Acts

H. A. IRONSIDE

First Edition, 1943,  Revised Edition, 1998

© 1998 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.
Baltimore, Maryland

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the King James version of the Bible.

Introductory notes are taken from Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible.
©
1970,1985 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.

Introductory Notes By Arno C. Gaebelein

The Writer of Acts

The book of Acts, the great historical document of the New Testament, records the beginning of the church on earth. There is no doubt that the writer of the third Gospel is also the one whom the Holy Spirit selected to write this account of the establishment of the church and the events connected with it. This becomes clear if we compare the beginning of Luke with the beginning of Acts.

The writer of Luke said, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (1:3-4), and the writer of Acts began, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” The “former treatise” is the Gospel of Luke and therefore the writer of Luke must be the penman of the book of Acts. Though we do not find Luke’s name in either the Gospel or the second book, there is no doubt that he wrote them both.

Luke’s name is mentioned a number of times in the Epistles, and these references give us the only reliable information we have about him. Colossians 4:14 refers to him as “the beloved physician.” Philemon 24 mentions him as one of Paul’s “fellowlabourers.” The last Epistle Paul wrote indicates that Luke was in Rome with the apostle and was faithful to him when others had forsaken that prisoner of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:11). From Colossians 4 we can gather that Luke was a Gentile, for after mentioning his fellow workers who were “of the circumcision” (4:11), Paul listed Epaphras, who was one of the Colossians and a Gentile, then Luke and Demas.

The reason that the Holy Spirit selected a Gentile to write first the Gospel that pictures our Lord as man and Savior, then the book of Acts, is as obvious as it is interesting. Israel had rejected God’s gift, and the glad news of salvation was now to be spread to the Gentiles. The Gospel of Luke, addressed by a Gentile to a Gentile (Theophilus), is the Gospel for the Gentiles; and Luke the Gentile was also chosen to give the history of the Gospel going forth from Jerusalem to the Gentiles.

There are numerous internal evidences that the writer of the third Gospel was the instrument through whom the book of Acts was given. For instance, in both books there are about fifty peculiar phrases and words that are rarely found elsewhere.

Luke was an eyewitness of some of the events recorded by him in the book of Acts. Proof of this is the little word “we” in the narrative. He joined the apostle Paul during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:10), went with Paul to Macedonia, and remained some time in Philippi He was the apostle’s fellow traveler to Asia and Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), and was with him during his imprisonments in Caesarea and Rome. By the end of the two years mentioned in Acts 28:30 Luke no doubt had completed the book of Acts.

The Contents and Scope of the Book

Acts 1:1 gives us an important hint: We read that “the former treatise” (the Gospel of Luke) concerned “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (italics added). The book of Acts therefore contains the continuation of the Lord’s actions, now from the glory.

The activity of the risen and glorified Christ can easily be traced through the entire book. Here are a few illustrations: (1) In the first chapter He acted in the selection of an apostle to take the place of Judas. (2) In the second chapter He poured forth the Holy Spirit. Peter declared, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). (3) At the end of the second chapter Christ “added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). (4) In the third chapter He displayed His power in the healing of the lame man. Throughout the book of Acts we behold Him acting from the glory—guiding, directing, comforting, and encouraging His servants.

The book also contains the historical account of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. His coming marks the birthday of the church. After that event the Comforter is present with His people as well as in them. In Acts we see Him filling the Lord’s servants, guiding them, fitting them, and sustaining them in trials and persecutions; and we behold Him as the great administrator in the affairs of the church. Over fifty times He is mentioned, but no doctrines of the Holy Spirit are given. What we find in Acts are practical illustrations of the doctrines that are found elsewhere in the New Testament.

The contents of Acts also include the activity of Satan—the enemy, the hinderer, and the accuser of the brethren. We behold him acting through his different instruments, as the roaring lion or the cunning deceiver with his wiles. Wherever he can, he attempts to interfere with the progress of the gospel. So in this book we see three supernatural beings in action: the risen and glorified Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Satan.

The human characters prominent in Acts are Peter and Paul. The apostle Peter is in the foreground in the first part, but after the twelfth chapter he is mentioned only once more. Then Paul comes on the scene with his great testimony about the gospel of Christ.

A hint concerning the scope of the book is found in Luke 24:47, where the risen Christ says “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In Acts 1:8 the Spirit of God reports this commission of the Lord in full; there we read that when Christ is about to ascend, He says, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” The book of Acts shows how this mission is carried out.

The witness begins in the city where our Lord was crucified. Then the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem and all Judea to Samaria” and after that to the Gentiles; through the apostle Paul it is heralded in the different countries of the Roman empire. Jerusalem is in the foreground in Acts, for the witness was to be “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16), but the end of the book takes us to Rome, where Paul is a prisoner, a most significant and prophetic circumstance.

A careful study of the contents of this great book will take us back to the beginning and show us the path that the Lord has marked out for His church on earth. In the light of Acts we will see the dark picture of the present-day confusion and departure from God and His Word; but as the faithful remnant we will also find comfort and direction, along with much earnest exhortation to greater faithfulness and more holy boldness in preaching the gospel and standing up for the faith.