An Introduction to the Book of Acts
The book of Acts begins where Luke's account of the gospel ends--with the ascension of Christ. Before we begin a detailed study of the text, however, let us direct our attention to some introductory matters relative to the book of Acts.

The book we commonly refer to as Acts is known more formally as The Acts of the Apostles. More appropriately, it might be designated as: "Some of the Acts of Some of the Apostles." This is the case since it only records certain actions of certain apostles. The first half of the book tends to focus on the acts of the apostle Peter, and the second half of the book centers on the apostle Paul's actions.

Who wrote the book of Acts? The author, in the ultimate sense, is the Holy Spirit (cf. II Pet. 1:20,21). Although the human writer does not identify himself by name, it is undoubtedly Luke the physician, who frequently traveled with the apostle Paul. A careful noting of the pronoun usage in the book of Acts (e.g., the use of the word "we") reveals when Luke is traveling with Paul. From the opening verses of Chapter 1, we learn that Acts is the second historical account written to Theophilus (the first being Luke's account of the gospel that bears his name). Luke is described as "the beloved physician" (Col. 4:14) and also as a "fellow laborer" (Philemon 24) with Paul. Luke was with Paul even in his last days (cf. II Tim. 4:11).

It is certainly the case that Luke was very careful in his writings to provide a historically accurate account of the events described. Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939), a British scholar, initially questioned the historicity of Acts. But, after years of literally digging up the evidence, Ramsay was forced to offer this remarkable testimony: "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians." Luke provides the only record of the first thirty years of the early church, and for that we are very thankful to have the book of Acts!

The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul under house arrest awaiting trial in Rome (cf. 28:16,30,31). This may indicate that the book was written before Paul's trial and eventual release. If the book was written just before or after Paul's release, then it was likely written in 62 or 63 A.D. from Rome.

An initial purpose of the book of Acts was certainly to assist Theophilus in his learning about Jesus, His apostles, and the early church. We'll say more about this when we study Acts 1:1. Of course, the inspiration and preservation of the book indicates a wider purpose. Here are some other purposes that can be suggested due to the contents of the book:

The value of the book of Acts is also seen in that it provides the historical framework for the rest of the books of the New Testament. From Romans through Revelation, names, places, and events are mentioned upon which light is shed by the historical account of Acts. Without the book of Acts, the accounts of the gospel would leave us wondering: "What happened next?"

The book begins in Jerusalem and ends at Rome. It describes the establishment and growth of the Lord's church throughout the Mediterranean world through the work of the apostles and other Christians under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We read their sermons and see the conversions which resulted as they carried out the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:19,20). We learn how local congregations were established and much about their work, worship, and organization. Primarily, however, we see the faith and efforts of those charged to be witnesses of the Lord and of His resurrection of the dead (cf. Acts 1:8).