Introduction to Acts


Author and Date

Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Both were written by Luke, a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul. Acts ends with Paul under house arrest, awaiting trial before Caesar, c. A.D. 62. Many scholars assume Acts was written then because it does not record Paul’s defense, release, and further gospel preaching.


The Holy Spirit empowers believers to declare the gospel among both Jews and Gentiles. In doing so they establish the church. The church is the fulfillment of God’s promises from the beginning of time.


Luke’s purpose for writing his Gospel (see Luke 1:3–4) applies to Acts as well: to give an “orderly” account of the early church after Christ’s resurrection. Dedicating the two-volume work to Theophilus, Luke wanted him to have “certainty” about what he had been taught.

Key Themes

Acts tells of the witness of the early church to the truth of the gospel—a theme first introduced in 1:8:

  1. The witness is worldwide—Judea, Samaria, the “end of the earth” (1:8).
  2. The witness includes all kinds of people (chs. 2–5; 10:1–11:18; 14:8–18; 16:11–15, 25–34; 17:22–31).
  3. God guides the church’s witness (4:5–22; 23:12–22; 24:1–23; 27:21–26).
  4. Faithful witnesses must be prepared to suffer and even die because of their testimony to Christ (5:41–42; 7:54–60).
  5. The Holy Spirit empowers the witness (1:8; 2:1–13; 8:17; 13:2–12; 19:6).
  6. Effective witness demands unity in the church (2:42–47; 4:32–37; 5:12–14).
  7. Jesus’ resurrection is a key part of the witness (1:22; 2:22–36; 17:30–31).
  8. Acceptance of the message depends both on human response and on God’s sovereign will (2:47; 11:18; 13:48).
  9. The witness to the gospel calls for a response (26:27–29). It requires repenting of one’s sins in the name of Christ. This brings forgiveness of sins (e.g., 2:38).
  10. Witnesses must always maintain integrity before the world (18:12–15; 23:29; 25:18; 26:31–32).
  11. Christian witnesses continue the ministry that Christ “began” (1:1).
  12. Faithful witness can bring great results (4:4; 13:48–49; 17:4; 28:30–31).


  1. Preparation for Witness (1:1–2:13)
  2. The Witness in Jerusalem (2:14–5:42)
  3. The Witness beyond Jerusalem (6:1–12:25)
  4. The Witness in Cyprus and Southern Galatia (13:1–14:28)
  5. The Jerusalem Council (15:1–35)
  6. The Witness in Greece (15:36–18:22)
  7. The Witness in Ephesus (18:23–21:16)
  8. The Arrest in Jerusalem (21:17–23:35)
  9. The Witness in Caesarea (24:1–26:32)
  10. The Witness in Rome (27:1–28:31)

The Setting of Acts

c. A.D. 30–60

The book of Acts records the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, thus fulfilling the risen Christ’s words to his apostles in Acts 1:8.

The Setting of Acts