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Reading the Book of Acts

Date: 
Sunday, 15 October 2017

How should we approach the Book of Acts? Even as we consider God’s promises and commands to us in this Book, note that it is the second volume of Luke’s work, addressed to Theophilus, after the Gospel of Luke. Various titles have been suggested for it: “The Acts of the Apostles”, “The Acts of Peter and Paul”, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”, or more comprehensively by John Stott, “The Continuing Words and Deeds of Jesus by His Spirit through His Apostles.”  This last title, according to Stott, does more justice to Luke’s own words in Acts 1:1-2.

Alan Thompson further explains that the words in (1) Luke 1:1 “the things that have been fulfilled among us”; (2) Luke 24:44-47 “everything must be fulfilled . . . written . . . in the Law . . . Prophets . . . Psalms . . . the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached . . .” and (3) Acts 1:1 ‘in my former book . . .” link the Old Testament to the Gospel of Luke and then to the Book of Acts. These three texts suggest Luke intends Acts to be read as a continuous line from the OT as illustrated below.1

                     OT                                    Luke                                         Acts

In fact, the opening and closing words of the Gospel of Luke together point to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the fulfillment of all Scriptures—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This is accompanied by Christ’s command for the disciples to preach the good news of His resurrection to all nations in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8. The book of Acts, as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke with the fulfillment of Scripture as a key theme, suggests that the book of Acts continues to unveil God’s sovereign action and purpose in history through the risen and ascended Lord and Christ to fulfill God’s promises to Israel. This is affirmed by Paul’s defence before the Jewish leaders, Felix and Festus, the Roman governors, and King Agrippa, four times in Acts 23:6; 24:14-15, 21; 26:6-7. In Paul’s words, he was on trial for the hope of Israel, the resurrection from the dead.

Acts is therefore written so that we may be certain of God’s promises and purposes, thereby embracing them as our own and hence glorify His Name. It is as Christopher Wright suggests that what Luke has written “governed not only the messianic meaning of the Scriptures, but also their missional significance. The Old Testament tells the story that not only leads up to Jesus but one that also leads on to mission to the nations.”2

 

1. Thompson, Alan J., The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s account of God’s unfolding plan, 22.

2. Wright, Christopher J. H., The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Kindle Locations 435-437), Zondervan, Kindle Edition.