Monday, September 19, 2011

The Book of Acts

An Introduction to Acts of Apostles

Written by George Goldman

The book of Acts of the Apostles is the main source of the history of the first generation of Christians. It is the only account we have of the rise of Christianity from a Christian standpoint. The title of the book suggests that it is a record of deeds or events of the apostles. However, besides the list of the twelve in Acts 1:13-26 the only Apostles mentioned are Peter, James, John, and Paul. The focus seems to be on Peter and Paul. The book covers little more than three decades from the ascension of the Lord to the end of Paul’s two-year imprisonment at Rome (33 A.D. – 63 A.D.) It would be good for you to know the reasons behind its production. First, there are over seventy references to the Holy Spirit in Acts. Most of these occur in the first eleven chapters. It is important for you to recognize that this emphasis on the Holy Spirit indicates divine activity behind the scenes.

Also the author of the book of Acts wishes to show that Christianity was politically harmless in order that the Roman authorities might extend to it the same toleration as they gave to Judaism. In every case the author brings out the impartiality of the Roman officials. The attitude of Gallio was typical (Acts 18:12-17). Another proconsul, Sergius Paulus, is seen to be the most favorable towards the gospel (Acts 13:7-12). The city secretary at Ephesus was conciliatory and the Asiarchs are as helpful to Paul (Acts 19:30-41). On the other hand it was always the Jews who were the instigators but the Roman authorities never take the charges seriously.

Thirdly the writer of Acts seems to emphasize that Paul is as much of an apostle as Peter. Two-fifths of the book deals with the acts of Peter, while three-fifths records the acts of Paul. In chapters 1 – 12 the narrative moves from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome (Gentile Christianity) and in this section it is Paul who has the limelight. Several features re-occur in the story of Peter and Paul: both heal cripples (3:28 cf. 14:8-12); both have encounters with sorcerers and work miracles of injury (8:18 cf. 13:6); both raise the dead (9:36ff. cf. 20:9ff); both are miraculously released from prison (12:7 cf. 16:26); both become the objects of worship (10:25 cf. 14:11ff); both are beaten for the name of Jesus (5:40f cf. 16:22f).

You have read of three reasons why the book of Acts was written. Please remember that it is our only source of the history of the first century Christians that is written from a Christian standpoint. As you read it ask yourself, “Am I like the first century Christians?” “Do I believe as they did?” “Do I live and worship as they did?” It is my prayer that you become a first century Christian – nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

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