Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Earlier New Testament Epistles"
The Acts of the Apostles


Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible

Dr. A. T. Pierson suggests the title: "The Acts of the Holy Spirit" because of the prominent place the Spirit has in this book. Another writer suggests: "The (Further) Acts of the Lord Jesus Christ, " based upon the words of 1:1, referring to the Gospel of Luke, "a former treatise.. .of all that Jesus BEGAN to do." Probably our thoughts concerning the book will be clearer if, to ourselves at least, we call it: "The ACTS of the Risen Lord Jesus BY the Holy Spirit THROUGH the Apostles."

Undoubtedly (Luke! See 1:1-2 with Luke 1:1-4. Also note the "we" of 16:10, where evidently Luke joined the missionary party of Paul and Silas. Of course the divine author is the Holy Spirit, 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:13; cp. 2 Peter l:21b.

Evidently around AD 63/64 toward the close of Paul's first imprisonment of two years plus (?), according to 28:30, if we follow the commonly received date of AD 61-63/64 for the first imprisonment. There is no mention of release, further journeys, or death. But there is rather solid agreement among scholars that Paul was released (Phil. 1:19, "salvation" = "deliverance"; cp. Heb. 13:23-24).

He then journeyed again for God (certainly east, as witness 1 Timothy and Titus; possibly west to Spain, as per Romans 15:24). Evidently the death he clearly saw looming (2 Timothy 4:6-10a, 16-17) was at the end of a second imprisonment, when he was in a dungeon (needing a cloak), not in his own hired house (28:30).

Revised dating: More recently there has been a trend among some scholars to re-date some of these events earlier (e.g., Tenney, Bruce): crucifixion of Christ, AD 29; conversion of Paul, AD 31-33; Jerusalem council of Acts 15 (Gal. 2), c. AD 49; Paul's first imprisonment, c. AD 56; release, c. AD 58/59; Paul's second imprisonment and death, c. AD 68; destruction of Jerusalem, still listed as AD 70.

First, it is possibly just an account of the growth of the Church and of Paul's relation to it, which his dear friend, Dr. Luke, knew the churches would treasure in permanent form. Second, and more probably, it may well have been a document drawn up by Luke as Paul's defense before Caesar. In it Luke would thus appear to be informing the judges at Paul's trial concerning the origin and progress of this little known sect (called "the Way," 9:2; 19:23; 24:22; and "Christians," 11:26). Luke lays special emphasis on Paul's utter sincerity and innocence of any charge worthy of a trial (24:12-13; 26:31-32). The book traces carefully how, whenever there was trouble, Judaizers started the riots (not Paul, 24:17-18). Thus, their charges against him were false (24:5-6). It indicates that the Roman governors actually had no charge with which they could indict Paul, and records earnest attempts on their part to find some charge to present (25:13-26:1, particularly 25:27 and 26:31-32).

Luke documents his evidence with summaries and/or transcripts of various crucial speeches made by Paul: (1) Paul's defense before the Jerusalem mob (22:1-23); (2) before the chief captain (22:24-30); (3) before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem (23:1-10); (4) before Governor Felix at Caesarea (24:10-23); (5) before Governor Festus (25:8-12); (6) before King Herod Agrippa II (26:1-32); (7) before the Jews at Rome (28:17-28). These were like transcripts sent up to the highest court from the lower courts.

The book may be variously approached: Biographically, Geographically, and Interpretationally. The final outline shows the historical and doctrinal transition from Israel to the Church, and the growing comprehension of the disciples concerning what God was doing in this new age.

I. The ministry of PETER and others 1-12 (including 15:6-11 and excepting 9:1-31; 11:19-30)
II. The ministry of PAUL and others 13-28 (excepting 15:6-11 and including 9:1-31; 11:19-30)

GEOGRAPHICALLY or MISSIONARY: The Progress of the Gospel

I. At Jerusalem 1:1-8:3
II. To Judea, Samaria, Africa, and Syria 8:4-12:25
III. To Asia Minor 13:1-16:8
IV. To Eastern Europe (The Balkans) l6:9-20:3a

PARENTHESIS: Paul's Last Trip to Jerusalem, Arrest, and Imprisonment 20:3b-26:32
V. To Western Europe (Rome) 27-28

INTRODUCTION: The Fifty Days from Passover to Pentecost 1

  1. REJECTION by Jews and Proselytes (IN Judea) 2:1-8:3

  2. TRANSITION from Jews and Proselytes to Gentiles (FROM Judea) 8:4-12:25

  3. EXPANSION among Gentiles ("To the uttermost") 13-28

    1. Paul's Three Missionary Journeys 13:l-20:3a

      1. Paul's FIRST Missionary Journey (with Barnabas) 13-14
        (to Asia Minor)
        Parenthesis: The First Church Council (at Jerusalem, AD 50) 15:1-35
        Judaizers answered and the gospel of grace approved.

      2. Paul's SECOND Missionary Journey (with Silas) 15:36-18:22
        (to the Balkans: Eastern Europe)

      3. Paul's THIRD Missionary Journey (with Silas) 18:23-20:3a
        (to the Balkans: Eastern Europe)

    2. The Trip to Jerusalem, with Gentile Christians' Gift, and its Results 20:3b-26:32

    3. The Trip to Rome and its Results (to Western Europe) 27-28


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