Lesson 1 of 6
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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 and associates spread the gospel throughout the eastern Mediterranean world. Relating Paul’s dramatic call to spread the news of Jesus (9:1‒18; 22:3‒21; 26:1‒23) 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, theBook of Acts of the Apostles is invaluable as a witness to the development 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 of salvation (being in covenant relationship with the God of Israel) to all people is the beating heart of this book. Around this central theological idea Acts also emphasizes that believers are called to hospitality, friendship, and boldness in proclamation and 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 (see Acts 1:1), yet there is no hard evidence about exactly who this person was. The texts of Luke and Acts imply a sophisticated, educated writer well-versed in the Greek language and the Jewish Scriptures in Greek, who probably lived and wrote in an urban area.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

Acts was probably written late in the first century C.E. after the Gospel according to Luke, which many scholars date between 75 and 85 C.E. Some scholars, however, argue for an earlier date in the 60s (before Paul’s death) or a later one in the first half of the second century.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The story of Acts tracks the progress of the Christ-centered gospel from the earliest Jesus community in Jerusalem (following Jesus’ ascension) outward to parts of Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome.  Along the way, communities of believers were established and developed, baptized in the name of Jesus and gathered around prayer, Scripture study, meals, and care for one another.

HOW DO I READ IT?

Acts should be read as history interpreted from the author’s theological perspectives. The writer’s goals included clarifying how the beginnings of the Jesus movement yielded an increasingly Gentile membership that remained faithful to the God of Israel  but no longer strictly adhered to Jewish law. Acts also attempts to make clear that this group of religious women and men did not pose a major threat to civic order, even though the God who sent Jesus for the salvation of all people was the supreme God no earthly ruler could challenge, and in their own way the missionaries of Jesus were “turning the world upside down” (17:6).