Bible Topics In The Christian Library

Introduction  Chapters 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Some revisions will continue in this due to Grady's computer crash. 

 PLEASE NOTE: This material is not written by Grady. He included it as part of his Bible studies in the Book of Acts. While conservative in nature, it should be viewed in light of the Scriptures. It, along with all other material produced by men, should be weighed in light of its agreement with God's Word. - Grady


The book of Acts is the fifth book of the New Testament. It traces the growth of early church. It begins with the ascension of Jesus and concludes with Paul in Rome during his first imprisonment. In between we read of the beginning of the church, the early persecution of the it, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and Cornelius, the three missionary journeys of Paul, the arrest of Paul and his journey of Paul to Rome. 

The Authorship of Acts

The most significant help in discovering the author of Acts is simply recognizing this book's relationship to the Gospel of Luke: 1) Both books begin with a greeting to a man named Theophilus ("friend of God"); 2) Acts' greeting to Theophilus refers to a previous writing; 3) The end of Luke intentionally overlaps with the beginning of Acts to provide continuity between the two volumes; 4) the author's writing style, vocabulary, and attention to specific themes remain constant throughout both books. 

Consequently, the reader must assume Acts was written by the same author as the gospel of Luke. In fact, many Bible readers believe Luke-Acts is a single work which was divided into two parts as the books of the New Testament were gathered together. The size of Luke and Acts combined makes the author of these two books the chief contributor to the New Testament, having written twenty-five percent of all Scripture from the Christian era. Taken as a whole, Luke and Acts are a larger work than the combined letters of Paul. 

Once readers assume Luke and Acts come from the same pen, they can begin to look for evidence within these books which points toward the author's identity. How can we tell the person who wrote these books was named Luke? 

The first piece of evidence comes in Luke 1:2. There, the writer states he was not an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. This fact eliminates any of the eleven disciples as candidates for authorship. Next, the "we" passages in Acts also offer a major, internal clue to the identity of the book's author. During the account of Paul's missionary journeys, the author occasionally changes his style from that of a third person observer to a first person participant. In Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-16; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16, the author speaks of "we" and "us" in relationship to Paul's travels. The language implies the author himself traveled with Paul. These "we" sections include the time when Paul was imprisoned at Rome. Scholars have determined Paul wrote Philemon, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles during his house arrest in that city. By searching those letters for references to Paul's fellow workers, they compiled a list of companions who could have written Luke and Acts. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul says, "Only Luke is with me," making him the most likely person to have written Luke-Acts. 

Students of the first century church confirm the likelihood of Luke's authorship with what they call the "negative" argument. This negative argument recognizes the early church's tendency to attribute the authorship of New Testament works to recognized apostles and eyewitnesses of the ministry of the Master. We have no reason to assume early Christians would have given credit for the authorship of Luke-Acts to such an insignificant figure as Luke unless they possessed firm evidence the doctor, traveling companion of Paul, did indeed write this important document. 

The facts surrounding the authorship of Acts are not merely intended to bolster the knowledge of persons interested in Bible trivia. Knowing Luke wrote Acts is crucial for understanding this book. Unless readers see in Acts the continuation of themes and emphases which Luke began in his Gospel, they will miss some of the most vital helps available to them for interpreting Acts. Unless readers see the purpose of Acts as a direct continuation of the purpose of Luke, they will miss the main thrust of the book. 

The Purpose of Acts

Why did Luke write Acts? What purpose was the Spirit leading him to fulfill? The years have produced several different answers to those questions. 

The opening verses of Luke and Acts mention Theophilus as the recipient of Luke's writings. As mentioned earlier, the name means "friend of God" and was common among Jews and Greeks in the first century. Many Bible students think Theophilus was a Roman dignitary sympathetic to the Christian cause. Perhaps Luke was writing a defense of Christianity for this official during a time of persecution to show him there was nothing subversive or sinister about the followers of Jesus. The geographical framework of Acts, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, lends credibility to this idea. 

In addition to Luke's possible purpose as an interpreter of Christianity to the Roman world, Paul's traveling companion seems to have perceived himself specifically as a recorder of God's saving work. In 1:3 of his Gospel, Luke clearly states he is trying to make "an orderly account" of the events surrounding Jesus' ministry. 

The only question which remains is Luke's reason for dividing his record of those events into Luke and Acts as he did. The obvious solution to this question would be that Luke focuses on Jesus Himself while Acts focuses on the followers of Jesus who continued their Master's work. This solution misses one important verse, Acts 1:1, where Luke says to Theophilus: "In my former book ... I wrote about all Jesus began to do and teach..." Luke implied that Jesus continued to do and teach more, and that His story was incomplete where the Gospel ended. In fact, a careful reading of Acts makes it clear that Jesus remained the active, living, focus of Luke's story. In Acts 9:4, Jesus spoke directly to Saul and asked, "Why do you persecute me?" Later, in the same chapter, Peter could say directly to Aeneas, "Jesus Christ heals you" (verse 34). In chapter ten, Christ made His will known to Peter concerning a ministry to the Gentiles. These are but three examples of Jesus' vital involvement in the spread of the gospel in Acts. 

Therefore, despite the fact Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus, there is no evidence anyone in the early church perceived Him as "gone" from their midst. He healed, spoke, and directed the work of His disciples. Even when they preached, the disciples thought of Jesus as literally present in their preaching. They asked the listeners of those first sermons, not merely to believe facts about Jesus, but to encounter through their words the One who died, rose again, and lives forever. The ascension marked not Christ's departure, but a change in the way Christ performs His ministry of salvation and grace. Consequently, Acts is the continuing story of Jesus' work. It simply begins once He is no longer bound by the limitations of time and space. Acts tells what happened following the ascension when Jesus started to work through His new body, which is the church. 

Themes In The Book Of Acts

Luke has several important themes that he develops in Acts. Understanding these will aid us in understanding what the Holy Spirits wants to learn from Luke. 

1. Provides a history of the early church. It charts Christianity's spread from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Rome, the capitol of the Roman Empire. The church begins as a people limited to the Jews and concludes with it emcompassing every race in the ancient world. 

2. The book of Acts serves as a handbook for conversion. It goes into detail concerning the salvation experience of men and women throughout the ancient world. 

3. A joining together of Jew and Gentile into one body. Acts chapters 9-10 detail the conversion of Cornelius and his family, the first gentile converts. It shows that God has chosen the gentiles to be part of his covenant. It also charts the conflict in the early church over the binding of circumcision upon gentile converts. 

4. The devotion of Christians to their Lord. All the principal characters of Luke's story demonstrated great personal devotion to God and tremendous personal discipline in their spiritual lives. In the Gospel, Mary and Joseph performed all of Judaism's prescribed rituals associated with childbirth and the dedication of a new infant. Jesus worshiped in the synagogue "as was his custom" (Luke 4:16), and prayed regularly. In Acts, the disciples showed the same qualities. The first few chapters constantly describe the apostles in the Temple praying. Paul's ministry was punctuated by the same type of spirituality. It shows Christians who are willing to "suffer shame" for the cause of Christ (Acts 5:41). 

The Story of Acts

A final help for understanding the second part of Luke's larger work is a brief outline of the book's contents. As mentioned earlier, 1:8 provides the framework for Acts as Jesus' message and influence moved outward from Jerusalem to the farthest point of the earth. Chapters 1-7 focus on the early church in Jerusalem. This part of the book tells of the early successes (2:41) and the early persecutions (4:1-22). The life of the church in these chapters is marked by tremendous cooperation and mutual assistance (2:42-47). At the same time, however, changes and expansion put a serious strain on the fellowship as the church tried to seek Christ's will (6:1). 

The death of Stephen in chapter 7 marks the beginning of a transition in the story as heightened pressure from Jewish authorities forced many Christians to leave Jerusalem. God used the intended evil of the persecutors to help spread the gospel in Judea and Samaria. The conversion of Paul (9:1-30) and Peter's new openness to a Gentile ministry (ch. 10) made possible the spread of the gospel to all the world. 

The transitional part of Acts continues in chapters 11-13 as Peter convinced others in Jerusalem that Gentiles needed to hear the gospel as much as the Jews (11:1-18). The dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem during the persecution there resulted in a strong church at Antioch (11:19-30). By chapter 13, the influence and missionary efforts of the church at Antioch began to surpass those of the church in Jerusalem. 

It is the vision of the Christians in Antioch which shaped the remaining chapters of Acts. Their sensitivity to God's Spirit resulted in the three missionary journeys of Paul and the spread of the gospel throughout Asia Minor and, ultimately, to Europe and Rome. Paul's arrival at Rome marked the advent of Christ's message at the very seat of civilization and the symbolic completion of His mission which began in Acts 1:8. 

A Brief Outline of Acts

I. Preaching Christ in Jerusalem. (1:1-8:3). 

II. Preaching Christ in Judaea and Samaria (8:4-11:18). 

III. Preaching Christ to the Uttermost Parts (11:19-28:31). 

A. The missionary journeys of Paul (13:1-21:23). 

B. The period of Paul's imprisonment (21:24-28:31). 

The preceeding material was taken largely from Holman's Bible Dictionary with supplementary material from other sources. 


1. Theophilus is addressed in both Luke as well as Acts. Speaks of the "former treatise" Styles of writing and vocabulary are similar in both books. 

2. Because the author used the word "we" when writing of the travels of Paul, it is obvious that the writer of Acts was a close companion of Paul (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16) We know that Luke was a close companion of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). 

3. The writer of Acts uses medical language and terms in Luke and Acts. Paul referred to Luke as the "beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). 

4. The early "church father" all held to Luke being the writer. In fact there is no evidence from their early writings that any other person was even possibly considered as writer. 


The book has had various titles, none of which are inspired. It is often spoken of as "The Acts of the Apostles." Some of the other titles used include; "The Acts of the Holy Apostles, The Book of Acts", "The Acts", and "Acts of Apostles." The use of the word apostle is accurate in that the work of the apostles are charted. It might be more accurately styled "Some of the Acts of some of the Apostles" since not all of them are mentioned. 


Luke wrote the book of Acts sometime in the early 60's a.d. This seems certain from the fact that Paul is imprisoned at the close of Acts awaiting the judgment of Caesar. We know that this too place about 63 a.d., shortly before Nero's persecution of Christians. History tells us that both Paul and Peter were executed during the great Neroan persecutions of about 64 a.d.. If Paul and Peter had already been executed, why wouldn't Luke have told about it, since he went into such detail concerning these two great men. 

It is likely that Luke wrote the book while accompanying Paul in Rome awaiting Paul's first trial. Luke, the beloved physician was at his side. 

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

Top of Page