Lesson 1 of5
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Summary of Acts

SUMMARY

The Acts of the Apostles portrays Jesus’ followers from their days with the risen Jesus in Jerusalem to Paul’s mission in Rome. Initial chapters focus on the life of the early community of believers in Jerusalem and the work of the Holy Spirit among them. Called, inspired, and even driven by the Holy Spirit, the apostles spread the gospel throughout northern Mediterranean lands. The story of Paul’s call to spread the news of Jesus is the central emphasis of the second half of Acts. The final verse of Acts summarizes the book’s themes: welcome of all, bold proclamation and teaching about the kingdom of God, and God’s plan as unstoppable.

SO WHAT?

Because it provides a perspective on the work of the apostles and Paul that we get nowhere else, the Acts of the Apostles is invaluable as a witness to the development of communities of followers of “the Way” of God disclosed in Jesus. Driving the message of Acts is the conviction that God’s Holy Spirit, now inextricably bound to the risen Jesus, empowers and legitimates the activities of believers at many critical points. The opening up of salvation (being in covenant relationship with the God of the Jews) to all people is at the heart of this book. Around this central theological idea Acts also emphasizes that Christians are called to hospitality, friendship, and boldness in speech and in interpretation of Scripture.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

The Acts of the Apostles is the fifth book in the New Testament. It comes directly after the four Gospels and before the Letters of Paul.

WHO WROTE IT?

Acts was written by the same author who produced the Gospel according to Luke, yet there is no hard evidence about exactly who this person was. From his writings it is clear that he used Greek well, knew the Jewish Scriptures in Greek, was educated, and probably lived and wrote in an urban area.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

Acts was probably written late in the first century C.E. It is likely, but not certain, that the writing of Acts followed that of the Gospel according to Luke, which usually is dated between 75 and 85 C.E., although these dates also are uncertain.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The author of the Gospel according to Luke offers a second book, in which the apostles and other believers, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to Rome, begin to develop communities of believers baptized in the name of Jesus and gathered around prayer, Scripture study, meals, and care for one another.

HOW DO I READ IT?

Read Acts as the history that its author chose and ordered for the sake of his first-century readers. One must read, therefore, knowing that this writer aimed to clarify how the beginnings in Jesus’ day had yielded the increasingly Gentile church that had sprung from Jewish roots, but no longer adhered to Jewish law, yet claimed faithfulness to the God of the Jews. Acts also attempts to make clear that this group of religious women and men were not a danger to civic order, even though the God who sent Jesus for the salvation of all people was the God no other god or earthly ruler could challenge. Acts as history is shaped by these goals.

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