Understanding Genre's - Acts

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE - Understanding Genre’s

The book of Acts is a sequel to the book of Luke. It's a sequel story with a specific purpose. Luke is telling the story about how the Gospel advanced from a group of 120 followers to a worldwide following. We need to understand that Luke is not trying to answer every question about the church, doctrine, Paul, etc., he's telling a story. It's kind of like a history book of the early church.

Luke organized Acts both thematically and geographically, and it has four central themes: the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, the church, and the world.

The overall theme is that the Holy Spirit empowers the church to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world. The central geographic structure is witness to the church in Jerusalem (1-7), witness to the church in Judea and Samaria (8-9), and witness of the church to the ends of the earth (10-28).

The book of Acts is a model for how God intends, by the power of His Spirit, for the church to take the Gospel to the ends of the world.
This means that Acts is not written with an intent to show precedent for everything in the book. They waited for the Spirit but we don't have to wait. People were healed by Pauls handkerchief but that does not mean we sell cloth's for healing today. God heals in whatever manner He intends. The main precedent of Acts is the unity of the church and how the church is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. These are two things the American church needs to grab hold of.

Look at the negative characters and look at the positive characters. Ask questions about them and ask questions about the speeches. About one quarter to one-third of Acts is speeches; some only about 60 seconds long (which is strange since we know a preacher can't preach for 60 seconds). Understand that these are not verbatim accounts of the speeches. Luke was not present at every speech, he didn't have a tape recorder, and he did not write it down as they were saying it.

Ask questions of commentary from Luke. Make note when Luke says, “this is intended to show this”.

Look for what Luke intended in each episode in the book of Acts. This is not just what he’s saying but WHY is he saying it.

Look for repeated patterns and themes throughout Acts. Eight times he talks about being filled with the Spirit and each time it was for spreading the Gospel; a contrary act to what we see the church playing out today.

Look at every episode and every story and ask “What’s the main point?” If you go to Acts 6:1-7 we see a division in the church. People weren’t getting food and they were not happy. They bring in Stephen to help out so that the apostles can continue in prayer. The story does not give us a pattern of how the church should be organized. The picture was to set the stage for how the Gospel was going to break out of Jerusalem and how it was going to be spread to the ends of the earth.

We’ve got to ask what Luke is trying to tell us. Is he trying to give us a theology on how the church is organized or how the church spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

Bring it back home and relate it to our lives. When you look for the eternal and cross-cultural filter all implications of Acts through the lens of Luke’s intent. For example, when you get to Acts 8, you got all kinds of questions happening. Philip baptizes the Unick in the river and people are asking if he dunked him or sprinkled him. Some people are receiving the Spirit that already believed in Christ. Luke’s purpose is not to give us theology on how much water you need for baptism or when this or that happens. His intent is to show us, very clearly, that the Gospel is going to Samaritans and Unick’s, two groups that were despised and unclean by Jews. The point of Acts 8 is to show that the Gospel is for the gentile as well as the Jew. It’s also to show us that we are to take the Gospel to people who are not like us, a people hard to reach that nobody else is reaching.

Once we determine what Luke is trying to tell us we then determine how to apply this to our lives.