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Acts of the Apostles

Book of the New Testament
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. – Acts 8:32 quoting from Isaiah 53:7

The Acts of the Apostles, as it is known since the late second century, is the fifth book of the New Testament. Often referred to simply as Acts, it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message. It is commonly believed to have been written by Luke the Evangelist, and to be the sequel to Gospel of Luke. This gospel and Acts are respectively the longest and second longest books of the New Testament. From the point where the gospel concludes, Acts carries the record of early Christianity for another 30 years or so.

QuotesEdit

  • The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
  • As they traveled along the road and came to some water, the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”
  • So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ...”
  • During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
 
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. – Acts 16:14
  • One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
  • So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. ...”
  • As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
    • Paul in Acts 17:28 NIV, quoting i.a. from the Phenomena of Aratus
  • And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books and burned them in front of everyone.
  • “After I have been [to Jerusalem],” [Paul] said, “I must visit Rome also.”
  • “ ... according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! ...”
  • From morning until evening [Paul] explained things to [the Jewish leaders of Rome], testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from both the law of Moses and the prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others refused to believe. So they began to leave, unable to agree among themselves, after Paul made one last statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will never understand, ...”’ “Therefore be advised that this salvation from God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!”
    • Paul in Acts 35:23-(27)28 NET, verse 26 quoting from Isaiah 6:9
  • Paul lived [in Rome] two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction.
    • Acts 35:30-31 NET

Quotes about ActsEdit

 
This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. – Acts 26:7 (NIV)
  • Following the four gospels [...] comes a book which is for the most part a straightforward history and is particularly valuable for that reason. It deals with the slow growth of Christianity during the generation that followed the crucifixion of Jesus – from its beginnings in Jerusalem until its slowly widening influence finally reached Rome itself. In so doing, it indicates the steady shift of Christianity away from its national Jewish foundation to the status of a universal Gentile religion, and the hero of that shift is the apostle Paul.
    • Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Chapter 9. Acts, p. 995, Wings Books, 1981
  • The close relationship between Jesus and the Church is highlighted in the story of Paul’s conversion. … Note here Jesus’ exact words: “Why do you persecute me?” Saul could have easily answered, “I’m not persecuting you – I am going after your disciples.” However, it seems Jesus’ words illustrate precisely the critical point which is emphasized over and over again in the book of Acts: Jesus is to be identified with his Church. … Thus, as Christ lived in his earthly body, he now lives in the Church. What he did in his earthly body he now does in his Mystical Body.
  • The needed structure that spans that gulf [between Old and New Testament] is the Book of Acts. Now how can Acts be that bridge between the Old and the New Testament if the first book of the New Testament is the Gospel of Matthew followed by three more gospels? The answer is that the purpose of the gospels is to reveal the nature, the life and the times of Yeshua, who is the Messiah. But the Book of Acts delves into how the followers of a Jewish Messiah whose messianic office is derived only from a Jewish Israelite religion and a Jewish Israelite holy book, somehow came to purposely include a gentile world.
  • While the gospel was no doubt carried along all roads which branched out from its Palestinian homeland, Acts concentrates on the road from Jerusalem to Antioch and thence to Rome.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 10, 1962
  • ...its dependence on the Antiquities of Josephus ... is most improbable. ... The optimistic note on which Acts ends, with Paul proclaiming the kingdom of God in Rome without let or hindrance, suggests a date before the outbreak of persecution in AD 64.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 10, 1962
  • Luke is obviously concerned, in both parts of his work, to demonstrate that Christianity is not a menace to imperial law and order. He does this particularly by citing the judgments of governors, magistrates and other authorities in various parts of the Empire.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 11, 1962
  • While [Luke] has apologetic and theological interests, these do not detract from his detailed accuracy, although they control his selection and presentation of the facts.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 11, 1962
 
The practical implication of Gallio's decision is that Christianity shares the protection assured by Roman law to Judaism. ~ F. F. Bruce
  • The practical implication of his [i.e. Gallio's] decision [to dismiss the charge of propagating an illicit religion brought against Paul by the Jewish leaders in Corinth] is that Christianity shares the protection assured by Roman law to Judaism.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 11, 1962
  • ...in Acts it is Jews who are Paul's bitterest enemies in one place after another. While Acts records the steady advance of the gospel in the great Gentile centres of imperial civilization, it records at the same time its progressive rejection by the majority of the Jewish communities throughout the Empire.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 11, 1962
  • On the theological side, the dominating theme of Acts is the activity of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, made by the risen Christ in 1:4, is fulfilled for Jewish disciples in chapter 2 and for Gentile believers in chapter 10. ... The book might indeed be called ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’. ... He is the principal witness to the truth of the gospel. The supernatural manifestations which accompany the spread of the gospel signify not only the Spirit's activity but also the inauguration of the new age in which Jesus reigns as Lord and Messiah.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, pp. 11-12, 1962
  • ...it remains a document of incalculable value for the beginnings of Christianity. ... The rise and progress of Christianity is a study beset with problems, but some of these problems would be even more intractable than they are if we had not the information of Acts to help us. For example, how did it come about that a movement that began in the heart of Judaism was recognized after a few decades as a distinctively Gentile religion? ... [Luke's] narrative is, in fact, a source-book of the highest value for a significant phase of the history of world civilization.
    • F. F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary, entry: Acts, Book of the, Inter-Varsity Press, pp. 11-12, 1962
  • Acts describes nothing beyond Paul's two-year stay in Rome, even though a number of significant events occurred not long afterwards, including the martyrdoms of James the Less and Mark the Evangelist. Neither does Luke record the outcome of Paul's appeal before the emperor. Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Acts was completed about two years after Paul arrived in Rome, not at any later date. Luke may have spent much of those two years working on his Gospel and on Acts of the Apostles. He may have had some portion of Acts written in advance (notes he had taken along the way and the like). However, this two-year period of time is the most likely time frame for the writing of the bulk of Acts and for its completion.
  • Here [the reader] will find an historical record of a new power at work in the world. It not only revolutionized religion but transformed man. ... For its sake frail men and women faced loss, persecution and death with serene and happy courage. Such are the facts of history which our reader will learn from this book.
    • Anthony C. Deane, How to enjoy the Bible, Chapter III, p. 53, Hodder & Stoughton, 1934
  • It was a high honor to compose the most significant chapters in the history of the Christian Church; yet the author of The Acts, who alone relates the origin of the most significant society and of the mightiest movement in the world, makes no mention of his own name.
  • It describes [Christianity's] message and ministry, and its life – including its triumphs and trials, the passions that drove it, and the source of the power that energized it.
    • Ajith Fernando, Acts, p. 21, Harper Collins, 1998
  • ... both Acts and the third Gospel have been written anonymously. But Acts is unique in that it contains ninety-seven verses during Paul's journeys where the third person is replaced by the first person plural – the so-called "we passages," which claim to be the observations of an eye-witness.
    • Ajith Fernando, Acts, p. 22, Harper Collins, 1998
  • It should of course be recognized that modern archaeology has almost forced upon critics of St. Luke a verdict of remarkable accuracy in all his allusions to secular facts and events.
    • Charles Gore, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, Edited by Gore, Goudge, and Guillaume (1929) p. 210
  • ... the Gospels did little more than to anticipate the church, whereas the Epistles presuppose it. A work was needed to describe the rise and development of this great spiritual entity that would at the same time be a binding element between Gospels and Epistles. The Book of Acts fills exactly that need.
  • In the Acts Luke undertakes to trace the fulfillment of the earthly mission of Jesus in terms of the establishment of his church by men whom he had trained, and the spread of the movement under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit whom he had promised. ... [Acts] was intended to be informative and edifying, tracing the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome.
  • Again and again the historian pictures the gospel being presented to the Jews, only to be rejected by them. At the same time it is emphasized that Gentiles have an eagerness to accept the message. It is especially impressive that this twofold reaction to the gospel should be the note on which the whole account closes.
  • A strong case can be made out for a date of composition shortly after the close of the two-year period noted at the end of the book, during which time Paul remained in captivity awaiting trail, or around A.D. 63, despite Moffatt's claim that this is preposterous.
 
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8 (NRSV)
  • The Acts is distinctly a missionary document, with the Great Commission of 1:8 the key to its structure. The gospel is preached and the church formed, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria, then in the Gentile world.
  • ... the title [i.e. "The Acts of the Apostles"] raises expectations that are not fulfilled, since the apostles as a body appear only in the early part of the book and their labors are not traced on an individual basis except for Peter and later for Paul. Nothing is said about the planting of the faith in Egypt, where a strong church developed.
  • Immediately following the Gospels, ... comes a vividly written account of the beginnings of the community in Jerusalem and of those phases of its spread that are connected with Paul, the man who took Christianity to Europe. ... Acts is simply a continuation of the narrative begun in Luke. It is written in excellent Greek, and provides our only source of knowledge about the earliest stage in the expansion of Christianity. We can, however, check its information against the letters of Paul, where parallel accounts of certain key events appear. Acts also gives us valuable summaries of the apostolic preaching ... Although these are obviously not verbatim reports of the speakers' words, they appear to reflect the themes and emphases of the original Christian preachers.
    • Howard Clark Kee and Franklin W. Young, Understanding the New Testament, Chapter 2: The Community and its Convictions, p. 65, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1957 (reprint 1961)
  • In trying to determine where the Book of Acts was written, we find some evidence that its author (or the author of one of its sources) was from Macedonia. ... but just as strong a case can be made out for Rome, where, according to the Pastorals, Luke was aiding Paul during Paul's imprisonment (II Tim. 4:11). A third possibility ... is Antioch, which features so prominently in the narrative of Acts, and which was the home town of Luke, according to some of the early church fathers.
    • Howard Clark Kee and Franklin W. Young, Understanding the New Testament, Chapter 2: The Community and its Convictions, p. 72, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1957 (reprint 1961)
  • What then is the aim of this book, the sequel of the third gospel? As the title is human, one may draw from its own contents that we have in it the working of the Holy Spirit, rather than of the Twelve of whom we hear little save of Peter, and of Paul called extraordinarily, but of others too who were not apostles.
    • William Kelly, God's Inspiration of the Scriptures, §32. The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 357-358, London, 1903
  • The ninth chapter shows us the new step of sovereign grace in the conversion of Saul to be the witness of an ascended Christ, Who owns the saints as part of Himself, and calls the persecutor to be His chosen vessel to bear His name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, the deepest in truth, the largest in heart, the most abundant in labour of all the apostles. No wonder the gospel of Christ's glory marked him, who first saw and heard the Lord thus; yet a simple disciple baptised him who forthwith, in the synagogues, preached Jesus as the Son of God.
    • William Kelly, God's Inspiration of the Scriptures, §32. The Acts of the Apostles (discussion of 9th chapter), pp. 363-364, London, 1903
  • Arrived at the great city Paul was suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that guarded him, and after three days called together the chief of the Jews, and explained the strange fact that for the hope of Israel he was a prisoner through Jewish accusation. ... So that Paul could but show them now the sentence finally of the Holy Spirit, as of the Son of the earth (John xii.) and of Jehovah of old (Isa. vi.). But if Israel cut themselves off, save a remnant (the pledge of future restoration), the salvation of God is sent to Gentiles who hear. Such is the bearing of this book first and last. Only it is well to add that the apostle's charge in chapter xx. is no less clear that after his departure evil would prevail in the church, as previously in Israel. And we know from Romans xi. that the Gentile, if not continuing in God's goodness (as he surely has not), must also be cut off, and thus make way for the recall of Israel to the universal joy and blessing of the world under the Redeemer.
    • William Kelly, God's Inspiration of the Scriptures, §32. The Acts of the Apostles (discussion of final chapter), p. 375-376, London, 1903
  • Luke's Gospel ends with the Lord's ascension into heaven, and his Acts begins with it. His Gospel is a narrative of the ministry of the incarnated Jesus on earth; his Acts is a record of the succeeding ministry of the resurrected and ascended Christ in heaven carried out through His believers on earth. In the Gospels, His ministry on earth, carried out by Himself, only sowed Himself as the seed of the kingdom of God into His believers, with no church built up yet. In the Acts, His ministry in heaven, carried out through believers in His resurrection and ascension, spreads Him as the development of the kingdom of God for the building up of the church throughout the entire world to constitute His Body, His fullness, to express Him, moreover, even the fullness of God for God's expression.
    • Witness Lee, The Acts of the Apostles, Recovery version, p.3-4, Living Stream Ministry, December 1984
  • In the Gospels Christ was the seed of the kingdom; in the book of Acts we have the propagation of this seed to produce the churches as the kingdom of God.
    • Witness Lee, The Holy Word for Morning Revival, Crystallization-Study of Acts, Volume 2, p.136, Living Stream Ministry, February 2009
  • [Luke's authorship] is clear from the book's introduction where [he] says: "I produced my first volume (that is the gospel) about all the things that Jesus began to do and to teach." Now Luke is giving a clue here as to what this book of Acts will be about. Volume one was about what Jesus began to do and to teach, volume two will then be about what Jesus continued to do and teach, which leads to a really interesting point about the book's traditional but not original name, The Acts of the Apostles. While different apostles do appear in most of these stories, the only single character who unifies the whole story from beginning to end is Jesus himself, acting directly or through the Spirit, and so the book would more accurately be named The Acts of Jesus and the Spirit.
    • Tim Mackie (PhD) and Jonathan Collins (BA), Acts, Part 1 of 2, The Bible Project, 2019
  • The main themes and the design of the Book of Acts flow right out of [the] opening chapter. This is a story about Jesus leading his people by the Spirit, to go out into the world and invite all nations to live under his reign. And so the story [begins] with that message spreading in Jerusalem, and then into the neighboring regions of Judea and Samaria, full of non-Jewish people, and then from there out to all of the nations, into the ends of the earth.
    • Tim Mackie (PhD) and Jonathan Collins (BA), Acts, Part 1 of 2, The Bible Project, 2019
  • I have never heard any thing about the resolutions of the disciples, but a great deal about the Acts of the Apostles.
    • Horace Mann quoted by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, p. 3 (1895)
  • The traditional name for this book is “Acts of the Apostles,” but a more accurate name might be “A Few Acts of a Few of the Apostles.” [...] The book describes some developments in detail, but sometimes skips several years at a time. [...] The historian must select the facts that are most important and the events that played critical roles in the development of later situations.
  • The first part of this book is about Peter, and the second part is about Paul. This two-fold division is one of the simplest ways to divide the book of Acts, ...
  • You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and justice.
    • William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, p. 89, Hodder and Stoughton, 1915
  • It was the Roman custom to govern the provinces of their far-flung empire by continuing as far as they safely could the local system of administration, and consequently the authorities in different districts went by many different names. No one, unless he were either an observant traveller or a painstaking student of records, could possibly give all these gentry their correct denomination. It is one of the most searching tests of Luke’s historical sense that he always manages to achieve perfect accuracy. In several cases it is only the evidence of a coin, or an inscription, that has given us the necessary information to check him; the recognized Roman historians do not adventure themselves on such a difficult terrain. Thus Luke calls Herod and Lysanias tetrarchs; so does Josephus. Herod Agrippa, who slew James with the sword and cast Peter into prison, is called a king; Josephus tells us how he became friendly at Rome with Gaius Cæsar (Caligula) and was rewarded with a royal title when Caligula came to be emperor. The governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, is called proconsul. … Not long before, Cyprus had been an imperial province, and governed by a proprætor or legatus, but in Paul’s time, as is shown by Cyprian coins, both in Greek and Latin, the correct title was proconsul. A Greek inscription found at Soloi on the north coast of Cyprus is dated ‘in the proconsulship of Paulus’ … At Thessalonica the city magnates took the quite unusual title of politarchs, a name unknown to classical literature. It would be quite unfamiliar to us, except from Luke’s use of it, if it were not for the fact that it appears in inscriptions. … Achaia under Augustus was a senatorial province, under Tiberius it was directly under the emperor, but under Claudius, as Tacitus tells us, it reverted to the senate, and therefore Gallio’s correct title [Acts 18:12] was proconsul. … Luke is equally happy, equally accurate, in his geography and his travel experiences.
 
...the movements of this ship, from the time when she left Fair Havens until she was beached at Malta, … has been verified by … evidence of the most exact and satisfying nature ~ Edwin Smith
  • The ancient vessels were not steered as those in modern times by a single rudder hinged to the stern post, but by two great oars or paddles, one on each side of the stern; hence the mention of them in the plural number by St. Luke. [Acts 27:40] ... We have seen in our examination that every statement as to the movements of this ship, from the time when she left Fair Havens until she was beached at Malta, as set forth by St. Luke has been verified by external and independent evidence of the most exact and satisfying nature; and that his statements as to the time the ship remained at sea correspond with the distance covered; and finally that his description of the place arrived at is in conformity with the place as it is. All of which goes to show that Luke actually made the voyage as described, and has moreover shown himself to be a man whose observations and statements may be taken as reliable and trustworthy in the highest degree.
    • Edwin Smith, commander of a flotilla of British warships in the Mediterranean during World War I, The Rudder, March 1947
  • Luke’s thesis is this: Jesus remains active, though the manner of his working has changed. Now, no longer in the flesh, he continues ‘to do and to teach’ through his ‘body’ the church…. This is the story of Acts.
    • David J. Williams, New International Bible Commentary, Acts, p. 19, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990

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