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The Book of ACTS

Introduction

I will do the Acts Commentary similar to my other Commentaries . . . in that I will bring the verse or verses in the KJV, followed by what it is saying to me. What I write will be a personal comment, it is NOT Scripture.

The term "Acts" is not used, as it is sometimes with us, to mean decrees or laws, here it means the doings, the work of the apostles. It is a record of what the apostles did in founding and establishing the Christian church. It is a record of what Peter and Paul did. Peter was commissioned to open the doors of the Christian church to both Jews and Gentiles (Mat.16:18,19); and Paul was chosen to bring the Gospel especially to the Gentiles. These two apostles were very prominent in founding and organizing the Christian church, the Book of Acts is a special and permanent record of their labors.

All credit this book to Luke as its author. It is repeatedly mentioned and quoted by the early Christian writers. It really is clear from the book itself. It professes to have been written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke (Acts 1:1); was addressed to the same person (Acts 1:1; Luke 1:3) and bears clear marks of being from the same way of writing. It seems to be designed as a continuation of Luke’s Gospel, as in this book he has taken up the history at the very time where he left it in the Gospel (Acts 1:1-2).

Where or when this book was written is not known. But as the history, it is continued to the second year of the residence of Paul at Rome (Acts 28:30), it may have been written as late as the year 62; and as it makes no mention of the further dealings with Paul, or of any other event of history, it seems clear that it was not written much after that time. It has been common, therefore, to fix the date of the book at about a.d. 63. it is also most likely that it was written at Rome. In Acts 28:16, Luke mentions his arrival at Rome with Paul. As he does not mention his departure from this city, it is to be presumed that it was written there. Some have supposed that it was written at Alexandria in Egypt, but of that, there is no sufficient evidence.

The standard authority of this book rests on the same foundation as that of the Gospel by the same author. Its authenticity has not been called in question at any time in the church.

This book has commonly been regarded as a history of the Christian church, and the first ecclesiastical history that was written. But it cannot have been designed as a general history of the church. Many important transactions have been omitted. It gives no account of the church at Jerusalem after the conversion of Paul; it omits his journey into Arabia (Gal.1:17); gives no account of the propagation of the Gospel in Egypt, or in Babylon (1 Peter 5:13); of the foundation of the church at Rome; of many of Paul's voyages and shipwrecks (2Cor.11:25); and fails to record the work of most of the apostles, and confining the story mainly to the actions of Peter and Paul.

To whom did Luke write this book? I believe that it was written to the early Christian church because they needed it in order to live strong and committed Christian lives in a pagan world. But, as is all of God's Holy Word, it was also written for us today. Today's churches are rapidly going backwards into pagan customs. BEWARE! Do NOT listen to false teachers bringing damnable heresies (2 Pet.2:1) that will take you to an eternal and agonizing Hell! See our articles on: False Teachers: www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_1_false_teachers.1.htm

Themes: Two major themes run through Acts. The first of these themes is that of the universal, unhindered spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With the constant and continual assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel grew from a small group of followers in Jerusalem to encompass the "ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Along the way, often difficult, the Holy Spirit removed seemingly impossible barriers to the spread of the Gospel. Religion, race, physical handicaps, philosophy and witchcraft fell before the power of the Spirit, manifest through the humble apostles. Luke highlighted this theme throughout the entire book. The Gospel is triumphant in Acts; nothing could stop it!

The second theme of Acts is the separation of Christianity from the Jews. Luke took great care put some distance between the church and the Jews. At key points Paul rejected the Jewish people, his people . . . just as they had rejected the Gospel. Even though the beginning of Acts portrays the church as continuing to worship in the temple and synagogue, Acts reveals an increasing separation between the two groups. Luke also makes it very clear that the Jews had rejected Christ Jesus; BUT the Christians had not rejected Jesus or Jews. An important part of this theme is the portrayal of Christianity as the TRUE heir of Israel rather than as a heretical sect. Christians are also "true Israel". Rom. 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (KJV) . . . But my friend, beware IF you think that Christians have taken the place of the Jews! That is absolutely NOT so! Replacement is a damnable heresy!
www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_false_doctrines_repalcement_theology.1.htm

The above theme also assures Luke's Roman readers that the conflict that involves the Christians is religious (with the Jews) instead of political (with Rome).

Maybe some of the most important sections of Acts are those known as the "we" sections (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). Luke's use of the pronoun "we" and "us" in these sections suggests that Luke was a traveling companion of Paul, letting us know that he was part of Paul's entourage.

Luke specifically related this second volume to the first, noting that in his "former writing" he "wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach" (Acts 1:1). With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the disciples continued to do and to teach as Jesus had done.

The importance of the history in the Book of Acts may be learned from the following:
. . . #1. It contains a record of the promised descent and operations of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus promised that, after He had departed to Heaven, He would send the Holy Ghost to carry forward the great work of redemption (John 14:16-17, 15:26, 16:7-14). The apostles were told to “tarry” in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The four Gospels contained a record of the life, instruction, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But it is clear that Jesus considered that the greatest signs of the Gospel should take place AFTER His ascension to Heaven, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The descent of the Spirit and His influence on the souls of men, was and is, a most important part of the work of redemption. Without an authentic, and inspired record of that, the account of the operations of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, in the work of redemption, would not have been complete. The purpose of the Father in regard to that plan were made known clearly in the Old Testament; the record of what the Son did in accomplishing it, was contained in the Gospels; and it was needful that some Book should contain a record of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Gospels are regarded as a record of the work of Christ to save men, so too, the Acts of the Apostles may be considered the record of the work of the Holy Spirit in the same great work.

. . . #2. This Book is an inspired account of the character of true revivals of religion. It records the first revivals that occurred in the Christian church. The scene on the day of Pentecost was one of the most remarkable displays of Divine power and mercy that the world has ever known. It was the commencement of a series of amazing movements in the world to recover men. The Book of the Acts records the effect of the Gospel when it comes in contact with the minds of men. The Gospel was addressed to every class of people everywhere. It met the Jew and the Gentile, the bond and the free, the learned and the ignorant, the rich and the poor; and showed its power everywhere in subduing the mind to itself. It was necessary that some record be preserved of the displays of that power; and that record is in this Book. And it was also necessary that there should be given, by an inspired man, an account of the descent of the Holy Spirit, a record of a true revival of religion. It was certain that the Gospel would produce excitement. The human mind is prone to enthusiasm and fanaticism; and men might be tempted to pervert the Gospel to scenes of disorder and tumult. That the Gospel could produce excitement, was well known to Luke.

. . . #3. It may be further said, that this book shows that revivals in religion are to be expected in the church. If they existed in the best and purest days of Christianity, they are to be expected now. If by means of revivals the Holy Spirit chose at first to bless the preaching of the truth, the same thing is to be expected still. If in this way the Gospel was at first spread among the nations, then we are to assume that this will be the method in which it will finally spread and triumph in the world.

. . . #4. The Acts of the Apostles contains a record of the organization of the Christian church. That church was founded simply by the preaching of the Truth, and mainly by the simple statement of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The "Acts of the Apostles" contains a high model of preaching, and a pure way of the simple and direct manner of addressing men, which may be expected to be with the Holy Spirit's direction. It has some tender, powerful and eloquent appeals. If a man wishes to learn how to preach and do it well, he can probably acquire it nowhere else so readily as by the prayerful and profound study of this Book. It is here that we see the character of the TRUE church of Jesus Christ. Religion is represented as a work of the heart; the pure and proper effect of truth on the mind. It is completely free from pride and splendor, and from costly and magnificent ceremonies. There is NO apparatus to impress the senses, NO splendor to dazzle, NO external rites, NOTHING adapted to draw the affections of sinners from the pure and spiritual worship of Almighty God. How absolutely opposite to the big show of today's pagan worship!

. . . #5. In this book there are many striking and impressive illustrations of what the TRUE Gospel (2Cor.11:4) is supposed to produce, to make men self-denying, kind and caring. The apostles occupied themselves in the great job of converting the world. To secure that, they cheerfully forsook all (the world, 1 John 2:15-17). Paul became a convert to the Christian faith; and cheerfully he gave up all hopes of promotion and honor, instead welcoming the hard work, persecution and deprivation in foreign lands. The early converts had all things in common (Acts 2:44), and those "which used curious arts" (witchcraft) and were gaining property by a course of iniquity, turned away from their schemes of get-rich quick gain; and burned their books publicly (Acts 19:19). Ananias and Sapphira were punished for lying to the Holy Spirit by hypocritical professed self-denials (Acts 5:1-10). Throughout the Book there are many times of sacrifices and toil to spread the Gospel. These great Truths had clearly and firmly set in the early Christians hearts and minds: that the Gospel was to be preached to all nations; and that whatever stood in the way of that was to be sacrificed; whatever toils and dangers were necessary, were to be borne; and even death itself was cheerfully to be met, it would promote the spread of TRUE religion. This was TRUE Christianity; and this is still the spirit of the Gospel of Christ.

. . . #6. The Book of Acts sheds great light on the Epistles (Paul's letters). The Book of Acts connects the Gospels and the other parts of the New Testament. A clear evidence that the Book of Acts is genuine is that the Books of the New Testament are to be found in the unintended coincidences between the Acts and the Epistles.

. . . #7. This book contains unanswerable evidence of the Truth of the Christian faith. It records the early triumphs of Christianity. Thirty years after the death of Christ, the Gospel had been carried to all parts of the civilized, and to a big part of the uncivilized world. Its progress and its triumphs could not be hidden. Nothing was done in secret. The Gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached in the most fabulous, powerful and corrupt cities. Churches were founded in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi and Rome. The Gospel spread in Arabia, Asia Minor, Greece, Macedon, Italy and Africa. It had made its way over almost seemingly unmovable blockades. It encountered great and deadly opposition. All this was done by servants of God who had neither wealth, armies or allies. With the exception of Paul, they were men without learning (Acts 4:13). They were taught only by the Holy Ghost; armed only with the power of God; victorious only because He was their Captain. The world acknowledged the presence of those messengers of the Highest, and the power endued them from on high. Their success never has been, and never can be accounted for by anything other than God was behind it all. Christianity is TRUE, for the change brought about by the twelve apostles is the most mysterious and wonderful event that has ever been witnessed in this world. Christians today can rest assured that belief in God's only begotten Son (John 3:16), will justify us before a pure, just and holy God (Rom.5:1), and that Heaven will one day be our eternal home (John 14:1-6; Ps.73:24). Christianity (that way, Acts19:23) has proceeded from the almighty and infinitely merciful, Creator God.

Author: The Book of Acts does not specifically identify its author. From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, it is clear that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts. The tradition from the earliest days of the church has been that Luke, a companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11).

Date of Writing: The Book of Acts was likely written between 61-64 A.D.

Theories about who Theophilus was. . . . (See Wikipedia for more).

Tradition asserts that Theophilus was a person, not an honorary title. Some say that this person was a Jew of Alexandria. He was likely a Roman official of some sort, because Luke referred to him as "most excellent" which was a Roman title.

Honorary title . . . tradition maintains that Theophilus was not a person. The word in Greek means "Friend of God" and thus both Luke and Acts were addressed to anyone who fits that description. In this tradition the author's targeted audience, as with all other canonical Gospels, were the learned (academic) but unnamed males and females of the era. Likewise the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and Gospel of James are not addressed to any particular gender, or any specific person.

Jewish priest. A growing belief points to Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37 to 41. If so, Theophilus would have been both a Jewish High Priest and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. Adherents claim that Luke's Gospel was targeted at Sadducee readers. This might explain a few features of Luke. He begins the story with an account of Zacharias the righteous priest who had a Temple vision of an angel (1:5-25). Luke quickly moves to account Mary's purification, Jesus' Temple redemption rituals (2:21-39), and then to Jesus' pilgrimage to the Temple when he was twelve (2:46), possibly implying his bar mitzvah. He makes no mention of Caiaphas' role in Jesus' crucifixion and emphasizes Jesus' literal resurrection (24:39), including an ascension into Heaven as a realm of spiritual existence (24:52; Acts 1:1). Luke also seems to stress Jesus' arguments with the Sadducees on points like legal grounds for divorce, the existence of angels, spirits, and an afterlife (Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead). If this was the case then Luke is trying to use Jesus' rebuttals and teachings to break down Theophilus' Sadducean philosophy, maybe with the hope that Theophilus would use his influence to get the Sadducees to cease their persecution of the Christians. One could also look at Luke's Gospel as an symbolic reference to Jesus as "the man called the Branch" prophesied in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13, who is the ultimate high priest foreshadowed by the Levitical priesthood.

A minority view identifies Theophilus as a later high priest: Mattathias ben Theophilus who served from 65-66. Luke refers to high priest Joseph ben Caiaphas simply as "Caiaphas". Thus, the reasoning goes, Luke used this pattern when addressing Theophilus.

A lawyer. Some believe that Theophilus could have been Paul's lawyer during his trial period in Rome.

Titus Flavius Sabinus. Another tradition claims the person was a converted Roman official, possibly Titus Flavius Sabinus II, a former Prefect of Rome and older brother of future Roman Emperor Vespasian, owing to the honorific, "most excellent" (Luke 1:3). As Titus Flavius Sabinus, Theophilus is given a crucial role in the historical novel The Flames of Rome by Paul Maier (historical novelist), where he is given the dedication of the "Gospel of Luke" and "Acts of the Apostles" by Luke the Evangelist. Maier's extensive research into Biblical and archaeological intertextuality lend credence to this theory, as evidenced in the footnotes of the book.

Book of Acts

Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28

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