Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles.
During the three years of public life, Jesus set down the foundations of a new way to live as believers in the one God. It is understood by major Scripture scholars today that it was not Jesus’ intent to create a new church, but to reform the Jewish faith he belonged to Today we understand that Jesus remained a Jewish person of faith while He was crucified, died and risen. These facts help us to understand the Acts of the Apostles in a different light. Luke wrote this testimony not as a biography of Peter and Paul and the other disciples and apostles but as a testimony to the workings of the Holy Spirit of God.
Luke, the author of the third Gospel, wrote about these workings of the Holy Spirit using other texts from different communities of Christian followers of “The Way”–which is what early believers of the Jesus event were called at the time. Many of these followers were and remained Jewish until their deaths. Others, particularly the Greeks, usually called ‘pagans’ in Acts also were being converted in surprisingly great numbers. The Book of Acts documents the lives and ministries of Paul and Peter. Peter will be seen as to struggling with the dilemma of non-Jews that were being baptized by Paul.
Paul we will see, struggles with his own beliefs as a Jewish Teacher and persecutor of the Christians and his conversion on the road to Damascus, as being ‘legitimate’ to the people who knew and worked with Jesus before he rose from the dead.
The Book of the Acts does not follow a rigorous outline, but we can pick out some clear-cut divisions in the book that point to Luke’s task. Without focusing exclusively on Peter and Paul, Luke devotes the greater part of his work to them. In spite of many exceptions, Peter dominates the first twelve chapters, while it is Paul’s turn to dominate in the second part of the book. Luke keeping with his focus on the geography of the region, he again emphasizes the journey from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria to Rome. In this way, he is following the mission that Jesus gave his Apostles and followers when he ascended. The Holy Spirit is the major “actor” in this writing about a new birth of a new way. There are historians that site the early Christians as first calling this writing, “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” It is Luke’s intention to highlight in particular through the diverse preaching of Peter and Paul, how the mystery of Christ and of the early beginnings of Christianity, has been announced and prepared for in the Hebrew Scriptures, but also how this double mystery—Christ and the early Christian Churches—fulfills the Old Testament. From this perspective, Luke readily highlights the parallels between Jesus and the early church; the people of the Hebrew Scriptures; and that of the church that forming. We will see this in the parallels between the death of Stephen and that of Christ; between the journey to Jerusalem of Paul and that of Christ,; but also the opposition between the Tower of Babel and Pentecost. The Parallel between Paul’s sea journeys and those of Jonah is also apparent. Geographically speaking, Jerusalem constantly flows from the pen of Luke (58 times).
As he has done in his Gospel, where the Holy City is mentioned 30 times. Luke points to Jerusalem as the place where salvation is accomplished, and from where the Good News is taken to all nations.
The Book of Acts has 28 Chapters. It ends abruptly, as if Luke has accomplished his task.