Among other reasons that could be given, I believe the practice of formal church membership is necessary in our context in light of the presence of denominationalism, false churches, and worldly living that is clearly at odds with the Christian life. Individuals commit to a church’s confession and covenant in order to identify themselves in a certain way and distinguish themselves from others in both what they believe and how they live.
The NT indicates that the church should practice what we call church membership. The church knew who its members were and were not by what they believed and how they lived. While this practice may look more formal or informal from one congregation to the next, it is a practice that exists to one degree or another in every healthy, biblical church. Below are a few strands of evidence from the NT that together make a strong argument for church membership.
The early churches knew their constituencies with precision. They kept track of who was “added,” sometimes recording the number (Acts 2:41; cf. 2:47; 5:14; 11:24). Within that number, a church could even track its widows and their ages (1 Tim 5:9).
Specific Ministries and Accountability
Knowing its membership, a church could choose members for specific ministries and hold them accountable. Peter was accountable to the church in Jerusalem for making disciples (Acts 11:2, 18), Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22), and Barnabas and Saul together to Antioch (Acts 13:3; 14:27). Churches sometimes appointed representatives to minister to or inquire of other churches as well (Acts 15:22; 2 Cor 8:19–20; cf. 8:18–21). ((Kevin Bauder, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2012), 92–99.))
Churches have pastors (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), which assumes established bodies of people who are accountable to follow their leadership (cf. 1 Thess 5:12–13; Heb 13:17). Likewise, deacons are men initially suggested by the church from within the church’s membership to its leadership for their respective ministries (Acts 6:3).
A defined membership for the church is necessary to exclude those who do not belong (Matt 18:15–17). This exclusion is for those who, in significantly deviating in doctrine or practice, are no longer identifiable as Christians (e.g., 1 Cor 5:1–13), and it is carried out by a majority vote of the assembled church (2 Cor 2:6).
Just mentioned above, Paul described a repentant individual as one once excluded by “the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). Having a clearly defined membership, the Corinthians knew their exact number in order to determine a majority vote.
In a leadership situation, Luke used the verb cheirotoneō in Acts 14:23 to refer to the appointment of elders, literally meaning to “stretch out the hand” in a voting situation. ((BDAG, s.v., “χειροτονέω.”)) The members voted their pastors into leadership, which again assumes the churches knew who their members were and who could vote.
From Acts 6:3 above, the same word for appointing deacons (kathistēmi) is used of elders in Titus 1:5, which means that elders, too, were suggested by members from among the membership, implying a clearly defined church membership.
While an early church may not have been as formal as many churches today, there was at least an expectation of belief and living necessary for being admitted into its membership, an admission carried out by the existing membership. However formal or informal a church may be about the matter, the NT indicates that church membership must be present in some way.
Psalm 110:1 enjoys more references in the NT than any other verse from the OT. It is quoted 5 times and given allusion 15 times. From my own study, I’ve grouped these quotations and allusions into the headings below, and every reference cited is to one of those quotations or allusions. ((All quotations are from the ESV.))
“Jesus…endured the cross, despising the shame” because He was motivated by “the joy that was set before Him,” that is, being “seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Jesus persevered and has been rewarded with the right-hand seat that was promised to Him. We are likewise exhorted to do the same. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). Stephen faithfully persevered unto death, seeing “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” as if to applaud and welcome him home (Acts 7:55–56).
Paul prayed for his readers to know of “the immeasurable greatness of his power… that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:19–20). The power of God was shown in both the resurrection of Jesus and His placement at His right hand.
Jesus’ right-hand seat indicated that He had a position over all things. There He sits as the Messiah and David’s greater Lord (Matt 22:44 / Mark 12:36 / Luke 20:42–43). It is a seat that is not even given to angels (Heb 1:13) because there He sits “with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet 3:22). In fact, His position is one in which the Father “put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22), which indicates of the Father that “he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him” (1 Cor 15:27).
“We have such a high priest,” Jesus, “one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb 8:1), which indicates the completion and present carrying out of certain priestly functions. He sat there “after making purification for sins” and having “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:12). Shortly after taking this seat, He “poured out” the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:33), sits as “Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” and anyone else who repents (Acts 5:31), and “indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:34).
As seen above, Jesus is over all things at the Father’s right hand. From there, however, He has been “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb 10:13), including those who disbelieved Him (Matt 26:64 / Mark 14:62 / Luke 22:69) and even death itself (1 Cor 15:26–27).
Though all are created in God's image, there are some characteristics of God which we as finite beings cannot fully reflect. However, ever since Adam and Eve fell for the serpent's temptation to be like God, we have all been grasping in some way to push past our human limits and be like God as well. In reading through None Like Him, we will study 10 ways God is different from us and how that should affect our worship, our view of ourselves, and our relationships with others.
Each week there will be a handout for the assigned reading on our church’s information desk. Please feel free to make notes and write down questions along the way to add to our Sunday evening discussion. Also, be sure to read the verses for meditation and questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. And even if it’s a busy week and it’s hard to keep up with each study, come anyway to be encouraged by God’s Word and fellowship with the ladies of our church!
Below is a tentative schedule with the dates to meet for each Sunday night at 6:00 PM along with what chapters to read in preparation for each study.
Sunday, September 16 – Introduction & Chapter 1
Sunday, October 7 – Chapters 2–3
Sunday, October 21 – Chapters 4–5
Sunday, November 11 – Chapters 6–7
Sunday, December 2 – Chapters 8–9
Sunday, December 16 – Chapter 10 & Conclusion
All ladies are welcome. We hope you can join us!
In Acts 2:36, Peter concludes his sermon in this way: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (ESV cf. Acts 2:14–36). Let’s look at these two titles for Jesus.
First, Jesus is Lord. David identified Him as his Lord to come who the Father would grant to sit at His right hand (Ps 110:1; cf. Acts 2:34–35). The outpouring of the Spirit and the resultant speaking of tongues verified that Jesus had indeed sat down with His Father. The Father gave Him the promised Spirit, He poured the Spirit out, and thus He showed Himself to be Lord. Additionally, as He was given authority to pour out the Spirit (2:33–34; cf. 2:1–13), and as Joel identified as this outpouring as a function of God (Joel 2:28–29; cf. Acts 2:17–18), Jesus is therefore the Lord God who poured out the Spirit.
Second, Jesus is Christ. Christ means “anointed one,” and “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38; cf. Luke 3:21–22). Such an anointing was reserved for the promised Descendant of David, the One who would eternally rule God’s people (Acts 2:30; cf. 2 Sam 7:12–16; Ps 89:3–4, 35–37). An eternal rule could only be accomplished by overcoming death, and for whatever the psalm meant to himself at the time, David “spoke of the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:31) when he prophesied in Ps 16:8–11 that the Holy One, God’s anointed king, would neither be abandoned in death nor see corruption—He would be in the presence of God forever (Acts 2:25–28). Thus, God raised Jesus up from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Acts 1:9–11), and there Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God” as promised in Ps 110:1. He is indeed the Spirit-anointed King who overcame death and will rule God’s people as Christ.
Given these two titles, it is no wonder that the Israelites listening to Peter “were cut to the heart” once they learned who “this Jesus” really was (Acts 2:37). They had crucified Him, the very Lord and Christ who was the Author of their salvation! What a dilemma to be in! Nonetheless, the mercy of God was on full display on the day of Pentecost—even these Israelites who had crucified Jesus could call on His name, repent, and find forgiveness in Him (Acts 2:38–39).
For us today, we may not have called for Jesus’ crucifixion with the crowds or jeered at Jesus at Golgotha, but we are just as deserving of punishment for our sins as they were then. May we be reminded of the great mercy it is that Jesus our Savior was crucified for us, and may we see Him for who He really is—Lord and Christ over all!
In Acts 2:14–41, Luke records Peter quoting or alluding to a half-dozen passages or so in his Pentecost sermon. These passages are listed below along with a snapshot explanation for why Peter quoted each passage.
Joel 2:28–32a in Acts 2:16–21
Peter quoted Joel to identify the cause for speaking in tongues as something of the same nature of the outpouring of the Spirit that will take place before the end of our present age. As in Joel’s day and as in the future day about which he prophesied, so also it was on the day of Pentecost—all who called out on the name of the Lord would be saved.
Psalm 16:8–11 in Acts 2:25–28
Peter quoted and applied David’s psalm to Jesus. It was not David but his descendent Jesus who had not been abandoned to Hades and seen his flesh corrupted. God raised this Jesus up and exalted Him to His right hand. The proof of this exaltation was Jesus’ having received and sent the Spirit, resulting in many speaking in tongues.
Psalm 132:11 in Acts 2:30
Peter alluded to this psalm, which in turn summarizes the covenant between God and David in 2 Sam 7:12–16 (and sounds much like Ps 89:3–4, 35–37). God swore an oath to David that He would set one of his descendants on his throne forever. This descendant is Jesus.
Psalm 110:1 in Acts 2:34–35
Peter quoted this psalm to identify the exalted position of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. This position was the explanation behind why the people heard Peter and others speaking in tongues. Only Jesus at the Father’s right hand could have been given and poured out the Spirit, which also meant that He was raised from the dead in order to be there.
Isaiah 57:19, Joel 2:32b, and Others in Acts 2:39b
Peter alluded to Isaiah and maybe other texts and then Joel’s prophecy again to instruct his listeners who could receive the Holy Spirit. The promised Spirit and salvation were for anyone that the Lord calls to Himself (Joel 2:32b), children included (similar to many passages – cf. Gen 9:9; 17:7, 9, 10; 28:14; Deut 30:19), even if they were from far off (Isa 57:19; cf. Acts 2:9–11).
Deut 32:5 and Ps 78:8 in Acts 2:40b
Peter exhorted his listeners to be saved from this crooked generation. In the Septuagint, “crooked” is used by both Moses and Asaph to describe Israel in Moses’ day as well, a fitting parallel for Peter’s generation who nailed Jesus to the cross.
While I realize that many disagree with cessationist beliefs (i.e., that special revelation and its occasionally-accompanying sign-gifts such as tongues were limited to the apostolic era and have thus ceased), it is helpful for anyone to study the topic of speaking in tongues as it is involves multiple chapters in Acts and 1 Corinthians. I know it has been helpful for me, and these are some answers from my own study that I provided to my church while preaching through Acts 2. My intent is certainly not to argue with anyone or stir debate with those who disagree. I don’t expect to bring others to my convictions (though I would not object if that happened!). I simply hope to share what I and my church believe for the benefit of others. Whatever your position may be, if otherwise, perhaps you will find it helpful as well.
What were people saying when they spoke in tongues?
The speakers were speaking actual, human languages. Acts 2:1–13 provides an example of multiple tongues (languages) being spoken and lists them out. In the context of instructing the Corinthians, Paul states, “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning” (1 Cor 14:10), implying that, whatever words they were speaking, and whether or not they had spoken the language before, they were being spoken in a meaningful, human language.
In 1 Cor 13:1, Paul supposes a situation in which he could speak in “tongues…of angels.” In doing so, Paul could have been speaking hyperbolically to stress the role of love as the motivation for using spiritual gifts—even if hypothetical but actually impossible angelic tongues could be spoken, even this kind of superlative tongue-speech is unprofitable if spoken for self and without love (cf. 1 Cor 13:1–7). Or, as he “heard things” in “the third heaven” and “paradise…which man may not utter,” the tongues of angels may be real, angelic languages but still impermissible for man to utter, even with the gift of tongues (2 Cor 12:2–4).
Acts describes in the content of tongues-speech in various ways. First, the content involved “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11), which had to do with works such as the resurrection of Jesus and finding salvation through the Spirit in Him (cf. Acts 2:14–41). Second, the content had to do with “extolling God” (Acts 10:46). Most likely, the context of Acts 10 involved new converts extolling (praising) God for what they had just believed of the gospel as well (cf. Acts 10:34–43). Third, speaking in tongues is joined with “prophesying” (Acts 19:6). As Peter explained speaking in tongues in terms of prophecy (cf. Acts 2:17), and as it spoke of “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11), the content of tongues in Acts 19 likely involved prophesying in that they speakers were praising God for His mighty work through Christ for salvation as well.
Added to the above, Paul identifies the content of tongues-speech as “mysteries” (1 Cor 14:2). “Everywhere in Paul’s writings ‘mysteries’ were truths about God and His program that for a time remained hidden, but were at that moment revealed through the inspired writer (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:7; 13:2; 15:51; Eph. 3:3–4, 9; 5:32; Col. 1:26).” ((Robert Thomas, Understanding Spiritual Gifts (revised edition; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 87.)) For one speaking in tongues, these truths about God and His program were not essentially different from the other mysteries Paul would reveal in Scripture after writing to the Corinthians. The difference is that, with tongues, the mysteries were spoken.
What was the purpose for speaking in tongues?
On a basic level, the purpose for speaking in tongues indicated to the speakers and others that the speakers had been given the Spirit (Acts 2:1–13 with 2:33; Acts 10:46 with 10:47; Acts 19:2 with 19:6).
Paul likewise taught that “tongues are a sign…for unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:22). Looking more closely at the examples of tongues as the gift involved unbelievers in Acts, we could say that, like other miracles (a miraculous gift in this instance), tongues signified to unbelievers that what was being said of God’s Word was true (Acts 2; cf. 1 Kgs 17:24; Acts 14:3; Heb 2:4). In the other instances, tongues signified to new converts and especially others that the new converts had indeed believed the gospel and had been accepted by God as His people (Acts 10, 19). They could not speak in tongues by the Spirit if they did not have the Spirit. Within the gathered assembly (the situation that Paul is addressing in 1 Cor 14), it seems tongues could have likewise verified the truth or the certainty of one’s conversion as long as certain guidelines were followed (cf. 1 Cor 14:27–28).
Though these passages are not exactly alike in every detail, each passage somehow involved unbelievers and speaking in tongues. Either unbelievers heard the tongues-speech and then believed, or unbelievers believed and then spoke in tongues to confirm their belief.
Are some Christians able to speak in “private prayer languages”?
A surface level reading of 1 Corinthians 14 leads some to the conclusion that Paul spoke of privately praying in tongues. After all, in the context of instructing the Corinthians about how to speak in tongues, Paul did mention that “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Cor 14:2), that “the one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself” (1 Cor 14:4), that one can “pray in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:14), and that he could “speak to himself and to God” (1 Cor 14:28).
For each of these passages, however, one should remember that the entirety of 1 Cor 12–14 has to do with the assembled church and not what to do in a private, isolated setting. Paul’s repeated point in 1 Cor 14 is that the Corinthians were to do what edified the assembly (1 Cor 14:5, 12, 19, 26). With this necessary contextual element in mind, speaking or praying in a tongue to God alone should be understood as a misuse of tongues—an interpreter was necessary to make known to all the mysteries given by the Spirit, and the assembly would thus be edified (cf. 1 Cor 14:5). If an interpreter was not present, the one who could have spoken in tongues was to remain silent (1 Cor 14:28), be personally built up by silently contemplating the mysteries he could have otherwise spoken (1 Cor 14:4, 28), and let edification prevail through prophecy instead (1 Cor 14:5, 19). To clarify, tongues could certainly have involved praying in a tongue (cf. 1 Cor 14:14), but only in the assembly. The gift of tongues was meant to edify others.
Should missionaries witness in tongues?
In Acts 2, unbelievers heard the mighty of acts of God being declared in their native languages (Acts 2:8–11), which eventually led to the salvation of many (Acts 2:41). Moreover, Paul declared that “tongues are a sign…for unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:22). Should we attempt today to speak in tongues to unbelievers as a sign that what we say is true, which may lead to their salvation?
As a cessationist, I would obviously answer no to the question of whether or not missionaries should witness in tongues. But even if we set cessationism aside, the book of Acts describes this kind of thing only once in all of its 28 chapters (Acts 2). In Acts 10 and 19, it is not even the missionaries who were speaking in tongues. A well-known hermeneutical axiom is helpful here for Acts 2 (and Acts 10 and 19 for that matter)—“the descriptive is not necessarily prescriptive.” Stated another way, “narrative is not necessarily normative.”
If anything, this sign-gift fits with the overall theme of Acts—how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). People spoke in tongues in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1–13), maybe further to Judea and Samaria (compare Acts 8:14–17 with 10:44–48), yet further to Caesarea (Acts 10:44–48), and yet even further all the way to Ephesus (Acts 19:1–7). The gift of tongues verified that the Spirit was given to believers in Jerusalem and others as the gospel spread to new and further geographic regions.
Should new converts to speak in tongues once they believe the gospel (e.g., Acts 10:44–48 and 19:1–7)?
Again, as a cessationist, I would answer no. But, along the lines of how we just answered the last question, if we build our expectations for new converts according to narrative descriptions alone, we should also include the instances of people being saved without speaking in tongues immediately thereafter (e.g., Paul in Acts 9, the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, etc.). Even for the book of Acts, speaking in tongues is not a uniform element for those who come to Christ.
Some try to narrow tongues-speaking and conversion to what happens on the frontiers of the gospel in a way that parallels Acts 10 and 19. But again, even with cessationism set aside, this claim is at best making a narrative normative, albeit in a limited way. It may keep tongues and any related excesses out of established congregations and isolate the gift to the ends of earth, but we have no direct instruction to expect this kind of thing. Narrative is not necessarily normative.
Does speaking in tongues have anything to do with reversing the judgment of tongues in Genesis 11?
Some suggest that the confusion of tongues at Babel in Gen 11 is “reversed” through tongues breaking the language barrier in Acts 2. The table of nations in Gen 10 likewise finds a parallel in the languages listed in Acts 2:8–11. And just as language was confused in Gen 11 to spread man over the earth, so also Acts 2 gives unity in language through tongues to take the gospel to every end of the earth to which man has spread (cf. Acts 1:8). ((Chalmer E. Faw, Acts (Believers Church Bible Commentary: Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993), 51.)) Or, a softer conclusion, maybe Acts 2 showed the judgment of Gen 11 being not actually but only “symbolically broken” and will be “realized finally” at “the fulfillment of kingdom expectations (Rev. 5:9).” ((Chad Brand, s.v., “Tongue” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman, 2003), 1605.))
As interesting as these parallels may be, Acts 2 does not explicitly identify its events as a reversal of the judgment of Gen 11. Moreover, it does not even record everyone (whatever their spiritual state) speaking one, singular language, which would have been a full reversal of Gen 11. Many languages persist today as they did in Acts 2. That tongues are no longer spoken today is further evidence (for the cessationist) that Gen 11 has not been reversed as well.
No study is complete without looking at the Scriptures for yourself, but hopefully the above can be an introductory guide in studying this difficult topic. If nothing else, what an amazing gift it was for some to speak in tongues, edify others, and show the spread of the gospel!
Apostles had an important role in biblical history, Judas Iscariot included, but for all the wrong reasons. Though he and the others cast out demons and preached the kingdom of God (Mark 6:7–13), he is never recorded in a positive light when his name is explicitly mentioned in Scripture.
Of the 44 uses of the Greek Ioudas (Judas), this name is used 22 times to refer to Judas Iscariot. In 12 of these 22 uses, they involve some form of the word betray—he is the one “who would betray him,” “was going to betray him,” was about to betray him,” did so, and was thus “his betrayer,” “a traitor,” and the one “who betrayed him” (Matt 10:4; 26:25; 27:3; Mark 3:19; 14:10; Luke 6:16; 22:48; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2; 18:2, 5). 3 of these 12 uses are found in three of the four lists of the apostles’ names in which he is always last and described as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matt 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16). In the fourth of these lists (Acts 1:13), it is after the resurrection when Judas is absent because he committed suicide.
In the other 10 uses of his name, Judas is described in these verses as somehow going about the act of his betrayal—he was possessed by Satan, went to the chief priests to sell Jesus out, came with a great crowd to arrest Jesus, was identified as the betrayer, or was described as having turned aside to go to his own place, which was no less than eternal destruction (Matt 26:14, 47; Mark 14:43; Luke 22:3, 47; John 13:26, 29; 18:3; Acts 1:16, 25).
Adding insult to injury, of the 34 times that the apostles are referred to as “the twelve,” 9 of these times are used with reference to Judas to highlight just how sinful it was for him to betray our Lord (Matt 26:14, 47; Mark 14:10, 20, 43; Luke 22:3, 47; John 6:70, 71). After the Lord’s resurrection, the reader of Scripture would have thus easily thought who the missing twelfth was when the disciples were called “the eleven” 5 times after the suicide of Judas (Matt 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:9, 33; Acts 1:26).
Yet worse, Jesus Himself called Judas “the son of destruction” who was “lost,” which meant in context that Judas was not kept by Jesus in the Father’s name, had not been given by the Father to Jesus, and was not guarded by the Savior for eternal life, something he never had (John 17:12).
How painful it is to read of Judas from the lips of Jesus, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24). May we take heed that, unlike him, we are truly born again who will live forever with the Savior to whom we were faithful.
In Matthew 27:8 and Acts 1:18–19, a Field of Blood is identified with an explanation for its name. However, the passages differ in how they explain the origin of the name.
Speaking of Judas, Acts 1:18–19 records this:
Acts 1:18–19 (ESV)
18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Describing how Judas returned the money received for betraying Jesus and what the Jewish leaders did with that money, Matthew 27:5–8 records this:
Matthew 27:5–8 (ESV)
5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Judas returned his thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders out of guilt for having betrayed Jesus, who was innocent and shed His blood in His death on the cross (Matt 27:3–5a). Because the money was paid to Judas for this betrayal, the priests bought the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers (Matt 27:6–7). The field was thus called the Field of Blood with reference to the blood of Jesus (Matt 27:8; cf. 27:4).
In Acts 1:18–19, Judas is said to be the one to have acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness (Acts 1:18a). Perhaps the Jewish leaders purchased the field in his name. However it came into his possession, if we assume that Matthew’s account of Judas’s suicide in Matt 27:5b could have happened after the purchase of the field, the field was in the possession of Judas in Acts 1:18. According to Matthew 27:5b, Judas hanged himself and died. Acts 1:18–19 tells the story further. Assuming his body became swollen while decomposing, somehow fell and burst open, the blood of Judas was spilled on the field. The field became known as the Field of Blood for this reason as well—it was where the blood of the dead Judas spilled out.
Comparing Scripture to Scripture, we see that both passages are correct and that Matthew and Luke focused on one aspect of the story or another for their respective purposes in writing. The Field of Blood refers to the blood of two men—it was purchased with money used to betray the innocent blood of Jesus, and it was sullied with the blood of Judas who betrayed Him.
Acts 1:8 is key to understanding and outlining Acts: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
With this verse in mind, we better understand as Acts goes on—the Spirit came, about 3,000 people were saved in Jerusalem, and multitudes in the city came to Christ thereafter (cf. Acts 2; 4:31; 5:14; 6:1, 7). Through persecution, these believers “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” and “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 4). Then, Saul (later Paul; cf. Acts 13:9), the instigator of this persecution (cf. Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1–3), was personally confronted, converted, and called by Christ in Acts 9. He then took the gospel to the Gentiles, all the way to Rome (Acts 9–28). He characterized his ministry as obeying Isaiah 49:6, echoing the end of Acts 1:8—to “bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47 ESV).
So, a snapshot outline of the book of Acts from Acts 1:8 could be a record of the gospel’s spread to Jerusalem (Acts 1–7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8), and to the end of the earth (Acts 9–28).
As to when Luke wrote Acts, he ended with a record of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, which may have been in AD 60–62. Luke does not tell us of Paul’s later travels, second Roman imprisonment (cf. 2 Timothy), or death, which may have been in AD 66. Thus, Luke certainly wrote Acts after Paul’s first imprisonment and sometime before Paul’s death, probably in the early 60s.
As to how Luke wrote Acts, while we can assume Luke wrote without error by virtue of the Spirit’s inspiration of Scripture, we can be further assured of the accuracy of Acts through Luke’s words in his gospel. Just as he carefully investigated the events recorded in Luke (cf. Luke 1:2–3), so also we can assume he did so for Acts. In fact, not only did he personally know many of the people in Acts, he was sometimes a part of the narrative himself (cf. Acts 16:8–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16).
As to why Luke wrote Acts, Acts 1:1–3 addressed the same Theophilus found in Luke 1:1–4. Luke summarized his gospel as “all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up” (Acts 1:1–2 ESV), which he wrote to give Theophilus “certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4 ESV). By connecting Acts to Luke, and by not giving another purpose statement in Acts, we can assume Luke’s intent for Theophilus (and all Christians) with Acts was just the same--to give him certainty about what was recorded in Acts, that is, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the end of the earth.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.