A Preface to The Acts of the Apostles
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Luke’s Preface – Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1
Issues raised in his preface
1 The Title of The Acts
The Acts of the Holy Spirit
The Kingdom of God
2 The Aim of The Acts
An orderly account of the origins and early spread of Christianity
An apologetic emphasis: Christianity was not politically dangerous
A reconciliation of Gentile and Jewish Christianity
An answer to Jewish opposition
A statement of the work of the Risen Lord by His Spirit through the Church
3 The Author of The Acts
Principal reasons supporting Lukan authorship:
1 Acts is by the same author as the Gospel of Luke
2 Similar style and vocabulary
3 Use of medical term in Acts
4 Luke was a companion of Paul
5 The “we-sections” in Acts suggest Luke
6 Luke’s name is missing: another would refer to him
7 Luke with Paul in Rome, where he could have completed the book.
8. Luke, the man: Gentile; physician, historian, spiritual
Two others theories regarding authorship
4 The Date of The Acts
Arguments favouring an early date, especially in the 60s
1 Conclusion of the story before the death of Paul
2. Luke’s two years in Rome would allow him to complete the work
3 The vivid descriptions of the “we-sections” suggests immediate recording
4 Details regarding Caesarea would have been collected or recorded early
5 No mention of the devastation of Jerusalem in 70 AD
6 No reference to Paul’s letters
Arguments favouring a date about 75-85
1 Passages in Luke’s gospel which preceded the Acts
2 Synoptic issues affecting Luke’s earlier work
Arguments favouring a later date, about 95–100 AD
Luke may have used Josephus’ history published about 93 AD
5 The Sources of The Acts
1 The historical sections:
records in Jerusalem and Antioch
2 The biographical sections:
6 The Setting of The Acts
Alexander’s conquests – a cosmopolitan society
The spread and use of the Koiné Greek – a common language
Stable world government
The Roman Peace
The System of Roads
The Slave Economy
The Jews :
Herod and his sons
The Roman Procurators: Pilate, Felix and Festus
The Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees
The Jews of the Dispersion
Paul in this setting.
7 The Contents of The Acts
Historical and Biographical
Preparation for the witness (1:1-26)
The witness in Jerusalem (2:1 – 8:3)
The witness in Judea and Samaria (8:4 – 12:25)
The witness to Jews and Gentiles (13:1 – 28:31)
A Comparison and General Summary
An accurate history
Luke’s closing sentences
Translations of Acts 1:1-9
Good News Bible
Today’s New International Version
J B Phillips Translation
The Amplified Bible
Buk Baibel (PNG)
Inter-linear Greek-English New Testament
Renewal Journals and Books
Luke and The Acts are two volumes of one astounding history – the story of Jesus and his church. Luke, “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14), often travelled with Paul in their pioneering missionary journeys. Luke gives us a concise preface in the beginning of his writings, and then introduces the second part of his story with a short introduction linking the two.
Luke’s own preface reads: “The Author to Theophilus: Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events that have happened among us, following the traditions handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants of the Gospel. And so I in my turn, your Excellency, as one who has gone over the whole course of these events in detail, have decided to write a connected narrative for you, so as to give you authentic knowledge about the matters of which you have been informed” (Luke 1:1-4, New English Bible).
Continuing his connected narrative, he commences part two with a sentence linking both: “In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up into heaven” (Acts 1:1-2, NEB).
In his preface to the combined work, the author:
* revealed his subject – the Word;
* gave the sources of his information – eyewitnesses and ministers;
* described his method – accurate tracing of the course of all things, writing them in order;
* and declared the purpose – that of giving certainty to Theophilus (Morgan, p.7).
So here in my book we explore these issues mentioned by Luke himself, and examine the title, aim, author, date, sources, setting, and contents of The Acts of the Apostles.
What a great story! Luke traces the amazing growth of Jesus’ church from its beginnings in Jerusalem to its impact throughout the Roman Empire.
That story continues today. We are part of it. The God they worshipped is our God. The Lord they served is our Lord. The Holy Spirit they obeyed is in and with us.
This story of the Acts of the Holy Spirit continues today through the same Spirit of God. It fulfils Jesus’ last promise: You will receive power then the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The following sample verses describe the acts of the Holy Spirit in both Luke and The Acts.
The Acts of the Holy Spirit
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1)
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region (Luke 4:14).
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:18-19).
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight (Luke 10:21).
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).
This crucial theme continues in The Acts.
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen (Acts 1:1-2).
John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me 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 with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business (Acts 6:3).
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (Acts 6:10).
But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).
Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17).
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot” (Acts 8:29).
Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39).
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied (Acts 9:31).
While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you (Acts 10:19).
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38).
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word (Acts 10:44).
And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also (Acts 10:45).
Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? (Acts 10:47)
Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house (Acts 11:12).
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning (Acts 11:15).
Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 11:16).
For he [Barnabas] was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:24).
Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:28).
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus (Acts 13:4).
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).
So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us (Acts 15:8).
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things (Acts 15:28).
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6).
After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them (Acts 16:7).
When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 18:5).
He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:2, 6).
When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).
And see, now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there (Acts 20:22).
the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me (Acts 20:23).
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11).
So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, ‘ Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive …”’” (Acts 28:25-26)
Then Luke concludes his story abruptly with, “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”
His closing reference to the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ brings us full circle to how Luke began The Acts. He tells us that the risen Lord taught his followers about the kingdom of God for 40 days and then promised them the power to continue teaching about the kingdom and demonstrating the kingdom, as Jesus had done.
This focus on the kingdom of God is another major theme in both Luke’s Gospel and The Acts.
Just as Jesus taught and demonstrated God’s kingdom on earth in the power of the Holy Spirit, so did his followers.
Author of A Preface to The Acts
Dr Geoff Waugh is the founding editor of the Renewal Journal and taught Ministry and Mission and Revivals at Trinity Theological College (part of the School of Theology at Griffith University) and at Christian Heritage College in Brisbane, Australia.
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