The Acts of the Apostles
W. GRAHAM SCROGGIE
Charles Reade says that the Book of the Acts is one of the most graphic pieces of writing in all literature, and certainly it is one of the most important, for it is “the sole remaining historical work which deals with the beginnings of Church history.”
The Book never had any one title which commanded general acceptance, in some manuscripts being called Acts,” and in others “The Acts,” “Acts of Apostles,” “Acts of the Apostles,” “The Acts of the Apostles.” It is now commonly known by the last of these, although it is not an account of the doings of all the Apostles, but, in the main, of two of them only, nor is it a record of all the acts of these two. A negro convert has called it, not unsuitably, “Words about Deeds.” Perhaps the most comprehensive title we could give to it would be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through Apostles and others, during the first generation of the history of the Christian Church.”
From earliest days tradition has ascribed to Luke the authorship of this Book, and there is no reason to call that tradition into question. We may summarize the evidence for the Lukan authorship as follows: (1) The Third Gospel and the Acts are clearly from the same hand, for the same style, language and method characterize them both. (2) The author was a medical man, for in his narrative be uses a number of medical terms in a technical sense. A valuable and interesting book on this subject is. The Medical Language of St. Luke, by Hobart. (3) The author of the Acts was one of Paul’s companions. This is shown in what is called the “We sections of the Book, xvi. 10-17, xx. 5-15, xxi. 1-18, xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16. Whoever the author was, he joined Paul at Troas, and went with him to Philippi (xvi. 8-12), and he appears to have remained there until Paul returned in his third missionary journey (xx. 5, 6). Ramsay thinks that the “man of Macedonia,” whom Paul saw and heard in the vision at Troas, was Luke (St. Patti, pp. 202, 203), and it has been conjectured that he and Paul may have met in student days when Luke studied as a medical student in the university of Tarsus (Knowling, Expositor’s Greek Testament). If this were so, Paul, because of the condition of his health, may have sought out Luke that he might have the benefit of his professional skill. (4) The fact that Luke’s name does not occur in the Acts. If it be thought a mere conjecture that Luke should be read into the “We” of the above sections, the fact that his name does not occur in this Book must be accounted for. We know that he was one of Paul’s companions, much beloved by him, and that he stood by him in days of darkness and danger (Philemon 24, Col. iv. 14, 2 Tim. iv. 11). Is it likely, then, that any one else writing this record would have failed to mention him? But if Luke himself is the author, the suppression of his name is easily understood, as is the suppression of John’s name in the Fourth Gospel. (5) The author of the Acts was with Paul at Rome (xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16), and Luke was with him there at that time (2 Tim. iv. 11). (6) An author writing this Book at a late date would certainly have used Paul’s Epistles as sources for his work, for they are “the most weighty documents for the history which he professes to describe,” but the Acts is written independently of them, and, as Knowling says, “it cannot be said that any one letter in particular is employed by the writer.” But if Luke is the author, this silence cannot surprise us, for his knowledge would not need to be obtained from the Apostle’s letters. All these considerations make it practically certain that the author of the Acts was “Luke the beloved physician.”
Three views have been held on this point. First, that the Acts was written early in the second century. This view is really untenable on a number of grounds, and, probably, would never have been held except for the supposition that the author made use of the writings of Josephus. Second, that the Book was written between A.D. 70 and 00, and, probably, about A.D. 80. This view is based on the assumption that Luke’s Gospel was written after the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), ch. xxi. 20 fl., being pointed to as evidence. But if the Acts had been written within ten or twelve years after that tragic event, surely some mention would have been made of it! Third, that the Book was written in the year A.D. 63. The grounds for this view are that “after the burning of Rome (A.D. 64), and the destruction of Jerusalem, the attitude maintained in the Book towards Romans and Jews would have been very difficult unless the date was a long time afterward” (A, T. Robertson). This date (A.D. 63) best suits all the facts and requirements.
If the Lukan authorship of the Acts be granted, it will scarcely be necessary to discuss its unity, for, in that case, it could not be the work of “a number of writers who have gradually compiled the book by collecting and piecing together scraps of other books, and by altering or cutting out such passages in the same as seemed inconsistent with their particular opinions.” It is practically certain that the author of the “We” sections is also the author of the rest of the Book, and that he was controlled by a definite object in writing. The idea of a number of redactors or editors working over a number of sources can scarcely be taken seriously. The impression left upon one from reading the Book is that it is a story coherent and progressive, and a detailed study of it confirms this impression.
But when we speak of the unity of the Acts, we do not mean that the author had no recourse to sources of information, oral or written. In the “We’’ sections such were not necessary, as the writer was a witness of what he relates, but this is not the case in the other parts of the Book. For information concerning events of which Luke was not an eyewitness, he must, of course, have been dependent on others, and his method of investigation is stated in his Gospel (i. 1-4). The question is, therefore, not “Did Luke use sources?” but, “What sources did he use?” A detailed consideration of this matter is outside the scope of this Series, and those who would know what has been said on the subject are referred to Knowling on the Acts,Expositor’s Greek Testament, pp. 17-33, or to a good Bible Dictionary, but very briefly we would indicate the line of investigation. As already said, chapters xvi. 10-17, xx. 5-15, xxi, 1-18, xxvii. 1-xxviii. 16, are accounted for, Luke being an eye-witness. For the remainder of the record Luke was dependent on persons who had knowledge of the events he records. First and foremost of these, of course, was Paul. Luke was much with him, and during times of enforced inactivity, as at Caesarea, and Malta, and Rome, and, as Zahn says, nothing is more natural than that the great missionary should have communicated to his beloved friend the records of his work and experience in great heathen centres of commercial or intellectual life, like Corinth, Ephesus, Athens. This would account for everything in the Acts from chapter xiii.
What is related in chapter xii. he might well have got from Mark, to whose house Peter went after his release from prison, and who was with Luke in Rome (Cor. iv. 10). Cornelius, who lived at Caesarea (x. 1) could have given Luke the information for the major part of chapters ix.-xi., for Luke was at Caesara with Paul. The details of chapters vi.-vii. he could have got from Paul, who witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen, and of chapter viii. from Philip, who lived at Caesarea, and was one of the seven (vi. 5, xxi. 8). This accounts for chapters vi-xxviii. of the Acts, in a highly reasonable and probable way. The sources of chapters i.-v. are not so dear, but Peter, Barnabas, and Philip, who enter into this history, and who were known to Luke, might well have supplied him with the details which he records. The Acts, however, is not a collection of reports from various sources, but the work of one “thoroughly independent in style,” and who “assimilated his materials like a true historian.” – (A. T. Robertson).
The Chronology of the Acts is a vexed question for which, in detail, the reader must consult Bengel, Wendt, Zahn, Ramsay, Harnack, Holtzmann, Turner, and others; but the following will serve as an approximate working scheme on important events: –
A.D. 30. Death of Jesus.
- Conversion of Paul, (ix.)
- Death of James, son of Zebedee. (xii.)
45-51. First missionary journey, (xiii.-xiv.)
- Conference at Jerusalem, (xv.)
61-54. Second missionary journey, (xvi.-xviii.)
54-58. Third missionary journey, (xviii.-xxi.)
- Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, (xxi.)
58-60. Caesarean imprisonment, (xxiv.-xxvi.)
61-63. First Roman imprisonment, (xxviii.)
Into any scheme must be worked the various references in the Acts to Paul’s sojourn in various places, for example, his three years in Arabia and Damascus (Gal. i. 18), his sojourn with Barnabas at Antioch for “a whole year” (xi. 26), his stay at Antioch for a “long time” upon the return from the first missionary journey (xiv. 26-28), the Jerusalem Conference (xv.), the waiting at Athens (xvii. 16), the eighteen months at Corinth (xviii. 11), the interval between the second and third missionary journeys, which is spoken of as “some time ” (xviii. 22, 23), the three years in Ephesus (xix. 10, xx. 31), the three months in Corinth (xx. 3), the “many days” at Caesarea (xxi. 10), the sojourn at Jerusalem (xxi. 15- xxiii. 22), the two years in Caesarea (xxiii. 23-xxvi. 32, cf. xxiv. 27), the journey to Malta (xxvii.), the “three months” there (xxviii. 11), and the “two whole years ” in Rome (xxviii. 30).
These notes of time show that somebody must have kept a diary, and that journeys and sojourns were carefully recorded. Back of that was the belief of these men that their lives were God-planned. When we all believe that, the calendar will be consecrated.
Various views have been held regarding the purpose of the Acts, some seeing in it a political tendency, some a doctrinal tendency, some an irenical tendency, and some a biographical tendency. Undoubtedly the last of these is the right view. In the other views the theories are brought into the Book, but in the last view the Book supplies the theory (i. 1-8). In this introduction the writer plainly indicates both the purpose and the plan of the record. As to purpose, it is to show that He Who did and taught on earth is now doing and teaching from heaven (1) ; and as to the plan, it is to show how Christianity developed and spread from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, to “the uttermost part of the earth” (8). It is true that the record shows that opposition to early Christianity came rather from the Jews than from the Romans; and it is also true that there are some striking parallels between the work of Peter and of Paul, such as the healing of a lame man (iii. 2, and xiv. 8), the raising of the dead (ix. 37,40, and xx. 9,10), and the pronouncement of a judgment (v. 1, and xiii. 6). These particulars, however, do not indicate a “tendency,” but naturally fall within the scope of the writer’s main purpose, which is to show how the Christian missionary movement spread from Jerusalem to Rome, in a single generation, mainly through the instrumentality of two men, Peter and Paul. This progress of Christianity is clearly traced throughout, as the following passages show:—
“The Lord added to the Church day by day them that were being saved” (ii. 47).
“Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women” (v. 14-16).
“The Word of the Lord increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jersualem exceedingly, and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith” (vi. 7).
“So the Church throughout all Judaea and Samaria and Galilee had peace, being edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied” (ix. 31).
“The Word of the Lord grew and multiplied” (xiii. 24).
“So the Churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (xvi. 5).
“So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed” (xix. 20).
These seven summaries amply indicate the author’s purpose, a purpose which is carried out in the whole plan of the Book.
- THE JEWISH PERIOD OF THE CHURCH’S WITNESS
Chapters i. 1-viii. 4. A.D. 30-35.
Central City, Jerusalem.
- Founding of the Church, i. 1-ii. 13.
(i.) The Days of Preparation, i. 1-26.
(ii.) The Day of Pentecost, ii. 1-13.
- Testimony of the Church, ii. 14-47.
(i.) Their Simple Creed, 14-41.
The Discourse of Peter.
(ii.) Their Sanctified Conduct, 42-47.
A Description of the First Church.
- Opposition to the Church, iii. 1-iv. 31.
(i.) The Occasion of it, iii. 1-26.
(ii.) The Expression of it, iv. 1-22.
(iii.) The Sequel to it, iv. 23-31.
- Discipline in the Church, iv. 32-v. 16.
(i.) The Originating Circumstances, iv. 32-37.
(ii.) The Specific Occasion, v. 1-10.
(iii.) The Salutary Effect, v. 11-16.
- Testing of the Church, v. 17-42.
(i.) The Detention and Deliverance of the Apostles, 17-2 la.
(ii.) The Trial and Triumph of the Apostles, 21b-42.
- Administration in the Church, vi. 1-6.
(i.) The Complaint of the Disciples, 1.
(ii.) The Conference of the Church, 2-4.
(iii.) The Choice of Deacons, 5-6.
- Persecution of the Church, vi. 7-viii. 4.
(i.) The Reason for it, vi. 7.
(ii.) The Focus of it, vi. 8-viii. la.
(iii.) The Result of it, viii. lb-4.
- THE TRANSITION PERIOD OF THE CHURCH’S WITNESS
Chapters viii. 5 – xii. 25. A.D. 35-44.
Central City, Antioch.
- Philip’s Preparation for the Wider Witness, viii. 5-40.
(i.) The Gospel at Samaria, 5-25.
(а) Under Philip, 5-13.
(b) Under the Apostles, 14-25.
(ii.) The Gospel toward Africa, 26-40.
- Saul’s Preparation for the Wider Witness, ix. 1-31.
(i.) The Conversion of Saul, 1-9.
(ii.) The Consecration of Saul, 10-19a.
(iii.) The Confession of Saul, 19b-21.
(iv.) The Conspiracy against Saul, 22-31.
- Peter’s Preparation for the Wider Witness, ix. 32-x. 48.
(i.) Peter at Lydda, ix. 32-35.
(ii.) Peter at Joppa, ix. 36-x. 23a.
(iii.) Peter at Caesarea, x. 23b-48.
- The Apostles’ Preparation for the Wider Witness, xi. 1-18.
(i.) The Complaint against Peter, 1-3.
(ii.) The Circumstances of Gentile blessing rehearsed, 4-17.
(iii.) The Conclusion of the Apostles, 18.
- The Church’s Preparation for the Wider Witness, xi. 19-xii. 25
(i.) Progress of the Church at Antioch, xi. 19-30.
(ii.) Persecution of the Church at Jerusalem, xii. 1-23.
(iii.) Prosperity of the Church in general, xii. 24,25.
III. THE GENTILE PERIOD OF THE CHURCH’S WITNESS
Chapters xiii.-xxviii. A.D. 44-63.
Central City, Rome.
- Paul’s Tireless Activities.
Chapters xiii. 1-xxL 16. A.D. 44-58.
(i) THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
Chapters xiii.l-xv. 35, A.D.45-51.
(а) The Call and Consecration at Antioch, xiii. 1-3.
(b) The Circuit in Asia Minor, xiii. 4- xiv. 28.
(1) The Outward Journey, xiii. 4-20.
(2) The Inward Journey, xiv. 21-28
(c) The Conference at Jerusalem, xv. 1-35.
(ii.) THE SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
Chapters xv. 36-xviii. 22. A.D. 51-54.
(a) Apostolic Labours in Asia Minor, xv. 36-xvi. 10.
(b) Apostolic Labours in Macedonia, xvi. 11-xvii. 15.
(c) Apostolic Labours in Achaia, xvii. 15 – xviii. 22.
1 Thessalonians. A.D. 52. From Corinth.
1 Thessalonians. A.D. 53. From Corinth.
(iii.) THE THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
Chapters xviii. 23-xxi. 16. A.D. 54-58.
(a) Paul’s Activities in Asia. xviu. 23- xix. 41.
1 Corinthians. A.D. 57. From Ephesus.
(b) Paul’s Experiences in Europe. xx. 1-6.
2 Corinthians, A.D. 57. From Macedonia.
Galatians, A.D. 58. From Corinth.
Romans, A.D. 58. From Corinth,
(c) Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem, xx. 6-xxi. 16.
- Paul’s Fruitful Captivities.
Chapters xxi. 17-xxviii. 31. A.D. 58-63.
(i.) AT Jerusalem, xxi. 17-xxiii. 35. A.D. 58.
(а) The Apostle’s Detention, xxi. 17-36.
(b) The Apostle’s Defence, xxi. 37 – xxiii. 11.
(c) The Apostle’s Danger, xxiii. 12-35.
(ii.) AT CAESAREA, xxiv.-xxvi. A.D. 58-60.
(a) Paul before Felix, xxiv.
(b) Paul before Festus, xxv. 1-12.
(c) Paul before Agrippa, xxv. 13 – xxv . 32.
(iii.) AT ROME, xxvii.-xxviii. a.d. 61-63.
(a) On the Sea, xxvii.
(b) At the Island, xxviii. 1-10.
(c) In the City, xxviii. 11-31.
Ephesians A.D. 62. Colossians A.D. 62.
Philemon A.D. 62. Philippians A.D. 63.
Released from First Roman Imprisonment, A.D. 63-67.
1 Timothy A.D. 66-67. From Macedonia.
Titus A.D. 66-67. From Ephesus.
Re-arrested, Taken to Rome.
2 Timothy. A.D. 68.
Martyred at Rome, A.D. 68.
A work such as this has many and great values. There is the Historical Value of the Acts. It was fashionable at one time to call its historical accuracy into question, and even to deny it, but that day has passed, and never more so than now was this book regarded by scholars as of the highest historical value, thanks largely to Lightfoot and Ramsay. The latter writer says that he began the study of the trustworthiness of the Acts “with a mind unfavourable to it,” and he ended that study by “placing this great writer on the high pedestal that belongs to him.” Harnack also has been won over. In his The Acts of the Apostles, he says, “The book has now been restored to the position of credit which is its rightful due.” Headlam says, “The investigators of the last twenty or thirty years have tended more and more to confirm the accuracy of the writer. In almost every point where we can follow him, even in minute details, he is right”; and A. T. Robertson says that Luke’s veracity has been triumphantly vindicated where once it was challenged, and that, “his character as a historian is firmly established in the passages where outside contact has been found.” For illustrations of this see The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, vol. i, pp. 44, 45, Hosting’s Bible Dictionary, vol. i, pp. 31, 32, and Paley’s Horae Paulinae, an old but still most valuable work. The reader who has not time for nor access to these and other works on this subject can rest perfectly assured that this Book is everywhere true.
Then there is the Dispensational Value of the Acts. Suppose we had not this record, would it be possible for us to understand the Epistles on the background of the Old Testament? In the former we have Christianity, and in the latter we have Judaism, but without the Acts we could not know how the one came to supersede the other, how the Church displaced the Temple and synagogue, and how national privileges yielded to world-wide blessing.
The Acts is probably the most important dispensational book in the Bible, for it tells us how the great change-over was made. In its pages we see that one dispensation is going and that another is coming, that Judaism is less and less, and Christianity more and more; it is a story both terminal and germinal, it is the hinge on which two ages swing, one out and the other in. One has only to study side by side Peter’s sermon at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and Paul’s at Antioch in Pisidia (ii., xiii.), to see the change of viewpoint. Mark carefully what happened between these two sermons, the manifold preparation for the wider witness (see Analysis).
The Jewish element dominates in the first part of the Book (i.-vii.), the Gentile element in the last part (xiii.-xxviii.), and the way from the one to the other is explained in the middle part (viii.-xii.)
Again, there is the Doctrinal Value of the Acts. We may not look in this brief record of Christianity within the limits of a single generation, and that, following immediately on the Ascension of Jesus, for any development of doctrine; that came later; but, on the other hand, we are not to suppose that the Church at the beginning was without doctrine. The time for the formulation of creeds had not arrived, but in the apostolic preaching is found the very essence of any Christian Creed. It is not necessary for one to know much in order to become spiritually strong and powerful, but what is known must be of vital significance. What was it then, the Apostles believed and preached which made them such a power, and wrought such a change within so short a time? In the main, four things – that Jesus was the Messiah, that His death was redemptive; that He rose from the dead, and that, by His Spirit, He was present with His people. That is a very simple but a very powerful creed. There are some seventeen discourses in the Acts, longer or shorter, and these facts and truths are the substance of them all. Not all at once did even the Apostles grasp the far-reaching implications of these truths, but what they did see they held firmly and preached boldly.
Further, there is the Spiritual Value of the Acts. The book discloses the true character of the Christian Church and the secret of her life and service. More and more it came to be seen that the Church was not something grafted on to the Temple or the synagogue, but was a Spiritual Institution, a Holy Society, indwelt, empowered, and guided by the Holy Spirit. The book is, really, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, He dominates the record. He is the Spirit of Promise (i), of Power (ii), of Healing (iii), of Boldness (iv), of Judgment (v), of Administration (vi), of Steadfastness (vii), of Evangelism (viii), of Comfort (ix), of Guidance (x), of Prophecy (xi), of Deliverance (xii), of Missions (xiii), of Protection (xiv), of Councils (xv), of Restraint and Constraint (xvi), of Opportunity (xvii), of Revelation (xviii), of Purpose (xix), of Ordination (xx), and so forth to the end.
It was about the Spirit that Jesus spoke to His apostles just before He ascended (i. 2, 4, 5, 8), it was the Spirit that came upon them at Pentecost (ii. 4), it is the Spirit that is promised to all who believe (ii. 38, 39), it was to the Spirit that Annaias and Sapphira lied (v. 3, 4, 9), it was with the Spirit that the apostles witnessed (v. 32), the first deacons had to be filled with the Spirit (vi 3, 5), Philip was instructed in the Spirit to speak to the eunuch (viii. 29), the Spirit bade Peter go to Cornelius (x. 19, xi. 12), the Spirit instructed the Church to send forth Barnabas and Saul on missionary work (xiii. 2, 4), it was the Spirit with the Apostles who settled the Jewish- Gentile controversy (xv. 28), and so all through the story. The Acts is the record of a Spirit-begotten, Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided Church, and that accounts for what she accomplished in those days. It is when the Church finds substitutes for the Holy Spirit that she is ineffective and defeated.
Again, there is the Biographical Value of the Acts. Like the Pilgrim’s Progress, this Book is crowded with characters of all kinds, and the originals of some of Bunyan’s characters are here. The outstanding personalities are, of course, Peter and Paul, and these are in the fellowship of a host of Christiana, most of whom are unnamed. And there are foes here as well as friends, and women as well as men. What a Gallery! Eneas, Agabus, Agrippa, Alexander, Ananias, Annas, Andrew, Apollos, Aquilla, Aristarchus, Augustus, Bar-Jesus Barnabas, Barsabas, Bartholomew, Bernice, Blastus, Caiaphas, Candace, Caesar, Claudius, Cornelius, Crispus, Damaris, Demet- trius, Dionysius, Dorcas, Drusilla, Erastus, Eutychus, Felix, Festus, Gaius, Gallio, Gamaliel, Herod, James, Jason, Jesus, John Mark, John, Lucius, Lydia, Manaen; Mary, Matthew, Matthias, Mnason, Nicanor, Nicolas, Niger, Parmenas, Paulus, Priscilla, Prochorus, Publius, Rhoda, Sapphira, Sceva, Sergius Paulus, Secundus, Silas, Simeon, Simon, Sopater, Sosthenes, Stephen, Tabitha, Theophilus, Theudas, Timon, Timotheus, Trophimus, Tychicus, Tyrannus, and possibly others. This is a crowded platform and a stirring scene. To know these people is to know the history of the Christian Church from A.D. 30-63.
Just a word must be said on the Missionary Value of the Acts. Having all the circumstances in view, it is not too much to say that this is the greatest missionary story that has ever been told, and it must ever remain the authorized Missionary Manual of the Church. There has been a great development of missionary activity since that day, but still all that is vital for effective service throughout the world is found in the pages of the Acts.
It shows, to begin with, that the Christian Church is missionary, that Christianity is necessarily a self-propagating religion, it cannot be localized anywhere in a sense in which it cannot be localized everywhere; if it did not spread it would die. Palgrave has said that Mohammedanism flourishes wherever the palm grows, and that is about the scope of it, but Christianity flourishes wherever human beings are. We have only to run over the names of the places mentioned in the Acts to be convinced of the missionary character of Christianity. Here are some of them: Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Rome, and Antioch, Amphipolis, Antipatris, Apollonia, Assos, Attalia, Azotus, Berea, Caesarea, Cenchrea, Chios, Clauda, Cnidus, Cos, Crete, Cyprus, Damascus, Derbe, Gaza, Iconium, Joppa, Lystra, Lydda, Mileta, Miletus, Mitylene, Myra, Mysia. Neapolis, Paphos, Patara, Perga, Philippi, Ptolemais, Puteoli, Regium, Rhodes, Salamis, Samaria, Samos, Samothrace, Seleucia, Sidon, Syracuse, Tarsus, Thessalonica, Tyre, Troas, and other places, every one of which tells a bit of the first story of Christianity. The loss of the Acts would be irreparable.
Surely we feel the thrill of these names, which represent so much of the intellectual, political, and commercial life of the ancient world. Look at a map of Paul’s travels long enough and steadily enough to be deeply impressed by the fact that because God loved all the world He commanded His disciples to “go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
But when we come from the broad fact to the details we still find that the Acts is a Text Book of first rate importance. For instance, we see from it that this great enterprise had a home base.
It was at Antioch in Syria that Barnabas and Saul were called to the work of world evangelism, and it was to Antioch that they returned and “rehearsed all things that God had done with them” (xiii. 1-3, xiv. 26-28). Furthermore, it was the whole Church in Antioch that sent them out, because, in fact, the whole Church was a Missionary Society.
Then, we see that in his journeyings Paul chose strategic places for the delivery of his message – Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Ephesus, Athens, and other places of like importance – in the belief that if Christianity were established in the centre it would spread to the circumference, that if the cities were captured the villages would be evangelized from these.
Again, wherever the missionaries went churches were established which became self-governing and self-supporting. Christian Jews were not sent out from Jerusalem or Antioch to take charge of these churches, but elders were ordained, instruction given, and they were left to build up and extend the good work (xiv. 21-23). Also, these churches were taught the great principle of Christian giving, and especially to care for their poorer brethren (cf. 2 Cor. viii.-ix.).
The message and the manner, as well as the method of these missionaries, are full of instruction for the present-day enterprise. Wherever they went they preached the Gospel, and did so tactfully. Their first care was for the souls of the heathen, and not for their physical or temporal welfare. We may be sure that if Paul lived to-day he would rejoice in Medical, Educational and Industrial Miss ions, but we may be equally sure that he would be vigorously opposed to any of these taking precedence of Evangelistic Missions. Those days had their temporal problems as well as these, but the missionaries always put first things first. A valuable study of this whole subject will be found in Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s and Ours, by Roland Allen.
The following tables will help the student of the Apostolic Age to see how the Writings are related to one another in time and substance. The dates given must not be regarded as fixed and final, but they are near enough for working purposes.
The literature on this Book is vast, and all that we do here is to recommend a few of the best books for the general reader.
Farrar, Early Days of Christianity; Life and Work of St. Paul; Paley, Horae Paulinas, Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen ; Cities of St. Paul; Luke the Physician, and Other Studies; The Church in the Roman Empire ; Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul; A. T. Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul; Word Pictures in the New Testament; vol. viii. Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul.
In addition to these there are the Commentaries for those who have access to them, especially The Pulpit Commentary, Ellicott’s, and Matthew Henry’s; and also the articles in the Bible Dictionaries which bear on the whole subject of the Church in the first century, articles on The Acts, Paul, Peter, Luke, The Christian Church, etc.
But nothing can be a substitute for the repeated, prayerful reading of the Acts itself.
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