Introduction to Acts
The book of Acts, a historical narrative of the days of the early church, starts its accounts within the first 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The publication includes eyewitness accounts of Jesus after His resurrection, His ascension into heaven, and the work of the apostles as they began to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. The book introduces a core Bible character in the Apostle Paul and leads the reader on a path of ministry that all started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Although the author of the book of Acts does not mention himself by name, the writing is commonly attributed to Luke. Acts opens with a reference to the authors “former account,” written to a man named Theophilus, the same man who the book of Luke is addressed.
Along with missing the opportunity to include his name in his work, the author also did not feel the need to put the date on the top of his paper. This leaves us to search the evidence found within the writings to propose a date that the book of Acts was written. Connecting the dots within the text to outer historical markers, it is widely accepted that the publication was written between A.D. 61 and 64.
What you will read
The book of Acts is filled with wonderful biblical history that includes the Holy Spirit being given to Christ’s apostles, the birth of the early church, and the arrest of Peter and John. You will also read about Steven who was the first martyr, the conversion of Saul to Paul, Peter’s escape from prison, the Jerusalem conference, and Paul’s first, second, and third missionary trips. The text ends abruptly with the Apostle Paul inprisoned in Rome, and makes no mention of his execution, which took place in A.D. 61.
Definition of Terms in Acts
Sabbath Day’s Journey (Acts 1:12) The distance a Jew could walk on the Sabbath day without breaking The Law (see below). The distance is usually determined to be about a thousand yards, or about a half mile.
Disciples (Acts 1:15) A disciple is a student or pupil of a teacher. In the Bible, the term is most used to describe as a follower of Jesus Christ. Although the term, at times, is used to refer to the 12 apostles, in general it refers to a larger group of Jesus’ followers, such as the women who stood at Jesus’ cross and discovered the empty tomb.
Apostles (Acts 1:26) A person who Jesus has appointed to do specific tasks, much like a messenger. The word is used to describe the 12 disciples who Jesus sent out two- by-two to preach His message (Mark 3:14). It was the same disciples, minus Judas Iscariot, who were sent out by Jesus after His resurrection to be witnesses throughout the world.
Casting of Lots (Acts 1:26) A way of making decisions in biblical times, similar to drawing straws today. Proverbs 16:33 states that God approved of this method for determining His will due to His providence. After Pentecost, the casting of lots fell out of vogue as more direct access to God’s will was available through the Holy Spirit.
Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1) Also known as the feast of harvest, this Jewish observance was held in the third month on the 50th day after the Sabbath of the Passover. At this Pentecost (Acts 2), the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles, and men from every nation “heard them speak in his own language.”
Proselyte (Acts 2:10) Someone who converts from one religion’s beliefs to another. In Acts, the term is used to describe a Gentile (non-Jew) who has converted to the teachings of the Jewish faith. Some Gentile proselytes who converted to Judaism observed rituals including regulations on the Sabbath, foods, and circumcision.
Exhorted (Acts 2:40) A message designed to motivate a listener to a specific action. This message may be a warning or encouragement, but always is intended to deliver a result. The Apostle Paul commonly exhorted others to stand strong in their calling to live for Jesus Christ.
Sadducees (Acts 4:1) Members of a Jewish party that opposed Jesus and His ministry. The members of this group came from the leading families, and were commonly priests, aristocrats, and high-profile merchants. Sadducees denied bodily resurrection and did not believe the immortality of the soul, since resurrection and immortality were not mentioned in the law of Moses.
Scribes (Acts 4:5) Originally people who would copy the Hebrew scripture (Old Testament) by hand in a scriptorium, they were the original Xerox machines. In New Testament times, scribes had become experts in the Mosaic law (the law of Moses, see The Law below) due to their years of study and interpretation of the Old Testament books. In Jesus’ day, most scribes were associated with a group called the Pharisees. Many of the scribes were also members of the Sanhedrin, the highest legal and administrative group governing the Jewish state under Roman rule.
Pharisees (Acts 5:34) A religious and political party often unfriendly to Jesus due to the disparity between Jesus’ claims about Himself and His disregard for observances of the law. The Pharisees followed the customs and ceremonies of the written law and lived on the authority of their own oral traditions.
The Law (Acts 5:34) The rules God gave to Israel through Moses on Mt Sinai. This system, or way of life for Israel, contained requirements, blessings, and cursings. There are a total of 613 laws found throughout the Pentateuch, or the first 5 books of the Old Testament.
Gentiles (Acts 4:27) A term originally used by the Jews to describe foreigners, or anyone not of Jewish dissent. Because of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, a sense of exclusivism developed causing further separation between Jews and Gentiles.
Getting to Know Peter
Peter is a man who became a disciple of Jesus Christ, and later an apostle. He had a quick tounge that often got him in trouble, but he was certainly one that was deeply loved by Christ.
Peter became part of Jesus’ inner circle very early in His ministry. Peter was there when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead in Mark 5, and he was also there at Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17. But Peter may be most remembered by denying Christ three times during the night of Christ’s trial before the crucifixion. Jesus showed His devotion to Peter by singling him out by name after His resurrection to show Peter how much He loved him.
At Pentecost, in Acts 2, it is Peter who is so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he stands up to preach to the crowd. Peter was also the disciple who took a step out of his boat and walked on the water with Jesus. Many scholars believe that Peter was the eyewitness source for the Gospel of Mark. Peter also wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter of the New Testament.