Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Five Purposes of the Book of Acts

An acquaintance on Facebook recently posted this: I'm preparing to introduce our new class on the book of Acts. So I ask, "What is the book about?" Or put another way, "Why was it written? What does the author intend for his readers to get out of this work?" This is a great question. It challenged me to come up with the following. The Book of Acts was written . . .

1. To present a selective history of the earliest Christian movement, which purports to be an extension of the life of Jesus himself (1:1). According to this perspective, the Gospel of Luke, volume one of Luke's two-part work, reports what Jesus had merely begun to do and to teach.

2. To identify this movement, the Way (9:2), as the long-awaited restoration of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (for example, 3:24-25).

3. To show that Christ Jesus the Lord remains present with his people by means of the Holy Spirit (1:1-8; 5:32; 16:6-10).

4. To showcase Christian teaching and preaching. The Book of Acts contains a high percentage of public discussions and sermons. One scholar determined that compared to other historical works written in classical antiquity, Acts contains a concentration of speech material five times greater than the average. Luke seems to be saying, "If you're responding to questions about the faith, and preaching the gospel, here's how it's done."

5.  To present a standard view of how to become a Christian, and what it means to be a Christian. A believing response to the preached message includes repentance and baptism into Christ, which bring the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit (2:38). For repentance as the demand, see 17:30. For baptism as the expected response, see passages like 8:12 and 18:8.

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