Good Morning!I have read a number of books that have sequels; right now I am re-reading Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series. When I finish one of a sequel, I always want to go directly to the next book of that series! And so, since we have finished Luke’s Gospel, let us go on to his sequel, which is a history of the early church. We will move a bit more quickly through Acts than we did through the Gospel, because a Gospel is necessarily a theological discussion, although framed in the story of Jesus, while Acts is a story, though it reveals the theology of the early church.
We will use two major resources, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version and the Interpretation:Acts by Bishop William Willimon.
Referring to Willimon’s introduction, he says that thinking of Acts strictly as a history gives us a wrong view; we tend to seek modern interpretations of history – do the dates agree with what we know historically, does the story proceed with reference to characters known today? In other words, we spend time examining the wrong things – the setting rather than the message. Luke is here examining historical events, telling a story, in which he seeks to provide abiding meaning.
Acts 1:1 – 5
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
We see, at the beginning, that Luke dedicates this book to Theophilus, as he had the first book, the Gospel of Luke. He introduces the book by saying that he told about all that Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until he was taken up to heaven.
Why does Luke write Acts? Theophilus has already received the story of Jesus – but now he must hear of how the Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ work in the world. Acts might have been titled, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”, for it is in the power of the Spirit that the events recorded here happen.
There is overlap – like a good sequel writer, Luke sets the stage for the continuation from the first book to the second. Jesus had risen, and he had appeared to the disciples – whom Luke will now call Apostles – over a period of 40 days, offering convincing proofs (asking them to touch him, showing them the nail holes, eating a fish, etc.) and teaching them still, about the Kingdom of God.
Finally, he told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, promised by the Father.