During the season of Easter (from Easter Sunday to Pentecost) a reading from the Acts of the Apostles is set to be read in the Sunday services. It is likely that we will still be holding services remotely, but the readings will still stand. I thought it worth sharing some background information about it with you. What follows is a summary of the views of William Barclay.
Acts is written by Luke, who wrote the Gospel that bears his name, and who is believed to be the only Gentile author in the Bible. He was also a companion of Paul’s, particularly during his last imprisonment.
Without Acts we would not know what happened in the early church, apart from deductions from Paul’s letters. That said, this is the “edited highlights”, rather than a full description of everything that happened.
There are a number of theories as to why Luke wrote Acts:
- To show that Christianity was not seen as evil by Roman magistrates.
- To show that Christianity was for all people of all countries – in contrast to Judaism, which was for the chosen people.
- To show how a religion which began in a corner of the Empire reached Rome in about 30 years.
Acts is split into six sections detailing how Christianity spread in different areas.
- 1:1-6:7 The church in Jerusalem and the preaching of Peter.
- 6:8-9:31 The spread of Christianity in Palestine and into Samaria.
- 9:32-12:24 The conversion of Paul, the spread to Antioch, and the acceptance of Cornelius, a Gentile.
- 12:25-16:5 Growth into Asia Minor and Galatia.
- 16:6-19:20 Growth into Europe and great Gentile cities like Corinth and Ephesus.
- Paul’s imprisonment in Rome and his unhindered teaching there.
In Acts we are left not knowing what happened to Paul (he is believed to have been beheaded), but we do know that the church has spread from Jerusalem to Rome.