Outline of Acts
1. The Community Gathers in Jerusalem (Acts 1:1-8:3)
Jesus promises his followers that they will witness to him in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and “to the ends of the earth.” The witness in Jerusalem begins at PentecostPentecost was originally a Jewish harvest or pilgrimage festival that fell on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was during this festival that the Holy Spirit visited Jesus’ followers in tongues of fire and caused them to speak in many languages, as reported in Acts… More, and the community of believers organizes itself around prayer, teaching, the sharing of meals, and care for all who are in need.
A. A Mission Command (Acts 1:1-9)
JesusJesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God’s saving act for humanity More spends forty days with his followers, helping them understand that the HolyHoly is a term that originally meant set apart for the worship or service of God. While the term may refer to people, objects, time, or places, holiness in Judaism and Christianity primarily denotes the realm of the divine More Spirit will lead them in unanticipated ways to spread the message of God’s gracious promise of God’s reign inaugurated in Jesus.
B. A Foretaste of God’s Reign (Acts 1:10-2:47)
After Matthias is chosen by God to take Judas’s place among the Twelve, the Holy Spirit comes upon the Twelve and others gathered with them on the day of Pentecost. The coming of the Spirit leads to new believers and an ideal way of living together in community.
C. God’s Word Is Boldly Preached in Word and Deed (Acts 3:1-4:37)
In the name of Jesus, PeterThe disciple who denied Jesus during his trial but later became a leader in proclaiming Jesus More and John heal a man born lame and preach the good news of God’s universal restoration. After they are questioned, warned, and released by religious authorities, they and their own community experience the power of the Holy Spirit that will enable them to continue to speak the word of God confidently.
D. Internal and External Struggles in the Young Community of Believers (Acts 5:1-42)
Ananias and Sapphira conspire to lie to the community but die as a result of lying to the Holy Spirit. The disciples’ public witness gets them into trouble again with the religious authorities, whose warnings are met with this famous reply from Peter: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
E. Stephen’s Call as Deacon“Deacon” originally meant “one who serves” or “ministers.” In the early church deacons served in leadership roles; later they became a specific rank of clergy. Today some churches ordain deacons while others commission them to serve in specific ways such as worship, pastoral care, and… More, Brave Speech, and Death (Acts 6:1-8:3)
StephenThe first Christian martyr More, one of those chosen to assist in the work of the community, enrages the religious leaders with his speech at a trial occasioned by jealousy and carried out through false witnesses. He is martyred and dies with a vision of Christ, just as readers are introduced to SaulThe first king of Israel More (who will later be known as PaulA Christian missionary who once persecuted the church More) as one of those who approves of Stephen’s stoning.
2. Witness to the Gospel Extends into Samaria (Acts 8:4-40)
In the stories of Simon the magician and the Ethiopian eunuchAn eunuch is a castrated male, often in the service of a person in power. While the Bible mentions eunuchs many times, the most memorable eunuch is the one who was baptized by Philip in Acts 8. More, the Spirit empowers Philip and Peter to preach and do miracles in Samaria and beyond. Simon reveals how the news of Jesus can be welcomed and yet misperceived, while the baptismJesus was baptized (literally, “dipped”) in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer, at which time he was acclaimed from heaven as God’s Son, the Beloved. Much later baptism became one of the sacraments of the Church, the action by which a person is incorporated… More of the Ethiopian shows a thoughtful and humble joy.
3. Saul, Soon to Be Known as Paul, Is Called to Witness (Acts 9:1-31)
With the help of AnaniasThree different people in the New Testament are named Ananias. More, BarnabasChristian missionary and companion of Paul on his early journeys. More, and other believers who dare to trust God’s surprising choices, Saul is launched on a mission to proclaim Jesus.
4. Witness to the Gentiles and Calling to the Larger World (Acts 9:32-15:35)
After Peter raises a widowA widow is a woman whose spouse has died, often plunging her into poverty and putting her in a vulnerable position in society. Jesus, in his concern for the poor, regards widows with compassion and concern. More from the dead, he takes the good news of God’s mercyMercy is a term used to describe leniency or compassion. God’s mercy is frequently referred to or invoked in both the Old and New Testaments. More in Jesus the Christ to Gentiles, a step that requires him and other believers to abandon the scriptural command of God about distinguishing between clean and uncleanIn Hebrew law many regulations warned against impurity. Unclean things were numerous and included leprosy, menstruating women, dead bodies, shell fish, and pigs. More. The community’s decision to baptize Gentiles without expecting them to keep purity laws or practice circumcisionCircumcision is an act of cutting off part of a male (or female) sex organ for religious or health reasons. In the Bible circumcision was performed on males to indicate inclusion into the Jewish religious community. Some church calendars commemorate January 1 as the Circumcision… More is a source of tension throughout the rest of Acts.
A. Creating a New Community of Jewish and GentileA gentile is anyone who is not Jewish. The term, which is derived from words that the Bible uses to denote the “nations” of the world, reflects beliefs that God had designated Israel as a nation that would be distinct from others, and a blessing… More Believers (Acts 9:32-11:18)
Peter is called to raise Tabitha/Dorcas from death; then, through a series of providential encounters and the work of the Holy Spirit, he is summoned to the home of CorneliusAn early Gentile convert to the Christian faith. More, a Roman centurionA centurion was a Roman officer who commanded a military unit made up of one hundred men. Jesus healed a centurion’s servant, and a centurion, at Jesus’ crucifixion, acclaimed him to be God’s Son. More and a Gentile. After Cornelius and his householdA household is a living unit comprised of all the persons who live in one house. A household would embrace all the members of a family, including servants and slaves. In the book of Acts, stories are told of various persons and their households, like… More are baptized, Peter and other Jewish believers remain with him and eat in his home, acts that Peter must defend when he is back home in Jerusalem, where his story is accepted and generates praise of God.
B. The Church Grows in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30)
Because of the flight of the persecuted believers from Jerusalem, the word about Jesus spreads into new territory, taking root in Antioch to the joy of Barnabas and the Jerusalem church.
C. King Herod: Persecutor and Blasphemer (Acts 12:1-25)
Herod Agrippa I persecutes the church by rounding up its leaders, including Peter and James. While Peter escapes custody and flees, Herod dies in his arrogance.
D. Barnabas and Paul Travel to New Places (Acts 13:1-14:28)
Barnabas and Paul visit a number of Mediterranean cities from Pisidian Antioch to Iconium, then Lystra, and back again. Paul’s preaching in synagogues and among Jews leads some to believe and others to resist the message about Jesus.
E. The First Great Council (Acts 15:1-35)
Believers gather in Jerusalem to address the question of whether it is still required that baptized people be circumcised (if male) and keep the purity laws. The council’s decision to demand only the most basic food laws and not circumcision derives from its understanding of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, and it is a decision that creates both flexibility and difficulties for new communities of believers.
5. Paul’s Witness in Cities around the Aegean Sea (Acts 15:36-21:16)
Paul travels to the major urban centers of Asia Minor and the eastern areas of Greece, preaching the gospel wherever he goes. Reception varies, yet small communities of believers are established in many places.
A. Paul Visits Syria and Cilicia with SilasChristian missionary who was imprisoned with Paul at Philippi More (Acts 15:36-41)
After a disagreement, Paul travels without Barnabas or John Mark.
B. Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:1-40)
Through a vision, Paul, Silas, and others are called to Macedonia, where they convert a number of people to belief in Jesus, including LydiaA rich woman who sold purple goods in the city of Philippi More, a seller of purple goods, and her household, as well as a jailer and his household. Paul insists on his rights as a Roman citizen to decent treatment and is sent speedily on his way by the Philippians.
C. Paul and Silas in Thessalonica and Athens (Acts 17:1-33)
While preaching in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas meet opposition from some Jews and move on to Athens. In Athens, although many scoff at him, Paul persuades some people of the good news about Jesus’ resurrection and promised return.
D. Paul in Corinth and Ephesus (Acts 18:1-19:41)
Trouble develops when some of the Jews in Corinth bring Paul before a Roman proconsul named Gallio, but Gallio dismisses the attacks on Paul as a matter of theological distinctions with no relevance to civil issues. Paul leaves for Ephesus, where he and the Holy Spirit make clear that miracles can be done only by those who believe in Jesus’ name, which is stronger than any other.
E. Paul Sets Sail for Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-21:16)
Paul raises Eutychus from death, then has a final conversation with the eldersElders are leaders who exercise wisdom or leadership by virtue of their age and experience. In the New Testament elders, along with the chief priests and scribes, constituted the primary opposition to Jesus when he taught in Jerusalem. More of the church in Ephesus, who meet him in Miletus and are brought to tears by his words. Paul sails on toward Jerusalem and is warned by a prophet in Caesarea that he will be in danger.
6. Paul’s Witness in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-23:30)
Although he knows the danger of facing the opposition to his work among the Gentiles, Paul returns to Jerusalem to speak of his mission and bring offerings from assemblies of believers from the north and west. Although he is welcomed by the leaders and many others, he must defend himself before the people and the Jewish council of elders.
7. Paul’s Witness to Gentiles and Kings (Acts 23:31-26:32)
Before the Roman officials Felix, FestusRoman procurator over Judea, Festus heard Paul’s defense and sent him under guard to Rome More, and finally King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II), Paul defends himself against charges brought by Jewish leaders. The officials perceive his case as a dispute among the Jews about their religious beliefs and therefore determine that Paul does not deserve punishment, even though he must be sent on to Rome because of his appeal to Caesar.
8. Paul’s Journey to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:31)
A dangerous storm at sea, shipwreck, sojourn on Malta where Paul heals many ills, and welcome outside Rome precede his two-year stay there. Acts ends with Paul preaching in Rome, and the book’s final word is a Greek term meaning “without hindrance,” which describes the way that God’s story goes forward no matter what difficulties are encountered.