Study through the Book of Acts
Acts is unique among the NT writings, in that its main purpose is to record a selective history of the early church following the resurrection of Christ. It is the second part of a two-volume work, with the Gospel of Luke being the first volume. Both books are dedicated to a person named Theophilus, and Acts 1:1 explicitly refers back to Luke’s Gospel.
Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts are anonymous, but the earliest discussions attribute them to Luke. The name “Luke” appears only three times in the NT: Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24. All three references are in epistles written by Paul from prison, and all three mention Luke’s presence with Paul.
The earliest discussion of the authorship of Luke and Acts is from Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in Gaul, writing in the late second century. He attributes the books to Luke, the coworker of Paul, and notes that the occurrence of the first-person narrative (“we”) throughout the later chapters of Acts (starting at 16:10) indicates that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul and present with him on these occasions. These “we” passages in Acts are the key to the authorship of both Acts and the Gospel of Luke.
Colossians 4:14 indicates that Luke was a physician, and attempts have been made to bolster Lukan authorship by arguing that Luke and Acts use technical medical language. This does not seem to be the case, as Luke seems to have avoided technical language in order to communicate plainly to his readers, but his detailed description of illnesses perhaps reflects his interests as a physician (cf. Acts 28:8). In addition, all the external evidence refers to Luke as the author.
Other than the three NT references, nothing certain is known of Luke. Early traditions link him with Antioch, but that is probably based on the reference in Acts 13:1 to “Lucius,” which is a Latin name. “Luke” is a Greek name, and both books are written in excellent Greek. His thorough acquaintance with the OT may reflect that Luke was a converted God-fearer (a Gentile who attended the Jewish synagogue) or Jewish proselyte (convert), though he could have gained his biblical knowledge after becoming a Christian.
In writing his larger account of the good news about Jesus, Luke has shaped the two parts to correspond in some significant ways. In Acts, for example, the geography is now reversed; it starts in Jerusalem and then branches out to other parts of Judea (chs. 1-12); its large central section is another travel narrative, as Paul takes the gospel from Antioch to Europe (chs. 13-20); the final third (chs. 21-28) portrays Paul’s trials before the same three tribunals as Jesus (the Jewish Sanhedrin [Luke 22:66-71/Acts 22:30-23:10]; the Roman procurator [Luke 23:1-5, 13-25/Acts 24:1-27]; and one of the Herods [Luke 23:6-12/Acts 25:23-26:32])–which in Paul’s case results in his getting the gospel to the heart of the empire (Rome).
The key to your reading of Acts is to recognize the “movement” of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, narrated in six parts (panels) and signaled by Luke’s little summary statements in 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; and 19:20. In each case the narrative seems to pause for a moment before it takes off in a new direction–sometimes geographically, sometimes ethnically, and sometimes both. The good news that is being spread, of course, is God’s salvation (the forgiveness of sins) offered to all people (Jew and Gentile alike) through the death and resurrection of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here at last the promise to Abraham (Gen 12:2-3; see Acts 3:25), expressed repeatedly by the prophets as part of their hope for would join Israel as the people of God (e.g., Isa 2:1-5; Mic 4:1-5; Zech 14:16-18)–had found its fulfillment.
The first panel (1:1-6:7) tells the story of the spread of the good news about Jesus in Jerusalem by the apostles. The second (6:8-9:31) marks the first geographical expansion to neighboring Judea and Samaria (see 1:8), where Stephen and the Hellenists play the major role. The third (9:32-12:24) narrates the first expansion to the Gentiles (Cornelius) and the conversion of the key figure (Paul) in what is to be its still greater expansion. With Paul now the central figure, the fourth panel (12:25-16:5) narrates the expansion to Gentiles in Asia, and how the early leaders dealt with the “problem” of Gentile inclusion “law-free”. The fifth (16:6-19:20) marks the jump of the gospel from Asia to Europe; the church is also now steadily more Gentile than Jewish. The sixth (19:21-28:31) tells how Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) finally got to Rome (the capital of the Gentile word) with the good news–but he did so, Luke reminds us, by way of Jerusalem through a series of trials very much like those of Jesus. 
 ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008. 2073.
 Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002. 296-297.
READ • REMEMBER • REFLECT
- Read the passages slowly. Write out the verses you want to remember. Write how God spoke to you through the passages.
- Write a prayer of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication using specific phrases from today’s passages.