Name of Book: The Acts of the Apostles
Number of Book: NT 5
Chapters in Book: 28
Themes & Imagery: Baptism; conversion, including of Gentiles. Communal living; charity. False prophets and real miracles. Vision and blindness; dreams; angels. Persecution and martyrdom; imprisonment and escape.
Synopsis: This book narrates the deeds of several Apostles and disciples of Jesus in spreading his word after his death, with a focus on Peter and Paul. Events include: the healing of the cripple at the temple; the death of Ananias and his wife; imprisonment and escape; Stephen’s summary of biblical history in chapter 7; Philip’s guidance of the eunuch of Ethiopia; the blinding and healing of Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the disciples, later known as Paul; Peter’s meeting with the Gentile centurion; the smiting of Herod; blinding of Elymas; attempted pagan sacrifices at Lystra; Paul’s vision of Macedonia; visit to Athens; Demetrius the silversmith at Ephesus; the binding of Paul at Jerusalem and his subsequent trials.
Personal Response: The way the book jumps between different places and different key disciples can make it hard to follow at times, but does create a sense of excitement, activity and expansion which seems very appropriate, and which evokes an image of early Christianity as very dynamic. The frequent summary and repetition of certain key points and events – the foretelling of the Messiah by the Hebrew prophets, for instance, or the death and resurrection of Christ – might be imitative of the repetition of similar sermons by the disciples preaching in different places, and also reaffirms and reinforces the central message for the audience of the Bible. At certain points, there is a shift to a first-plural “we” and “us”, which is striking, but internal details about the author (generally taken to be Luke the Evangelist) are frustratingly sparse. The key themes (e.g. persecution at the hands of the Jews) are clear, and strengthened by repetition, but varied enough not to become wholly formulaic. Overall, I found this to be a very interesting book.
Favourite Part: Paul and Silas escape from prison at Philippi in Macedonia (the walls fall down to let them out).
My Top Five Lines & Passages:
Simon attempts to buy the power of divine healing, chapter 8 verses 18-23:
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
Peter meets the Gentile centurion Cornelius, chapter 10 verses 25-28:
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Paul and Barnabas preach to the Gentiles, chapter 13 verses 42-48:
42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Paul preached on the Areopagus in Athens, chapter 17 verses 22-31:
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an alter with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Paul says his final goodbyes before heading to Jerusalem, chapter 20 verses 25-32:
25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
26 Whereof I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
27For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.