New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 4

Acts - Outline

Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Acts - Outline

The Book of Acts

Part 4

IV.  Outline and Speeches

A.  Outline

1.  Theme Verse - 1:8

2.  Divisions show fulfillment of the theme

a.  1:1-6:7 – To Jerusalem

b.  6:8-9:31 – To Palestine

c.  9:32-12:24 – To Syria

d.  12:25-16:5 – To Asia Minor

e.  16:6-19:20 – To Europe

f.  19:21-28:31 – To Rome (Ends of the Earth)

B.  Speeches

1.  Critical Scholars

2.  Arguments against

a.  Speeches have different content.

b.  Speeches have different emphases.

c.  Good historians reproduced what speaker said.

  • Acts was written by the same person that wrote the Gospel of Luke and continues where Luke left off with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

  • Luke wrote as a historian and includes details related to geography, political leaders and navigational terms. He was also an eyewitness and acquainted with eyewitnesses of events recorded in Acts.

  • Luke's purpose in writing Acts was give an orderly historical account of events surrounding Christ's ascension, the first followers of Christ and the spread of the early Church.

  • Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.

  • At first, the early Church was made up mostly of Jews who continued to live a Jewish lifestyle.

  • Two events in the early Church were the choosing of an apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

  • The elements of conversion in the New Testament are repentance, faith, confession, regeneration and baptism.

  • Many of the early Christians spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen was one of the first deacons and was martyred for his faith.

  • The apostle Paul's background as a Jew, training as a Pharisee, and Roman citizenship had a significant influence in his ministry and writings.

  • Paul had a dramatic conversion experience as he was traveling on the road to Damascus.

  • After Paul's conversion, on some areas of his theology his positions stayed the same, and on some areas his positions changed dramatically.

  • Many of the events related to Paul's life and ministry are recorded in the book of Acts.

  • The conversion of Cornelius and Peter's vision were important events in emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles into the early Church.

  • The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas and John Mark to preach the gospel. This was Paul's first missionary journey.

  • The Jerusalem Council was a meeting of the early Church leaders to decide how to include Gentiles Christians into what had, up to this point, been a predominantly Jewish Christian group.

  • Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.

  • Some of the letters from Paul in the New Testament are to an individual and some are to congregations. The letters are written in a form that includes the same general elements in the same order.

  • A main theme of 1 Thessalonians is the second coming of Christ.

  • Paul addresses some issues regarding the second coming of Christ, such as being responsible to work and support yourself in the meantime.

  • On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.

  • Paul defends his apostleship and explains that the foundation of our relationship with God is based on faith, not works.

  • Paul begins by defending his apostleship. He then explains justification by faith and gives some ethical exhortations. (The lecture does not cover points C. Ethical Exhortations (5:1-6:10) and D. Conclusion (6:11-18), but we included the outline points for your benefit.)

  • Most people agree that Paul wrote both letters to the Corinthians. He answered questions from people in the Corinthian church and addressed problems that had arisen.

  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.

  • Paul defends his actions and apostleship and encourages the people in the church in Corinth to contribute to his collection for the poor in Jerusalem.

  • The content of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was shaped by the ethnic background of the congregation and the challenges they were facing at that time.

  • The outline of Paul's letter to the Romans indicates his understanding of the fundamental concepts of the gospel.

  • Paul wrote Romans from the perspective of his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

  • Paul begins Romans by stating the problem of sin and enumerating a few specific sins. His conclusion in chapter 3 is that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the wrath of God.

  • The divine remedy to the problem of sin and separation from God is justification by a righteous God.

  • The results of God's righteousness include, peace, hope, freedom, living in the Spirit and assurance.

  • Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, went on trial in Caesarea, and was transported to Rome and imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.

  • A major theme in the book of Philippians is joy in times of adversity.

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the preeminence and supremacy of Christ.

  • Imperative is always based on the indicative.

  • Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, partly because the content follows an outline that is similar to other letters attributed to him that are contained in the New Testament.

  • In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes who we are in Christ and the mystery of the gospel.

  • Paul writes to Philemon about how Philemon should receive his runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a committed disciple of Christ under Paul's influence and is returning to him.

  • Luke does not record the details of Paul's death in the book of Acts.

  • The best argument is for Pauline authorship, possibly with the help of a secretary.

  • Two themes in 1 Timothy are the role and requirements for bishops and elders, and the role of women in ministry.

  • Paul gives instructions to Titus who is a pastor in Crete.

  • Paul gives instruction to Timothy, who is a young pastor.

  • It is unclear who wrote the book of Hebrews.

  • A major theme in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. There are also passages that emphasize that perseverance is essential.

  • According to James, true faith results in works.

  • The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.

  • Themes in 1 Peter include the atonement, the new birth and the continuity of the Old and New Testaments.

  • Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.

  • Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.

  • 1 John is similar to the Gospel of John in style, vocabulary, theology and purpose.

  • John makes a distinction between acts of sin and continuing in sin.

  • Jesus came as God in the flesh and offers us the gift of eternal life.

  • Revelation is a book written in an apocalyptic genre by the apostle John.

  • The philosphy of interepretation you use when you study the book of Revelation determines what you think specific passages in the book are teaching.

  • Chapters 1-12 begins with the seven churches, and includes the seven seals and seven trumpets.

  • Revelation chapters 13-22 focus on the beast, Christ's final victory, final judgment and the millenium.

  • After Christ ascended and the church was spreading, it was helpful to have a written record of Christ's life and the apostles' teaching. All the books included in the New Testament were written before the end of the first century.

  • Each book included in the New Testament had to meet specific criteria. They are arranged with the Gospels first, then letters, then the book of Revelation.

In this second graduate-level class on New Testament Survey, Dr. Robert Stein walks you through the New Testament books Acts through Revelation. In his analysis of the books, you will learn not only the facts but also be challenged with their theological and spiritual significance.


Let me give a brief outline of the Book of Acts. The outline is based on the theme verse of the Book of Acts. The theme verse of Acts is Acts 1:8. If you want to know what the Book of Acts is about, it is Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Now that is the theme of the Book of Acts. And the division of Acts is done by Luke in a way to show the fulfillment of that theme.

For instance in 1:1 to 6:7 you have the spread of the Gospel to Jerusalem. And that section ends this way: “And the Word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” And the theme: “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem …,” and here: “…the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem.”

Now, the gospel spreads outside Jerusalem to Palestine. Jews hate the word Palestine, by the way, from this line because “Palestine” comes from the land of the “Philistines”. We call it “Palestine,” but it ultimately goes back to the name “Philistines”. But it’s so popular and so common, we use it. Now, the 2d section ends [at 9:31, with] “so the church throughout all Judea, and Galilee and Samaria [Palestine, in other words], had peace and was built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

The next section, the church spreads through to Syria, and you have a brief statement in 12:24 “But the word of God grew and multiplied.” After Syria it goes to Asia Minor, and that section ends [16:5] “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” Remember how we talked about the growth of the church? The church then goes to Europe, and that section ends in 19:20 “So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily,” and then the book ends with the church in Rome as follows (28:30), “And Paul lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and unhindered.” So now you have the gospel being spread even to Rome itself. Even Rome hears the good news.

One of the issues that is often debated is the speeches of the Book of Acts. How did Luke know what Peter preached at Pentecost? How does he know what Stephen said when he was martyred? How does he know what Paul says when he preaches at Mars Hill or the Areopagus? Critical scholars say that he just made up speeches, and they have nothing to do with history – they have to do rather with Luke telling his story, creating and putting on the lips of his authors what he wants them to say. Well, it has to be acknowledged that the style and the vocabulary and the theology of the speeches tend to be Lucan. In other words, when Paul preaches, the vocabulary that he uses is Luke’s vocabulary. And some again have suggested that Luke has created them out of nothing – that what we have here are just creative accounts.

Well, against this there are a number of arguments. One is that if you look at the speeches, they have a different content and vary in emphasis. For instance if you look at the speeches that are given to Jews in Chapters 3-13 (in the synagogue, at Pentecost, Paul’s defense in Jerusalem, and so forth), they’re quite different than the speech that’s given to Cornelius, who is a God-fearer (in other words, a Gentile attracted to Judaism); and this is different from the speech that Paul gives to Greeks in Athens. So it’s not just one common speech that’s found in all, Stephen’s speech is unique as well. So it’s not as if you have one brush that’s painting all the speeches. Either what you have here is Luke being aware of the content in general of both speeches, or you have something that’s hard to explain – why they are different. Maybe he’s just a great creative writer.

The only time the term “justification” in the way that Paul used it is found, is in a Pauline speech (not in a speech by Peter, or a speech by James in Acts 15, not by Stephen, but by Paul). In general, good historians sought to reproduce what they knew an author talked about. Thucydides, a historian in 460-400 BC, is often thought of as a good historian, and he says in his writing: “As for speeches made by various persons, it was difficult for me to remember exactly the words which I myself heard. As also for those who reported of other speeches to me. But I have recorded them in accordance with my opinion of what the various speakers would have had to say in view of the circumstances at the time, keeping as closely as possible to the general gist of what was really said.” In other words, good ancient historians tried as best as they knew how to keep in touch and close to what the actual writers said during this time. For instance, you say, “Are you saying that what Peter said in Acts is not exactly what he said?” Well, first of all you have to realize that Peter did not speak Greek at Pentecost – it was a translation. But I believe that, yes, it is in essence the kind of thing that Peter preached during that time. And I think that Luke is that kind of historian as well. Would it have been word-for-word exactly what they said? No more than any other translation would be. As a good historian I think the fact is that he is not just creating out of nothing these kinds of speeches.