The Book of Acts tells about the beginning of the church. What are the highlights of this book? Here is a synopsis of the Book of Acts.
Acts Date and Purpose
The Book of Acts is simply called “Acts” and some call it “The Book of Acts” while others call it “The Acts of the Apostles” but I believe is should really be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” for it is all about the church being founded and being led and directed by the Holy Spirit even though the book is most often called “The Book of Acts.” The Spirit plays a dominant role in this book like in no other book in the Bible. The Holy Spirit seems to be the most neglected of the Holy Trinity. The Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke were originally one book and only later, during canonization, was it separated into two different books but we do know that the author was Luke and it appears that is was written prior to A.D. 70 because the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem occurred at that time and it would be astounding if this were not mentioned in Acts. We also know that the Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome (about 68 A.D.) before the fall of Jerusalem and the book ends with Paul being under house arrest, yet having the freedom to preach the gospel and still waiting for his appeal to Caesar. This would have to place the book before A.D. 70 and so the completion of the book had to be at least prior to A.D. 64.
Acts seems to be a recorded history of the birth and early growth of the church that was requested to be written by Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Ancient and contemporary historians reflect on both Luke and Acts as a finite, detailed historical account of the church that is rich in geographical and political details that equal that of the Jewish historian, Josephus. Many of Luke’s accounts are verified by ancient historians as well as by Josephus. Luke had a keen eye for detail and mentioned many accounts of eyewitnesses by name, ruling provincial characters, and governmental authorities that history and archeology have empirically verified as facts. Luke’s recording of the church begins before the church does. It starts with Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11)after He gives the imperative command for the Great Commission for the apostles to go into all the world, starting in Jerusalem but including Samaria and the ends of the world (Acts 1:8). The book begins that command with the founding of the church and the coming of the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised would come after He ascended to the Father (Acts 1:4-6).
The church is founded in Jerusalem only by means of and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the boldest of sermons by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) and which is the fulfillment of Joel where God said that He would pour out His spirit (Joel 2:28-32). This is followed by the fellowship of the believers where they all shared their belongings, met daily in the breaking of bread, praising God, devoting themselves to the apostle’s teachers, gaining favor among the people and numbers being saved day by day (2:42-47).
Peter and John were headed to the temple when they healed a lame man (3:1-10) and which ended with Peter and John being brought to the Council and commanded to speak no more about Jesus and saying “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (3:20) and were released. The church was more joined in heart and soul than ever before and shared in their belongings once more with those who had little (4:32-37). When Ananias and Sapphira tried to donate money but withheld some and lied to the apostles (really they lied to the Holy Spirit), they were struck dead on the spot and great fear struck those within and those outside of the church (5:1-11).
God began to perform many signs and wonders through the apostles and more and more believers were added to the church and just as they had done with Jesus, they began to bring many of the sick and they were healed (5:12-16). This is when the high priest and the religious leaders “rose up…and [were] filled with jealousy and they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison (5:17-19) but the Lord opened up the prison doors and brought them out and told them to “stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life” (5:19-21). Shocked upon seeing them speaking in the temple they brought them back to stand before the council but they were afraid to use force because of fear of the people who believed would stone the captain and the officers, as stunning as that seems (Acts 5:26).
The first martyr, Stephen is stoned to death for proclaiming the truth of the gospel. When Stephen is stoned, he actually sees Jesus stand up (possibly to welcome him home?) and the (false) “witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man names Saul” (7:58). Saul was ravaging the church and taking people and having them arrested, dragging them off to prison, both men and women (8:1-3) and this caused the church too scatter but this scattering caused the preaching of the gospel to spread even further (8:4). One thing that persecution does is that every time the Devil tries to stamp out the church, like trying to stomp out a prairie grass fire, he only serves to spread it. The church is said to grow on the blood of the martyrs and that’s what happens every single time they attempt to destroy the church.
The biggest conversion that may have ever occurred takes an act of God…literally…when Saul is struck down and blinded by Jesus Himself. This shows two things; that absolutely no one is beyond saving and that no matter how much they hate Christians and how hard their heart is, God can soften any heart He wants and save anyone He desires; it also shows that there isn’t one person alive that God does not want saved and that He cannot save so keep praying for that person that you think will never, ever come to faith because nothing is impossible with God (9:1-19). This also shows that when people persecute Christians, they are really persecuting Jesus Himself because Jesus asks Saul why he is persecuting Him (9:4). The lesson is that when we receive persecution, it is Jesus Who they really hate. They might hate our message but it’s not the messenger they hate but the Message; that of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sinners. Saul ends up as perhaps the greatest evangelist, apostle, and church planter that the world has ever seen.
When Peter sees the vision and sees that God has opened the gospel to the Gentiles, it changes everything. No longer is it about race, it is now about grace. The Gentiles hear the gospel and rejoice and they too receive the Holy Spirit (10:34-48). Peter informs the church of this exciting new chapter in the history of God’s redemptive plan (11). When Christianity starts to spread among the Gentiles and gains in popularity with all the people, this is when James is killed and Peter is imprisoned (12:1-5) but Peter is miraculously freed from prison.
The evangelizing or missionary work now begins in earnest with Barnabas and Saul being sent off and church planting begins to spread the Body of Christ like never before in history (11) with the first of many of Paul’s missionary journeys taking him all the way into Cyprus and then into Asia Minor (12:25-14:28) even though Paul is nearly stoned to death and thought to have died (14:19).
When Paul is arrested and at his trial appeals to Caesar, he take the gospel by divine providence, to Rome (21:17-26:32) and during the voyage to Rome wins more converts by miracles done through him (27:1-28:16).
Conclusion: Book of Acts Two?
Is the Book of Acts Part Two being written today? It is possible because the Book of Acts was never finished. If you read the end of this book it is left open-ended. It is a story that is still taking place today and as of now, is yet unfinished. Who will be in this book, if there will be a second book written? What would the book say about the church since the first book was finished? It is still, in my opinion, being completed today and perhaps in the Kingdom of Heaven, when every neighbor will know about the things of God, the Book of Acts Two may be part of that teaching. Then, “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Heb 8:11) and as Jeremiah gives us more on this he writes that “no longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jer 31:34). Time will tell but I can’t wait for that day!
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon