1The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
Many books have been written about the early history of Christianity. But the book of Acts is the only inspired chronicle of the time period immediately following the ascension of Christ through the early sixties AD. It was written by Luke, the same author of the gospel of Luke, an identification held by all the writers of the second generation of Christians and by most commentators today. The introductions to both books (see Luke 1:1–4) reflect the same authorship and reveal the meticulous research that went into both books. Some have suggested that had not the early church desired to keep the four gospel accounts together, the books of Luke and Acts might have circulated together as part one and two of a combined history of Jesus and the early church.
Luke at times was part of the story, as we see from the occasional use of “we” in 16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16. Piecing together the narrative and accounting for the names of the individuals who came and went in the narrative, we can surmise the unnamed member of the “we” must have been the writer reflecting on times when he himself was part of the narrative. We know from Colossians 4:14 that he was a physician, and the evidence shows he was careful in his research. Many consider him to be an historian of impeccable credibility.
Of course, as history, the inclusion of the selected material works toward a purpose, as do all writings of history. Some today call the book “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” but “Acts of the Apostles” was universally assigned as the title by the early church, as is evident in all the Greek manuscripts. It is clearly not a complete exposition on the Holy Spirit but a description of the movement of Christianity, primarily through the main characters of Peter and Paul. In fact, we can roughly divide the book into two sections: the movement of the gospel through the ministry of the apostle Peter (Acts 1–12) and the travels and ministry of the apostle Paul (Acts 13–28). However, there is some overlap, for example, with the conversion of Paul being told in Acts 9. Furthermore, we can see a division into three parts, with the focus being initially on the gospel going into Jerusalem, then to Samaria, and ultimately to the Gentile world.
Lord, thank You for giving us this insight into the early expansion of the Word.