Formation and Spread of the Church

Extension of the Gospel to Gentiles

Life and Work of Paul

Within the Apostolic generation the Gospel of Christ expanded in all directions till it reached every nation of the then known world (Colossians 1:23).

The book of Acts, however, confines itself to the story of the expansion of the Gospel over Palestine, northward to Antioch, and thence westward, through Asia Minor and Greece, to Rome, covering the region that then constituted the backbone of the Roman Empire.

This book, called the Acts of the Apostles, is, mainly, the Acts of Peter and Paul, mostly Paul. Paul was the Apostle to Gentiles, that is, Nationalities other than Jewish. One of the leading subjects of the book, if not the leading subject, in its relation to the general scheme of Bible books, is the Extension of the Gospel to Gentiles.

The old testament is the story of God's age-long dealing with the Hebrew Nation for the specific purpose of, through the Hebrew Nation, Blessing All Nations.

The Hebrew Messiah, long foretold by the Prophets, at last had come. And in this book of Acts the Great and Wonderful Work among the Nations Begins. And the Household of God, in this book, passes from being a National Set-up, and becomes an International World Institution.


Unlike Paul's Epistles, the Author of Acts does not name himself. The use of the personal pronoun, "I," in the opening sentence, seems to indicate that the book's first recipients must have known who the writer was. From the beginning, this book and the Third Gospel have been accepted as from Luke.


The book closes with Paul being in prison in Rome Two Whole Years (28:30). It is quite generally thought that this indicates that the book must have been written at that time, about A.D. 63; for, after giving so much space to the narration of Paul's imprisonment (chapters 21-28), it seems incredible that the writer would have omitted to mention the Outcome of Paul's Trial, if the book had been written later.


Little is known of Luke. In Colossians 4:11, 14 he seems to be classed as a Gentile; which, if so, would make hi, as far as is known, the only Gentile writer of the Bible.

Eusebius says Luke was native of Antioch: Ramsey, one of the greatest modern Pauline scholars, thinks he was of Philippi.

He is recognized as a man of culture and scientific education, a master of Hebraic classical Greek. By Profession, a Physician.

He first appears as the one who brought Paul from Troas to Philippi; was a leader in the Philippian Church for its first 6 years; then rejoined Paul (Acts 16:10; 16:40; 20:6)

We, They, We; and was with him to the end.

Chronology of Acts

There are not enough data given to form an exact Chronology, but sufficient to approximate most of the dates. It is know that Herod's death (Acts 12:23), was in A.D. 44. Mention of Paul's arrival in Jerusalem about the time that Herod killed James (11:30-12:2); and Paul's departure from Jerusalem right after the death of Herod (12:23, 25), makes it look like this was the visit referred to in Galatians 2:1, "14 years" after Paul's conversion.

If so, considering Hebrew usage of counting parts of years at the beginning and end of a period as years, the "14 years" may actually have been only about 13 years, or even less; which would place Paul's conversion about A.D. 31 or 32.

This, whit A.D. 30 as a starting point, and A.D. 60 as the known date of Festus' appointment as Governor at Caesarea (24:27), the following dates nay be regarded as probably approximately correct.

    • Formation of Church in Jerusalem, chapter 2 ... A.D. 30

    • Stoning of Stephen, Dispersion of Church, chapters 7, 8 ... A.D. 31 or 32

    • Conversion of Paul, chapter 9 ... A.D. 31 or 32

    • Paul's Fist Visit to Jerusalem after Conversion ... A.D. 34 or 35

    • Conversion of Cornelius, the Gentile ... between A.D. 35 and 40

    • Reception of Gentiles at Antioch, chapter 11 ... About A.D. 42

    • Paul's Second Visit to Jerusalem (11:27-30) ... A.D. 44

    • Paul's Fist Missionary Journey, Galacia, chapters 13, 14 ... A.D. 45-48

    • Council at Jerusalem, chapter 15 ... About A.D. 50

    • Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Greece, chapters 16, 17, 18 ... A.D 50-53

    • Paul's Third Missionary Journey, Ephesus, chapters 19, 20. A.D. 54-57

    • Paul Reached Ephesus, chapter 19. . . . . . . .. ..A.D. 54

    • Paul Left Ephesus in June (I Corinthians 16:8)... ....A.D. 57

    • Paul in Macedonia, Summer and Fall (I Corinthians 16:5-8)..A.D. 57

    • Paul in Corinth Three Months, Winter (Acts 20:2-3)......A.D. 57-58

    • Paul Left Philippi in April (Acts 20:6) ......A.D. 58

    • Paul Reached Jerusalem in June (Acts 20:16).... ....A.D. 58

    • Paul in Caesarea, chapters 24, 25, 26... .Summer A.D. 58 to Fall A.D. 60

    • Paul's Voyage to Rome, chapters 27, 28.. .Winter A.D. 60-61

    • Paul in Rome 2 years... A.D. 61-63

Chapter 1:1-5. The Forty Days

In the 40 days between His Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus made 10 or 11 recorded appearances to the disciples, to banish forever from their minds any doubt as to His Continued Existence as a Living Person. What a wonderful experience, in those

40 days, to have thus seen, talked with, eaten with, and felt with their hands, Jesus in His actual Crucified and Glorified Body, as He appeared, and disappeared, through closed doors, out of the nowhere, and back into the nowhere, all climaxed, as, with the blessing of His uplifted hands, He rose, gradually, up and up, and disappeared in the


Former Treatise (1:1): Gospel of Luke (1:3).

Theophilus (1:1): A Roman Official of high rank.

Jesus Began (1:1): Implies that what is recorded in the book of Acts was Still the Doing of Jesus.

Chapter 1:6-11. The Ascension of Christ

This last meeting with the disciples was in Jerusalem (1:4); from whence He led them out to Bethany (Luke 24:50).

Restore the Kingdom to Israel? (1:6): their minds still on Political Independence for their nation. They understood better after the Day of Pentecost.

Uttermost Part of the Earth (1:8): this was Jesus'last word, as He Passed behind the Clouds. They did not forget it. Most of them, tradition says, died as Martyrs in Distant Lands.

Come in Like Manner (1:9, 11). From the hill tops above Bethany He passed into the Clouds. He will Return, in the Clouds, Visible to All the World (Matthew 24:27, 30; Revelation 1:7).

Chapter 1:12-14. The Upper Room

This may have been the same room where Jesus had instituted the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:12); m{ possibly, the room where Jesus had twice appeared to them (John 20:19, 26); and, possibly, the place where the Holy Spirit came upon them (2:1). lt was large enough to accommodate 120 Persons (1:15).

Mary the Mothers of Jesus (1:14). This is the New Testament's last mention of her. Esteemed and honored as she was as Mother of the Saviour, the Apostles gave not the slightest indication of feeling the need of her mediation between them and Christ.

Chapter 1:15-26. Choice of Judas' Successor

Judas, after betraying Jesus, hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). Then his body fell, and burst open (Acts 1:18). Then his money was used to buy a potter's field (Matthew 27:7). It is, to this day, known as Aceldama, the Field of Blood.

Matthias was chosen to take Judas' place, to keep the number at 12. Nothing further is known of Matthias. There must be symbolic meaning in the number 12 beyond our knowledge. The foundations of the New Testament bear the names of the 12 Apostles.

Chapter 2:1-13. Pentecost

A.D. 30. Birth-Day of the Church. 50th Day after Jesus' Resurrection. 10th Day after His Ascension to Heaven. Beginning of Gospel Era. That particular Pentecost was on Sunday.

Nations represented at Pentecost

Pentecost was also called Feast of First-Fruits, and Feast of Harvest. How fitting then to have been chosen as the Day for First-Fruits of the World Gospel Harvest.

Jesus in John 16:7-14, had spoken of the Coming of the Holy Spirit Era. It is, now inaugurated in a Mighty Miraculous Manifestation of the Holy. Spirit, whit sound as of a Roaring Wind, and with Tongues as of Fire parting asunder, upon each of the Apostles-the opening Public Proclamation to the World of the Resurrection of Jesus, to Jews and Jewish Proselytes assembled at Jerusalem, for Pentecost, from all the countries of the know world-15 nations are named (2:9-11)- the Galilean Apostles speaking to them in their own language.

Chapter 2:14-26. Peter's Sermon

The amazing spectacle of the Apostles speaking under Tongues of Fire, in languages of all nations there represented, Peter explain (15-21), was in fulfillment of Prophecy from Joel 2:28-32.

What happened that day may not have been a complete fulfillment, but only the beginning of a great and notable era, of which , thus ushered in, some prophecies may refer to the end.

Fulfillment of Prophecy

Note the repeated statement that what was happening had been Foretold: Betrayal by Judas (1:16, 20): Crucifixion (3:18) : Resurrection (2:25-28): Ascension of Jesus (2:33-35) : Coming of the Holy Spirit (2:17). "All the Prophets" (3:18, 24).

Resurrection of Jesus

Note, too, the unceasing emphasis on the Resurrection throughout this book. It was the pivotal point of Peter's Pentecostal sermon (2:24, 31, 32). And in his second sermon (3:15). And in his defense before the council (4:2, 10). It was the burden of the Apostles' preaching (4:33). It was Peter's defense in his second arraignment (5:30). A vision of the Risen Christ converted Paul (9:3-6). Peter preaching it to Cornelius (10:40). Paul preached it in Antioch (13:30-37). Thessalonica (17:3). Athens (17:18, 31). Jerusalem (22:6-11). Felix (24:15, 21). Festus and Agrippa (26:8, 23).

Chapter 2:37-47. The New-Born Church

3,000 the first day (2:41): a testimony to Unmistakable Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus. "Baptized".

"Had All Things Common" (2:44, 45). This Community Life of the Church was en accompaniment of the Miraculous Introduction of Christianity into the world, intended, we think, to be an example extraordinary of what the Spirit of Christ could do for mankind, but no more intended to be a permanent normal arrangement than the daily Apostolic Miracles. It was voluntary, temporary end limited. Only those gave who felt so inclined. There is no mention of its practice in other New Testament churches. Philip, one of the Seven, who ministered these tables, later lived in his own home in

Caesarea (Acts 21 :8).

There were many poor in Jerusalem. Paul, years later, took great offerings to the Mother Church (Acts 11:29; 24:17).

Miracles in Book of Acts

  • Miracles form a very conspicuous part of the Book of Acts. The book starts with Visible Appearances of Jesus, after His Death, to His disciples (1:3).

  • Then, before their eyes, His Ascension to Heaven (1:9).

  • Then, on Pentecost, a Miraculous Visible Manifestation of the Holy Spirit in Tongues as of Fire (2:3).

  • Then, Wonders and Signs were done by the Apostles (2:43).

  • The Healing of the Lame Man, at the Temple Gate (3:7-11), made a deep impression on the whole City (4:16, 17).

  • God answered Prayer by an Earthquake (4:31).

  • Ananias and Sapphira died by a Stroke from the Lord (5:5-10).

  • Signs and Wonders. by the Apostles, continued (5:12).

  • Multitudes from surrounding cities were Healed by Peter's Shadow (5:15, 16). It reads like the days of Jesus in Galilee.

  • Prison Doors were Opened by an Angel (5:19).

  • Stephen wrought great Wonders and Signs (6:8).

  • In Samaria, Philip did great Miracles and Signs (8:6, 7, l3); and Multitudes Believed.

  • Saul was Converted by a Direct Voice from Heaven (9:3-9).

  • At the word of Ananias, scales fell from Saul's eyes (9:17, 18).

  • In Lydda, Peter Healed Aeneas, and the whole region was converted to Christ (9:32-35).

  • In Joppa, Peter raised Dorcas from the Dead, and many Believed on the Lord (9:40-42).

  • Cornelius was converted by the Appearance of an Angel, and the Speaking in Tongues (10:3, 46).

  • A Voice from God sent Peter to Cornelius (10:9-22)., and convinced the Jews that Peter was right (11:15, 18).

  • A Prison Gate Opened of its own accord (12:10).

  • The Blinding of a Sorcerer led the Proconsul of Cyprus to Believe (13:11, 12).

  • Paul did Signs and Wonders in Iconium, and a multitude Believed (14:3, 4), At Lystra. the Healing of a Cripple made the multitudes think that Paul was a god (14:8-18).

  • Narration of Signs and Wonders convinced Jewish Christians that Paul's work among Gentiles was of God (15:12, 19).

  • In Philippi,. Paul Healed a, Soothsayer, and an Earthquake Converted the Jailor (16:16-34). In Ephesus, 12 men Spoke in Tongues (19:6)., and Special Miracles done by Paul (19:11, 12), made the Word of the Lord to prevail mightily (19:20).

  • In Troas, Paul Raised a young man from the Dead (20:8-12).

  • In Melita, the Healing of Paul,s Hand from the viper's bite (28:3-6), made the natives think Paul was a god; and Paul Healed all in the island that had Diseases (28:8, 9).

Take Miracles out of the book of Acts, and there is little left, However much critics may disparage the Evidential Value of Miracles, the fact remains that God made abundant use of Miracles in giving Christianity a start in the world.

Chapter 3. Peter's Second Sermon

On the day of Pentecost the Fiery Tongues and Roaring as of a Mighty Wind brought together the astonished multitudes. That gave Peter a vast audience for his first Public Proclamation of the Gospel.

Apparently, some days had passed (2:46, 47). Pentecost crowds had returned home. The city had quieted down. The Apostles kept busy instructing the believers and working signs (2:42-47). And now a notable miracle, the Healing of a Lame man, right in the Temple Gate, a familiar sight to the whole city, again set the city all astir. And to the amazed multitudes, Peter attributed the Healing to the Power of the Risen Christ. And this brought the number of believers to five thousand men (4:4), as he told again the beloved Gospel Story.

Chapter 4:1-31. Peter and John Imprisoned

The rulers, who had crucified Jesus, now alarmed at the spreading report of His Resurrection from the Dead, and the growing popularity of His Name, arrested Peter and John, and ordered them to stop speaking in the Name of Jesus. Note the boldness of Peter (4:9-12, 19, 20). This is the same Peter who, a few weeks before, in the same place, and before the same people, had cowed at the sneer of a girl and denied his Master. Now, in utter fearlessness, he defies his Master's murderers.

After one night in prison (4:5, 21), Peter and John were released. And, by an earthquake, God approved their boldness (4:29, 31).

Chapter 4:32-35. Continued Growth of the Church

The threat of the rulers made little impression on the Church. The Church kept right on its brotherly spirit; and kept right on growing by leaps and bounds. 3,000 the first day (2:41). Then, 5,000 men (4:4). Then multitudes both of men and women (5:14). Then "multiplied exceedingly," including a great company of priests (6:7), from inside the opposition ranks.

Chapter 4:36, 37. Barnabas

A Levite, of Cyprus. A cousin of John Mark (Colossians 4: 10), whose mother's home was a meeting place for Christians (Acts 12: 12). A man of commanding appearance (14:12). A good man and full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24). He persuaded the Jerusalem disciples to receive Paul (9:27). Was sent to receive the Gentiles at Antioch (11:19-24). Brought Paul from Tarsus to Antioch (11:25, 26). Accompanied Paul on his First Missionary Journey.

Chapter 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira

Their lie was in pretending to give all, when they had given only e part. Their death was an act of God, not of Peter: evidently intended to be an example for all time of God's displeasure at the sin of Covetousness and Religious Hypocrisy. God does not strike us dead every time we are guilty of it. If He did, people would be falling down dead in the churches all the time. But the incident indicates God's attitude toward a Wrong Heart: a warning, right in the beginning days of the Church, against using, or misusing, the Church as a means of Self-Glorification. The incident, as a disciplinary example, did have an immediate salutary effect on the Church (5:11).

Chapter 5:12-42. Second Imprisonment of the Apostles

In their first imprisonment, after the healing of the lame man, Peter and John had been warned to speak no more in the name of Jesus (4:17-21). But they kept right on proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus. God kept on doing Mighty Miracles (5:12-16). And believers kept on increasing (5:14).

The rulers stood aghast at the expanding power of the Nazarene whom they had crucified. They re-arrested the Apostles, and, except for fear of the people, and restraining influence of Gamaliel, would have stoned them.

Note Peter`s undaunted defiance of the rulers (5:29-32); and the Apostles, though they were Scourged (40), kept right on Proclaiming Jesus, and Rejoicing in Suffering for Him (41, 42).

Gamaliel, who saved the day, temporarily, for the Apostles (34-40), was the most famous rabbi of his day. It was he at whose feet Paul had been brought up (22:3). Young Saul may have been present in this council meeting: for he was a member (26:10), and, just a little later the council stoned Stephen, Saul was a participant (7:58).

Chapter 6:1-7. Appointment of the Seven

Up to this time, the Apostles, it seems, administered the business affairs of the Church (4:37). In the few months, or yer or two, the Church had grown enormously. And tables were absorbing too much of the Apostles's time.

The Apostles were the ones who had first-hand knowledge of the precious story of Jesus. The one means of making it known was by word of mouth. Their one business, from morning till night, in public and private, to their last ounce of energy, was to keep on telling the story to the multitudes coming and going. So these Seven Assistants were appointed. The arrangement worked well: it was followed by an enormous increase of believers (7), under the Apostles preaching.

Chapter 6:8-15. Stephen

Of the Seven, two were great preachers: Stephen and Philip. Stephen had the honor of being the Church's first Martyr. Philip carried the Gospel to Samaria and west Judea.

Stephen's particular sphere of labor seems to have been among the Greek Jews. At that time there were about 460 synagogs in Jerusalem, some of which were built by Jews of various countries for their own use. Five of these were for sojourners from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, Asia and Rome (6:9). Tarsus being in Cilicia, Saul may have

been in this very group. Some of these foreign-born Jews, brought up in centers of Greek culture, felt themselves to be superior to the Jews of the home-land. But they met their match in Stephen. Unable to withstand him in argument, they hired false witnesses, and brought him before the council. Stephen must have been a very brilliant man. Then God was there helping with Miracles (6:8).

Chapter 7. Stephen's Martyrdom

He was before the same council that had Crucified Jesus, and that had just recently attempted to stop the Apostles speaking in the name of Jesus (4:18)-the same Annas and Caiaphas were there (4:6).

Stephen's address before the council was mainly a recital of Old Testament history, climaxing in a stinging rebuke for their murder of Jesus (7:51-53). As he spoke, his face shone as the face of an Angel (6:15). They rushed upon him like wild beasts. As the stones began to fly, he looked steadfastly up into heaven, and saw the Glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, as if Heaven were reaching its hand across the border to welcome him home. He died as Christ had died, without a trace of resentment toward his contemptible murderers, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

"A Young Man Named Saul", 7:58

Here is one of the TURNING POINTS OF HISTORY. Young Saul seems already to have been a member of the Sanhedrin (26:10). He may have been present at one, or both, of the Sanhedrin meetings in which they tried to stop the Apostles from preaching Christ (4:1-22; 5:17-40), and may himself have witnessed Peter's bold and defiant refusal. But now, in all his life, he had never seen a death like that of Stephen. Though its immediate effect was to star Saul on his rampage of Persecuting the disciples, yet it may be that Stephen's dying words went straight to the mark, and lodged deep in Saul's mind, there quietly working to make him ready and receptive for the Great Vision on the road to Damascus (26:14). It may be, in part at least, that Stephen's Martyrdom was the price paid for Saul's soul. And what a soul! Next to Jesus, the Greatest Man of All the Ages. The One Man, who, more than any other, Established Christianity in the Main Centers of the then know world, and Altered the Course of History, Saul of Tarsus.

Chapter 8:1-4. Dispersion of the Church

This was the Church's first Persecution. The Church was, probably, a year or two old. The Persecution lasted probably, a few months. Paul was leader in the Persecution. He had two kinsmen who were already Christian (Romans 16:7). But the Persecution, set off by the Stoning of Stephen, was Furious and Severe. Saul, breathing Threatening and Slaughter (9:1), laid wast the Church, dragging men and women into prison (8:3), beating them that believed (22:19, 20), putting many to death (26:10-11), making havoc of the Church beyond measure (Galatians 1:13).

This persecution resulted in the Dispersion of the Church. In Jerusalem the Church had become a formidable and mighty movement pressing irresistibly on. Jesus' last command to the disciples was to Proclaim the Gospel to All the World (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). Now, in the Providence of God, this Persecution started the Missionary Work of the Church. They had listened to the Apostles long enough to have fully learned the whole story of Jesus and His Death and Resurrection. And wherever they went they carried the Precious News. The Apostles, however, too popular and too powerful to be persecuted, remained, temporarily, in Jerusalem, to care for Church Headquarters. Later they traveled about.

Chapter 8:4-40. Philip in Samaria and Judea

God authenticated Philip,s message with Miracles (6, 7, 13). But Peter and John were sent to impart the Holy Spirit (15).

Then God directed Philip southward, to the Treasurer Ethiopia, to relay the Gospel on to the heart of Africa.

Then Philip told the Gospel Story in all the cities from Azotus to Caesarea. Caeserea was his home (21:8, 9).

Baptism, 36-39

Initial rite in becoming a Christian. Its mention here is quite conspicuous. Jesus commanded it (Matthew 28:19). 3000 at Pentecost were Baptized (2:38). Samaritans (8:12). Saul (9:18; 22:16). Cornelius (10:47, 48). Lydia (16:15). Philippian Jailer (16: 33). Corinthians ( 18:8). Ephesians (19:5 See also Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).

Chapter 9:1-30. Conversion of Saul

He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), a Pharisee; a native of Tarsus, third university center of the world, being surpassed, at the time, only by Athens and Alexandria; born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), of influential family; thus of Jewish, Greek and Roman background.

He evidently had determined to Destroy the Church. Having crushed and scattered the Jerusalem Church, he set out for Damascus to ferret out Christians who had fled there.

On the way, as by a stroke from heaven, the Lord appeared to him. His conversion is told three times, here and in 22:5-16 and 26:12-18. It was a real vision, not just a dream. He was actually blinded (8, 9, 18). His attendants heard the voice (7). Henceforth he served the Christ he had sought to destroy with a devotion unmatched in history.

He spent "many days" in Damascus, preaching Christ (23). Then the Jews sought to kill him. He went away into Arabia. Returned to Damascus. Was in Damascus and Arabia 3 years. Then returned to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). Was there 15 days. They sought to kill him (9:29). And he returned to Tarsus (9:30). Some years later, Barnabas brought him to Antioch (11:25).

Chapter 9:31-43. Peter in Joppa

In Lydda, Peter healed Aeneas. In Joppa, he raised Dorcas from the dead: miracles that led many to believe (35, 42).

Peter abode in Joppa many days (43). Thus, in the Providence of God, Peter was nearby when God was ready for the Gospel door to be opened to Gentiles, in Caesarea, 30 miles to the north.

Chapter 1O. Extension of Gospel to Gentiles

Cornelius was the First Gentile Christian. Hitherto the Gospel had been preached only to Jews and Jewish Proselytes, and Samaritans, who observed the Law of Moses.

The Apostles must have understood from Jesus' Final Commission (Matthew 28:19), that they were to preach the Gospel to All Nations. But it had not yet been revealed to

them that Gentiles were to be received as Gentiles. They seemed to have thought that Gentiles must first be circumsized, become Jewish Proselytes, and Keep the Law of

Moses, before they could be accepted into the household of God as Christians.

Jews were scattered among all nations, and the Apostles, till God led them out of the notion, may have thought their mission was to them. For a while, they preached only to

Jews (11:19).

But now, Judea, Samaria and Galilee, having been evangelized, the time had come, to offer the Gospel to Gentiles.


The first Gentile, chosen of God, to be offered the Gospel, was an officer of the Roman Army in Caesarea, named Cornelius.

Caesarea, on the sea coast, about 50 miles northwest of Jerusalem, was the Roman Capital of Palestine, residence of the Roman Governor, and Military Headquarters of the Province. The band of which Cornelius was Centurion is thought to have been bodyguard to the Governor. Thus, next to the Governor, Cornelius must have been

one of the most important and best known men in the whole region.

Cornelius was a good and devout man. He must have known something of the God of the Jews and of the Christians. Caesarea was Philip's home (8:40; 21:8). But, though Cornelius prayed to the God of the Jews, he was still a Gentile.

It was of God that Cornelius was chosen to be the First Gentile to whom the Gospel Door was opened. God Himself directed the whole proceedings. He told Cornelius to send for Peter (5). It took a special vision from God to induce Peter to go (9-23). And God put His own seal of approval on the reception of Cornelius into the Church (44-48). The First-Fruits of the Gentile World.

This, probably, was about 5 to l0 years after the founding of the Church in Jerusalem, possibly about A.D. 40. Knowledge of it, no doubt, gave impetus to the founding of the Gentile Church in Antioch (11:20). But it was hard for some Jews to accept (see next chapter).

It was from Joppa (5), that God sent Jewish Peter to Gentile Cornelius. From this same Joppa, 800 years before, God had to use a little extra persuasion on Jewish Jonah to get him to go to Gentile Nineveh (Jonah 1:3).

Note: Cornelius was not required to quit his army work.

Chapter 11:1-18. Apostles' Approval

Peter's acceptance of Cornelius, the Gentile, into the Church, without requiring Circumcision, was approved by the rest of the Apostles only after Peter explained it was all God's doing: God told Cornelius to send for Peter; God told Peter to go to Cornelius; and God sealed the transaction by sending the Holy Spirit (12-15). But there arose a sect of Jewish Christians who refused to acquiesce (15:5).

Chapter 11:19-26. The Church at Antioch

Founded soon after the stoning of Stephen, by those who were scattered abroad in the Persecution that followed, probably about A.D. 32, consisting at first only of Jewish Christians (19).

Some years later, probably about A.D. 42, certain Christians of Cyprus and Cyrene, possibly having heard of the reception of Cornelius into the Church, came to Antioch and began to preach to the Gentiles that,they could be Christians without becoming Jewish Proselytes, God Himself, in some way showing His approval (21).

The Jerusalem Church heard of it. Convinced by Peter's story of Cornelius that the work was of God, they sent Barnabas to carry the Blessing of the Mother Church. And multitudes of Gentiles come in (24).

Barnabas went to Tarsus, about 100 miles northwest from Antioch, and found Saul, end brought him to Antioch. This seems to have been some l0 years after Saul's Conversion, 3 years of which he had spent in, Damascus and Arabia, and the rest, is far as is known, in Tarsus, God had called Saul to carry the Gospel "far hence to the Gentiles" (22:21). No doubt, he had spent his time, wherever he may have been, unceasingly telling the story of Jesus. Now he becomes an active leader in this new-born Center of Gentile Christianity.


Third City of the Roman Empire. Population, 500,000. Surpassed only by Rome and Alexandria. Mediterranean Doorway to the Great Eastern Highways. 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Called "Queen of the East," and "Antioch the Beautiful." Embellished with everything that "Roman Wealth, Greek Aestheticism and Oriental Luxury could


Its worship of Ashtaroth was accompanied with immoral indulgence and unbelievable indecency. Yet multitudes of its people accepted Christ. It became birthplace of the name "Christian," and Center of Organized Effort to Christianize the World.

Chapter 11:27-3O, Antioch Sends Relief to Jerusalem

By Barnabas and Saul. This seems to have been Saul's second return to Jerusalem after his Conversion (Galatians 2:1). On,his first, they had attempted to kill him (Acts 9:26-30). His arrival in Jerusalem (11:30), just before mention of Herod's killing of James and imprisonment of Peter (12:1-4), and mention of his return to Antioch

(12:25), just after the death of Herod (12:23), and the death of Herod being known to have been in A.D. 44, would seem to place this visit in A.D. 44.

Chapter 12. James Killed. Peter Imprisoned

This James, brother of John, one of the three inner circle friends of Jesus, was first of the Twelve to die, A.D. 44. Another James, brother of Jesus, came to be recognized as leading bishop of Jerusalem.

When Herod imprisoned Peter, God Himself took a hand, and delivered Peter (7), and smote Herod (23). This Herod was son of the Herod who had killed John the Baptist and mocked Christ.

Chapters 13, 14. Paul's First Missionary Journey

Galatia, About A.D. 4548

Antioch rapidly became the leading center of Gentile Christianity. One of its teachers was foster-brother of Herod (13:1); from which we judge the Church had considerable prestige. It became Paul's headquarters for his Missionary work. From Antioch he started on his Missionary Journeys, and to Antioch he returned to report.

Paul had been a Christian now for some 12 or 14 years. He had become a leader in the Antioch Church. The time had come for Him to set forth on the work of bearing the Name of Christ far hence to the Gentile world (22:21)

The Galatian region, in central Asia Minor, to which he went, was about 300 miles northwest from Antioch. It was a rather long journey. In those days there were no railroads, or airplanes: only horses, donkeys, camels or on foot; or sail and oar boats.

Cyprus, 13:4-12

The route would have been more direct by land, going through Tarsus, the southeastern gateway to Asia Minor. But Paul had already been in Tarsus some 7 or 8 years. So they went through the Island of Cyprus; then from west end of Cyprus north into central Asia Minor.

In Cyprus, the Roman Governor was a convert. A miracle did the work (11, 12). The blinding of the sorcerer was an act of God, not of Paul. From here on, Saul is called Paul (9). Paul was the Roman form of the Hebrew name Saul.

Paul First Missionary Journey

Up to here, it is Barnabas and Paul. From here on, it is Paul and Barnabas. Henceforth Paul is leader.

Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe

In Antioch, of Pisidia, Paul, as his custom was, started his work in the Jewish synagog. Some Jews believed, and many Gentiles, in all the region round about (13:43, 48, 49). But the unbelieving Jews stirred up a persecution, and drove Paul and Barnabas out of the city.

In Iconium, about 100 miles east of Pisidian Antioch, they staved a long time (14:3); wrought signs and wonders; and a great multitude believed (14:1). Then the unbelievers drove them out of the city.

In Lystra, about 20 miles south of Iconium, Paul healed a cripple; and the multitudes thought he was a god. Later they stoned him, and left him for dead. Lystra was the home of Timothy (16:1). Perhaps Timothy saw the occurrence (II Timothy 3:11).

In Derbe about l0 miles southeast of Lystra, they made many disciples. And then returned through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh (II Corinthians 12:2, 7), came upon him 14 years before he wrote II Corinthians. That was about the time he entered Galatia (Galatians 4:13.)

Chapter 15:1-35. Council of Jerusalem

Question of Circumcising Gentile Converts

About n.o. 50. 20 years after founding of the Church. Probably about l0 years after reception of Gentiles into the Church.

Although God had expressly revealed to Peter that Gentiles should be received without circumcision (chapter 10), and the Apostles and Elders were convinced (11:18), yet a sect of Pharisee believers persisted in teaching that it was necessary. And the Church was rent with discord over the question.

In this Council, God (28), led the Apostles to give unanimous and formal expression to the judgment that Circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles; and they sent a tolerant letter to that effect to Antioch, insisting though that Gentile Christians abstain from Idolatry and Immorality, which was so commonly practiced among Gentiles.

Abstention from Blood, ante-dating Moses (Genesis 9:4) was for all the race.

This is the last mention of Peter in the book of Acts, (7). Up to chapter 12, Peter is the leading figure.

Chapter 15:36 to 18:22. Paul's Second Missionary Journey

His Work in Greece. About A.D. 50-53

Silas was Paul's companion on this journey (15:40). Little is knows of Silas. He first appears as one of the leaders of the Judean Church (15:22, 27, 32). Like Paul, he was a Jew and a Roman citizen (16:21, 37). Sent with Jerusalem Letter to Gentiles (15:27). Also called Sylvanus. Later, he joined in Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1). And carried 1 Peter to its first reader (1 Peter 5:12).

Paul and Barnabas separated over John Mark. But later they worked together again (1 Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10.

Mark, also called John Mark, turned back from Paul's First Journey (13:13), possibly through timidity, or fear, or maybe not fully convinced on Gentile evangelization. But now he wanted to go. But Paul thought it no best.

Re-Visits Galatian Churches, 16:1-7

At Lystra, Paul finds Timothy, and takes him along (16:1). Timothy ever afterward was Paul's unfailing companion.

It seems that Paul was making his way toward Ephesus, "Asia" (6), but God stopped him. Then he started northward into Bithynia, and again God stopped him (7). Then he turned northwest, and came to Troas. Even Paul, intimate as he was with the Spirit of God, was in some cases a little slow in finding out the will of God for himself.

Troas, Philippi

At Troas (no ancient Troy which stands on an escarpment twenty miles away), Luke joined the party, "they" (8), "we" (10), and went with them to Philippi, and remained there, "they" (17:1), after Paul left; and rejoined Paul six years later, "we" (20:6).

God, who had steered Paul away from Ephesus and Bithynia (6, 7), now beckons him to Philippi (10). In prison, Paul and Silas Sang Hymns, God sent an earthquake (25, 26), and the Church they founded turned out to be one of the best in all the New Testament.

Thessalonica, Berea, Athens

Philippi, at the northeast corner of Greece, was Paul's first European Church. Thessalonica, about 100 miles west of Philippi, was the largest city of Macedonia. They were there only a short time, but made a great multitude of converts (17:1-9).

In Berea (17:10-14), they made many believers.

In Athens (17:15-34), the home of Pericles, Socrates, Demosthenes and Plato; center of Philosophy, Literature, Science and Art; seat of greatest university of the ancient world; meeting place of world's intelligentsia; wholly given to Idolatry. This was Paul's poorest reception but it was also his most exacting task to date. It revealed how truly at home he was with Greek thought. It was not a failure as some, misreading the first letter to Corinth, have maintained, but a brilliant translation of his message into Hellenic thought and language. Nor was the address without notables result.

At Corinth, 18;1-22

A principal city of the Roman Empire. Here Paul stayed a year and a half, and established a great church (10, 11).

And then returned to Jerusalem and Antioch, stopping, en route, at Ephesus, on which his mind had so long been set. He may have been headed toward Ephesus, on his First Journey, when, at Pisidian Antioch, on the western border of Galatia, he was turned back eastward by his thorn in the flesh (Galatians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:2, 7). On his Second Journey, he was definitely headed toward Ephesus, when God turned him northward, and sent him to Troas and Greece (16:6, 7). And now at last, the door opens for Ephesus, on his Third Missionary Journey.

Aquila and Priscilla

With whom Paul abode in Corinth (18:2, 3), and who went with him as far as Ephesus (18:18, 19). There are inscriptions in the catacombs which hint that Priscilla was of a distinguished family of high standing in Rome. She is usually mentioned first. She must have been a woman of unusual talent. Later, in Ephesus a church met in their house (I Corinthians 16:19). Later, in Rome, a church met in their house (Romans 16:3-5). Some years later they were again in Ephesus (II Timothy 4:19).

Chapters 18:23 to 20:38. Paul's Third Missionary Journey

His Work in Ephesus. About A.D. 54-57

Here Paul did the most marvelous work of all his marvelous life. Ephesus, a magnificent city of 225,000 population, was at center of the Imperial Highway from Rome to the East, backbone of the Roman Empire.

Vast multitudes of Diana worshipers became Christians. Churches were founded for a hundred miles around (19:10, 26). Ephesus rapidly became leading center of the Christian world.

The Temple of Diana

One of the Seven Wonders of the World. 220 years in building. Built of purest marble. Diana worship was "a perpetual festival of vice." Her influence later got into the churches.

Apollos, 18.24-28

An eloquent Jew. Became a powerful leader in Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 3:6); and in Ephesus (l Corinthians 16:12). Some years later he was still helping Paul (Titus 3:13). Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla, helpers of Paul in Ephesus end Corinth.

Special Miracles in Ephesus, 19:11

With a school room as his headquarter5 (19:9), speaking publicly, and from house to house (20:20), day and night, for three years (2O:31), maintaining himself by working at his own trade (20:34), with the aid, at times, of Special Miracles (19:11, 12), Paul shook the mighty city of Ephesus to its foundations. Magicians, who pretended to work miracles, were so over-awed that they made a great bonfire of their books ( 19: 19).

It was only at times that Paul could work Miracles. He did Miracles in Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Ephesus and Melita, and, apparently, in Corinth (I Corinthians 2:4), and Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 1:5). But none are mentioned for Paul in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Antioch, Pisidian Antioch, Derbe, Athens or Rome. Nor could Paul heal his own beloved fellow-worker Trophimus (II Timothy 4:20).

Paul's Plan to Go to Rome, 19:21

Having begun his work at Antioch, East end of the Backbone of the Roman Empire, now having done his greatest work at Ephesus, center of the Empire's Backbone, and having made known the Story of Christ all over Asia Minor and Greece, he now plans to journey on to the West end of the Empire.

Paul Re-Visits Greece, 20:1 -5

He left Ephesus in June, e.n.57 (I Corinthians 16:18). Was in Macedonia, summer and fall (I Corinthians 16:5-8). In Corinth the three winter months (I Corinthians 16:6). Returned through Macedonia (Acts 20:3). And sailed away from Philippi, April, A.D. 58 (20:6). Making nearly a year in Greece. This may have been the time he went to Illyricum (Romans 15:19).

Paul's Four Great Epistles were written in this period: I Corinthians, from Ephesus: II Corinthians, from Macedonia: Galatians, about same time, it is thought: and Romans, from Corinth.

Farewell to the Ephesian Elders, 20:17-38

They were tender words. He never expected to see them again (25). But his plans changed, and he did come back.

This was the close of Three Missionary Journeys, covering about 12 years, A.D.45 to 57. Powerful Christian centers planted in almost every city of Asia Minor and Greece, in the very heart of the then known world.

Chapter 21:1-16. Paul's Journey to Jerusalem

One purpose of the journey was to deliver the Offering of Money which ire had gathered from Gentile Churches in Greece and Asia Minor for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; Romans 15:25, 26; I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8:10; 9:1-15). It was a great offering. He had spent over r year gathering it. A crowning demonstration of the spirit of Brotherly Kindness, to encourage a feeling of Christian Love between Jew and Gentile.

Another purpose of the journey was to keep a Vow (21:24). A Vow had brought him to Jerusalem at the close of his Second Journey (18:18). These Vows he had made to show to the Jews that, while he taught Gentiles that they could be Christians without keeping the Law of Moses, he himself, as a Jew, was zealous to observe all Jewish Laws.

From the start of the Journey, he was warned not to go. The Holy Spirit, in every city, warned him (20:23). In Tyre (21:4). In Caesarea, while he was at Philip's house, the warning was repeated with graphic emphasis (21:10, 11). Even Luke begged him not to go (21:12).

But it was settled in Paul's mind, even if it meant death (21:13). Why these warnings from God? Could it be that Paul was mistaken, and God was trying to tell him so? Or could it be that God was testing him? Or preparing him? Could it be that Paul may have thought his own martyrdom at Jerusalem would have been a fitting climax, in the same city where he himself had martyred many Christians?

Chapters 21:17 to 23:30. Paul in Jerusalem

He arrived there about June, A.D. 58 (20:16). It was his 5th recorded visit to Jerusalem after his conversion. In intervening years he had won vast multitudes of Gentiles to the Christian Faith, for which unbelieving Jews hared him.

After he had been there nearly a week, fulfilling his vow, in the Temple, certain Jews recognized him. They began to yell, and in no time the mob was on him like a pack of wild dogs. Roman soldiers appeared on the scene in time to save him from being beaten to death.

On the stairway to the Roman castle, same castle where Pilate had condemned Jesus to death 28 years before, Paul, with the consent of the soldiers, made a speech to the mob, in which he told the story of Christ's appearance to him on the way to Damascus. They listened till he mentioned the word Gentiles, at which the mob broke loose again.

Next day Roman officers brought Paul before the Jews' Council to try to find out what was wrong. It was the same Council that had crucified Jesus; the same Council of which Paul had once been a member; the same Council that had stoned Stephen, and had made repeated efforts to crush the Church. Paul was about to be torn to pieces, and the soldiers took him back to the castle.

That night, in the castle, the Lord stood by Paul, and assured him that He would see him to Rome (23:11). Paul had often hoped to get to Rome (Romans 1:13). In Ephesus, the plan took definite shape (19:21), to follow this visit to Jerusalem, not sure, however, that he would get away from Jerusalem alive (Romans 15:31, 32). But from

now on, Sure, SURE. For GOD Had Said It.

Next day the Jews renewed their plot to waylay Paul. Public frenzy was at the boiling point. It took 70 horsemen, 200 soldiers, and 200 spearmen to get him out of the city, and that under cover of darkness.

Chapters 23:31 to 26.32. Paul in Caesarea

Two Years, from Summer of A.D. 58 to Fall of A.D. 60

Paul had just been in Caesarea a week before, in Philip's house, on his way to Jerusalem, where a prophet, named Agabus, had come from Jerusalem to warn him (21:8-14).

Caesarea was Roman Capital of Judea, chosen of God, for the reception of the First Gentile into the Church, Cornelius, an Officer of the Roman Army, some 20 years before.

Here, in this most important.Roman city of Palestine, Paul spent two years, as a prisoner in the Palace of the Roman Governor (23:35), with privilege of visitors. What an opportunity to make Christ known!


Modern Israel, conscious of its nation-hood, has a care for monuments of the historic past, and Caesarea is receiving the archaeologists' attentions. The harbor works have been surveyed by skin-divers, and interesting information gained. The theater is under excavation, and one surprising find has been the name of Pontius Pilate in a fragmentary inscription. The garrison town, of course, was his headquarters as procurator, and the scene of a famous contest between him and a Jewish deputation in Jerusalem. Obstinate and overbearing, Pilare had hung votive shield on Herod's palace, dedicated to the Emperor. The Jews won their point by a deputation to Tiberius, and

Pilate's symbols of his clumsy loyalty were transferred to Rome's shrine in Caesarea.

More will emerge as the covered remnants of the city are uncovered. They are not hidden like the relics of so many ancient towns under the accumulated building of the ages. Caesarea is a barren site, and open ground for the excavator. A city so typical of

the three worlds which clashed and fused in Palestine, and produced the New Testament as their common document, should yield much of interest and illustration of the world of Christ and Paul.

Paul before Felix, 24:1-27

Felix had been Roman Governor of Palestine for a number of years. He knew something about Christians, for there were multitudes of them under his jurisdiction. Now he was to sit in judgment on the most noted of all Christian teachers. Paul made a deep impression on Felix. Felix sent for him often. But his covetousness kept him from

accepting Christ or releasing Paul (26). Drusilla was sister of Agrippa (25: 13).

Paul before Festus, 25:1-12

Festus succeeded Felix as Governor, A.D. 60. The Jews were still plotting to murder Paul. Festus, though convinced of Paul's innocence, was disposed to turn him over to the Jews; which Paul knew would mean death. So Paul appealed to Caesar (11), which, as a Roman Citizen, he had a right to do, and which appeal Festus had to honor.

Paul's Roman Citizenship, probably conferred on his father for some service to the State, more than once saved his life.

Paul before Agrippa, 25:13 to 26:32

This Agrippa was Herod Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I who 16 years before had killed James (12:2), grandson of Herod Antipas who had killed John the Baptist and mocked Christ, great grandson of Herod the Great who had murdered the children of Bethlehem. Scion of this murderous family, king over the Province on northeast border of Palestine, he is now asked to aid Festus.

Bernice was his Sister, living with him as his wife. A woman of rare beauty, she had already been married to two kings' and had come back to be her own brother's wife. Later she became mistress to Emperor Vespasian and to Emperor Titus.

Think of Paul making his defense before a pair like that. Even so Agrippa was profoundly impressed (26:28) . But to Festus the idea of a Resurrection from the Dead was so unthinkable that he cried out that Paul must be crazy (26:24).

They all agreed that Paul was innocent of any wrong (26:31).


Luke. though not in prison, was with Paul in Caesarea, "we" (21:17, 18; 27:1). It'is thought that this was when Luke wrote his Gospel (Luke 1:1-3). His two years' sojourn in Caesarea gave him, opportunity to spend time in Jerusalem, and perhaps Galilee, talking with apostles and original companions of Jesus, gathering first-hand information. Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have been still living; from whose lips Luke could have learned her own story of Jesus' Birth and Childhood and many incidents of His life.

Chapters 27:1 to 28:15. Paul's Voyage to Rome

Begun in early Fall of A.D. 60. Three winter months in Melita. Arrived in Rome in early Spring of A.D. 61.

Made in three different ships: one from Caesarea to Myra; another from Myra to Melita; and the third from Melita to Puteoli.

Soon after leaving Myra they ran into fierce adverse winds, were driven off course, Ind,'after many days, when all hope was gone, God, who, two years before, back in Jerusalem, had told Paul that He would see him to Rome (23:11), now again appears to Paul to assure him that He would make good His word (27:24) . And He did.

Chapter 28:16-31. Paul in Rome

Rome, Queen City of the Earth. Center of History. For two millenniums, 2nd century B.C. to 18th century A.D. dominating power of the world. Still called the "Eternal City." Population, then, 1,500,000, half slaves. Capital of an Empire extending 3,000 miles east and west, 2,000 miles north and south, with population of 120,000,000.

Paul was there at least two years (28:30). Though a prisoner, he was allowed to live in his own hired house, with his guard (28:16), with freedom to receive visitors, and to teach Christ. There were already many Christians there (see his greetings in Romans 16 written three years before). Paul's two years in Rome were very fruitful, reaching even into the Palace (Philippians 4:23). While there he wrote the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and possibly Hebrews.

Paul's Later Life

It is generally accepted that Paul was acquitted, about A.D. 63 or 64. Whether he went on to Spain, as he had planned (Romans 15:28), is not know. Tradition intimates that he did. But if he did, he did not remain long. It seems fairly certain that he was back in Greece and Asia Minor about A.D. 65 to 47, in which period he wrote the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. Then, rearrested, he was taken back to Rome, and beheaded about A.D. 67.

Summary of Paul's Life

With Tentative Approximate Dates

Paul first appears as a persecutor of Christians, resolutely determined to blot out the name of Jesus. No doubt he thought the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead was a fixed up story.

Then, on the road to Damascus, as by a stroke from heaven, he was smitten down. Jesus Himself spoke to him, about A.D. 32.

From that moment he was a Changed Man. With zeal and devotion unparalleled in history, he went up and down the highways of the Roman Empire crying out, Jesus Dis Rise from the Dead, It is True, It is True, IT IS TRUE, He is Risen, He is Risen, HE IS RISEN.

    • In Damascus they tried to kill him. He went into Arabia. Then back to Damascus. Then returned to Jerusalem, about A.D. 35. They tried to kill him. Then he went to Tarsus.

    • In Antioch, about A.D. 42 to 44. Went up to Jerusalem, about A.D.44 with an offering of money for the poor.

    • First Missionary Journey, about A.D. to 48. Galatia: Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Returned to Antioch.

    • Conference at Jerusalem about Gentile Circumcision, about A.D. 50.

    • Second Missionary Journey, about A.D. 50-53; Greece: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth: return to Jerusalem, Antioch.

    • Third Missionary Journey, about A.D. 54-57: Ephesus, Greece.

    • To Jerusalem, A.D. 58, with great offering of money.

    • In Caesarea, A.D. 58-60, a prisoner in the governor's castle.

    • In Rome, A.D. 61-63, a prisoner. Here the book of Acts ends.

    • Back in Greece and Asia Minor, about A.D. 65-66.

    • Beheaded in Rome, about A.D. 67

    • His ministry lasted about 35 yeas. In those 35 years he won vast multitudes to Christ.

At times God helped him with Miracles. In almost every city he was persecuted. Again and again they mobbed him, and tried to kill him. He was beaten, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, driven from city to city. On top of all this, is "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12). His sufferings are almost unbelievable. He must have had a constitution like iron. God must have used supernatural power to keep him alive.