The Book of Acts: Summary and Overview

by Pamela Rose Williams · Print Print · Email Email

The Book of Acts in the Bible, written around 62-63 A.D., may be best described as a history of the founding and growth of the early church. While there are some areas of great detail of the Acts of the Apostles, many times you must use cross references to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as some other epistles in the New Testament to get the full picture of what was happening at this time in history. The book was written by Luke, the same writer of the Gospel of Luke and you might want to think of it as a continuation and even a sequel to that Gospel.

Found as the 5th book in the New Testament, the Book of Acts can best be split into two parts; the first part dealing with the home church and its mission and the last concentrating on foreign missions. The book begins with the Ascension of Jesus and goes on through Paul’s jail time in Rome, which opens his ministry to the church at Rome. In this book we see the first mention of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ command to take His gospel to all the world. Here is a summary and overview of the Book of Acts.

At Home in Jerusalem

Peter and his mission to the Jews is the main focus in this first part of the Book of Acts.

Key Verses at the Beginning of this Missionary Work:

The Great Commission from Jesus

Acts 1:4–8  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Jesus Ascends to Heaven

Acts 1:10–11  And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Pentecost

Acts 2:1–4  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Power for Boldness

Acts 4:31  And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Peter steps out in faith and boldly preaches Jesus as the Christ to the Jews.

  • At Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40)
  • His second sermon which speaks of the Patriarchs and the fulfillment of the promise of a Deliverer through Jesus (Acts 3:12-26)
  • Deacons appointed (Acts 6:1-6)
  • Deacon Stephen preaches, rebuking the Jews for their unbelief and is stoned to death (Acts 7:1-60)
  • Church persecution at the hand of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:1-3)
  • Philip, Peter and John preach to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-25)
  • Philip shares the gospel with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40)

Foreign Missions

A pivotal point in the Book of Acts is when Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) meets Jesus on the road to Damascus and is converted. Philip, Peter and John’s ministry to the Samaritans as well as Peter’s vision at Joppa made it clear that they needed to take the gospel to the Gentiles and confirms that the Holy Spirit is leading them to broaden the mission field.

  • The conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1-30)
  • Peter’s vision is confirmed by the offer of salvation to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-44)
  • Barnabas is sent to Antioch by the elders at Jerusalem (Acts 11:22-24)
  • Paul joins Barnabas in Antioch and they establish the church where followers of Jesus where first called Christians (Acts 11:25-26)
  • The church at Jerusalem is persecuted by Herod, James is put to death and Peter is imprisoned and miraculously freed from prison (Acts 12:1-19)
  • More about the first foreign missionary journeys:
    • Paul’s first missionary journey, joined by Barnabas & John Mark (Acts 13:4-14:26)
    • The Council at Jerusalem – Does the Law of Moses apply to the Gentiles? (Acts 15:5-30)
    • Paul’s second missionary journey, Silas chosen to go with Paul (Acts 15:36-18:22)
    • Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:15)
    • Paul returns to Jerusalem to share about his mission; he is confronted by various groups and is sent to Caesarea to escape a plan by the Jews to kill him (Acts 21:18-23:33)
    • Paul defends his belief in Christ (Acts 24:1-26:29)
    • Paul’s voyage to Rome as a prisoner and his ministry there (Acts 27:1-28:31)

Something more to read: Bible Verses from the Book of Luke

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Photo rendered from Logos Bible Software 6.0 Visual Copy.

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