point are the ones less clear, but they’re all emphasizing the numerical growth of the church. So it’s how the church was born, Acts 2, and how it matured or grew numerically, geographically, and ethnically. How did it grow numerically? The progress reports show us the numerical growth of the church. But the church did not just grow numerically. It didn’t stay in one place. It grew geographically. This is a movement that started in Jerusalem and went all the way to Rome which is obviously where- I think where- Theophilus got saved in Rome, perhaps as a Roman official. That’s a little guesswork on my part. But it’s very interesting that Luke when he tracks the progress of the Gospel into Rome, Acts 28, the book ends. Now, why would it end once the gospel got to Rome? Well, you know the expression all roads lead to Rome. The Roman Empire had created Roman roads in the intertestamental time period, which was actually providential also. The implication is once it hits Rome, it’s going to go over the whole world, the known world. That’s why it stops in Rome. So there is a north, up to Antioch, west all the way to Rome. Trajectory. And every time it mentions the geographical movement of the church and the gospel and its missionary outreach, that is how Luke is showing that the church matured not just numerically, but it matured geographically as well.

Now the gospel in other places besides Rome according to Acts 8:27, there was a man that got saved named the Ethiopian Eunuch. We assume that he went back to where he came from, Africa, Ethiopia and started a church, shared the gospel. So there’s the movement of the church south. Acts 2:9 talks about people in Babylon that heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, and we assume that they went back east, modern-day Iraq, where they came from, and started a church. So clearly there are examples where the gospel moves south and east, but that- Luke just mentions those geographical trajectories in way of passing. They’re not his purpose in writing. Luke in Acts wants to talk about north up to Antioch and west to Rome. Now, why would Luke be focused completely on that? Because Theophilus was a Roman. And so he’s not- it’s not like a book where he says, Hey, Theophilus, I’m going to write an exhaustive commentary on the growth of the church. And that’s not what’s happening here. What he’s saying is, I’m going to talk about the birth and the growth of the church as it affects you individually so that you can become certain of the things you’ve been taught and you won’t doubt that I’m a Gentile, not a Jew. I guess Christianity is not for me.

So the progress of the church is tracked numerically through progress reports geographically from Jerusalem to Rome. And then it’s tracked ethnically because the church starts in Jerusalem as sort of an offshoot of Judaism. And you have no Gentile converts in the church until you get to Acts 10. And then a guy named Cornelius a Roman centurion also gets saved. Now, why would Luke talk about that? Well, look, Theophilus, you’re a Gentile. You got saved just like Cornelius, just like he got saved. You see how God has always wanted to reach the Gentiles? And then Paul, Acts 13 and 14, is going to go on his first missionary journey into Southern Galatia. And after that point, Katie bar the door. Because everybody that’s starting to get saved are all Gentiles. And it’s the Jews, with very few exceptions in the synagogues, are turning their back on the gospel. So what Luke is documenting is how the church started as sort of an offshoot of Judaism. That’s the way it looked anyway. I mean, it kind of looked like a denomination within Judaism. It even confused the Romans. What do we do with this thing? This is just a denomination within Judaism, But Luke keeps talking about Gentiles getting saved like crazy. And so that’s how the church developed ethnically. So what is the Book of Acts about? It’s about the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost and how that church grew in three areas numerically, geographically, ethnically.

How is the progress of the church charted numerically? Progress reports about numbers. How is the progress of the church tracked geographically? By tracing the trajectory of the church northwest from Jerusalem to Rome. How is the progress of the church charted ethnically? It’s tracked by talking about how it started. All Jewish as an offshoot of Judaism to an institution that we know today, 2000 years later, as predominantly occupied by Gentiles. Now, we’re not saying Jews don’t get saved today. They do. But they are in the minority. The majority influence in the church is Gentile domination. And Theophilus, you’re a Gentile. So you’re contemplated in the plan of God. God always knew this would happen. How does Luke communicate his point? I mean, I guess he could write a theology book explaining all of this. But Luke doesn’t do that. He records history. Here’s what God did. Here’s how it happened. So his method is to record history. Now in Acts 1:1 and in Luke 1:1-4, that’s how Luke starts the book. I’m going to give you a history lesson. And I’m going to put it to you together in consecutive order. Tell you exactly what happened. Luke 1:3. “it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order.” Acts 1:1 says the same thing.

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Now, here’s a very important thing to understand, Luke’s history is not comprehensive. It is not exhaustive. It is highly selective. John’s gospel is the same thing. John doesn’t tell you everything Jesus did. In fact, John in John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they are written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” In other words, you ought to be thankful I didn’t tell you everything Jesus said or did because you’d have a much bigger book to read than just 21 chapters. Luke is the same thing. He’s not telling you everything that happened. He’s picking highlights, many of which that he was there to see himself. And weaving his material together skillfully to present to Theophilus, a Roman centurion Gentile, who is questioning whether he was ever contemplated in God’s plan and whether the gospel is really available for him or not. So it’s history selectively used, shaped around a purpose. Well, what sources did Luke used to do this? We’ve already talked about the “we” sections, right? Where Luke says we did this and we did that. So he was an eyewitness to some of the things, many of the things that happened in this book. So his historical source is himself.

We know that he had access to Paul because he was with Paul at the end of his life. Paul mentions Luke twice in his two Roman imprisonments. So he no doubt interviewed Paul as to what happened and how things started. Paul was in prison in Caesarea for two years. There’s no doubt Luke interviewed these Caesarean witnesses which could include people like Philip and James. There’s also a lot of other names mentioned in the Book of Acts. Silas. Timothy. Mark. Peter. John. There’s no doubt that Luke talked to them. So this is how Luke put his material together. He was either an eyewitness because he was in the action or he was talking to people that were eyewitnesses. He probably talked to people that he interviewed when he wrote Luke’s Gospel. Because was Luke one of the original 12 apostles? He was not. So how in the world is Luke qualified to write the Gospel of Luke when he wasn’t even there as one of the original apostles? Well, he talked to people that were there. In fact, that’s what he says in Luke 1:2, isn’t it? He says, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” Luke is saying I wasn’t an apostle. I wasn’t one of the original 12.

But I talked to people who were there on the ground floor. I’m of the persuasion that Luke probably talked to Jesus’ mother perhaps, Mary. Because remember, Jesus made provision for his mother when he was dying on the cross. I mean, Luke probably went and talked to her. And that’s how he put together the Gospel of Luke. Well, the Book of Acts is the same thing. He’s interviewing these same witnesses. But Luke in Acts is actually there for a lot of it. So he’s relying on his own eyewitness testimony. He’s relying on Paul. He’s relying upon the witnesses at Caesarea. He’s relying upon others mentioned in the Book of Acts. He’s probably relying upon those that he interviewed for the prequel called The Gospel of Luke. And one other fast thing here before we close, look over at Acts 15 and look at verse 23. Now this is the Jerusalem church ruling. And it says, “they sent this letter by them,” And it quotes this long letter. That’s a legal document. I mean, Luke probably had access to this letter. That’s the way it reads. Slip over to Acts 23 for a moment and look at verse 26. This has to do with a legal ruling concerning Paul’s case. And it says in verse 25, “he wrote a letter having this form:” And then you read 26 through 30 and it sure reads to me like he’s quoting an actual document.

So Luke, I think, had access to certain written records that he used to put this material together all for the benefit of Theophilus. But you see, what’s happening is the Holy Spirit, Author, capital A, is coming along Luke and superintending the process. And so what happened here whether it’s the Ministry of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel or the Ministry of Jesus through the church as the head of the church at the Father’s right hand. All of it was recorded by Luke, God using Luke’s temperament, style, personality. But all of it used by the Holy Spirit to record in the original manuscripts, history for us as part of God’s inspired word, which is without error. And this is how Luke, in his gospel and the Book of Acts, how it came into existence. So I think we did pretty good tonight. We covered nine things. We’ll cover the remaining five things next time. And you might want to read through Acts chapter 1, because once we get finished with the remaining five or so issues, then we’ll start verse-by-verse through the Book of Acts. Father, we are grateful for Your word, grateful for Your truth, and grateful for what You did to minister to Theophilus. I’m grateful that You love each of us to the point where You want us to understand these things 2000 years later. Help us to be good stewards of the Book of Acts as we go through it. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. God’s people said Amen.