Commonly called "The Acts Of The Apostles", it is simply titled "Acts" in some of the oldest manuscripts. It might appropriately be called "Some Of The Acts Of Some Of The Apostles" since it does not try to describe all of the acts of all the apostles. Rather, the focus is clearly on some of the acts or deeds of mostly Peter (the key figure in the first half) and Paul (the key figure in the second). It might also be called "The Acts Of The Holy Spirit", as that Person of the Godhead is very much an active participant throughout the book.
Though he does not mention himself by name, the author is undoubtedly Luke, physician and frequent traveling companion of the apostle Paul. From Act 1:1-3, we learn Acts is the second historical account to Theophilus (see below), the first being the gospel universally attributed to Luke (cf. Luk 1:1-4).
Luke is described as "the beloved Physician" (Col 4:14), and the vocabulary of both the gospel and Acts shows evidence of a medical mind. Mentioned as a "fellow laborer" (Phm 24) who was with Paul in his last days (2Ti 4:11), Luke often accompanied Paul on his travels beginning with his second journey. By carefully noting the use of "we" and "they" in the book of Acts, we glean that Luke joined Paul at Troas (Act 16:10-11), and remained at Philippi (Act 17:1) until Paul later picked him up on his way to Troas (Act 20:1-6). The book ends with Luke accompanying Paul to his imprisonment in Rome (Act 28:16).
It is evident Luke was very careful to provide a historically accurate account in the both the gospel and Acts (cf. Luk 1:1-4; 1:5; 2:1-3; 3:1-2). Sir William Ramsay, archaeologist who started his career to prove Luke to be in error, offered this testimony as a result of his research: "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense...in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians." In fact, Luke provides the only record of the first thirty years of the early church.
Both the gospel and Acts were written to one man: Theophilus (Luk 1:3; Act 1:1), whose name means "God lover". Ramsay suggests the use of "most excellent" (Luk 1:3) was a title like "Your Excellency" (cf. Act 23:26; Act 26:25) and that Theophilus was a government official of high rank. It is not used in Acts (Act 1:1), and one intriguing possibility is that he became a believer in between receiving the gospel and Acts. Some have entertained the possibility that Theophilus was a Roman official in charge of administering Paul's case before Caesar, and that the gospel and Acts were written to help him understand the facts of Jesus Christ and Paul's role in the history of the church.
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING
The book ends abruptly with Paul under house arrest awaiting trial in Rome (Act 28:16; 28:30-31). This may indicate that the book was written before Paul's trial and eventual release. The dates for Paul's first imprisonment in Rome are 60-62 A.D. If the book was just before or after Paul's release, then it was likely written around 63 A.D. from Rome.
PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
As indicated previously, the original purpose of both the gospel and Acts may have been to assist Theophilus in some official capacity in learning about Jesus and His apostles. Yet the inspiration and preservation of the book would indicate an important future role in the providence of God. Based on its content, I would offer the following purpose of this book:
Other reasons could be given for why this book was written. The detail given to conversions and the involvement of the Holy Spirit would certainly suggest the book is designed to reveal:
The value of Acts is also seen in that it provides the historical framework for the epistles found in the New Testament. From Romans to Revelation, names, places, and events are mentioned upon which light is shown by the historical account of Acts. Without Acts, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John would be left without a satisfying answer to the question, "What happened next?"
THEME OF THE BOOK
The book begins in Jerusalem and ends at Rome. It describes the establishment and growth of the Lord's church throughout the Mediterranean world through the work of the apostles and other Christians under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We read their sermons and see the conversions which resulted as they carried out the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20; Mar 16:15-16). We learn how local churches were established, and much of their work, worship and organization. But mostly we see the faith and efforts of those charged to be witnesses of the Lord and of His resurrection from the dead. An appropriate theme of this book might therefore be:
"WITNESSES FOR THE LORD JESUS CHRIST"
KEY VERSE: Acts 1:8
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2003
Cite This Page:
Copeland, Mark A. "The Book of Acts," Executable Outlines. The Blue Letter Bible. 28 Aug 2003. 24 May 2013.