The book of Acts in the New Testament is Luke’s second historical record. He begins it, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” It’s written again to a man named Theophilus or maybe to “Lovers of God” which is what the literal rending of the name means in Greek. In his Gospel, Luke connected Jesus with all of mankind’s history and then recounted the life of Jesus, His works, His teachings, and His death including his resurrection and appearance to many after his resurrection. The first account, the Gospel, covers the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth and post-resurrection. The second account, the book of Acts, covers the following 30 years and is the spread of the Gospel over the next 30 years. It ends with Paul in prison in Rome. Boice says, “Some scholars think that Luke had probably planned a third as well, dealing with Paul’s release from prison and his further ministry to the western part of the Roman Empire.”[1]

The phrase “by many proofs” was Luke’s way of saying that the evidence for Christ’s resurrection was undeniable to all. The Handbook for Translators says, “In ways that proved beyond doubt translates one Greek word which is a very strong term meaning clear and evident proof. Proved beyond doubt may be restructured as ‘he showed them clearly’ or ‘showed them so clearly that people could not doubt.’”[2] In chapter seven of this book, we’ll read about the first person to be martyred for believing in Jesus. The certainty of Jesus’ resurrection fueled the church throughout its history from this book even to today. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” It is the hope we have for the next life that fuels every Christian. According to this passage, Jesus taught about “The Kingdom of God.” His teachings fully convinced his followers that there was another life to be experienced that fueled their lives on earth. Luke begins Acts by telling his readers that the primary message of Jesus during his resurrection involved the “Kingdom of God.” This historical account ends the same way. The final verse of the book (Acts 28:31) tells us that Paul spent his last days, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

The book is sometimes labeled “The Acts of the Apostles.” An Orthodox website tells us, “St. Luke never gave a formal title to his work, intending it to simply be a sequel to his Gospel—a continuation of the story of Christ’s Kingdom on earth—whereas our current title was added by a later hand. But it has been well said that St. Luke’s history may be properly called The Gospel of the Holy Spirit; for it relates the birth, growth, and victory of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the apostles.”[3] Hughes agrees with that assessment and adds, “It is also a book with a splendid theme, tracing the work of the Holy Spirit through the birth, infancy, and adolescence of the Church. Its title could well be ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’ or ‘The Acts of the Risen Christ Through the Holy Spirit Working Through the Church.’ Acts forms the perfect counterpart and contrast to the Gospels. In the Gospels the Son of Man offered his life; in Acts the Son of God offered his power. In the Gospels we see the original seeds of Christianity; in Acts we see the continual growth of the Church. The Gospels tell us of Christ crucified and risen; Acts speaks of Christ ascended and exalted. The Gospels model the Christian life as lived by the perfect Man; Acts models it as lived out by imperfect men.”[4]

[1] Boice, James Montgomery. 1997. Acts: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Newman, Barclay Moon, and Eugene Albert Nida. 1972. A Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.


[4] Hughes, R. Kent. 1996. Acts: The Church Afire. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.