New Testament in Survey
by Paul Southern
Introduction to the Book of Acts
The book is called "The Acts", or "The Acts of the Apostles" because it contains the doings of some of the apostles. The titles are misleading, however, because the book does not contain all the acts of all the apostles. The work of only two, Peter and Paul, is given in detail. A better title would be "Acts of the Holy Spirit Through the Apostles," since the Holy Spirit is the active agent (Acts 1:8, 2:1-4, etc.). The important thing is man's response to the contents of the book.
The authorship of Acts is ascribed to Luke for the following reasons:
- It is addressed to Theophilus (Acts 1:1), to whom the writer had formerly written a record of the life of Christ (Luke 1:3). The gospel of Luke is the only record that meets this condition.
- The two books are quite similar in style, vocabulary, etc.
- After the thirteenth chapter, the pronoun "we" indicates that the writer was a traveling companion of Paul. From Paul we learn that Luke was with him part of the time (Col 4:14; II Tim 4:11; Philemon 23). For facts concerning Luke's life the student is referred to the outline on the Gospel According to Luke.
- THE DATE
Luke probably wrote the book of Acts from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment. It records 33 years of Christian history, reaching from Tiberius Caesar to Nero, Roman emperors. Since the story ends abruptly without giving an account of Paul's death or release, it is thought that the apostle was still a prisoner (Acts 28:30,31). The book was probably written about A.D. 63 or 64, although New Testament chronology is often hard to determine.
Acts of Apostles is a continuation of the writer's former treatise (Luke), and records the birth, growth and development of the Christian religion after the ascension of Jesus. It shows how the apostles carried on the work commanded by Jesus of evangelizing the world (Acts 1:8). The book is the best available commentary on the great commission (Mark 16:15,16; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 26:46, 47). It is truly a book of conversions.
- ANALYSIS (See Acts 1:8 for the plan of evangelization)
- Preaching the gospel "in Jerusalem" (Acts 1:1 to 8:1).
- Preaching the gospel "in all Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8:2 to 12:25).
- Preaching the gospel "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 13:1 to 28:31).
- EXERCISES FOR STUDENT ACTIVITY
- Identify each of the following: Barnabas, Elymas, Sergius Paulus, Bereans, Aquila, Priscilla, Justus, Crispus, Gallio, Eutychus, Demetrius, Agrippa, Bernice. Tertullus, Felix, Festus, Gaius, and Aristarchus.
- Study the following events recorded in Acts, giving chapter reference for each:
- __________ The ascension of Jesus.
- __________ Peter's second sermon.
- __________ Baptism of the apostles with the Holy Spirit.
- __________ Selection of Matthias to succeed Judas.
- __________ Defense and death of Stephen.
- __________ First mention of the name Christian.
- __________ Death of Ananias and Sapphira.
- __________ Appointment of the seven deacons at Jerusalem.
- __________ Paul's address at Antioch in Pisidia.
- __________ Beginning of Paul's first missionary journey.
- __________ The Jerusalem conference on circumcision.
- __________ Paul's sermon at Troas.
- __________ Stoning of Paul at Lystra.
- __________ Paul's address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus.
- __________ Paul's defense before Festus.
- __________ Paul's speech on Mar's Hill (Areopagus).
- __________ Paul's defense before Agrippa.
- __________ First persecution of the apostles.
- __________ Paul's address to the mob in Jerusalem.
- __________ Peter's vision at Joppa.
- __________ Demetrius and the riot at Ephesus.
- __________ Paul's defense before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
- __________ Paul's defense before Felix.
- __________ The work of Apollos at Ephesus.
- __________ The death of Eutychus.
- Give the name identified by each of the following:
- __________ Where the disciples were first called Christians.
- __________ Disciple who told Saul what to do to be saved.
- __________ Doctor of the law who taught in Jerusalem.
- __________ Disciple who tried to buy the gift of God with money.
- __________ Man who lied to the Holy Spirit about his money.
- __________ The first Gentile convert.
- __________ The first Christian martyr.
- __________ Man selected to take the place of Judas.
- __________ "The field of blood."
- __________ Country from which the eunuch came.
- __________ Disciple whom Peter raised from the dead at Joppa.
- __________ Tanner with whom Peter lodged at Joppa.
- __________ Disciple who introduced Paul to the Jerusalem brethren.
- __________ Herod's chamberlain who befriended Tyre and Sidon.
- __________ Man of Galilee who stirred up a rebellion.
- __________ Town where Peter saw the sheet let down from heaven.
- __________ Apostle whom Herod killed with the sword.
- __________ Man of Damascus who lived on Straight Street.
- __________ Jerusalem deacon whose name means "Crown."
- __________ Place which Paul described as "no mean city."
- __________ Writer of the book of Acts.
- __________ Person to whom Acts is addressed.
- __________ Word in Acts indicating the writer was with Paul some of the time.
- __________ City in which the gospel was first preached.
- __________ People noted for searching the scriptures daily.
- __________ Man who forsook Paul on the first mission tour.
- __________ Eloquent Alexandrian Jew who knew only the baptism of John.
- __________ Capital of the Roman province of Judea.
- __________ City in which Paul was baptized.
- __________ A seller of purple, first convert in Philippi.
- __________ Famous centurion who became a Christian.
- __________ Name of the city in which the temple of Diana was located.
- __________ Silversmith who stirred up riot against Paul at Ephesus.
- __________ Man who was almost persuaded to be a Christian.
- __________ Island upon which Paul was shipwrecked going to Rome.
- __________ City in which Mar's Hill (Areopagus) was located.
- __________ Man and wife with whom Paul lived in Corinth.
- __________ City in which Paul first preached the gospel.
- __________ Man who waited for a convenient season to obey the gospel.
- Study the following cases of conversion. At the bottom, give the reference for each. Indicate with a cross (X) in each case where special mention is made of (H) hearing, (F) faith, (R) repentance, (C) confession or (B) baptism.
Pentecost Samaritans Eunuch Saul Cornelius Lydia Jailor Corinthians H
CONVERSION TO GOD
- IMPORTANCE OF CONVERSION
Conversion is a Bible theme that has to do with peace and happiness in this life, and everlasting joy in the world to come. Eternal life depends upon whether one has been truly converted to God. Jesus said: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). Therefore we are correct in saying that all converted persons who remain faithful unto death will be saved eternally (Revelation 3:21). All other responsible persons who refuse to obey God shall suffer eternal destruction (II Thessalonians 1:8,9).
- MEANING OF CONVERSION
What constitutes conversion is a moot question. The word literally means a "turning." From the New Testament standpoint, conversion means a turning from sin to walk with Christ. Jesus said: "I am the way ... no one cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Conversion involves the remission of sins. It is that spiritual change which accompanies the turning of a sinner from sin to God (Acts 3:19).
- MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY
In conversion, God has a part and man has a part. The fact that salvation is a matter of grace (Ephesians 2:8,9) does not remove man's responsibility. God supplies the grace; man becomes the recipient of divine grace when he renders obedience to the Son of God. This process of obedience consists of three definite changes in man: a change of heart, a change of life and a change of state.
- CHANGE OF HEART
The change of heart comes first, for the heart must be right before the other changes can be effected. Obedience must be from the heart (Romans 6:17). Peter declared that faith is the divine means of changing the heart. "God - made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), cleansing their heart by faith" (Acts 15:8,9). Divine faith is based on testimony (John 20:30,31). It comes by hearing God's word (Romans 10:17). However, it is important to note that faith alone is insufficient, for "faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26; Galatians 5:6).
- CHANGE OF LIFE
In the second place, there must be a change of life. This is brought about by repentance. In the great commission, Jesus told the disciples to preach repentance unto salvation (Luke 24:46-49). This repentance is a change of mind with respect to sin. It involves godly sorrow for sin and is followed by a reformation of life (II Corinthians 7:8-11). On Pentecost, Peter said: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). God now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
- CHANGE OF STATE
Man must finally change his state (relationship) before he is converted to God according to the New Covenant. He must be born again, born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Baptism is the sacred ceremony ordained by Jehovah to change the state of a penitent believer. By this means he is brought into Christ (Galatians 3:27), saved from past sins and added to the church (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:47). But before one can be scripturally baptized, he must confess his faith in Christ (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9,10). The person who stops short of this divine process has not been truly converted to God.