Introduction
The Acts of the Apostles continues the narrative begun in The Gospel according to St. Luke from the point of Jesus' ascension. Jesus' parting words to the apostles and followers outline what this book will be about: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (1.8). Ten days later, on the festival day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of God came upon the apostolic group assembled in Jerusalem. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, several of the apostles are then seen carrying their witness ever further afield; John and Peter on the temple grounds, Philip in Samaria and along the Gaza road, and Peter in the coastal cities of Joppa and Caesarea. From Acts 13 on, the focus shifts fully to the mission journeys of the apostle Paul, showing how the good news of God's actions in Jesus the Christ is carried into Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and finally to Rome. The Jesus movement started small in Galilee and Judea but Luke wants readers to see and marvel at its growth and expansion, even to reaching the epicenter of the Roman Empire. It is a curiosity about Acts that it follows only this westward track to Rome. There is no New Testament counterpart recording the similar expansions eastward into Syria, Mesopotamia, and India, or southward into Egypt and Africa, though Christianity made early inroads into all these lands.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, who thought the end-time would come soon, Luke sees an open future for the church to spread the word and sees a world in need of it. Thus he is ever concerned in both his Gospel and in Acts to show that the Jesus movement is not a threat to Rome, even if his followers refuse to worship Roman deities. For example, the Roman “deputy” (proconsul) in Cyprus had seen the deeds of Paul and Barnabas and “believed” (13.12), finding no problems with their mission.
Throughout this book the essential early Christian message is articulated in sermons and speeches, and Luke's reporting shows how the power and appeal of this message affected hearers. This narrative of what God's Spirit inspired Jesus' early followers to do seeks to inspire its readers in their own times and places to persevere and bear witness, like Paul, however difficult the circumstances.
Outline
The Holy Spirit of God Empowers Jesus' Followers at Pentecost (1.1—2.47)
The Early Church in Jerusalem (3.1—8.3)
The Good News Is Proclaimed in Judea and Samaria (8.4—9.31)
The Good News Goes Out to the Gentile World (9.32—15.35)
The Good News Reaches Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and Rome (15.36—28.31)
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