Outline and Purpose of Acts: Acts 1:1-8
Luke’s two-volume work of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts explains how Jesus brought and began to build God’s earthly kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel. In his gospel, Luke described the foundation that Jesus laid for the kingdom during his earthly ministry. And in the book of Acts, Luke described how Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit to empower the apostles and the church to continue his kingdom-building work. In this way, God’s kingdom is the overarching story of both volumes of Luke’s work.
When Jesus commissioned the apostles in Acts 1:8, he instructed them to serve as witnesses, proclaiming the gospel first in Jerusalem, and then spreading out to the rest of the world.
Consider Jesus’ words to the apostles in Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Here Jesus laid out a geographical strategy for the gospel witness of the church. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the apostles were to begin witnessing in Jerusalem, then carry the gospel to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth, expanding the kingdom everywhere they went.
Many scholars have observed that Luke organized the book of Acts around Jesus’ call for geographical witness expansion. First, Luke described the growth of the gospel in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 1 verse 1 through chapter 8 verse 4. Second, Luke described the growth of the kingdom in Judea and Samaria in chapter 8 verse 5 through chapter 9 verse 31. And third, Luke recounted the way the church carried the gospel to the ends of the earth in chapter 9 verse 32 through chapter 28 verse 31. This third section is long and focuses on four stages of growth suggested by Luke’s summary statements: first, in Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch in chapter 9 verse 32 through chapter 12 verse 25; second, in Cyprus, Phrygia and Galatia in chapter 13 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 35; third, in Asia, Macedonia and Achaia in chapter 15 verse 36 through chapter 21 verse 16; and fourth, all the way to Rome in chapter 21 verse 17 through chapter 28 verse 31.