Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles
The name of the author of this book is hidden, however, all the early historical materials show that the author of this Book is Luke the physician. The contents and features of this book also prove that it is written by Luke the physician and the reasons are as follows:
1) We could know that this Book and the Gospel of Luke are written by the same author according to the beginnings of these two books (Acts. 1:1, Luke. 1:1).
2) And the author of this book should be the fellow-worker and assistant to Paul who came newly to him when Paul the Apostle was on his second journey of preaching. Because in the narratives of the sixteenth chapter of Acts, the third person “they” was suddenly replaced by the first person “we” (Acts. 16:6-10) and then “we” is used to replace “they” in most occasions (Acts. 16:12-13, 15-16; 20:5, 13-14; 21:1, 7 and etc.).
3) Medical expressions are commonly seen in this book and the Gospel of Luke, for example: “immediately his feet and ‘ankle bones’ received strength” (Acts. 3:7); “Jesus the Christ ‘heals’ you” (Acts. 9:34); “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like ‘scales’, and he received his sight at once” (Acts. 9:18); “And immediately ‘a dark mist’ fell on him” (Acts. 13:11); “a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, ‘a cripple’ from his mother's womb, who had never walked” (Acts. 14:8); “it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of ‘a fever and dysentery’” (Acts. 28:8); “But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with ‘a high’ fever” (Luke. 4:38, cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark. 1:30); “a man who ‘was full of’ leprosy” (Luke. 5:12; cf. Matt. 8:1; Mark. 1:40); “a certain man before Him who had ‘dropsy’” (Luke. 14:2); “His sweat became like ‘great drops of blood’” (Luke. 22:44) and etc. These show that the author of these two books must be fully aware of common sense of medicine.
4) The last chapter of Acts shows that the author himself had accompanied Paul the Apostle on the journey to Roman (Acts. 28:14); when Paul was in prison, he may still accompany Paul. Among the fellow workers and assistants of Paul the Apostle, the one who was fully aware of medical knowledge and accompanied him when he was in prison must be “Luke, the physician” (Col. 4:10, 14; Philem. 23-24).
We know very little about the life of Luke.
“Luke” was a Gentile name and therefore he was obviously a Gentile. Paul the
Apostle also separated him from “the circumcision” (Col. 4:10-14), showing that
he was not Jewish. It is said that he was of
Luke was in close contact with Paul the Apostle. Paul called him “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) and also admitted him as a fellow-laborer (Philem. 24).
There seem to be traces in Acts and Paul’s epistles
for us to surmise the whole story that how he met and accompanied Paul the
Apostle: before Paul went to Troas, he preached in the region of Galatia (Acts.
16:6, 8). At that time, he was very weak and in infirmity (Gal. 4:13). Then he
III. The Time and Location the Book was Written
According to the forewords of the two books
that were written by Luke, we could confirm that the Book of Luke was finished
before he wrote the Acts of the Apostles (Luke. 1:1, Acts. 1:1). In addition,
the Acts of the Apostles ended with Paul’s defense in
In the view of these reasons, the Bible exegetes made two reliable deductions:
1) Concerning the historical facts that were
recorded in this book, since it ended with Paul’s first imprisonment in
2) Someone surmised that, according to the “ending” of this book, Luke may have a mind to write a sequel to this book in order to describe the deeds from Paul’s release from his first imprisonment to his martyr for the Lord. And therefore the time this book was written may not be the time of Paul’s first imprisonment and it should be several years after that. It was about A.D. 65-68.
Concerning the location where Luke wrote this book,
many Bible exegetes speculated that it was in
a) This book ended with Paul’s preaching in Roman prison (Acts. 28:30-31).
b) Luke and Paul went to
c) Paul saluted believers on behalf of Luke in the so-called “Prison Epistles” (Col. 4:14).
Some Bible exegetes thought that it was written in
IV. The Recipients
In the foreword of this book, Luke clearly showed that this book was written to “Theophilus” (Acts. 1:1). “Theophilus” means “friend of God”, “the one who loves God” and “the one who is loved by God”. And therefore some Bible exegetes thought that he is a fictitious figure who represents believers from ages and from generations. However, Luke also called him “most excellent” (Luke. 1:1). It is an honorable title, showing that the recipient must have high social position. And therefore most of the Bible exegetes thought that the recipient of this book must be a real person and he must be extremely interested in the faith of Christianity and be willing to learn and know the origin, process and present condition of the faith.
Someone even said that Luke may be a bondman of Theophilus (because there were many physicians in the class of bondmen at that time), however, it is only a guess.
V. The Names of This Book
1) The Acts of the Apostles: usually this book is called by this name. However, this name was not named by the author Luke. Many people thought that the name the Acts of the Apostles did not keep to the point because the deeds of all Apostles have not been recorded in this book. Peter and Paul are recorded in this book and James and John are slightly recorded and the deeds of other Apostles, e.g. Matthew, Andrew, Matthias and etc have not been recorded.
However, from the general sense of “the Apostels”, it is suitable to
name this book the Acts of the Apostles because “the Apostles” in the Bible are
not restricted to the twelve Apostles. Except them, there are also Paul,
Barnabas (Acts. 14:14), Timothy, Silvanus (1Thess. 1:1; 2:6), Andronicus, Junias
2) The later book of Luke: because Luke claimed that he “made the former” (Acts. 1:1), it is obvious that he regarded this book as the later book or the sequel of the Gospel of Luke. In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that “all that the Lord began both to do and teach” until the day in which He was taken up (Acts. 1:1-2); in the Acts of Apostles it is recorded that “all that the Lord both does and teaches” after He was taken up.
3) The fifth Gospel: many believers regard this book as the fifth Gospel because:
a) This book is not only the continuance of the Gospel of Luke but also the continuance of the four Gospels. Resurrection is mentioned in the end of the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 28:6-7). Ascension is mentioned in the end of the Gospel of Mark (Mark. 16:19). The waiting for the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the end of the Gospel of Luke (Luke. 24:49). The Lord’s second coming is mentioned in the end of the Gospel of John (John. 21:22). The beginning of this book follows up the four lines (Acts. 1:3, 5, 9, 11). And therefore this book is the continuance of every Gospel and it follows up every Gospel.
b) In this book, the deeds of Christ Jesus on the earth are specially recorded as the four Gospels. In the four Gospels, the incarnate Christ is recorded and in this book the risen and ascended Christ is recorded. His “acts” on the earth are recorded in the former and His “acts” on the earth through Apostles by the Holy Spirit are recorded in the later.
c) The former four Gospels shows that “a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies” and this book shows that “it produces much grain” (John. 12:24). Therefore this book is the continuance of the former four Gospels.
4) The Acts of the Holy Spirit: some call this book the Acts of the Holy Spirit and some also call it the Gospel of the Holy Spirit because the promise of the befalling of the Holy Spirit is recorded in the beginning of this book and then it narrates how the Holy Spirit comes upon believers and leads them to bring the Gospel to various regions from Jerusalem. From beginning to the end, the whole book stresses on the work of the Holy Spirit------how the Holy Spirit reigns and works, as if the flow of the Holy Spirit flows from the Lord Himself to the twelve Apostles, to seven ministers e.g. Stephen, to Barnabas, Paul, Silvanus,
Timotheus, etc. and to believers this day. And therefore it could be also called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
5) The Acts of the risen Lord: some call this book the Acts of the risen Lord because the work of the risen Lord in the glory by the Holy Spirit on the earth is recorded in this book.
VI. The Importance of This Book
1) This book is a bridge between the four Gospels and the epistles. It is the continuance of the Gospels and the preface of the epistles. Without this book, the whole New Testament would be rent in two------the Gospels and the epistles. And therefore this book has the nature and function of carrying forward the cause and forging ahead into the future. It is of great value to manifest the consistency of the New Testament.
2) This book shows that the risen and ascended Lord is still with His believers and works with them in the Holy Spirit. The way how the world deals with His believers is equal to how they deal with the Lord Himself (Acts. 9:5). If we want to understand the relation between the Lord and the assembly, we could have an outline by reading this book in detail.
3) In this book it is recorded that how the assembly is established, how the gospel is preached and how the truth is explained more and more clearly. Without this book, believers over the years would not know these things.
VII. General Description
The information of this book could be summed up: the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, is fully manifested through the Apostles (in the assembly) who bear witness of Him “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts. 1:8).
VIII. Special Points
The features of this book are as follows:
I. It is a book of “the assembly”: this book provides us the first-hand material, so that we could know the deeds and examples of the assembly in the beginning.
A. The fundamental elements of the conformation of the church on the earth: 1. The assembly is composed of those who have seen the appearing of the risen Christ and heard His teachings (Acts. 1:1-5). The assembly today could only be composed of a group of people whose eyes of hearts have been opened so that they know that Jesus the Nazaraean is Christ, the Son of God and who receive His words with great joy. 2. The assembly is also composed of those who have the vision, mission and hope (Acts. 1:6-11). Today the assembly should be composed of those who are full of the heavenly vision. Though they live on the earth, they yearn for the heavenly kingdom wholeheartedly, take the mission to preach the glad tidings and bear witness everywhere and wait for the second coming of the Lord. 3. The assembly is also composed of those who all continue with one accord in prayer and supplication, hoping for the Lord (Acts. 1:12-14).
B. The fundamental elements of the expansion of the assembly: among believers who compose the assembly, a group of people are specially chosen by the Lord so that they take part in the apostleship for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry and the edifying of the assembly (Acts. 1:15-26; See Eph. 4:11-12). In order to expand the work of preaching the glad tidings, not only the Holy Spirit dwells in the members of the assembly, but also the Holy Spirit pours upon them and gives them utterance to make known the mystery of the gospel (Acts. 2:1-13; See Eph. 6:19). The assembly bears witness before the world and all the people, as one man, highly exalt Jesus Christ and therefore they are full of the power of the Holy Spirit so that those who hear the message are cut to the heart, repent and are baptized unto the name of the Lord (Acts. 2:14-41).
C. Gathering as the center of the church life: 1. the content of gathering: receiving the apostles’ doctrine (hearing the word), fellowship, breaking of bread (remembering the Lord) and prayers. 2. the time of gathering: daily. 3. the place of gathering: in the temple and in the house. 4. the attitude of gathering: with one accord, continually, with gladness and simplicity of heart. 5. the effect of gathering: they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, loved each other and took care of each other and those who were being saved increased daily (Acts. 2:42-47).
church expanded from one region to various regions: the assembly that first
appears on the earth seems to mange herself wholeheartedly in one place and has
not obeyed the mission that the Lord had entrusted to her: “you shall be
witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of
the earth” (Acts. 1:8). And therefore under God’s sovereign arrangement, He
permitted the church in
E. The principle to edify the churches in various regions: the eighth and fifth chapters of the Acts provide us a display widow so that we could know the principle to edify the churches in various regions and their relations:
1. The conformation of the churches in various regions is not done by men. Apostles (e.g. Peter, John, Paul and others) and evangelist (e.g. Phillip) and common believers (e.g. the scattered disciples) are able to preach the glad tidings in everywhere. And the result of the preaching of the gospel is that there are men who have been saved in various regions. The Bible does not tell us how the churches in various regions are established. The Bible describes with a delicate touch that those who have been saved in various regions are the churches in various regions.
2. The Holy Spirit is the mover of all works. He could directly send
workers, e.g. He sent Phillip to go along the road which goes down to
3. Each worker, or each working group or the original church never brought
the churches in various regions that are edified after their work into one’s
own sphere of influence. On the contrarily they helped each other, e.g. Peter,
John went to
4. There is a church in one place. In the Bible, the place, instead of
anything person or thing else, is the basis to establish various churches. And
therefore in the Acts of the Apostles, a church is called by the name of that
place. If it is a vast place, the plural appellation replaces the odd
appellation, e.g. “the church which was at
conformation of the governance system in the churches: in the initial stage of
the church on the earth, there was not the so-called managerial system. At that
time, there weren’t the full-time ministers except Apostles and prophets in the
From the names of the chosen seven ministers, we could infer that they were the Hellenists and they came into being in accordance with the need at that time (Acts. 6:1-5). We could know that the position of ministers in the church in the beginning is based on the following principles: 1. the reason why minister come into being: dealing with the special need in the church at that time. And therefore minister is not the lifelong or eternal position. The minister exists as long as the need exists. 2. The qualification of ministers: men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts. 6:3). 3. The way that ministers come into being: they are chosen from believers who have the need and the apostles laid hands on them when the apostles had prayed (Acts. 6:3, 6). 4. Ministers’ coming into being helps the word of God spread (Acts. 6:7).
Concerning the reason and background that elders in
the church come into being, they have not been made clear in the Acts of the
Apostles, e.g. how the elders in the church in
And what is the
basis and aim of the appointing of the elders? The twentieth chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles gives us the enlightenment: 1. the elders are made by the
Holy Spirit (Acts. 20:28). It is the Holy Spirit that works on some people and
makes them be more progressive than others and have more gifts. And therefore
the function of the elders is manifested among believers. Concerning the
appointment of the elders in the fourteenth chapter, the apostles must have
understood the meaning of the Holy Spirit and did so in order to prove and show
their amen to the appointment of the Holy Spirit. 2. the purpose of appointing
the elders is to “made you overseers, to shepherd the
II. It is a book of “the Holy Spirit”: this book recounts various works of the Holy Spirit in men by various ways, e.g. the commanding and speaking of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:2; 4:25; 6:10; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 21:11; 28:25), the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:5; 11:16), the befalling of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:8; 8:16; 10:44; 11:15; 19:6), the predicting of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:16; 11:28), men’s being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 52), the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:4; 10:45), the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:17-18, 23; 10:45), the rejoice of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:26), the giving of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:38; 8:15, 17; 10:47; 15:8, 19:2), the witness of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 5:32; 20:23), the catching up of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 8:39), the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 9:31), the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 10:38), the separating of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 13:2), the goodness of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 15:28), the forbidding and not permitting of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 16:6-7), the making of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 20:28), the communion of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 21:4) and etc.
This book also describes men’s different attitudes towards the Holy Spirit, e.g. obeying the Holy Spirit (Acts. 5:32), tempting the Holy Spirit (Acts. 5:9), resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts. 7:51) and etc.
III. It is a book of “preaching”: preaching the glad tidings and bearing witness of the Lord is the mission for every Christian. This book provides the perfect records for us to draw lessons from them.
A. The way to receive power to bear witness------wait and pray (Acts. 1:4, 14).
B. The origin of the power of bearing witness to the Lord------the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:8).
C. The procedure to bear witness to the Lord------from the near to the distant, from the place where they dwell to the end of the earth (Acts. 1:8).
D. The ways to bear witness to the Lord------words and teachings (Acts. 2:11, 40; 5:42 and etc.), good church life (Acts. 2:44-47 and etc.), wonders (Acts. 3:15-16 and etc.), personal life (Acts. 4:13; 11:24 and etc.), helping others (Acts. 9:36), joy in the tribulation (Acts. 16:24-34), diligently working for a living (Acts. 18:3).
E. The place to bear witness to the Lord------in the temple (Acts. 3:11), in the synagogue (Acts. 6:8-9, 9:20), by a river (Acts. 16:13), in the prison (Acts. 16:31-32), in the market (Acts. 17:17-18), in the house (Acts. 17:7, 26), in the court (Acts. 24:10-25), the ship that would be wrecked (Acts. 27:23-25), in the hired house (Acts. 28:30-31). All times and places are the chances for men to bear witness to the Lord.
F. The effect of testimony: Whenever the gospel is
preached, it is welcomed and received there. In
IV. It is a book of “prayer”: prayer is the fountainhead of the strength of believers’ life, the reason for the effect of works and the channel for the connection of life to the Lord. This book is the good example for believers to learn to pray at all seasons and all times: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts. 1:14). “They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts. 2:42). “Went up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts. 3:1). “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken” (Acts. 4:31). “They had prayed” (Acts. 6:6). “Stephen knelt down and cried out with a loud voice” (Acts. 7:59). “When they had come down, prayed for them” (Acts. 8:15). “He is praying” (Acts. 9:11). “Knelt down and prayed” (Acts. 9:40). “Prayed to God always” (Acts. 10:2). “Your prayers…have come up for a memorial before God” (Acts. 10:4). “Went up on the housetop to pray” (Acts. 10:9). “At the ninth hour I prayed in my house” (Acts. 10:30). “I was praying; and in a trance I saw a vision” (Acts. 11:5). “Peter was kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts. 12:5). “Where many were gathered together praying” (Acts. 12:12). “Having fasted and prayed” (Acts. 13:3; 14:23). “The riverside, where prayer was customarily made” (Acts. 16:13). “Were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts. 16:25). “He knelt down and prayed with them all” (Acts. 20:36). “We departed and went on our way. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed” (Acts. 21:5). “I was praying in the temple” (Acts. 22:17). “Paul went in to him and prayed” (Acts. 28:8).
V. It is a book of “the works” of Peter and Paul: the two apostles who were greatly used by the Lord, i.e. Peter and Paul are recorded by the most of the space of this book. If we compare their works, we will find many similarities that the Lord used them. Here give some examples:
A. Their first messages all testify that “Jesus is Christ and He had been risen from the dead” (Acts. 2:14-36; 13:16-41).
B. Peter blamed Simon who practiced sorcery (Acts. 8:9-24); Paul punished Elymas the sorcerer (Acts. 13:6-11).
C. The shadow of Peter healed men with diseases (Acts. 5:15); the napkins or aprons from Paul made diseases depart from men (Acts. 19:12).
D. They both made the one who was lame from his mother’s womb leap up and walk (Acts. 3:8; 14:10).
E. Peter made Tabitha rise from the dead (Acts. 9:40); Paul made Eutychus rise from the dead (Acts. 20:7-12).
F. Peter and Paul all rejected men’s worship towards them (Acts. 10:25-26; 14:14).
G. When they laid hands on men, the Holy Spirit came upon men (Acts. 8:17; 19:6).
VI. It is a book of “joy”: in this book, it is
specially manifested that the gospel is the gospel that makes men rejoice and
he whoever hears the gospel shall receive joy. Because the gospel was in the
hearts of the apostles, they rejoiced even though they had been beaten (Acts.
5:41). When the gospel was preached in the city of
IX. Key Verses
you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall
be witnesses to Me in
X. Key Words
“The Holy Spirit”, “His spirit”, “the Lord’s spirit” (Acts. 1:2, 5, 8, 16; 2:4, 17, 18, 33, 38; 4:8, 31; 5:3, 9, 32; 6:3, 5, 10; 7:51, 55; 8:15, 17, 18, 19, 29, 39; 9:17, 31; 10:19, 38, 44, 45, 47; 11:12, 15, 16, 24, 28; 13:2, 4, 9, 52; 15:8, 28; 16:6, 7; 19:2, 6; 20:23, 28; 21:4, 11; 28:25).
“Witness” (Acts. 1:8, 22; 2:32, 40; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39, 41, 43; 13:22, 31; 15:8; 22:5, 15, 18, 20; 23:11; 26:5, 16, 22).
XI. Outlines of the Book
I. The work in
A. Jesus’ appearing and ascension after His resurrection (1:1-11).
B. The disciples gathered together, prayed and waited in
C. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost and the establishment of the assembly (2).
D. Do wonders and bear witness (3).
E. The assembly overcomes in persecution and temptations (4:1-5:41).
F. Seven deacons who manage things (6:1-7).
G. Stephen was arisen and martyred (6:8-7:60).
II. The work in all Judea and
A. Saul made havoc of the church (8:1-4).
B. The work in
C. Saul converted to the Lord (9:1-31).
D. Peter’s work in Judea, Galilee and
E. Peter’s work in
F. The first Gentile assembly------the establishment of the assembly in
G. Peter was released from the prison (12).
III. The ministry of Paul------from
A. Paul’s first journey of preaching (13:1-15:1).
C. Paul’s second journey of preaching (15:36-18:22).
D. Paul’s third journey of preaching (18:23-21:26).
E. Paul was imprisoned in
F. Paul was judged in
G. Paul was escorted to
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Sharon Ren