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Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey

Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey

The Acts of the Apostles

by Timothy Kenney, PhD

Church Fathers teach that the Acts of the Apostles was written by St Luke toward the end of the first century, as the second part of his history for Theophilus about Christ and His Church. The book begins with an account of the Lord's Ascension and the election of Matthias to take the place of Judas as a member of the twelve apostles. Then follows the record of the events of the day of Pentecost when the promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples of Christ empowering them to preach the gospel of new life in the resurrected Savior to the people of Jerusalem.

Traditionally, the book of Acts stands out as unique among the New Testament books for it alone provides a bridge for the other books of the New Testament. As Luke’s second treatise, Acts continues what Jesus “began to do and to teach” (1:1) as recorded in the Gospels. It begins with Christ’s Ascension and continues to the period of the New Testament Epistles. In it we have the continuation of the ministry of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles who went forth preaching and establishing the church, the body of Christ. Acts is the historical link between the Gospels and the Epistles. Not only does it make this bridge for us, but it provides an account of the life of Paul and gives us the historical occasion for his letters. In the process, Acts recounts the first 30 years of the life of the church.

Therefore, the first chapters of the book tell the story of the first days of the Church in Jerusalem and provide us with a vivid picture of the primitive Christian community being built up through the work of the apostles. It tells of the people being baptized and endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in Christ, and continuing steadfast in their devotion "to the apostles' doctrine and fellowship (communion), to the breaking of the bread and the prayers" (2:42).

Following the description of the martyrdom of the deacon Stephen, the first to give his life for Christ, Acts tells of the conversion of the persecutor Saul into the zealous apostle Paul, and records the events by which the first gentiles were brought into the Church by the direct action of God. There then follows an account of the first missionary activities of Saints Paul and Barnabas, and the famous fifteenth chapter in which the first council of the Church in Jerusalem is described, the council which established the conditions under which the gentiles could enter the Church relative to the Mosaic law which all of the Jewish Christians were then keeping.

The final half of the book describes the missionary activities of the apostle Paul through Syria and Cilicia, into Macedonia and Greece and back again through Ephesus to Jerusalem. It then gives the account of Saint Paul's arrest in Jerusalem, and his defense before the authorities there. The book ends with the description of Saint Paul's journey to Rome for trial, closing with the information that "he lived there two whole years ... preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord quite openly and unhindered" to those who came to him in his house of arrest (28:30).

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A general outline is provided below:

Acts can be naturally outlined in four areas:

I. The Witness in Jerusalem (1:1-6:7)

1:1-1:5 ------------ The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1:6-1:11 ------------ The Ascension of Jesus
1:12-1:26 ------------ Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

2:1-2:13 ------------ The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2:14-2:36 ------------ Peter Addresses the Crowd
2:37-2:42 ------------ The First Converts
2:43-2:47 ------------ Life among the Believers

3:1-3:10 ------------ Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar
3:11-3:26 ------------ Peter Speaks in Solomon's Portico

4:1-4:22 ------------ Peter and John before the Council
4:23-4:31 ------------ The Believers Pray for Boldness
4:32-4:37 ------------ The Believers Share Their Possessions

5:1-5:11 ------------ Ananias and Sapphira
5:12-5:16 ------------ The Apostles Heal Many
5:17-5:42 ------------ The Apostles Are Persecuted

6:1-6:7 ------------ Seven Chosen to Serve

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II. The Witness in all Judea and Samaria (6:8-9:31)

6:8-6:15 ------------ The Arrest of Stephen

7:1-7:53 ------------ Stephen's Speech to the Council
7:54-7:60 ------------ The Stoning of Stephen

8:1-8:3 ------------ Saul Persecutes the Church
8:4-8:25 ------------ Philip Preaches in Samaria
8:26-8:40 ------------ Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

9:1-9:19 ------------ The Conversion of Saul
9:20-9:22 ------------ Saul Preaches in Damascus
9:23-9:25 ------------ Saul Escapes from the Jews
9:26-9:31 ------------ Saul in Jerusalem

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III. The Witness to the Extremity of the Earth (9:32-28:31)

9:32-9:35 ------------ The Healing of Aeneas
9:36-9:42 ------------ Peter in Lydda and Joppa

10:1-10:33 ------------ Peter and Cornelius
10:34-10:43 ------------ Gentiles Hear the Good News
10:44-10:48 ------------ Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

11:1-11:18 ------------ Peter's Report to the Church
11:19-11:30 ------------ The Church in Antioch

12:1-12:5 ------------ James Killed and Peter Imprisoned
12:6-12:19 ------------ Peter Delivered from Prison
12:20-12:25 ------------ The Death of Herod

13:1-13:3 ------------ Barnabas and Saul Commissioned
13:4-13:12 ------------ The Apostles Preach in Cyprus
13:13-13:52 ------------ Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia

14:1-14:7 ------------ Paul and Barnabas in Iconium
14:8-14:20 ------------ Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe
14:21-14:28 ------------ The Return to Antioch in Syria

15:1-15:21 ------------ The Council at Jerusalem
15:22-15:35 ------------ The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers
15:36-15:41 ------------ Paul and Barnabas Separate

16:1-16:5 ------------ Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16:6-16:10 ------------ Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia
16:11-16:15 ------------ The Conversion of Lydia
16:16-16:40 ------------ Paul and Silas in Prison

17:1-17:9 ------------ The Uproar in Thessalonica
17:10-17:15 ------------ Paul and Silas in Beroea
17:16-17:33 ------------ Paul in Athens

18:1-18:17 ------------ Paul in Corinth
18:18-18:23 ------------ Paul's Return in Antioch
18:24-18:28 ------------ Ministry of Apollos

19:1-19:10 ------------ Paul in Ephesus
19:11-19:20 ------------ The Sons of Sceva
19:21-19:41 ------------ The Riot in Ephesus

20:1-20:6 ------------ Paul Goes to Macedonia and Greece
20:7-20:12 ------------ Paul's Farewell Visit to Troas
20:13-20:16 ------------ The Voyage from Troas to Miletus
20:17-20:38 ------------ Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

21:1-21:16 ------------ Paul's Journey to Jerusalem
21:17-21:26 ------------ Paul Visits James at Jerusalem
21:27-21:36 ------------ Paul Arrested in the Temple
21:37-21:40 ------------ Paul Defends Himself

22:1-22:5 ------------ Paul Defends Himself
22:6-22:16 ------------ Paul Tells of His Conversion
22:17-22:21 ------------ Paul Sent to the Gentiles
22:22-22:29 ------------ Paul and the Roman Tribune
22:30 ------------------- Paul before the Council

23:1-23:11 ------------ Paul before the Council
23:12-23:22 ------------ The Plot to Kill Paul 23:23-23:35 ------------ Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

24:1-24:9 ------------ Paul before Felix at Caesarea
24:10-24:23 ------------ Paul's Defense before Felix
24:24-24:27 ------------ Paul Held in Custody

25:1-25:12 ------------ Paul Appeals to the Emperor 25:13-25:22 ------------ Festus Consults King Agrippa
25:23-25:27 ------------ Paul Brought before Agrippa

26:1-26:11 ------------ Paul Defends Himself before Agrippa
26:12-26:18 ------------ Paul Tells of His Conversion
26:19-26:23 ------------ Paul Tells of His Preaching
26:24-26:32 ------------ Paul Appeals to Agrippa to Believe

27:1-27:12 ------------ Paul Sails for Rome
27:13-27:38 ------------ The Storm of Sea 27:39-27:44 ------------ The Shipwreck

28:1-28:10 ------------ Paul on the Island of Malta
28:11-28:16 ------------ Paul Arrives at Rome
28:17-28:22 ------------ Paul and Jewish Leaders in Rome
28:23-28:31 ------------ Paul Preaches in Rome

The purpose of the Book of Acts may be stated as follows: To explain with the Gospel of Luke the orderly and sovereignly directed progress of the kingdom message from Jews to Gentiles, and from Jerusalem to Rome. In Luke’s Gospel the question is answered, “If Christianity has its roots in the Old Testament and in Judaism, how did it become a worldwide religion?” The Book of Acts continues in the vein of the Gospel of Luke to answer the same problem

The resurrected Savior is the central theme of the sermons and defenses in Acts. The Old Testament Scriptures, the historical resurrection, the apostolic testimony, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit all bear witness that Jesus is both Lord and Christ (see Peter’s sermons in 2:22-36; 10:34-43). “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (10:43). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

We now turn to St. Paul's letter to the Romans in our next article.

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