Historical Context: The Book of Acts, sometimes known as The Acts of the Apostles, was written between 62 and 70 A.D. To better understand the meaning behind Acts, one should look at the history and what led to the writing of this book. It was written as the second half of a two-part series, with Luke being the first half. Without mentioning himself in either of his writings, it is believed that Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, as mentioned in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon verse 24, was the author of both Luke and Acts. We are told that Luke wrote or dedicated both works to Theophilus (meaning a friend of God). Back in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1, Theophilus is also referred to as “most excellent,” which in Greek is Kratistos, to show an expression of honor. The Roman Empire social ladder was divided into four groups: 1) Phelps (common people), 2) Knights (people of affluence, dignity, high social standing), and 3) Senators (highest accolades of government). “Kratistos is the epithet used for Felix, The Roman governor of Judea, found later to describe Theophilus.” It is believed that Theophilus was a Christian convert, a master to a slave/Greek servant named Luke, who also happened to be a doctor. Luke was then made free or given manumission, so with gratitude to Theophilus, he wrote his gospel. Luke wrote the Book of Acts to continue the story of Jesus. It was seen as an outline of the Lord’s, like John when writing the book of Revelation. When Luke had written the book of Acts, the Roman Empire had already conquered the Mediterranean world and was reaching present-day Britain, North Africa, and some of Asia. So during the early church, the empire would have still been growing and had influences of the pagan world. The book of Acts is a historical account of the early church and the spread of Christianity. It is a record of the apostles' work and the founding of the Christian church. The book of Acts shows how the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to preach the gospel and how the church grew as a result. The book of Acts also shows how the early church dealt with persecution and how they overcame it. The book of Acts is a valuable resource for Christians today as it shows how the early church dealt with issues that are still relevant today. As William Barclay writes, “The book of Acts is a book of the triumph of the gospel. It shows how the gospel overcame every obstacle that was put in its way. It shows how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of the apostles and the early Christians to bring about the spread of the gospel. It shows how the early Christians were able to maintain that unity of spirit and purpose essential for an effective witness.”
Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976. Print.
Buttrick, George Arthur. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Abingdon, 1962. Print.
Criswell, W. A. "Great Godly Expectations." Acts, an Exposition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1978. 13-18. Print.
Drane, John William. Early Christians. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.
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