Introduction to the Study of the Book of Acts
Today begins a study of the book of Acts in this Daily Bible Study series. We’ll try to put the book of Acts in context to prepare us to take on the text.
The book of Acts was written within the lifetime of most of the eyewitnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those events occurred within the boundaries of Palestine about 2000 years ago. The birth of Jesus is dated between 4 and 6 BC, and his death AD 30 or 33.
Four emperors were on the Roman throne during the span that the book covers: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.
There are three main characters in the book, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. Many might argue that Jesus is not the main character but He is there in every chapter, every verse. Peter and Paul are carrying out His commission, they are preaching His Gospel. Jesus had commanded (1:8), “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The book of Acts is a small look into what was done in carrying out that command. It is the story that God wanted to be preserved. Peter was with Jesus throughout his entire ministry and was a witness to the baptism, transfiguration, arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. He was also witnessing to the miracles of Jesus and to His resurrection. Paul’s introduction to Jesus was on the road to Damascus where he was going to arrest Christians. He was a witness to the risen Lord there and immediately afterward determined to preach the resurrected Christ (Acts 9).
Antiquity tells us that Luke is the human author of the book as he is of the gospel account that bears his name. We would expect that someone close to the events of the book would write the record and Luke was a companion of Paul through much of his journeying. He had also taken upon himself to investigate closely the events to which he was not a witness (Luke 1:1-4). Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) and scholars tell us that Luke often uses medical terms that are common to a physician.
This book serves as a pattern for Christians and searchers for truth today because of the path it outlines to heaven. The examples of conversion within its pages show how men and women became Christians under the preaching of the apostles and prophets. If we obey today what they obeyed then we’ll be saved today just as they were then.
Acts is a record of hardship that was endured by Christians for the faith. This was a testimony to the truth of the Gospel’s claims. Jesus’ ministry was an open one. Many of the events were public. Even the fact of the resurrection was witnessed by five hundred (1 Cor. 15:5) Christians at once. In the face of death sentences and hardship beyond imagination, the Gospel spread (Acts 5:29; 8:4) until Paul could say that every creature had heard (Col. 1:23).