Acts 002 – Introduction to the Book of Acts (pt. 2)Acts 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 9, 2022 • Acts
Introduction to the Book of Acts, Part 2
November 9, 2022
Dr. Andy Woods
All right. Let me welcome you this evening to our second lesson in the Book of Acts. In the first lesson that we had together, we had the opportunity to sort of lay out some background issues for the Book of Acts. And we didn’t quite complete our list. So we’re going to complete that list this evening. And then next week we’ll be ready for our verse-by-verse teaching through the Book of Acts beginning in Acts chapter one. And so for next week you would want to, in preparation, read Acts chapter one. But let’s lay out the background or continue that teaching on the background of the Book of Acts. You might recall that there were 14 issues that we were going to look at concerning the background of the book. We covered, if memory serves, about nine of them. So we’ve got five more to cover tonight. And so let me just talk through very, very quickly what we covered last week and then we’ll move into the five major issues that we’re going to talk about tonight. And then the background for the Book of Acts, that whole teaching will be completed and then we’ll be ready for our verse-by-verse teaching through the Book of Acts. Every time I teach a book of the Bible I don’t just jump into the book. I try to.= take some time to develop the background of the book. These are things you have to understand in order to appreciate the contents of the book. And these 14 items you can use in your own study, not just with the Book of Acts, but any book of the Bible that you choose to give yourself to read or meditate upon or teach.
If you can answer these 14 matters or issues, then you’re way ahead of the game in terms of understanding why the Holy Spirit gave the particular book of the Bible that He gave. So the first issue is the title. And the earliest versions of the Book of Acts that we have, the earliest translations of the Book of Acts that we have, the earliest copies of the Book of Acts that we have, you’ll recall, entitle the book The Acts of the Apostles. In fact, if you have a study Bible, you’ll notice at the top that the Holy Spirit didn’t put that there. But the authors of the study Bible put it there. And here I’m looking at the New American Standard Version, and you go right to the top and it says The Acts of the Apostles. So that’s what people- that’s the title that they’re comfortable with, the Acts of the Apostles. I personally am uncomfortable with that title as I mentioned last week because these are not the acts of the Apostles, these are the acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. And beyond that, the Book of Acts really takes you in a northwest direction from Israel, from Jerusalem, all the way to Rome. And the title, The Acts of the Apostles doesn’t cover that reality. And then why would we call it the Acts of the Apostles when really the book, although it mentions all the apostles, really focuses on two apostles, Peter and Paul? But nevertheless, that’s the title that most are comfortable with, for whatever reason concerning the Book of Acts. The second introductory matter that we covered dealt with authorship. And you’ll recall last time that we said the author of the book is Luke. Luke was affiliated with Paul. Luke had literary ability as a physician. Luke was a Gentile, as we tried to say or indicate last time. And so you know, you put all of this information together and we believe that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts. And he’s also the author, obviously, of The Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts go together. The Gospel of Luke is the prequel. The Book of Acts is the sequel. So the author that we’re dealing with here, based on evidence from outside the text early- church fathers- and based on some evidence within the texts that we call internal evidence, has the earmarks of Luke, the beloved physician who wrote the Book of Acts and its prequel, The Gospel of Luke. Third issue is biography of the author. What do we know about this man, Luke? Well, as I mentioned before, he was Paul’s traveling companion. He was a physician, so he was an educated man.
And he had no doubt the literary ability to put this historical material together. And the majority opinion in the commentators is that Luke was a Gentile. Some today are challenging that, but that challenge is a minority opinion. Some today believe that Luke was actually Jewish, but that’s not the majority view. As we talked about last time, Luke was a Gentile. This takes us to the fourth background issue, which is the place of writing. Where was the Book of Acts written from? Well, it wasn’t a type of situation where Luke just sat down in one spot and penned the book. It was probably put together piecemeal and sort of a compilation. And we think that because we have in the book of Acts the “we” sections where Luke will say, Paul did this, Paul did that. And then all of a sudden he’ll say, We did this, we did that. So he inserts himself into the narrative. He does that, as you can see from the slide there in Act 16:10-40. Acts 20:5 through 21:18. And Luke is right there with Paul at the end of the Book of Acts in his journey to Rome, in his first Roman imprisonment, Acts 27:1 through 28:16. In fact, Acts 28:16 says, Luke writing, “When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.”
And so Luke was right there with Paul in the Roman imprisonment. Paul was in that Roman imprisonment, according to Acts 28:30, for two full years. So since Luke is inserting himself into the story and the story unfolds not in one geographical area, we believe that Luke put this book together probably in multiple situations and in multiple sittings. He probably put some of it together when Paul was in his Caesarean imprisonment. I think Paul was there about two years, Acts 24:27. No doubt Luke, who was with Paul and his journey to Rome, put part of the Book of Acts together during that journey. And no doubt when Luke was with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment at the end of the Book of Acts for two years, that was the locale where he wrote some of the Book of Acts as well. And it was probably kind of a combination of these things piecemeal. The Book of Acts coming together. Who is the recipient of the Book of Acts? Well, he is a man named Theophilus. Theophilus is the recipient not only of the Book of Acts. You’ll see his name there in Acts 1:1, but he is also the recipient of the prequel to the Book of Acts, The Gospel of Luke. And when you go back to Luke’s gospel and you look at the first four verses, which we call the Prologue, you discover some very interesting and important information about Theophilus. In fact, this information is so important that I don’t think you can understand the Book of Acts unless you understand exactly who Theophilus is and what he’s wrestling with. So back in the prologue to Luke’s gospel, Luke says to Theophilus, “most excellent Theophilus.” Now, that title “most excellent” indicates that Theophilus was a Roman official because that title “most excellent” is used elsewhere in the Book of Acts to describe Roman officials. Like later on in the Book of Acts, Felix and Festus. So who was Theophilus? Theophilus was a Roman centurion or a Roman officer of some kind. Which leads us to believe he was a Gentile. In fact, he could have been converted through the Ministry of the Apostle Paul in Rome. And then Luke 1:4 says, concerning Theophilus, “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” And because it indicates Theophilus had already been taught about Christianity, we believe that Theophilus was already a believer. So if Theophilus is already a believer, why in the world would Luke write to this man Theophilus? Well, he was a gentile. A believer who was probably having doubts. You know, the Book of James tells us that we shouldn’t doubt because when we doubt, we’re like the sand- Excuse me, the wave of the sea that’s pushed to and fro by the wind. But James would not warn us not to doubt if we didn’t have the ability as Christians to doubt or else the warning wouldn’t make any sense. Why warn about something that can’t happen? So Theophilus is a believer and he’s having doubts. And what were his doubts? I would guess this, that Theophilus, as a Gentile, was wondering well, early Christianity looks so Jewish. You know, it’s hard to read Matthew’s gospel without seeing the Jewish focus of Jesus. I mean, Jesus says things like in Matthew 10 when he’s sending out the disciples to offer the kingdom to Israel, go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And so Theophilus, as a Gentile, is probably wondering, well, this Christianity thing looks so Jewish. Is it really for me? Have I really believed in the right thing? Have I really believed in the right Messiah? Have I really believed in the right Savior? Because I’m not Jewish. I’m a Gentile. And so the whole book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke that precedes it is designed to pacify or satiate Theophilus’s major doubt by showing him that, yes, Christianity is for you. It was always God’s intention to get the Gospel to the Gentiles. And you, Theophilus, are contemplated actually in the mind of God. And so by the time Theophilus would have read the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, he would have gotten that message. And therefore he need not doubt that just because he’s a Gentile that Christianity somehow is not for him. He doesn’t need to entertain those doubts anymore because Christianity clearly is for him. In fact, look at how God moved heaven and earth, not only through the Ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, but the ministry through the church, as recorded in the Book of Acts to get the Gospel through, Paul to this man, Theophilus, in Rome. So therefore, this takes us to the next issue that we cover, the purpose of the Book of Acts is to present Theophilus with an orderly account of the birth and the growth of the church so as to affirm him in what he has already believed. God through the birth of the church and the growth of the church did a supernatural work to get the Gospel to Theophilus in Rome. So, Theophilus, you as a Gentile believer, need not doubt any longer after reading the Book of Acts. That you were from the very beginning sovereignly contemplated in the mind of God. This takes us to the next issue. I think this is number seven. This is something we covered as well. It deals with the message of the book. You know, when you study a book of the Bible, you want to be able to step back and have sort of a one-sentence description of what the book is about. One of the great tragedies of Bible study is we can study so intently the veins on the leaves of the trees that we forget what the forest looks like.
That can happen very easily, very sadly, in modern-day Bible study. In fact, it was Howard Hendrix, I recall, one of the great professors at Dallas Seminary. In his day, he was scheduled to go to a church to do a teaching, and he called the leadership at the church. And he asked the leadership there, what would you like me to teach on? And they said, you can teach on anything except Ephesians. And he inquired with the leadership, Well, why don’t you want me to teach on Ephesians? And he said, Our pastor has been in Ephesians in his sermon series for five years. And then when Dr. Hendricks was around that leadership, he just gave a brief question, Well, what’s the book of Ephesians about? You’ve been studying it for five years. What is the book of Ephesians about? And he said not a single one of them could give a coherent one-sentence definition of the book of Ephesians. They could give you all kinds of intricate details about the book of Ephesians, but they couldn’t explain what the whole purpose or point of the book is. And so, you know, this reminds me very much in my basketball days when I got injured and I was told by my coach at the time to go sit at the top on the top level of the bleachers to watch practice.
And it’s very interesting that when you’re up there, you can see the practices, you can see the games from a holistic perspective. You can see everything happening. It’s a perspective that you do not have when you’re playing, because when you’re playing, you’re focused on your position. But when you’re watching the game at the top of the bleachers, you can see the whole game of basketball. And it was then that I really began to understand the game of basketball because I wasn’t just focused on a part of it, my position, I was focused on the whole thing. So this is what having a message statement for every book of the Bible does for you. It allows you to step back to the 10,000 foot level and see what the forest is like. So the message of the Book of Acts is simply this: It’s the birth and the growth of the church. That’s what it’s about. And this growth is documented three ways: numerically, geographically, and ethnically. Numerically, because there are in the Book of Acts progress reports concerning the numerical growth of the church. The church in Acts Chapter one starts off with 120 people. In Acts chapter 2 that number jumps to 3000. And then you get into subsequent chapters in the Book of Acts and you’ll see the number 5000. And, you know, you keep reading through Acts 11 and it says Saul, who became Paul, was teaching the church at Antioch in great numbers.
And as this numerical growth is documented, the church’s progress is documented from Jerusalem in a northwest direction, ultimately to Rome, where Theophilus most likely was and received the truth of the gospel. And as the church is growing numerically and geographically, it’s growing ethnically. It starts off all Jewish. But by the time you get to the end of the Book of Acts, it’s an institution that God has raised up consisting of some Jews in it, but the majority population is Gentile. And of course, Theophilus was a Gentile. And of course, Luke, as a Gentile, would be sensitive to Theophilus’s doubts about whether Christianity is for him. And Luke, as a Gentile writes to a Gentile, explaining to Theophilus, look at the birth of the church and the growth of the church into what it became. An institution dominated by Gentiles primarily. And you can see how Luke is using all of this to pacify Theophilus’s doubt as to whether or not Christianity is for him or not. From there we moved into the method. What method does Luke use to communicate his point? And the primary method that he uses is the record of history. He’s recording history. Now he’s using it in a selective way. He’s not telling you everything that happened. He’s not using it comprehensively, but he is picking key events in the Life and Ministry of Jesus in the prequel Luke’s Gospel, and he’s picking key events in the life and the growth of the church as recorded in the Book of Acts to communicate a purpose to Theophilus, that the Gospel is indeed for Theophilus, who is a Gentile and is doubting.
Whether he is a gentile, has received the right savior who seems so Jewish. That takes us to the sources since Luke- Dr. Luke is a historian and he’s recording history for a purpose. What were the sources that he used for history? Well, he obviously used himself. Because the “we” sections of the book where Luke will insert himself into the story means that Luke was an eyewitness to many of the things that happened in the early church. And since he’s affiliated with Paul, he probably used Paul as a historical source. And when Paul was in Caesarea for two years, Luke no doubt interviewed Caesarean witnesses. And there are many, many names mentioned in the Book of Acts. Paul is one of the names, Peter is one of the names, but there’s many other names as well. And everybody that’s mentioned in the Book of Acts by name was no doubt interviewed by Luke. In terms of using them as source material to put the Book of Acts together. And Luke probably also used those that he interviewed in the prequel, The Gospel of Luke. Luke was not one of the original 12 apostles, but he knew about what happened in the Ministry of Jesus because he knew people that either were apostles or were connected to the apostles. And Luke probably interviewed them, and that’s how he put Luke’s gospel together.
He probably interviewed Jesus’ living mother Mary as to the birth narratives, etc. And Luke also is recording history through written records. Last time we made reference to some of the legal records that show up in the Book of Acts. Luke had access to those as well. So you put all of this material together, and this is the source material that Luke used to put the book of Acts that we’re studying together. So this now takes us to new material, and let’s pick it up here with the date. What is the date of the Book of Acts? Well, the date is- it had to have been written before A.D. 70. In fact, there’s a war there that goes on from A.D. 66 to A.D. 70., historically. That is when the Romans came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple. Destroyed the nation of Israel and pushed the Jewish people into what’s called the diaspora, the worldwide dispersion. And Luke never mentions that event. And I’m sure Luke would have mentioned that event had it have happened in his general time period or his lifetime or before he finished writing the Book of Acts. Because that was the final break between Judaism and Christianity. And Luke is basically trying to show in this book how the church became an institution dominated by Gentiles. I mean, that was the final break there. And Luke doesn’t mention it, so he must have written it before that war in A.D.
66 to 70. Luke also doesn’t mention the first Roman persecution under Nero. He mentions a lot of other persecution, but he doesn’t mention that one. That happened in A.D. 64 to 67. So the Book of Acts was probably written before that occurred. Luke, his central character that he’s tracing in addition to Peter, is also Paul. And yet Luke doesn’t record events that happened at the end of Paul’s life. He doesn’t record Paul’s martyrdom. A.D. 68, his second imprisonment, A.D. 66, his activity between the two Roman imprisonments, A.D. 62 to 66. Nor does he record the outcome of Paul’s trial before Caesar which is a dominant theme tracing how Paul kept saying, I have a right to a trial before Caesar. Well, how did that trial turn out? Luke doesn’t tell us, so he must have written it before the outcome of that trial was known. So that pushes the book pre-A.D. 62. Yet Luke says in Acts 28:16, “When we entered Rome…” And he talks about Paul being under house arrest in Rome for two full years. That’s between A.D. 60 to 62. So when is the earliest point in which the Book of Acts was composed? The date of the book earliest is A.D. 60, but for reasons I’ve tried to explain, you can’t date it after A.D. 62.
So assigning a date for the composition of the book in between A.D. 60 to 62 is appropriate. Let’s move to the next major issue. And this has to do with the structure of the book. One of the things you want to do when you study a book of the Bible, particularly a longer book like this one, it goes 28 chapters, is How do you organize this book? I mean, how do you wrap your arms around a book of this size? Well, one of the most important things you could do is to have an outline. If you have an outline, you may not understand everything that’s happening in every chapter of the Book of Acts. But when you’re following a teacher and they say, open up to Acts chapter five, you say to yourself, Well, I know where Acts five fits in the outline. And so I have a general idea of what is happening in Acts chapter five. That’s the value of an outline. And frequently what the Holy Spirit does is He will reveal to us an outline at the beginning of the book. In fact, that’s how the Book of Revelation is outlined. Right at the beginning of the book when John sees this vision on the island of Patmos at the end of the first century, Jesus says to John, “Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”
And that’s wonderful because that’s an outline right there of the Book of Revelation. Write down the things you have seen. That’s the vision of the glorified Christ that John writes about in chapter one. Write down the things that are well, those are the seven letters to the seven churches that we read about in Revelation two and three. Third point, write down the things that will take place after these things. And once you get to Revelation 4:1, you’ll see the expression “After these things.” And so after these things is the third section of the book, which is the futuristic section of the book. It goes chapter 4 through chapter 22. A nice three-part outline revealed by Jesus himself at the beginning of the Book of Revelation. Well, you have the same thing happening in the Book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus says this to his disciples after His resurrection, but before His ascension. He says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” That’s a three-part outline of the Book of Act., Part one: The Ministry of the Church in Jerusalem. Part two: The Ministry of the Church in Judea and Samaria, which are sort of, if I can put this in modern-day vernacular, Jerusalem is like a city today. Judea and Samaria.
Today, the world community calls that the West Bank. Which is a name I don’t like because that name is not found in the Bible. But those are sort of what today we might call county areas outside the city of Jerusalem. And then you’ll be my witnesses to the remotest parts of the earth. Once the Gospel and the church in its missionary activity leaves the borders of Israel and ventures into purely Gentile territory. So you’ll be My witnesses in Jerusalem. That’s Acts 1 through 7. Then you will be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria, and that’s Acts 8 through 12. That’s part two of the book. And then you’ll be my witnesses to the remotest parts of the earth. That’s the third part of the book, Acts 13 through 28. And that time period, Acts 13 through 28, consists of Paul’s missionary journeys. On his first missionary journey, he went outside the borders of Israel for the first time. And he went into southern Galatia and he was there for about a year and he came back to Antioch. And it was during that time period that many, many Gentiles are getting saved. And so by the time you get to Acts 15, the early church whose leadership was still Jewish in Jerusalem, they were trying to figure out what do we do with all these Gentiles, these saved Gentiles? Do we make them submit to the Mosaic Law? Because that’s what a believer had to do in Old Testament times.
If they were a believer in Yahweh in order to grow in the knowledge of Yahweh, they had to essentially convert to Judaism. They’re called proselytes. One of the most famous proselytes in the Bible is Ruth who was from the land of Moab in the Transjordan, east of the Jordan River. And you remember when she wanted to follow Yahweh and go with her mother-in-law back into the borders of Israel, into Bethlehem. She said, Your God will be my God, your people will be my people. So she is what you call a Gentile proselyte. She went under the law of Moses to grow in the knowledge of Yahweh. And so the early church is trying to figure out after Paul’s first missionary journey, what do we do with all these saved Gentiles? Do we make them submit to the law of Moses? As has been the pattern for 1500 years. And in a book where God gives visions and people hear his voice that does not happen. The church instead, in Acts 15 at this Jerusalem Council meeting, they have to reason from Scripture. They went to Amos 9:11-15, which talks about how the Gentiles will be full citizens and participants in the millennial kingdom. And so they reason from that and analogically that let’s let them become full citizens and participants in the church age without submitting to the law of Moses. And the church just took a massive leap forward at that point in terms of its progress.
And of course, learning about this would be a blessing to Theophilus, who was a Gentile believer but never submitted to the law of Moses for purposes of joining the church. And so that’s why Acts 15 is recorded. And then Paul moves into his second missionary journey. You can see the scripture where that happened Acts 15:36 through Acts 18:22. And this is where Paul retraced his steps into Galatia. Then he went to Asia, Macedonia, and Greece. And then he came back to Antioch. All these missionary journeys start from Antioch, which is on the northern tip of the nation of Israel. And from there he went on his third missionary journey Acts 18:23 through Acts 21:17. And there he went, the exact same places he went on missionary journey two. And then he went on, beginning in Acts 21:18 through the end of the book, something that I call the fourth missionary journey. Most people don’t call it that because Paul was taken in chains to Rome. But you see, Paul knew how to use the legal system to advance the cause of the gospel. And although he was in chains, I believe he intentionally allowed himself to be incarcerated by Roman officials because he understood that he, as a Roman citizen, had a right. And that right was a trial before Caesar, because Paul had been accused of crimes and he kept insisting on this trial before Caesar.
Caesar was in Rome. And this is how Paul used a legal maneuver to get his understanding of the gospel all the way to Rome, where most likely Theophilus was. So even though Paul went on his trip to Rome there, that actually, in my opinion, was a missionary journey. Yes, he was in chains, but he volitionally put himself in chains so he could demand his right as a Roman citizen a trial before Caesar and get the gospel to Rome. Because everywhere Paul went, the Romans kept saying, Let’s try you now, let’s get your case handled now. And he kept saying, No, I want a trial before Caesar, because it was always Paul’s ambition to preach the gospel in Rome. So you take that third part of the book and you can subdivide it into five parts. The first missionary journey, the Jerusalem Council, the second missionary journey, the third missionary journey, the trip to Rome. And those are all sub-parts of part three of the book, how the gospel got to the remotest parts of the earth. Part two of the book is the Church’s Witness in Judea and Samaria, and part one of the book is the Church’s witness in Jerusalem. So that’s just a nice sort of outline where you could be studying any given chapter in the Book of Acts, and you can fit it into that outline and basically know the context of that chapter.
Let’s talk here about scope. That’s our next introductory issue. And the first part of the book, Acts 1 through 7, took place between A.D. 33 to 34 over a two-year period of time. The second part of the book, Acts 8 through 12, took place between A.D. 35 to 48o Or over a 13-year period of time. And the last part of the book of Acts, the gospel being preached to the remote parts of the Earth, Acts 13 through 28 took place between A.D. 48 to A.D. 62 or over a 14-year period of time. So for the first third of the book to unfold, it took two years. For the second third of the book to unfold, that took 13 years. And for the last third of the book to unfold, part three, that took 14 years. So 2 plus thirteen plus fourteen equals twenty-nine. In other words, the Book of Acts, when it starts in Acts chapter 1:1 and goes all the way through chapter 28, that’s a historical section that took almost three decades to transpire. And that’s important to understand because as you’re reading through the Book of Acts, you get the impression that there’s visions and there’s voices from God and there’s miracles, and you get the impression that everything happened, you know, very, very fast. And that’s not what happened. Luke says this happened over 30 years. I’m just giving you the high points.
And that’s important for new Christians to understand as they read the Book of Acts, because they have not yet really developed the discipline of waiting on the Lord. And they want action. They want ministries. They want open doors. Some are craving signs and wonders. They’re craving miracles and they feel like if things are not moving fast, quickly, like in the book of Acts, that somehow they’ve missed out on God’s will for their lives. And this is where understanding that this took 30 years to happen helps to minister to impatient, very, very young Christians. And so the scope of the book in terms of its contents took place over three decades. And this takes us now to number thirteen in terms of our background issues, which is themes. What are themes? Themes are things that recur over and over and over again. If you see something in a book of the Bible that keeps happening over and over again that would be what we would call a theme. So what are the themes in the book of Acts? Well, here are a few. There is a transition happening from Peter to Paul. Now the book of Galatians 2:7-8, Paul says, But on the contrary, seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, just- excuse me, “…I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. (for He who effectively worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised, effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles).”
In other words, what Paul is saying is Peter is the apostle to the circumcised, the Jew. I am the apostle to the uncircumcised or the non-Jew or the Gentile. And one of the things that’s happening in the Book of Acts is Theophilus who, most likely understood and heard the Gospel through the influence of Paul, with Theophilus over the course of time questioning whether his conversion is real or whether Christianity is for him. Was he ever contemplated in the mind of God? Because after all, he’s just a Gentile, and Christianity from its origins looks so Jewish. One of the things that’s happening in the Book of Acts is Luke is showing that Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is just as authentic and legitimate as Peter’s ministry to the Jews. This is why, in the Book of Acts, Paul’s testimony concerning how he got saved is given not once, not twice, but three times. Paul’s conversion is given in Acts nine, but the story is repeated in Acts 22. And then it’s repeated again in Acts 26. Why do we need three testimonies to the conversion of Paul? Why isn’t one enough? Because Luke is showing that Peter is- Paul, rather, is just as legitimate as Peter which is an important ministry to Theophilus, who is a Gentile questioning whether his conversion through the influence of Paul is really legitimate because Theophilus is a Gentile.
So one of the great themes of the Book of Acts is the transition from Peter to Paul. Now here’s a chart that will help you keep them straight. You’ll notice this particular chart here. It says from Peter to Paul. And in Acts 1:12, we see part one. And in Acts 13 through 28, we see part two. In the first part of the book, Jerusalem is the center of activity, missionary activity. But in part two of the book, Antioch becomes the center as the church’s major place of influence is shifting from Jerusalem to up north in Antioch. In the first part of the book, Peter is the main person, but in the second part of the book, Paul is the main person. In the first part of the book, the church is ministering in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem. But in the second part of the book, the ministry is taking place to the uttermost parts of the earth. In the first part of the book, Acts 1 through 12, the outreach is Jewish, but in the second part of the book, Acts 13 through 28, the outreach is primarily Gentile in orientation. So this transition from Peter to Paul is given skillfully by Luke to show that Paul’s ministry is just as authentic as Peter’s. Therefore, if you are converted through Paul as a Gentile, you don’t need to second guess, as apparently Theophilus was doing the authenticity of his salvation.
Here is another chart that’s extremely helpful as we see a transition from Peter to Paul. Many of the things that Peter- or should I say Paul does later in the book were already done by Peter. For example, early in the book- and you see the scripture references there in parenthesis- Paul healed a man lame from birth. Well, my goodness, that’s what Paul does later on in the book. Early in the book, Peter heals by his shadow. Later in the book, Paul heals by a handkerchief. Early in the book, Paul’s- Peter’s success is a cause of jealousy. Well, that same thing happens to Paul later on in the book. In the early part of the book, Peter confronts a sorcerer. Well, Paul does the same thing later in the book. And early in the book, Peter raises someone from the dead. Later on in the book, Paul does the exact same thing. Earlier in the book, Peter is jailed and miraculously freed while that exact same thing happens to Paul. So why is Luke recording things where Paul seemed to do the exact same thing Peter did? It’s a literary device or tool to show that Paul is just as authentic as Peter. They had different spheres of influence, but both were divinely called by God. Paul is just as important as Peter. Therefore, if you receive Christ through Paul as a Gentile, you shouldn’t think that somehow Christianity is not for you.
And if you understand this, it helps you understand why things in the Book of Acts are brought up the way they are. For example, one of the things on that chart is there is a man named Eutychus who falls asleep because Paul had been preaching too long in Troas and Paul got long-winded with his preaching. Eutychus- I think it was a second-story building- fell asleep and he fell out of a window as a person asleep. And he hit the ground and he died immediately. And Paul went down and he laid hands on Eutychus and raised him from the dead. Now, why is that story even there? I’ve heard some very strange sermons on that story, like, don’t you see what happens when you fall asleep in church and these kinds of things? But, that story is included because it’s showing that what Paul did, Peter had already done. Therefore, what Paul does in terms of ministry is just as authentic as Peter’s. This would be a great blessing to Theophilus, who probably received the Gospel as a Gentile through the influence of Paul. So that becomes a major theme. Another major theme is the universality of the gospel. How the gospel is for everyone. In Luke 19:10, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which is lost.” That’s why Luke’s Gospel records the salvations of prostitutes, tax-gatherers, Gentiles, the rejects of Jewish society.
And that theme of reaching the undesirables continues in the Book of Acts. It’s just this time around in the Book of Acts, Jesus is doing it through the church. So the Book of Acts will record the ministry that the church had to Samaritans, Ethiopians, Gentiles, women, and poor people. Another theme of the Book of Acts is it’s a book of transitions. The Book of Acts is a transitional book. There’s a historical transition from the Gospels to the Epistles. Acts is the bridge in between the two. There is a religious transition going on from Judaism to Christianity. Acts being the bridge between the two. There is a divine transition taking place from law to grace. I mean, by the time you finish the gospels, the focus is Israel under the Mosaic Law. By the time you get to the epistles, the Mosaic law has been set aside and we are now in the church age. Well, how did that happen? You’d have no explanation of it if you didn’t have the book of Acts in the Bible. There is a people of God transition from Jews to an institution composed primarily of Gentiles. There is a program of God transition from the kingdom to the church. There is a leadership transition happening from Christ to the Apostles. In the Book of Acts, Christ is the leader, but the baton is being handed off to the Apostles.
And by the time you get to the Epistles, which are the letters, the elders and deacons within local churches are in positions of authority. Well, how did that leadership transition happen? You would have no explanation of it were it not for the Book of Acts. Now, the second from the bottom one there, the Program of God transition from Kingdom or Israel to the Church is so important to understand. Jesus, when he ministered under the dispensation of the law, the book of Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus was born under law. And what was being offered in the Ministry of Jesus was the Kingdom. In fact, Luke in his gospel, uses the word kingdom. It’s the Greek word basileia. He uses that word forty-five times. Doctor Toussaint writes here in Luke’s gospel, he employs that term kingdom forty-five times. And then you get to the Book of Acts, and the word kingdom or basileia is only used eight times. Doctor Toussaint says the fact that Luke uses the kingdom only eight times in Acts after such a heavy usage in his gospel implies that the kingdom had not begun, but was in fact, postponed. So you’re reading Luke’s gospel. You’re under Jesus under the dispensation of the law. The kingdom offer is readily on the table for Israel to accept because the king was present and had they accepted the offer of the kingdom, nationally, the kingdom, the millennial kingdom would have materialized.
And then obviously something happened where the nation rejected the offer. And that transitions us into the Book of Acts where the church is born. We’re not under the dispensation of the law anymore. Jesus is in heaven and the word kingdom is only found eight times, and when it is found it typically refers to something yet future. And when you read the epistles, you see the word kingdom, but it’s typically used in the future tense. Well, what happened? The Book of Acts is an explanation of that transition. So without the Book of Acts, I mean, you would have almost no understanding of the basic, transitional nature of the outworking of God’s purposes. Now, you may think that this is not a very big deal. But it actually is a very big deal because the major difference of opinion between the beliefs of Sugar Land Bible Church and- today what we call the contemporary Charismatic Movement which wants to focus on speaking in tongues, visions, signs, and wonders- that difference of opinion relates to a different handling or interpretation of the book of Acts. We believe that the Book of Acts is transitional in nature. It is not a doctrinal book. It is a historical book as God’s program is transitioning from law into the church age. Therefore, many of the things recorded in the Book of Acts are not normative today. For example, in Acts Chapter 8, there are the Samaritans who believe in Jesus for salvation but they don’t get the Holy Spirit until later.
The Jerusalem leadership of the church has to lay hands on the Samaritans so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. That is not normative or normal in the church age, because the book of Romans chapter 8:9 says, If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not have Christ. So why is it that we don’t think that people get saved in one instance and get the Holy Spirit later? I mean, the Book of Acts talks about it but you don’t find it in the Epistles. Well, we believe that the Book of Acts is transitional. So the things happening in the Book of Acts many times are non-normative today. Another example in Acts 2; what was happening there is people were actually selling their homes so that they would have cash on hand to help the Jerusalem saints who were present on the day of Pentecost and got saved via Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 to help them be able to stick around longer so that they could learn apostolic truth. Because they only had enough resources to be in town for a short period of time. And so there’s all these brand new Christians, 3000 of them, and they needed to learn the new way. They had just repented. They had just changed their minds about who Jesus is, and they needed to sit under apostolic teaching.
And so those in Jerusalem that had homes sold their homes so that they would have cash on hand to help these out-of-towner saints that just got saved. So let me ask you a question. Do you have a house? Why haven’t you sold your house? Because the Book of Acts indicated that the Jerusalem saints sold their homes. Well, most people today, as Christians, at least in the United States, haven’t sold their homes because they understand that the Book of Acts is not a doctrinal book. It’s a historical book, and it’s transitional in nature. In other words, it’s talking about things that are non-normative today. If you’re going to say something today taking place in the Book of Acts is normative in the church age, you can’t just find the teaching in the book of Acts. You have to see it corroborated in the epistles or the letters. Now in the Book of Acts, they took communion together. And we think taking communion together is normative in the church age because we find the practice of communion in First Corinthians chapter 11 and other passages. So I can document it not just in Acts, but also in the epistolary literature. So therefore it’s normative. But there are other things in the book of Acts that you can find in the book of Acts that you can’t find in the Epistles. So we don’t put those things into practice, like selling your house or believing in Jesus and getting the Holy Spirit later.
We look at the Book of Acts as transitional. There were transitional things happening in the book of Acts that don’t recur today. Another way of saying it is this, the book of Acts is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s describing what happened over a 30-year period. It’s not prescribing what we are supposed to do as church-age believers. Unless you can find what happened in the Book of Acts corroborated in the epistolary literature. So a book that we’re going to refer to as we move through our study in the Book of Acts verse-by-verse is this book by my professor- and he wrote this just prior to his death. It was probably the last class he taught at Dallas Seminary that was not yet in written form. It’s entitled New Wine: A Study of Transitions in the Book of Acts. So those transitional occurrences we will bring to your attention as we move through the book of Acts, through the use and through the help of this particular book. The Book of Acts is also- one of its themes is the sovereignty of God. You see that in places like Acts 2:23, where Peter says Jesus was delivered by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God and yet you unbelieving Jews nailed him to a cross. So who killed Jesus? First-century Israel or the predetermined foreknowledge of God. The answer is yes to both.
Both is the answer because God is sovereign. God took Israel’s national decision to reject Christ and he turned a lemon into lemonade. And he used that to pay the sin debt of the world. God was in control of everything through the rejection of His Son, even though it was Israel that turned Christ over to the Romans for execution. That’s the sovereignty of God. In Acts 13:48, it says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Well, these people in Southern Galicia, how do they get saved? Did they believe or was it the predetermined appointed plan of God? The answer to that question is yes or both. God is so sovereign that He uses the free will of His creatures to execute His plan. What a comfort that would be to Theophilus. Because as Theophilus is reading this, he is understanding how God’s sovereignty got the gospel to him through Paul in Rome, and therefore he need not entertain doubts that Christianity is really for him. Another big theme in the Book of Acts is soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. How should we share the Gospel today with unbelievers? Well, we should follow the example of the evangelists in the Book of Acts because they preached a very simple gospel. And by the way, that very simple gospel is corroborated in the Epistles.
Places like Ephesians 2:8-9. But in Acts 16:30-31, it says, “and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'” Life’s most important question. This is what the Philippine jailer asked Paul and Silas, “‘What must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Notice how simple the gospel message was to this Philippian jailer. There’s one verb. Nothing here about walking an aisle, repenting of all of your sins, all the common evangelical vernacular that you hear today in gospel presentations. It’s simply to believe, which means to trust in the Lord Jesus for your salvation. Then God gives you a promise you’ll be saved. In Acts 15:11, it says, “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are also.” How are all these Gentiles saved? Well, the exact same way we Jews were saved at the beginning. And how are all of us saved? Through faith, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The simplicity of the Gospel presentation. The doctrine of salvation. And so that becomes also a dominant theme in the Book of Acts. This is how Theophilus got saved, a simple presentation of the Gospel, and he believed it. So there’s no need for him to entertain doubts as to the authenticity of his salvation. Very quickly, by way of closing, what are some unique characteristics in the Book of Acts? What are some things you have in the Book of Acts that you don’t have anywhere else? Well, this book is filled with sermons.
There’s twenty- three sermons in this book. Peter will preach four, Paul will preach six. These are all lengthy sermons. James will preach one, Stephen will preach one, but twenty-three total. Another unique characteristic of the Book of Acts is the miracles that are taking place throughout the book via the Holy Spirit. This book is not the Acts of the Apostles so much as it is the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. And in particular two apostles, Peter and Paul. The Book of Acts is unique because it furnishes the background of Paul’s letters. Paul gives us thirteen letters and we can take those letters and we can organize them into a chronology. And that chronology that you see on the screen would be an impossibility if we didn’t have assistance from the Book of Acts. Just as the books of First and Second Kings give us the historical framework for the seventeen writing prophets that we have in the Old Testament- I mean, how do you understand the background of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel? You can’t unless you read the situation of those prophets found in the historical books of First and Second Kings. And just as Kings is the background for the prophets, Acts is the historical background for Paul’s thirteen letters.
I mean, what’s the historical background for Galatians or Thessalonians or Romans or Ephesians? The Book of Acts is the only source we have to piece those things together. The Book of Acts is also unique because it records accurate history, provinces, cities, titles. Titles like console, pro-console, Tetrarch, the title of Most Excellent. When you read these things, these are historical nuances showing that the contents of the Book of Acts is historically accurate. Now, notice this quote here from Ramsey, who was a great archeologist around the 19th century. When he started studying the Book of Acts, he didn’t believe it was historically true. He believed what liberals said, that it was written in the second century. And most of the things mentioned in the Book of Acts are just made up. But Ramsey, in his own writings, had a conversion. And he says, I don’t think that anyway, because everything that I’ve studied in the book of Acts archeologically is accurately true. So Ramsey says, “I had read a good deal of modern criticism about the book, and dutifully accepted the current opinion that it was written during the second half of the second century by an author who wished to influence the minds of people in his own time by a highly wrought and imaginative description of the early Church. His object was not to present a trustworthy picture of facts. In the period about A.D. 50, but to produce a certain effect on his own time by setting forth a carefully colored account of events and persons of that older period. He wrote for his contemporaries, not the truth.”
Common liberal thinking in Ramsay’s day. But then Ramsay, later on in the same book, says the present writer, that’s Ramsay, takes the view now that Luke’s “…history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness. At this point, we are describing what reasons and arguments change the mind of one who began under the impression that history was written long after the events and that it was untrustworthy as a whole.” What he’s saying there is I thought the whole book of Acts was made up by somebody other than Luke pretending to be Luke or using Luke’s pen name in the second century. And the more I got into the details of the book- the titles, the places, the cities, the provinces- the more I saw that everything Luke said was actually accurate historically. So I have renounced, Ramsey says, liberalism and I believe in the historicity of the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is an accurate history book of what happened concerning early Christianity. The Book of Acts is also unique because it mentions many places and names. There are one-hundred names given in the book and eighty places. And that would make sense because Luke is tracking the geographical outreach of the church. He’s not just tracking it numerically and ethnically, but geographically. And to document that he mentions all of these places of geography, many of them mentioned in the Book of Acts.
The Book of Acts is unique because of its volume. In fact, if you were to take the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts and put them together size-wise- Luke, the prequel, Acts, the sequel- you would see that that amount of material comprises 28% of the New Testament. I mean, if you were to take Luke and Acts out of the Bible. 28% of what we know as the New Testament wouldn’t exist anymore. And one other thing that makes the Book of Acts unique is if we’re right on the Gentile nationality of Luke- the Book of Acts is one of the few books, in fact, other than Luke and Acts- it’s the only book in the New Testament written by a Gentile. All the other books, other than Luke and Acts, were written by Jews. So Acts is unique because it’s written by a Gentile, Luke, to a Gentile, most excellent Theophilus. And so I hope you enjoyed this presentation on the background issues in the Book of Acts. And now next week we’re ready to study Acts Chapter 1 together verse-by-verse. And with this background in mind, you’re in a better position to appreciate the contents of the Book of Acts. And so now we’re leaving the background of the book and moving through the book verse-by-verse for next time. You should read Acts chapter 1 in preparation for that. And so thank you for watching and we’ll see you next week. God bless you.