Lesson 4: The Acts of the Apostles

New Testament Survey

The fifth book of the New Testament is a book of history. Acts is the earliest history of the church of Christ. It has been called "the hub of the Bible." Neither the Old Testament, nor the first four books of the New Testament, would be complete without the book of Acts. The Old Testament foretold the coming of the Christ and His kingdom. The first four books of the New Testament tell of Christ's coming to earth and the wonderful life He lived. They tell of His marvelous miracles, His death for the sins of the world, and His mighty resurrection from the dead. They end with Jesus giving the Great Commission to His disciples and His ascension back to Heaven.

Acts tells of Christ sending the Holy Spirit upon the apostles to prepare them for their work (John 14:26; 15:26, 27; 16:7-15; Acts 1:4, 5; 2:1-21). lt tells of their preaching the Gospel (good news of salvation). It records the answer to the most important question one can ever ask, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30-34). Acts tells of the beginning of the church of Christ when those who first heard the Gospel believed in Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, confessed Him before men, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. When they did this, they were added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:36- 47). Acts, chapter two, contains the fulfillment of the prophecies of the coming of the kingdom (Matthew 16:16-19; Joel 2:28-32; Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:36-45).

The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke, "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). Luke was one of Paul's companions on his second and third missionary journeys as well as on his trip to Rome. Luke addressed the book of Acts to Theophilus, the same person to whom he had addressed the book of Luke (Acts 1:1; Luke 1:1-4). The book of Acts is simply a continuation of the book of Luke.

The Acts of the Apostles does not contain all the acts of all the apostles. It would be more accurate to call it "some of the acts of some of the apostles." Acts mostly records the work of only two of the apostles - Peter and Paul. Peter's labors for the Lord are recorded in chapters 2 - 12. Paul's work in the kingdom is recorded in chapters 13-28. Peter worked mainly among the Jews. He carried the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Paul preached among the Gentiles and carried the Gospel to Rome and later to Spain (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:24, 28). While Peter and Paul were busy with their work, the other apostles were carrying the Gospel to other parts of the world.

The book of Acts was most likely written during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. It ends with the mention of Paul under house arrest awaiting his hearing before Caesar (Acts 28:30, 31). During this time, he wrote the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. These four books are known as the "Prison Epistles." The date of writing of Acts was probably 62 or 63 A.D.

Like the book of Genesis, the book of Acts is a book of beginnings. Acts records the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit as He revealed and confirmed the Word of God through the apostles (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 13:8-12; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Acts records the carrying out of the Great Commission as it tells of the Gospel being preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth (Luke 24:46, 47; Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:23). Acts tells of the beginning of persecution against the church (Acts 4, 5, 7, 8, 12). Too, it speaks of the beginning of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles (Acts 10, 11). Acts also tells of the first use of the name "Christian" as a Divinely given name for the members of the church of Christ (Isaiah 62:1, 2; Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Acts also speaks of the setting in order of the church when elders were appointed in the congregations (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 20:17, 28).

The book of Acts has often been called "the book of conversions." When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His apostles, He told them the conditions of salvation. When the Gospel is preached, men must hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized in order to be saved (Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46, 47). In order to be sure no one could be mistaken on such an important matter, the book of Acts contains several examples of people obeying the Gospel just as Jesus taught. From the thousands of cases of conversion in the first century, the Holy Spirit selected these to record in Acts as examples for all men to follow.

In Acts, chapter two, we learn of Peter preaching the Gospel for the first time on Pentecost. As he preached the crucified Christ whom God had raised from the dead, the Jews cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter told them to Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41). They were added by the Lord to His church when they obeyed His Gospel (Acts 2:47).

In Acts, chapter eight, there are three accounts of conversion. First, we learn of Philip, the evangelist, preaching in Samaria. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized (Acts 8:12). We also learn that Simon, a sorcerer, believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). Philip was then sent by the Holy Spirit to preach to the treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia. When the treasurer heard the Gospel, he confessed his faith and was baptized (Acts 8:26-39). The conversion of Saul who became the apostle Paul (Acts 13:9) is recorded three times (chapters 9, 22, 26). Chapter 16 tells of the conversion of Lydia as well as that of the Jailor and his household. We read of the conversion of the Corinthians in chapter 18: And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Chapter nineteen tells of Paul baptizing twelve men at Ephesus who knew only John's baptism (Acts 19:1-7).

Without Acts, we would not understand what we must do to be saved.

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    Fill in the blanks:
  1. What has the book of Acts been called?   
  2. Who wrote The Acts of the Apostles?   
  3. To whom was Acts addressed?   
  4. Which other book of the New Testament did Luke write?   
  5. Without Acts, what would we not understand?   
  6. When did Luke write Acts?   
  7. Where was Paul during this time?   
  8. Which apostle is the main character in the first twelve chapters of Acts?   
  9. Which apostle is the main character from chapters 13-28?   
  10. What is the most important question in the world?   
  11. Which chapter in Acts tells of the beginning of the church?   
  12. What was the new name God gave to His saved people?   
  13. Like Genesis, Acts is a book of?   
  14. What is the book of Acts often called?   
  15. What are five things one must do to be saved, according to the book of Acts?
  16. Which apostle took the Gospel to Spain?   
  17. Who first preached the Gospel to the Jews?   
  18. Who was the apostle to the Gentiles?   
  19. Which epistles did Paul write during his first imprisonment in Rome?
  20. When are people added by the Lord to His church?   
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