Summary: Luke’s Gospel describes only the beginning of Jesus’ work; Acts describes its continuation; and the work of Jesus continues to our present day. We must remember that Acts does not give us a full history of the church during this period.

April 23, 2013

By: Tom Lowe

Series: The Early Church

Title: The Reaffirmation of the Promise

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1.1-5

Acts 1.1-5 (KJV)

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.


1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

The former treatise have I made,

The former treatise, undoubtedly, refers to the gospel, which was written by St. Luke, and bears his name. There Luke recorded the history of the Gospel, which features the life of Christ; His teachings and actions. At one time the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were joined together as one book with two “volumes.”

Can you imagine what it would be like if the Book of Acts were missing from the New Testament? You would pick up your Bible and see the ministry of Jesus ending in the Gospel of John; next you would read about a guy named Paul writing to followers of Jesus in Rome. Who was Paul? How did the gospel get from Jerusalem to Rome? The Book of Acts answers these questions. A great New Testament scholar (Barclay) has said that the title of Acts might be, “How they brought the Good News from Jerusalem to Rome.”

We really don’t know all that much about Luke from the New Testament. We know that he was a doctor; we know that he was a Gentile, and we know that he was a companion of Paul. There was a time when many scholars thought that Acts was sort of a romance novel of the early church, written at least 100 years after the events supposedly happened. But William Ramsay, a noted archaeologist and Bible scholar, proved that the historical record of Acts is remarkably accurate regarding the specific practices, laws and customs of the period it claims to record. It is definitely the work of contemporary eyewitnesses.

In the mid-1960’s, A.N. Sherwin-White, an expert in Greco-Roman history from Oxford, wrote about Acts: “The historical framework is exact. In terms of time and place the details are precise and correct . . . As documents these narratives belong to the same historical series as the record of provincial and imperial trials in epigraphical and literary sources of the first and early second centuries AD . . . For Acts the confirmation of history is overwhelming . . . Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”

Luke begins The Acts of the Apostles where his gospel left off; namely the ascension of Christ: “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51; NKJV).

O Theophilus,

The omission of the title "most excellent," given to Theophilus in the Gospel (Luke 1:3), is one among other indications that the publication of Acts followed very closely upon that of the Gospel. The title “most excellent,” was the usual way to address people who held high office. “Theophilus,” however, might have been a Christian wanting instruction, a Roman official being briefed by Luke about the history of the Christian movement, or the name could be symbolic, because the name Theophilus means “God-lover.”

Since Acts ends with Paul awaiting trial before Caesar, some have wondered if Luke-Acts could have been “defense briefs” written on Paul’s behalf to give some Roman official background information on Paul’s case. Luke arrived in Jerusalem with Paul in Acts 21:17; he left with him again on the journey to Rome in Acts 27:1. In those two intervening years, Luke would have had plenty of time to research and write his gospel and the Book of Acts.

of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

“All” in this verse, cannot mean every one of the miracles and sermons which Jesus made and preached. And it certainly does not give an account of the common and private actions of his life; and there is a huge gap in the gospel record since except for His disputing with the doctors at twelve years of age, no account is given by him of what he did, till he was about thirty years of age. John wrote about how impossible it would be to write down everything Jesus did. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31; KJV). “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25; KJV). By all, therefore, we must understand the Holy Spirit as saying through Luke: “The Bible contains all that was necessary to be recorded, to establish the divine mission of Christ, and to convince mankind.”

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