JLP Digital Publications, Odessa, Ontario 2002
Chapter 1 Jesus' Ascension. A Replacement for Judas
Chapter 2 The Church founded by the Spirit
Chapter 3 A Lame Man Healed & Peter's Explanation
Chapter 4 The Arrest and Boldness of the Apostles
Chapter 5 Ananias and Sapphira. An Escape from Prison
Chapter 6 Greek Speaking Elders. Stephen's Arrest
Chapter 7 Stephen's Sermon and Death by Stoning
Chapter 8 The Holy Spirit in Samaria. The Road to Gaza
Chapter 9 Paul's Conversion. A Miracle in Lydda
Chapter 10 The Baptism of a Roman Army Captain
Chapter 11 Peter's Explanation. The Church in Antioch
Chapter 12 James, the Apostle, beheaded. Peter's Escape
Chapter 13 First Missionary Journey through Cyprus
Chapter 14 The Church Planted in Galatia (Turkey)
Chapter 15 The Council of Jerusalem Welcomes Greeks
Chapter 16 A Church Established in Europe (Philippi)
Chapter 17 Churches in Thessalonica, Beroea & Athens
Chapter 18 Tentmaking in Corinth and Ephesus
Chapter 19 The Holy Spirit in Ephesus & a Stadium Riot
Chapter 20 Paul's Farewell to the Ephesian Elders
Chapter 21 Journey Back and Arrest in Jerusalem
Chapter 22 Paul's Defense before an Angry Crowd
Chapter 23 A Conspiracy to kill Paul & Prison in Caesarea
Chapter 24 Paul's Examination before Felix, the Governor
Chapter 25 A Second Examination before Festus
Chapter 26 A Third Examination before King Agrippa
Chapter 27 A Hurricane at Sea and Shipwreck on Malta
Chapter 28 Paul's Arrival in Rome & House
Introduction to the book of Acts
Luke (Greek Loukas probably from the Latin Lucanus) was a member of Paul's apostolic team (2 Timothy 4:11). In the letter to the Colossians he is identified as a non-Jew (distinguished from those "of the circumcision"), and Paul called him "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:11, 14).
In the first verse of the book of Acts he says he wrote a previous book, which we know as Luke's Gospel. It was also addressed to Theophilus (Lover of God), which could be a proper name, or a name to grab the attention of anyone who was interested in knowing God, or a name chosen to hide the identity of the Christian recipients from the Roman authorities. Others think that Luke wrote the Book of Acts to be part of Paul's defense in his appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:10, 12, 21, 26:32, 28:17-19), but this seems unlikely since Luke includes so much material that would not be relevant in a Roman court of law, and would only be of interest in the Christian churches. The Book of Acts reads much more like the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit (1:2, 8, 2:4, 17, 4:8, 31, 5:32, 6:5, 7:55, 8:15, 9:17, 31, etc. as we will note in the commentary, and Paul makes clear in his Epistles).
Luke does not name himself, but he indicates the times when he was an eye-witness with Paul by using the first person plural of the verb. "When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over into Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi . . . we remained in this city some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who gathered there" (Acts 16:10-13). He must have been left in Philippi to establish the church in that city (Acts 16:11-17). During the third missionary journey Paul came back to Philippi (Acts 20:1) and Luke again uses the we verbs to describe how he rejoined the team for the journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5-16).
Probably, while Paul was imprisoned for two years in Caesarea (Acts 23:31, 24:27, 27:1), Paul told Luke to go and collect from eye-witnesses the material which became Luke's Gospel. The Gospel of Luke may have been sent out for distribution before Luke traveled with Paul to Rome in AD 59 (Acts 27:1-17) or he may have completed it while Paul was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28:30-31). As he collected the information for his Gospel (Luke 1:3), Luke must have talked personally to those who knew about the events in the early church before Saul's conversion (as recorded in Acts 1:1-8:40). And Paul would have told him the story of his own conversion (9:1-30). He must have talked to Peter for the account of his missions, the welcome to Cornelius (9:32-11:18), and his deliverance from certain death (12:1-23).
Luke finished the Book of Acts in Rome, and Paul may have sent him hastily back to Asia Minor with the precious manuscript when Nero's persecution began. This would explain the sudden end of the book (Acts 28:31). According to tradition Paul was martyred in AD 64.
Many New Testament scholars assume that Mark's detailed description of the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem (Mark 13:1-23) cannot have been Jesus prophecy of that event in the lifetime of his hearers (Mark 13:30). So they take it as given that Mark's Gospel must have been written after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Since both Matthew and Luke use large parts of Mark's Gospel verbatim, those Gospels are often dated much later. There is not a shred of evidence for this (as proved in John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament, London SCM Press, Westminster Press. 1976). Luke himself makes it absolutely clear when he wrote the Gospel that the early Christians all knew that the destruction of Jerusalem was still in the future, but it would take place in their generation (Luke 21:20-32, see the commentary on those verses, and the parallel passage in the commentary on Matthew 24:1-35).
By the time Luke wrote the Book of Acts, Paul had already planted churches in all the main cities (Salamis, Paphos, Antioch in Pisidia, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth) and many smaller towns (in Crete, Titus 1:5) from Jerusalem to Croatia (Romans 15:19). There was only one church in each city, but it met in a variety of house groups (as in Romans 16:3-15, compare the many synagogues in Jerusalem, 6:9). Men and women (5:14, 8:3) with their families (2:38-39, 10:33, 48, 16:15, 33) were enrolled as disciples by baptism (5:14, 6:1, 7, 9:19, 26, 36, 14:20-22, as Jesus had done, John 4:1).
The name Christians (Messiah persons) was given to the disciples in Antioch (11:26). They were also called those "who belonged to the Way" (9:2), "the brothers" (10:23, 11:1, 12, 12:17, 14:2, 15:1, 22, 32, 36, 40, 17:6, 10, 18:18, 21:7, 28:14, 15 - obviously including the sisters) and "the saints"(those dedicated to God, 9:32, as in Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2). Another term was "believers" (1:15, 5:14, 10:45, 13:48, 14:1). This seems to have been synonymous with "the baptized," and it could refer to disciples who were not yet incorporated by the Spirit into the organic body of the church (as in 8:12, 15, 19:1-2). Believers might be still under Satanic control (5:3, 9, 8:13, 8:19-21, 19:18-19) and could include false teachers and even apostles (20:29-30, Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:5-9, Titus 1:9-11, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 John 7, 9-10, Jude 4, 16-19, Revelation 2:2).
As soon as possible there was prayer for the Holy Spirit to form the new believers into an organic community (Acts 8:15-17, 19:1-6). The church in each city or bigger town was called the body of the Messiah in that place (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesus 4:15-16, Colossians 1:18). Each city church, and later congregations as they got bigger, were governed (as were synagogues) by elders (also called bishops or overseers, 14:23, 20:17, 1 Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:5, 7).
An essential part of the Messiah's plan was that both Jews and Greeks (with their very different food and social customs) would be members of the same church (10:47, 11:15-17, 20-21, as explained in Ephesians 2:11-19, 3:5-6). In that one church every member had one or more functions (gifts of the Spirit) to exercise in the body of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Messiah's plan (previously a mystery, Ephesians 3:3-6) was that different races would be reconciled in this body (Ephesians 2:16). Here there would be a mutual submission of men and women, parents and children, slave owners and slaves (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Colossians 1:18-20, 3:18-4:1, rich and poor (James 2:1-5), army officers and soldiers (Acts 10:1, 33, 44-48), Jail governors and prisoners (Acts 16:27, 33-34), and people from different social classes (as in Philippians 4:22).
In each place the church would gather on the first day of the week (the Lord's resurrection day) to break bread in a home or wherever convenient (Luke 22:19, Acts 2:46, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:26).
In addition to local churches doing their work in each town there were apostolic teams (like Paul's) moving (like the bloodstream of the universal church) to plant new churches, and nourish and encourage those that had been previously established (see 13:4-5, 14:21-22, 15:36-41, Colossians 4:8, Titus 3:12-13). As a result of the diaspora (dispersion of Jews all over the Greek and Roman world) there were Jewish synagogues meeting in most places. They read the Old Testament in the Greek Septuagint version. The apostolic teams would first visit the Jews who worshiped there (13:5, 14, 33, 43, 14:1, 17:1, 17, 18:4, 8, 19, 19:8), and they only started a new Christian "synagogue" when opposition forced them out (19:9). In some cases (as in Beroea) a whole synagogue would accept Jesus as their Messiah, and they became the nucleus of the church in that town (17:10-12).
Luke wants to make it absolutely clear that this astonishing growth of the churches in his lifetime, and often before his very eyes, was made possible and moved by prayer (1:14, 2:42, 4:24-31, 6:4, 6, 7:59, 8:15, 29, 10:9, 12:5, 12, 13:2-3, 16:6-7, 25, 19:6, 20:36, as in Ephesians 1:17-23, 6:18, Philippians 1:9-11, 4:6).