Introduction to Acts of the Apostles
Luke wrote this account as a sequel to his gospel account (Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-2). Luke was not one of the twelve disciples (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4) but he was a close companion to Mark and the Apostle Paul (Colossians 4:10, 14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11).
The book of Acts covers a period of some thirty years.
The words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 set the course of the next thirty years
"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."
This is exactly the course that the Holy Spirit ushered the gospel through.
Chapters 1- 7 portray the Apostles and disciples taking permanent residence in Jerusalem. It is only after the death of Stephen (Acts 7) and the outbreak of persecution that the disciples move into Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-4). Philip is one of the first disciples to take the Gospel to Samaria. From here the gospel spreads to other regions (Acts 11:19; 13:4).
Saul is active in the persecution of the church at the beginning of Acts (Acts 7:58-59), while Peter and the other disciples are busy spreading the gospel (Acts 2 - 8). Then in Acts 9 we witness the conversion of Saul, changing his name to Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul eventually took the gospel all the way to Rome.
In Acts 10 the Gentiles are baptised with the Holy Spirit, and the church becomes a truely multi-cultural body. This dramatically changes the nature of the Church. The disciples are first called Christians in Antioch because they behaved like Christ (Acts 11:19-25). The place known as Antioch is now part of modern Turkey.
With Gentiles becoming Christians the ancient custom of circumcision, that the Jews had always followed, was now put into question. Did new converts to Christianity that were not Jews have to be circumcised? Remember what nearly happened to Moses when he neglected to follow circumcision(Exodus 4:1-24)?
All these monumental changes taking place in Christianity led to a big debate in Acts 15 where they discussed the essence of the Christian faith.
The role of the Holy Spirit is the unmistakably predominating source of power and direction in the life of the early church. For this reason the book has also been called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
Angels, dreams, visions and counsel from fellow believers are employed by God to lead and guide His body. Thousands were added to the Church, the sick were healed and some people were raised from the dead.
Yet the biggest trait of the early church was there commitment to God.
The most interesting thing about the book of Acts is that it never ended. The closing remarks were
"... preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him." Acts 28:31 (NKJV)
Acts of the Apostles is still continuing today.