Acts, Part 1

Acts, Part 1

I've been pouring over the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles, or Acts for short. It's one of my favorite books in the Bible, because it's filled with stories, bordering on biography.

Though I could write for days, I'll limit myself to two posts on Acts:

  1. Top 10 Themes
  2. Holy Spirit's role

"A Lover of God"

Acts is written by Dr. Luke, who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. It's actually Volume II of Luke's writings, while Volume I is the Gospel of Luke. Really?  Yep, compare how both Luke and Acts begin:

Luke 1:1-4 "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly (consecutive) account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."
Acts 1:1-2 "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen..."

The Gospel of Luke and Acts are really one work, divided into two volumes. What fools the modern reader is the Gospel of John – inserted between Luke's two volumes.

Note the original audience of both volumes: Theophilus. He may be an actual man or (more likely) a pseudonym for all believers, since his name is parsed:

  • Theo = "God"
  • Philus = "Lover of"

Theo-philus could be code language for every reader who seeks God, via these two volumes.

Early morning run along the beach.
On the Run!

On the Run!

Acts is a History Book, describing past events rather than prescribing rules. This is an important distinction as one attempts to glean action points from the book. Simply put, not everything described in Acts is necessarily prescribed for today's believer. But there is much for us to learn.

I remember the first time I read Acts as a young believer in college. Why? Because as a youngster, I'd heard gruesome stories about the martyrdom of Jesus' disciples. Now, I could read this History Book on my own, excited to discover how Peter and Paul had died.

I read the entire book in two sittings – it was that compelling! Somewhere around chapter 20 I began wondering, "How in the world will this book wrap up in time to tell me about how Peter and Paul died?" Turns out I'd be disappointed by the answer! If you've read this action-packed thriller, you know it ends mid-sentence – as though author Luke was on the run. No mention of Peter or Paul's death. Nevertheless, Acts had captured me, and I've been unable to break my addiction to the Bible ever since.

Top 10 Themes in Acts

When you read something once, you notice some things. But when you read it through 100 times, you notice much more. I don't know if I've hit 100, but it's been a lot. The result: I'm better able to identify key themes in this book. In my view, the Top 10 are:

  1. Holy Spirit (mentioned 58 times in Acts ... I highlighted each reference and counted by hand).
  2. Gospel Proclamation. The central task throughout the book is the preaching of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
  3. Risk-taking Boldness. The early church seemed to fear absolutely nothing.
  4. Community. They spent lots of time together, not apart. Together describes believers at least 15x in Acts.
  5. God's Word -- our Authority. If God said it, it's good as gold.
  6. Prayer. Mentioned in 17/28 chapters, prayer is integral to the normal Christian life.
  7. Resurrection. Mentioned in 13/28 chapters, Jesus' resurrection was often the lead foot of the Gospel.
  8. Progress Reports. 21 times Luke estimates the spread of the Gospel (almost always in qualitative terms: see my post Success and the Danger of Numbers).
  9. Suffering. It's normative to the Christian life.
  10. World. The goal of the Gospel is nothing short of the entire world.

I'm tempted to drill down on each of these themes, but I'll resist. Instead, let's ponder just one of them ...


Usually, prayer isn't a theme extracted from Acts, but once you see it you can't unsee it! It shows up in 13 of the first 14 chapters!

I Find in so amazing the work God does to touch every Man & Women of God, This was taken during SouthWest District Youth Convention: Pulse 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona
Prayer in Book of Acts


  • "They (120 disciples) all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." 1:14
  • "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." 2:42-43
  • "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon..." 3:1
  • "They raised their voice together in prayer to God ... after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken..." 4:24-31
  • [the Apostles said] "We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word." 6:4
  • "While they were stoning him, Steven prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them." 7:59-60
  • "When Peter and John arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit..." 8:15
  • "The Lord told Ananias, 'Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying..." 9:11
  • "Cornelius ... prayed to God regularly. One day, at three in the afternoon he had a vision... the next day at noon, Peter went up on the roof to pray..." 10:1-3, 9
  • [Peter] "I was in the city of Joppa praying..." 11:5
  • "So Peter was kept in prison, but the Church was earnestly praying to God for him..." and "... many people had gathered and were praying for [Peter]." 12:5, 12

That ends Part 1 of Acts.  10 Themes – one is Prayer. Next time, the Holy Spirit.