An exegetical commentary on the Greek Text



On face value, the book of Acts records the first 30 years of the Christian church from its origins in Galilee and Jerusalem through the Mediterranean lands and into the center of the known world, Rome. The author, Luke the physician and companion of Paul the apostle, writes Acts as a sequel to his gospel, detailing the movement of the gospel, particularly in the ministry of Paul, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Luke is indeed a historian, but more than that, a theologian. There have been those who have argued he was a myth-maker, but historian and theologian is a far better estimate. Luke sets out to explain the expansion of the way from Jerusalem to Rome under the hand of God's man Paul. Luke reveals how Paul's gospel ministry proceeds under both divine and apostolic authority. Paul is no schismatic running his own race. Neither is Paul a heretic; his gospel of God's grace in Christ also bears the marks of divine and apostolic authority.

When it comes to Paul's mission strategy and his gospel, Luke is at pains to reveal both the hand of God and the approval of the apostles and the Jerusalem church. Luke's account of the acts of Paul serves to authorize Gentile Christianity and the gospel upon which it rest, namely that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works of the law.

The structure of Acts

Witness unto the ends of the earth

"You will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth", 1:8

1. The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

i] The Ascension 1:1-11

ii] A church devoted to Prayer, 1:12-14

iii] The restoration of the twelve, 1:15-26

iv] The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, 2:1-13

v] Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, 2:14-35

a) Introduction - answering the charge of drunkenness, 2:14-21.

b) The sermon proper - Christ, his resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit, 2:22-36

vi] Peter calls for repentance, 2:37-41

vii] The life of the early Church, 2:42-47

viii] The healing of the lame man, 3:1-11

ix] Peter preaches in the temple, 3:12-20

x] The arrest and trial of the disciples, 4:1-22

xi] The believers join in prayer, 4:23-31

xii] The life of the early Christians, 4:32-37

xiii] Ananias and Sapphira, 5:1-11

xiv] An overview of life in the Jerusalem church, 5:12-16

xv] The disciples before the Sanhedrin, 5:17-42

2. The gospel reaches into Judea and Samaria, 6:1-12:25

i] The spirit of the gospel, 6:1-7

ii] Stephen is arrested, 6:8-15

iii] Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin, 7:1-53

iv] Stephen's martyrdom, 7:54-60

v] Samaria accepts the gospel, 8:1-13

vi] Samaritans received the Holy Spirit, 8:14-25

vii] Philip and the Ethiopian, 8:26-40

viii] The conversion of Saul, 9:1-19a

ix] Paul preaches fearlessly in Jesus' name, 9:19b-31

x] Aeneas and Dorcas, 9:32-43

xi] Peter's inclusive vision of the way, 10:1-16

xii] Peter's meeting with Cornelius, the Gentile centurion, v17-27;

xiii] Peter's sermon to Cornelius and friends, 10:28-43

xiv] The Holy Spirit came upon them, 10:44-48

xv] Peter explains his actions, 11:1-18

xvi] A good man, 11:19-30

xvii] Persecution in Jerusalem, 12:1-19

xviii] The gospel moves outward, 12:20-25

3. The gospel moves outward from Antioch, 13:1-15:41

i] The mission to Cyprus by Paul and Barnabas, 13:1-12

ii] The mission in Pisidian Antioch, 13:13-43

iii] The gospel for the whole world, 13:44-52

iv] The mission to Iconium, 14:1-7

v] The mission to Lystra and Derbe, 14:8-20

vi] God opens the door for the gospel, 14:21-28

vii] The Jerusalem conference, 15:1-21

viii] Conference resolutions and action, 15:22-30

ix] The stage is set for a new mission, 15:31-41

4. Gospel consolidation and expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38

i] The call to Macedonia, 16:1-15

ii] Paul and Silas in prison, 16:16-40

iii] The mission to Thessalonica and Boroea, 17:1-15

iv] The mission to Athens, 17:16-34

v] The mission to Corinth, 18:1-17

vi] The missioners retrace their steps, 18:18-23

vii] Apollos and the followers of John the Baptist, 18:24-19:7

viii] The mission to Ephesus, 19:8-41

ix] To Troas and the raising of Eutychus, 20:1-12

x] Paul's farewell sermon, 20:13-38

5. The gospel reaches Rome, 21:1-28:31

i] Paul's journey to Jerusalem, 21:1-16

ii] Paul and James, 21:17-26

iii] The arrest of Paul in the Temple, 21:27-36

iv] Paul's testimony, 21:37-22:29

v] Paul's defense before the Jewish Council, 22:30-23:11

vi] The attempted assassination of Paul, 23:12-22

vii] Paul's transfer to Caesarea, 23:23-35

viii] Paul's defense before Felix, 24:1-27

ix] Paul's defense before Festus, 25:1-12

x] Paul appeals to Caesar, 25:1-12

xi] Paul before Agrippa and Bernice, 25:13-26:32

xii] The journey to Rome, 27:1-28:16

xiii] The gospel preached in Rome, 28:17-31


The book of Acts entails Luke's account of the unfolding realization of Christ's charge to his disciples - "You will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth", 1:8. Luke's book of the apostles, with his particular focus on Paul the apostle, reveals the unfolding realization of Christ's charge in the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke's account of the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the world / Rome is best treated historically and geographically, as above. Luke is indeed a theologian, but the book of acts is shaped by history. Most commentators follow this approach, eg., Dunn:

Beginning in Jerusalem, 1-5;

The initial expansion, 6-12;

The Mission form Antioch and the Jerusalem Council, 13-15;

The Aegean Mission, 16-20;

The final act: Jerusalem to Rome, 21-28.

English Commentaries on Acts

Barrett, ICC. Blacklock, Tyndale, 1959, replaced. Bock, BECNT, 2007. Bruce, The Greek text with introduction and commentary, Tyndale Press, 1951, Bruce, NICNT. Conzelmann, Hermeneia. Culy & Parsons, Gk. text, HGT. Dunn, Epworth. Fitzmyer, Anchor. Foakes-Jackson, MNTC, 1931. Haenchen, Blackwell, 1971. Hanson, New Clarendon, 1967. Jaroslav, Brazos. Johnson, Sacra Pagina. Lake & Cadbury, Macmillan; esp. vols 3 & 4, 1933. Levinsohn, Textual Connection in Acts, SBL. Longenecker, Expositors. Marshall, Tyndale, 1980. Munck, Anchor, 1967. Neil, NCB. Packer, CBC. Peterson, Pillar, 2009. Stott, BST. Tannehill, Fortress Press. Walton, Word, 2008/9. Williams C.S.C, Blacks. Williams R.R., Torch. Winn, Layman's, 1961. Witherington, Eerdmans / Paternoster, 1998


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