Lesson 2 of5
In Progress

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 Pentecost, 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)

Jesus spends forty days with his followers, helping them understand that the Holy 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, Peter 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, Brave Speech, and Death (Acts 6:1-8:3)

Stephen, 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 Saul (who will later be known as Paul) 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 eunuch, 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 baptism 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 Ananias, Barnabas, 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 widow from the dead, he takes the good news of God’s mercy 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 unclean. The community’s decision to baptize Gentiles without expecting them to keep purity laws or practice circumcision is a source of tension throughout the rest of Acts.

A. Creating a New Community of Jewish and Gentile 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 Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a Gentile. After Cornelius and his household 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 Silas (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 Lydia, 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 elders 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, Festus, 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.