What is the Book of Acts about, and who is the central character?
The answer to this is not easy because Acts covers a lot of territory. We meet a number of people in Acts such as Barnabas, Peter, James, Stephen and of course Paul.
However I believe I can say with confidence that you will soon see that the central character in Acts is God: and especially in His attribute as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes central stage in Luke’s sequel. In fact when we count up the number of times in the entire New Testament that the Holy Spirit is mentioned by name, we find this interesting spread:
- Matthew 5 times,
- Mark 4,
- Luke 13,
- John 3,
- All of Paul’s Epistles in total 16,
- Hebrews 5, and
- Peter 2.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned at all in Revelation. But in the Book of Acts we find the Holy Spirit mentioned 40 times. When we add together both books written by Luke that means that out of a total of 88 times the Holy Spirit is spoken of in the New Testament Luke speaks of Him 53 of those times.
Obviously the Holy Spirit was at the forefront of Luke’s mind as he contemplated the work of God especially after Christ ascended. We will also find that Luke equates the terms Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Yeshua.
Further our writer Luke makes it abundantly clear that for him the God of the Church is the God of Israel (quite the opposite of Marcion). And that everything that Christ did and who He was is confirmed and it fulfilled the Old Testament Prophets.
As we progress through the Book of Acts you will notice that Israel’s history is made central to redemption history in speeches by the martyr Stephen and by Paul.
Therefore in summation I think I can say that while each of the Epistles of the New Testament was written to address some specific issues taking place at specific congregations of Believers, the Book of Acts was written to accomplish the dual tasks of defining and reconciling the relationship between Jewish and gentile Believers in the 1st century Body of Believers; and also to put Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry in their proper perspectives and on somewhat equal footing.
As Rabbi Joseph Shulam so aptly points out, as we read about Peter and Paul in Acts, Luke advises us that,
- The first healing of both men were of cripples;
- Peter healed by merely casting his shadow while Paul healed from someone touching a cloth he had touched;
- They both encountered and dealt with witchcraft;
- They were both supernaturally released from being imprisoned; and
- Through all their trials and troubles still they both were able to spread the Word of God and the truth of the Good News.
Let’s finish up today with this thought. One of the themes that are woven throughout the Book of Acts is that what happens on earth either is being established on another level in Heaven or has already been established in Heaven and is only now happening on earth.
And that many earthly events have a real tangible meaning, consequence, and outcome as they happen (such as the death of Christ); but these same events can also simultaneously have a mysterious quality to them that somehow advances God’s plan and purpose in ways that we can’t see or measure.
Gregory the Great, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 590 – 604 A.D. said this: “Holy Scripture, in its way of speaking, transcends all other sciences because in one and the same statement while it narrates a real event, it also sets forth the mystery”. Tom Bradford has tried to characterize and illustrate this impossible to explain divine phenomena by using the term the Reality of Duality.
In my next blog post we shall open our Bibles to Acts chapter one.