Luke – the author of both the Gospel named after him and the Book of Acts is really only mentioned 3 times in the whole New Testament (Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24). It appears from what we know of him that he was Paul’s close friend, his travelling companion as well as his personal physican.
Over and above his relationship with Paul we also know that he was a careful researcher (see his comments in Luke 1:1-4), an accurate historian, had an intimate knowledge of both Roman law and customs as well as the geography of the areas that he and Paul travelled. He was also an eye witness to most of what he writes about as seen in the Book of Acts by the number of times he states “we” and “us”.
The Gospel of Luke was written to be an ordered account of the things Jesus accomplished. The Book of Acts was written to show us what Jesus continues to accomplish through His early Church. This great book shows us the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the Church as well as the growing opposition to the message.
It is interesting how little is known about the “person” it was written to – Theophilus. His name means “Lover of God”. However, we are not sure if he was a believer or not. Luke could have written the Book of Acts as part of his instructing Theophilus in the faith. Or, Theophilus could be a pagan that Luke is seeking to convert to the Christian faith. Some scholars are not even sure that Theophilus is actually a real person. However, evidence does lean towards this ‘person’ being an actual live being that Luke was in communication with. In Luke 1:3 he writes “most excellent Theophilus” which means this man was probably a Roman official of some importance.
In our day and age of being “Seeker Sensitive” I find it interesting what Luke included in his writing – inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so – to a probable pagan inquirer. Anything but what a seeker sensitive church would include in a service on Sunday today. I mean, this is radical stuff of power, tongues, miracles, sign and wonders, persecution, suffering, prision, paying the price, winning the lost at any cost, giving it all up for the sake of the Gospel, and death. Not exactly “God has a wonderful plan for your life filled with financial wealth and prosperity, healing and health”.
So, we are about to embark on 30 years of early Church history – exciting reading even though the word ‘history’ does not always bring the term ‘excitement’ to mind. We are going to see a time of transitioning: Jesus to the apostles, Old Covenant to New Covenant, Israel as God’s witness to the Church as a ‘holy nation’ bearing witness to Jesus in the world, and a church moving from a ‘Jews only’ group to one containing Jews and Gentiles.
Here in the Book of Acts we will see the New Testament or New Covenant’s practical outworking in the life of the Church. To read the theology and doctrine behind this new move you need only to turn to the Book of Hebrews were you will find the New Testament theology of the transition from the old to the new.
So, an exciting adventure is about to begin – and this adventure continues to this day. In fact, the Book of Acts is the only New Testament book that does not have a definite ending as we continue to live in the days of the Book of Acts and God is writing Chapter 29 in and through us in the world today.