Who wrote it?
Acts does not specifically identify its author. From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, it is clear that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts. The tradition from the earliest days of the church has been that Luke, a companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11).
When(ish) was it written?
Acts was likely written between AD 61-64.
Why was it written?
Acts was written to provide a history of the early church. The emphasis of the book is the arrival of the Holy Spirit and being empowered to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. Acts records the apostles being Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the surrounding world. The book sheds light on the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowers, guides, teaches, and serves as our Counselor. Reading through Acts, we are enlightened and encouraged by the many miracles that were being performed during this time by the disciples Peter, John, and Paul. Acts emphasizes the importance of obedience to God’s Word, and the transformation that occurs as a result of knowing Christ. There are also many references to those that rejected the truth that the disciples preached about the Lord Jesus Christ. The lust for power, greed, and many other vices of the devil are evidenced in the book of Acts.
Some Key Verses
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
– Acts 1:8
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
– Acts 2:4
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
– Acts 4:12
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
– Acts 4:19-20
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
– Acts 9:3-6
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
– Acts 16:31
A Quick Summary
Acts gives the history of the Christian church and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as the mounting opposition to it. Although many faithful servants were used to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, was the most influential. Before he was converted, Paul took great pleasure in persecuting and killing Christians. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-31) is a highlight of Acts. After his conversion, he went to the opposite extreme of loving God and preaching His Word with power, fervency, and the Holy Spirit. The disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses in Jerusalem (chapters 1–8:3), Judea and Samaria (chapters 8:4–12:25), and to the ends of the earth (chapters 13:1–28). Included in the last section are Paul’s three missionary journeys (13:1–21:16), his trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea (21:17–26:32), and his final journey to Rome (27:1–28:31).
Old Testament Ties
Acts serves as a transition from the Old Covenant of law-keeping to the New Covenant of grace and faith. This transition is seen in several key events in Acts. First, there was a change in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whose primary function in the Old Testament was the external “anointing” of God’s people, among them Moses (Numbers 11:17), Othniel (Judges 3:8-10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), and Saul (1 Samuel 10:6-10). After the resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit came to live in the very hearts of believers (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16), guiding and empowering them from within.
Paul’s conversion was a dramatic example of the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. Paul admitted that, prior to meeting the risen Savior, he was the most zealous of Israelites and was blameless “as to righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6), going so far as to persecute those who taught salvation by grace through faith in Christ. But after his conversion, he realized that all his legalistic efforts were worthless, saying he considered them “rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8-9). Now we, too, live by faith, not by the works of the Law, so there is no boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Peter’s vision of the sheet in Acts 10:9-15 is another sign of the transition from the Old Covenant—in this case the dietary laws particular to the Jews—to the New Covenant’s unity of Jew and Gentile in one universal Church. The “clean” animals symbolizing the Jews and the “unclean” animals symbolizing the Gentiles were both declared “cleansed” by God through the sacrificial death of Christ. No longer under the Old Covenant of law, both are now united in the New Covenant of grace through faith in the shed blood of Christ on the cross.
What does this mean?
God can do amazing things through ordinary people when He empowers them through His Spirit. God essentially took a group of fisherman and used them to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). God took a Christian-hating murderer and changed him into the greatest Christian evangelist, the author of almost half the books of the New Testament. God used persecution to cause the quickest expansion of a “new faith” in the history of the world. God can, and does, do the same through us—changing our hearts, empowering us by the Holy Spirit, and giving us a passion to spread the good news of salvation through Christ. If we try to accomplish these things in our own power, we will fail. Like the disciples in Acts 1:8, we are to wait for the empowering of the Spirit, then go in His power to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Acts 17, 1 Peter 3:15. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
What person (or people) are you thankful for because their “go” was used by God to help you hear about Jesus? What sacrifices did they make so you could hear the Gospel? How have you shown appreciation for them?
What hesitations do you have about “going” to others with the Gospel? What holds you back? How does the persistent zeal of Paul and the other early disciples inspire or motivate you?
Read 1 Peter 3:15 again. What are some things that are true in our culture right now that make it difficult for people to believe that Jesus is the hope of the world? What are some specific ways you can address those issues as you aim to share Jesus with others?
Who are you praying for, that they would hear about Jesus and choose to follow Him? Take a few moments to pray together with your Small Group, that together you would be able to influence others to become followers of Jesus.