Acts, Lesson 1: Introduction and Acts 1:1-8

Twelve Apostles2 (610x352)Overview

Author: St. Luke. Within the book of Acts, the author does not state who he is. Church tradition, reaching back to the 2nd century, identifies the author as Luke, the Gentile medical doctor and traveling associate of the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Explicit testimony for the Lukan authorship of Acts comes from early Christian Fathers such as Irenaeus (180 AD), the Muratorian Canon (late 2nd Century), Clement of Alexandria (200 AD), and Eusebius (325 AD).

In the prologue of Acts, the author addresses the same Theophilus and refers back to his earlier Gospel: “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1: 1). The beginning of the Gospel of Luke mentions Theophilus (1:3) and some early manuscripts for Luke’s Gospel attribute Luke as the author.


Date: Around 62-63 AD

Paul was placed under house arrest in Rome around 60-61 AD and spent at least two years there. When Luke finished the book of Acts, Paul was still under house arrest (Acts 28:16).

Church tradition says that Paul was released from house arrest after his trial. He then he made a missionary trip to Spain in keeping with what he said in Romans 15:28. “So then, after I [Paul] have completed this task and safely delivered the funds to them [the Church in Jerusalem], I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.” From 2 Timothy, we learn that Paul was arrested and imprisoned a second time, probably in the autumn of 65. Then Church tradition tells us that Paul was condemned and beheaded, probably in the summer of 66 when the Church we still suffering widespread persecution.

What Luke doesn’t mention is the fire that swept through Rome and sparked a fierce persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero in 64 AD. Neither does Luke tell us about of the martyrdom of Peter or Paul in Rome in the mid-60s after that. Since Luke wasn’t shy about reporting the deaths of other Christians, it makes no sense to think that Paul was dead when Acts was written. Further, Luke is silent about Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. These “missing” important events strongly imply that Luke wrote Acts before Paul’s second imprisonment.


Original Reader(s): Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts are addressed to Theophilus. This was not an uncommon Greek name, which means “lover of God.” Although it’s possible that Theophilus was Luke’s way of symbolically referring to all Christians, most likely he had dedicated his writing to a patron named Theophilus. If so, Theophilus was probably a wealthy Christian who covered Luke’s expenses for him to write his Gospel and Acts.


Themes: The spread of the gospel by the Apostles, in particular Peter (Acts 1-12) and Paul (Acts 13-28), from Jerusalem to the entire Roman world (Acts1:8). Acts recounts first Christian mission work and the work of the Holy Spirit, whom God the Father sent through His Son, empowering the Apostles and others to carry the good Word of salvation.



Lesson 1, Outline for Acts


Read Acts 1:1-2

  • Verse 1 says “all that Jesus began to do and teach” until He ascended? What does “began” imply?


  • Yet, Jesus wasn’t directly doing and teaching. How then He was continuing to do that?


Excursus: The Apostles whom Jesus had chosen

What Luke says in Acts 1:2 refers back to Luke 6:13: “At daybreak, [Jesus] called his disciples and chose 12 of them, whom he also named apostles.” These two verses takes the generic meaning of apostle, “sent one,” and makes it refer to the Twelve.

This means there will be no more Apostles in the Church other than the Twelve whom Jesus chose. The Apostle Paul, whom Jesus called when he was on his way to Damascus, would reinforce that truth [Acts 9:15]. In Ephesians 2:20, he wrote: “As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” Later, the Apostle John would describe this from His heavenly vision in the book of Revelation: “The city wall [of the heavenly Jerusalem] had 12 foundations, and on them were the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb [Jesus].”

God knew whom He would choose to replace Judas to make the number of the Apostles back to 12. Why twelve? Twelve is the symbolic number for the Church (12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples, 12 apostles). We’ll deal later with the early church calling Matthias to replace Judas.

  • What does this mean when some in the Church today refer to themselves as “apostles?”


The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Read Acts 1:3-5

  • What evidence did Jesus give to show He truly was the Messiah?


The many “proofs” included:

  • Jesus’ empty tomb on Easter morning (John 20:4-9),
  • Jesus presented himself alive to the Apostles on Easter evening (Luke 24:13-31; John 20:19-20),
  • He invited eyewitnesses to touch His risen body and examine His crucifixion wounds (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:26-29),
  • He showed himself risen to more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6),
  • and He appeared to the Church’s fiercest adversary, Saul of Tarsus, transformed him into her most zealous Apostle (Acts 9:1-19).


  • How many days did Jesus appear to His Apostles and others before ascending?


40 Days

The number 40 calls to mind many events in which God’s people received divine revelation:

  • Moses was on top of Mt. Sinai for 40 days when He received the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24: 18).
  • The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years when God led them in a pillar of could by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21, Deuteronomy 8:2).


Just as the number 40 appeared at the birth of Israel as the nation in the Old Covenant, so also did 40 mark the birth of the new Israel, the New-Covenant Church (Galatians 3:29). Even more, just as Jesus underwent 40 days of preparation for His earthly ministry (Luke 4:1-2), Jesus now prepared His Apostles for their earthly ministry using the same number of days.


Luke 24:29: [Jesus speaking to His Apostles,] “I am going to send you what my Father has promised. But stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

  • Why were the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem?


  • Jesus told His Apostles, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” To whom does “you” refer?


  • Does Jesus or His Apostles promise that you or I will be “baptized by the Holy Spirit” apart from God’s use of water (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:38)?


The Kingdom of Heaven

Read Acts 1:6-8 

The Kingdom of God/Heaven

The Kingdom of God/Heaven is not so much a place but an activity, not God’s realm but His reign. Yet, many of the Jews in Jesus’ day yearned for a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman rule over them and restore the kingdom of David that had lain in ruins since the 6th century BC. (Mark 11:10).

“Lord at this time will you restore”?

This thinking about the “time of restoration” hails back God’s promise to reunite Israel at some future time.

  • Jeremiah 50:19-20: I will restore Israel to their pasture … In those days and at that time, declares the Lord, no guilt will be found in Israel, and no sin will be found in Judah, for I will forgive those I leave as a remnant.
  • Sirach 48:10: You who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.


In Jesus’ day, many latched on the idea of “restoration” but did not see its fulfillment in a time when there would be no guilt or sin, where the wrath of God is calmed. That day and time would be the Last Day for God’s saints.

And so we find that even the select group of the Apostles still needed instruction about the Messiah’s purpose and the nature of God’s kingdom.


  • How did Jesus direct His Apostles away from their thinking?


“Witness” comes from the Greek word martus. It refers to someone how has seen something with his own eyes. If someone hasn’t seen something, he can’t witness of testify to it. Because someone has witness something, he can witness about it at a later time.

  • How can Jesus’ Apostles be witnesses, or more accurately, eyewitnesses of Jesus?


  • But being more than eyewitnesses, what did they still need?


  • Where does this leave us, since we didn’t witness what Jesus did? Discuss the difference between confessing and witnessing. 


“Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth”

That is what we see lived out in the book of Acts. The gospel takes root Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), spreads to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-12), and then stretches throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13-28).

Christian faith is grounded in the witness of the apostles, both to Jews (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5: 29-32) and Gentiles (10:39-42; 13:30-31). The Apostles had walked with Jesus, they saw His mighty acts, recognized Him as God’s Messiah, and saw Him resurrected from the dead. That is why they could “witness” to what they “witnessed” and we can confess their truths of Jesus.


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