The book of Acts is perhaps the most widely taught and read book in the churches of Christ. So much of our doctrine and practice comes directly from this 28-chapter history in narrative form. While it does contain history it is also a remarkable story of promises and fulfillment.
This wonderful narrative, written by Luke, the physician, and addressed to the most excellent Theophilus. Most scholars will agree that Acts is a continuation of the Gospel according to Luke, a part two if you will. It begins where Luke’s gospel ends, with the ascension of Jesus Christ. Most do not know that Acts is one of the longest books of the New Testament. With 1003 verses, only Luke and Matthew’s gospels are longer.
The name is the book is a misnomer since most of the Apostles are not even mentioned. Acts is an account of the spread of the early church through the eyes of Peter (chapters 1-8) and Paul (chapters 9-28). It is a wonderful account of the church that Jesus promised (Matt. 16:18).
In dramatic fashion, we get to follow the disciples, with the powerful guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as they take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We get to experience their struggles, failures, and their victories. We get to walk with them as the gospel is taken to the Gentiles and eventually to Rome. As they endured the authorities and the attacks of Satan, they kept moving forward. God was with the church, and they continued to move forward by His power.
Darrell Bock, a New Testament scholar at Dallas theological seminary, makes this observation. He says the key character in Acts is God. His activity and his plan. The apostles are not the important characters of Acts. Rather, God’s activity stands at the center of the account. Acts narrate God’s work in setting up the church through Jesus’ activity. It tells us how the Holy Spirit worked through a new community of the people of God made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Acts is a sociological, historical, and theological work explaining the roots of this new community of Jesus followers.
An interesting aspect of Acts is that one third, if not half of the book, is made up of sermons and speeches. This includes eight addresses by Peter and by Stephen (Acts 7). There are sermons and speeches by people like James, Paul, and the Jerusalem elders (Acts 15). It also includes addresses by people like Gamaliel, the Pharisees, Demetrius the silversmith, Festus, Tertullus, and Felix.
Let me encourage you to read Acts like you would read any story. Observe the structure, the movement of the story, and the larger-than-life characters that it describes. I am sure you will see the hand of God as he moves them along, sometimes even against their will. Read it like a divinely inspired treatise on our origins and the struggles faced by these great men and women, to bring to you pure New Testament Christianity.