Acts portrays the swift expansion of the Christian faith as it reaches out beyond the tiny district of Judea to the borders of the great Roman Empire. Acts gives us insight into the growing awareness that Christianity is a universal faith and shows us the dynamic power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit in the lives of all peoples, everywhere.
Date & Author: Luke the physician, the author of the 3rd gospel. Written during or shortly after Paul’s last imprisonment, A.D. 66-67. Luke might have died shortly thereafter.
2 Themes of Acts:
1. Transformation of biblical faith. Up to the resurrection of Jesus, biblical faith was narrow, held in tight custody by the Jewish people. In a few short decades, a transformation of that faith to a universal religion was accomplished. A dynamic new community was formed — a community of believers which cut across the cultural, social, racial and economic barriers that divide humankind.
2. Word of the Holy Spirit. The new movement was infused with a dynamic and a power that touches its members. The great expansion was not due to a more compelling philosophy, but to a great work of God, which was dramatically visible in the lives of the men and women who responded to the gospel message.
Acts is a book of history. Luke is not teaching doctrine: he is telling a story. It’s a historical report of events. From reading Acts, we gain a clear vision of our great missionary faith — a faith which offers hope to all mankind.
The disciples – John, Peter, and Paul were all sent out as the first missionaries. The self-centered and ambitious John who whispered with his brother James about ways to gain the chief places in Jesus’ coming kingdom, the hot-tempered Peter who denied Jesus three times, and Paul who violently persecuted Christians before his conversion… all transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I see that my own history also begins here. My grandfather was only 15 years old when he received his faith through a missionary, one of the first from America. His young pure heart must have embraced it so completely that he was willing to be cut off from his family and die while defending his faith.
In Acts, I see the direct historical path through which how we Christians get to receive our faith. We received it through generations of missionaries the first of which were the disciples who were with Jesus.
The term “apostle” now replaces the familiar “disciple” of the Gospels to identify the small group of men who followed Jesus “the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” (1:21, 22). “Disciple” means “learner.” “Apostle” means “one sent on a mission.” — Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook, Lawrence O. Richard
Apostles beaten and commanded to silence.
… they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus… So, they went on their way rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 5:40-41