Acts of the Apostles
|The Book of Acts|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS|
The Book of Acts, written by the apostle Luke, is the account of early followers of Christ who, obedient to the Great Commission, began to spread the good news of a risen Savior throughout the known world. Each section of the book (1-7; 8-12; 13-28) focuses on a particular audience, a key personality, and a significant phase in the expansion of the gospel message. While the apostles are mentioned collectively at several points, this book really records the acts of Peter (1-12) and of Paul (13-28). Some have called the book the "Acts of the Holy Spirit".
The major theme in Acts is the spread of the gospel. Acts 1:8 sets the scene for the whole book.
- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth."
The results of this empowerment can be seen with the gospel spreading to the Jews throughout Jerusalem and Judea in Acts 1-7, to Samaritans in Acts 8 and to the Gentiles throughout the "rest of the world" in Acts 9-18.
Kerygma and Speeches in Acts
Acts records a number of speeches given by early Christians. These speeches combine the proclamation of the gospel to introduce the hearers to Jesus, and an appeal for them to believe and become his followers. The content of these initial proclamations is sometimes referred to as Kerygma (from the Koine Greek word κηρυγμα - related to κηρυσσω).
In total, Acts records 16 speeches:
- Peter's 7 speechs
- Stephen's speech - Acts 7:2-53
- Paul's 8 speeches
There is significant variation in what is actually said in different speeches. All proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ, but each is closely tailored the audience and context.
The Jewish World during the time of the Acts of the Apostles
After the resurrection of Jesus the early church initially grew with only Jewish converts in Jerusalem, but soon, with persecution from Jewish leaders, and through the leading of God (in particular, the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10), the gospel spread to Gentiles (non-Jews).
Jews of the time divided the world up into Jews and Gentiles. Jews were further divided into Palestinian Jews (born in Palestine) and Diaspora Jews (born outside Palestine). Jews were also divided into Hebraists and Hellenists (who had embraced the Greek culture and language). Gentiles were divided into Proselyte (those who had converted to Judaism and been baptized), God-fearer (those who respected the Hebrew God Yahweh but had not been circumcised) and pagan (those who followed other gods).