Summary: First in a series of sermons on the first half of the book of Acts
30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
That seems like a pretty odd way to end this book doesn’t it? It almost seems like the author was interrupted in his writing or only told part of the story. There have been a lot of suggestions as for why Acts ends this way. I would suggest to you that the reason is because that’s the way that God wanted it to end – you see, the book of Acts is the story of how the Church was started and the story of the Church is not over yet! So really, we are going to be looking at “The Beginning of the Beginning” of the story of the Church this morning in Acts 1.
1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach
There are some questions that come to mind when you begin to study this book. Who wrote it? Who was Theophilus? What was the purpose of this writing? This book (letter) was written by Luke. Luke was a Gentile – the only non-Jew to be an author of Scripture. He was a native of the city of Antioch where the first Gentile church was established and where the followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians.” Luke was a doctor – Paul referred to him as “the beloved physician.”
Luke was writing this letter to a man named Theophilus. He makes reference in verse one to a “former treatise” or writing which Luke had written to this man Theophilus. This of course begs the question: what was this “former treatise” which he had written? It was what we know as the book of Luke. If you look back to Luke 1:1-4 we read:
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
So who was this Theophilus character and why was Luke so concerned with writing to him? There are a lot of opinions about Theophilus. His name means “God-Friendly,” so we can hope that he was in fact a “God-friendly” man. Most commentators believe that Theophilus was either a new Christian or someone who was at least interested in Christianity. He was obviously a man of some importance in public office because Luke gives him a title as well as a name: he refers to him as “Most Excellent.” This same title was used for Festus and Felix when they presided over Paul’s trials. One commentator makes a pretty convincing case that Theophilus was Paul’s defense lawyer or even his judge at his trial in Rome. Luke apparently spent four years studying and gathering his facts for his letters to Theophilus. Luke had not been an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry but he visited those who were eyewitnesses and gathered their firsthand accounts of what had happened. He gathered his account about Jesus (which is recorded in the book of Luke) while he was waiting in Caesarea until Paul was shipped to Rome. When Paul arrived in Rome, there was another two years while Paul awaited trail during which Luke wrote his second letter to Theophilus (Acts).
Luke and Acts are histories: the first about Christ and the second about the beginning of the early Church. A lawyer would require first-hand testimony, eyewitness accounts, and carefully researched facts presented in an orderly fashion. Luke carefully researched and presented what we know as Luke and Acts to Theophilus “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been informed about.” This also explains why the book of Acts ends so abruptly before Paul is beheaded for the faith (the second half of Acts is largely about Paul and his ministry; it would seem strange for a history to end the way it does prior to Paul’s death). History records that Luke himself died at the age of 84 in Greece having never been married.