“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until 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. To 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.” (Acts 1:1-3).
Despite the common misconception, Luke was not one of the twelve original disciples, who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry (Mt. 10:2-4; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:13-16). He was most likely a Gentile physician who assisted Paul in his missionary labors (Acts 16:10-17; Col. 4:14; Phile. 24). He is credited with having written the Gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts. His writings were not the result of firsthand experience, but of careful investigation of those who had known Jesus personally.
Luke wrote “The Acts of the Apostles,” and his Gospel, specifically to benefit an individual, called “Theophilus,” which meant “friend of God.” Some Bible historians have concluded that the name didn’t refer to a specific person, but was a general greeting for anyone who was a follower of Christ, or a friend of God. The opening address of Luke’s Gospel, however, was directed to Theophilus using singular masculine terms. Had he meant it for a more general audience, it seems reasonable that he would’ve used more fitting language.
The subject of Acts is Christ Himself. Of course, the book begins with Jesus telling the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them as witnesses to Christ, but Jesus is still the principal subject. He said, “you shall by My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The focus of the apostolic witness was Christ, not the Holy Spirit.
The object of Acts lies in the foundational activities of the Holy Spirit through the early church, especially in the apostles. Of course, the primary work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:26, 15:26). We do not come to the Holy Spirit by means of Christ, but to Christ by means of the Spirit.
In the opening verses of Acts, Luke connected this new discourse with his previous account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” during His earthly ministry (v. 1). He had charged, ordered, commanded, or commissioned them, which is the essence of apostleship. They were apostles because Jesus had sent them to proclaim the Good News, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and others – more than 500 in all (1 Cor. 15:16) – giving them “many convincing proofs” (v. 3). The ragtag band of misfits that Jesus had assembled to Himself formed the main core of the army that would become His church throughout the nations in every age.
The Spirit of Christ is famous for His ability to turn enemies of righteousness into friends of God, to turn nobodies into change agents, and to turn self-indulgent oddballs into Christ worshippers and grace proclaimers.
“The Acts of the Apostles” stands as a testament to “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). It gives us insight into the grand scheme and daily workings of Christ’s Spirit “in bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). It provides us with a template for the gospel that the apostles preached as well as a blueprint for the basic organization of the local church.
As we begin this study, I pray that the Lord will reveal His eternal truths to His church today so that we might walk in fellowship with Him and with one another for His glory.