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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Acts Overview



Introduction to The Acts of the Apostles

The Author

The first verse points the reader back to the book of Luke which is obviously the "former account" (Luke 1:1-4). Clearly, the author of the book of Luke is also the one who penned the book of Acts. The "we" passages show the author was a companion of Paul"s (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-38; Acts 21:1-18; Acts 27:1-44; Acts 28:1-16). He also had a keen interest in sick people and their diseases (Luke 4:38; Luke 5:12; Luke 6:6; Luke 8:43-44; Luke 8:55; Luke 9:38 ff; Luke 22:50-51). When Matthew and Mark write about the camel passing through the eye of the needle, they use the common term for a household needle, while we find the word for a surgeon"s needle in Luke 18:25. As Luke was called "the beloved physician" by Paul in Colossians 4:14, he is the most likely author of both Luke and Acts. Early writings agree with that conclusion.

Luke"s name is thought to have been an abbreviation of Loukanos. Some believe 2 Corinthians 8:18 indicates that this Christian doctor was Titus" brother. He may have been a Gentile. As Paul extends final greetings at the end of the Colossian letter, he begins by listing some who are circumcised and extend greetings. Then, he lists others, not of the circumcised, who also extend greetings. Luke is among the latter (Colossians 4:7-15). He does not appear to have been an eyewitness of Christ"s walk on earth (Luke 1:2). Instead, he recorded what eyewitnesses had reported to him and others. It should also be observed that the physician was loyal to Paul as he was with him when the letter to Philemon was written. Later, he stayed with the apostle despite very trying and dangerous circumstances (Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:9-12).

The Recipient

The recipient of the book was a man named Theophilus, meaning "one who loves God." In Luke, he is addressed as "most excellent," which was a type of title used for those in the Roman government (Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25). Gardner suggests Theophilus may have been Luke"s benefactor in this writing. That is, he may have supported him while the work was being written. Since the title was dropped by the time the book of Acts was written, Gardner also wonders if Theophilus may have been converted by his study of the first book, Luke.


Perhaps Luke"s opening remarks can shed a little light on his purpose for writing. "The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach" (Acts 1:1). The beloved physician seems to have thought of Acts as a continuation of his account of the works and words of Jesus. Remember the church is the body of Christ. That is why, when Paul persecuted the church, Jesus asked, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" In a very real sense, the works of the church could be described as the works of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 9:4). So, it might be said that Acts gives its readers an overview of the workings of Jesus for the thirty years following his resurrection.

The Lord told Zacchaeus his reason for coming to earth when he said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Thus, McGarvey"s thinking about Luke"s purpose for writing is easily understood. He says, "Much the greater part of Acts may be resolved into a detailed history of cases of conversion, and of unsuccessful attempts at the conversion of sinners. If we extract from it all cases of this kind, with the facts and incidents preparatory to each and immediately consequent upon it, we will have exhausted almost the entire contents of the narrative."

Ash, Anthony Lee. The Acts of the Apostles, Part I. Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1979.

Bales, James D. The Hub of The Bible. Rosemead, California: Old Paths Book Club, 1960.

Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976.

Boles, H. Leo. A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1941.

Bruce, F. F. Commentary on the Book of the Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Colossians, 1954.

Cates, Curtis A., editor. The Book of Acts--Challenges of First Century Christianity Acts 9:1-43; Acts 12:1-25; Acts 13:1-52; Acts 14:1-28; Acts 15:1-41; Acts 16:1-40; Acts 17:1-34; Acts 18:1-28; Acts 19:1-41; Acts 20:1-38; Acts 21:1-40; Acts 22:1-30; Acts 23:1-35; Acts 24:1-27; Acts 25:1-27; Acts 26:1-32; Acts 27:1-44; Acts 28:1-31. Lebanon, Tennessee: Sain Publications, 1985.

Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on Acts. Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1976.

Gardner, Don. The First Christians (Acts 1:1-26; Acts 2:1-47; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-37; Acts 5:1-42; Acts 6:1-15; Acts 7:1-60; Acts 8:1-40; Acts 9:1-43; Acts 10:1-48; Acts 11:1-30). Houston: Partners for Christian Education, 1986.

Gardner, Don. The Early Church In Action. Houston: Partners for Christian Education, 1988.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1934.

McGarvey, J. W. A Commentary on Acts of Apostles. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., n.d.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts:4 Overview". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

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