This study seeks to explain some major purposes and themes that the book of Acts emphasizes. Many reasons underscore the purposes and for that matter the significant themes of the book of Acts. For the sake of clarity and brevity, however, these purposes are summed up under historical, theological and practical significance.
1. Historical purposes
Luke purpose as recorded in Luke 1:4 and Acts 1:1 is to set forth a historical account of the continuation of God’s redemptive purpose in history. In this light, Luke gives a historical documentation of the origins of Christianity in general. Thus, for historical purposes: Acts tells of the establishment of and the growth of the Church. It also gives the historical account of how the Gospel spread. Further, it records the start of congregations. Moreover, it documents the evangelistic efforts of the apostles. Thus, whereas the Gospels firmly established the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the book of Acts gave a comprehensive account of the establishment of the Church. This point makes Luke a historian.
2. Theological purposes
Many significant themes support the fact that the Book of Acts is not only a historical book but theological as well.
God’s continuous salvation history
Theologically, the book of Acts demonstrates the theme of God’s continuous redemptive purpose in history. This means that the wondrous deeds recorded in the book of Acts are comparable in might to those seen in the gospels and in the OT. This perspective is referred to as “salvation history.” The faith of those who responded to the Gospel was mysteriously tied to this understanding that God was at work in history.
Jesus as the Messiah
Jesus of Nazareth is presented in the book of Acts as the long-awaited messiah who is the only source of our salvation (Acts 5:31; 13:23). For in him alone is forgiveness and from him alone the Holy Spirit is received. In this light, it is worth noting that in the Book of Acts, emphasis is placed on Christ’s resurrection and exaltation.
The book of Acts shows that the church began at Pentecost but was not fully revealed by God until later, primarily through the writings of Paul. Promising to build his Church in Matthew 16:18, Jesus then gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Peter used these “keys” in opening the door of faith to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2), to the Samaritans (Acts 8), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10). In other words, there is a transition in these first seven chapters of Acts, with Israel and the kingdom moving off the scene, and the church and the Gospel of God’s grace moving onto the scene.
The Holy Spirit
The Emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit is evidenced in Acts 2:25-28. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit is mentioned almost every chapter of the book. He is the Holy Spirit of promise, 1; power, 2; healing, 3; boldness, 4; Judgment, 5; administration, 6; steadfastness, 7; evangelism, 8; comfort, 9; guidance, 10; prophecy, 11; deliverance, 12; mission, 13; protection, 14; wisdom, 15; restraint and constraint, 16; opportunity 17; revelation, 18; purpose, 19; leadership, 20.
The Holy Spirit is Active in the leadership and direction of the Church. Paul and his companions respond to the Spirit’s guidance, the Holy Spirit speaks through prophets (11:28), appoints elders in the Churches (20:28) and the Spirit is the principal witness to the truth (5:32).
3. Practical purposes
The book of Acts also emphasizes practical significance in areas of prayer, generosity to the marginalized, witnessing and mission.
Luke emphasized prayer. Every chapter shows the result of earnest prayer and almost every chapter makes mention of it by name.
Ministry to the marginalized in the society
As a sequel of the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts continues the theme of emphasizing God’s acceptance of the marginalized in the society such as the poor, the rich, the sick and women. Luke seems to portray that the early Church is marked by commitments to eliminating poverty (Acts 4:34) and thus having an all-inclusive vision of incorporating people from all nations, including traditional enemies such as Samaritans (Acts 8:4-25).
Mission and Witness
Acts is also basically a book of mission and witnessing (Acts 8). They were to evangelize the world, spreading the Good news of Christ’s person and redemptive work, including his vicarious death and bodily resurrection. It was agreed that Judas’ replacement had to have the witness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22). Peter proclaimed his witness to the Jewish pilgrims on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:32), to the temple crowd who marveled over the healed lame man (Acts 3:12-26).
This study has identified the purpose of the book of Acts. Significantly, the book of Acts brings out the story of the spread of the Church through the Roman world of the first century. Luke writes also with a pastoral heart that the essential task of the Church is mission and proclamation of the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. God’s purpose is to have a Church made up of all races. Thus, there are no distinctions of race or anything else among God’s people. The Holy Spirit empowers and guides the Church. The Holy Spirit gives gifts for mission and not for personal enrichment.
1. State three major ways in which the book of Acts is significant to your Christian life and ministry.
2. The book of Acts could be described as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Explain.
3. Discuss Luke’s emphasis on God’s acceptance of the marginalized in the society.
4. How does the book of Acts orient your understanding about God’s all-inclusive ministry?