Each book of the Bible has its own personality. Each book tells its own story and each book allows us to see another side of who God is and how God is active in the world. Over the next several weeks we will be having a good, old fashioned Bible study here on Lutheran Grilled Cheese. We will be working our way through the Book of Acts.
There is enough evidence to support that Acts was written by the Gospel writer Luke. Acts is the second part of a two-volume work. I guess if I was to write a few books of the Bible I would of taken the same route as Luke. The first book (the Gospel of Luke) describes Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. The second book (Acts) describes events following the ascension of Jesus and the start of the Christian Church.
Acts begins with a summary of the previous volume, the Gospel of Luke, and then introduces the second volume. In Acts 1:1-5, Luke writes:
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
This quote also tells me that the intended reader of the Book of Acts was Theophilus. However, like Luke’s Gospel I am sure that he also had a larger readership in mind. Scholars are not sure when the book was actually written. At the earliest, Acts was written two years after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, c. 62.
The Book of Acts is a selective history of the early church told from a Christian point of view; it focuses primarily on two figures: Peter and Paul. The title “Acts of the Apostles” was first used by Irenaeus in the late second century; it has been suggested, however, that the better title of the work would be “Acts of the Holy Spirit,” since the events described occur consequent upon the giving of the Spirit.
The Book of Acts can be structured in different ways. These are three possibilities — the first can be organized according to a geographical and biographical structure. Chapters 1-12 are focused on Peter’s journey from Jerusalem to Antioch and Chapters 13-28 focus on Paul’s journey from Antioch to Rome.
Another way to structure Acts (and the one that this Bible study will be looking at are divided into topic areas.
Disciples empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in Jerusalem (chapters 1–8:3)
Judea and Samaria (chapters 8:4–12:25)
and to the ends of the earth (chapters 13:1–28)
Paul’s three missionary journeys (13:1–21:16)
His trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea (21:17–26:32)
His final journey to Rome (27:1–18:31)
This structure shows us how the Holy Spirit was working in with and under the disciples following Jesus’ ascension. Overall, I believe that Luke’s two-volume work is an account of the appearance of God’s salvation in human history. The first volume deals with the coming of the Messiah, his death and resurrection. The second volume deals with the ascension of the Messiah, the sending of the Spirit, and the evangelism of Jews, Samaritans and gentiles, beginning in Jerusalem and moving progressively outward.
There will be a number of voices sharing this wonderful book with you and I hope that you tune in.