Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Acts of the Apostles [Catholic Caucus] ^ | not given in bibliography | Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Posted on 04/22/2012 11:31:45 AM PDT by Salvation

The Acts of the Apostles
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outline | Major Themes | Questions | Bibliography


An Outline of the Acts of the Apostles:  

Major Themes in Acts:

Theological Geography:

The Acts of the Apostles does not contain a complete history of the growth and expansion of Christianity in its first generation, but focuses only on a few missionaries active in a few geographical areas. Its selections are theologically driven, not historically comprehensive.

The Role of the Holy Spirit:

Just as in Luke's Gospel, the Spirit of God inspires and guides most of the action within the Acts of the Apostles.  Some scholars even suggest that this book could better be called "The Acts of the Holy Spirit":

Theology Expressed in Sermons and Speeches:

A whole series of speeches and sermons delivered by the apostles in various contexts (esp. by Peter or Paul) summarize the essence of the early Christian preaching about Jesus:

Each of these sermons and speeches include many, if not all, of the following key points:

The Community Life of the First Disciples:

Several passages early in Acts summarize the most important features of the community life of the early believers in Jerusalem: 

Parallels between the Apostles and Jesus:

The portrayal of the apostles in Acts is very similar to the portrait of Jesus in Luke's Gospel.  Just like Jesus, the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit, they quote from the scriptures in their preaching, they teach and heal, they perform miracles and exorcisms, they gain followers but also stir up opponents, they are persecuted and some of them are arrested, but they forgive their opponents and remain faithful to God even if they are killed:

The Apostles in Acts Jesus in Luke's Gospel
The Holy Spirit descends on the apostles at Pentecost (2:1-4) The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism (3:21-22)
Peter preaches, quoting from the prophet Joel (2:16-36; quoting Joel 2:28-32) Jesus preaches, after reading from the prophet Isaiah (4:14-30; quoting Isa 61:1-2)
The apostles call people to join them (2:37-41, 47b) Jesus calls his first followers (5:1-11, 27-32)
Peter and John heal a lame beggar (3:1-10) Jesus heals a blind beggar (18:35-43)
The high priest arrests several apostles and questions them before the council (4:1-22) Jesus is arrested and interrogated by the council (22:47-71)
The narrator summarizes the "signs and wonders" of the apostles,
especially their healings and exorcisms (5:12-16; 8:6-7, 13)

The narrator summarizes the miraculous activity of Jesus,
esp. his healings and exorcisms
(4:40-41; 6:17-19)

The sick are healed through Peter's shadow (5:15) and Paul's handkerchiefs (19:11-12) A woman is healed when she touches the fringes of Jesus' clothing (8:43-48)
The Jewish leaders want to kill the apostles, because of their teachings (5:17-42) Jewish leaders plot to kill Jesus, partly due to his teachings (19:45-48)
Peter raises Tabitha (a.k.a. Dorcas) from the dead at Joppa (9:36-42) Jesus raises a widow's son from the dead at Nain(7:11-17)
The apostles encounter a pious Roman centurion (10:1-48) Jesus heals the son of a faithful Roman centurion (7:1-10)
Paul feels compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem,
despite the dangers that await him there (19:21; 21:8-17)
Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem,
despite the dangers that await him there (9:51; 13:33; 19:11-28)
Paul is welcomed in Jerusalem by the believers, and soon goes to the temple (21:17-26) Jesus is welcomed in Jerusalem by large crowds, and soon goes to the temple (19:28-48) 
Paul is seized by a Jewish mob that wants him killed,
but later stands trial before Roman governors (21:30-36; 23:2326:32)
Jesus is arrested by a Jewish mob,
but is later turned over to the Roman procurator for trial (22:47-54; 23:1-25)
Paul argues against the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection (23:6-9) Jesus is questioned by some Sadducees, who deny the concept of resurrection (20:29-38)
Paul takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and eats (27:35; cf. 20:7-11) Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to his disciples to eat (27:35; cf. 24:30)
As he is being stoned to death, Stephen hands his spirit over to the Lord Jesus
and forgives his executioners (7:59-60)
As he is dying on the cross, Jesus forgives his executioners
and hands his spirit over to God (23:34, 46)

Parallels between Peter and Paul:

Not only are the words and actions of all the apostles shown to be similar to those of Jesus, but the portrayals of the apostles Peter and Paul are similar in many significant respects in the Acts of the Apostles:

Statue of St. Peter in Vatican City Parallel Action Peter
[in Acts 2–12]
[in Acts 13–28]
Statue of St. Paul in Vatican City
They both function as witnesses to the risen Christ 1:21-22 23:11; 26:16
The Holy Spirit initiates and guides their actions 2:1-40 13:1-40
Both heal people who are lame or unable to speak 3:12-26 13:1-40
Both are defended by Pharisees in the Sanhedrin 5:34-39 23:9
Both appoint other leaders with prayer and laying on hands 6:1-6 14:23
Their persecution (stoning) leads to broadening the mission [6:88:4, Stephen] 14:19-23
Both are accused of acting against Moses [6:13-14, Stephen] 21:20-21; 25:8
Both encounter and confront a magician 8:9-24 13:6-12
Both bestow the Spirit through the laying on of hands 8:14-17 19:1-6
Both raise a dead person back to life 9:36-43 20:9-12
Some Gentiles try to worship them 10:25-26 14:13-15
In Jerusalem, they defend the mission to Gentiles 11:1-18 21:15-40
Both are imprisoned at a Jewish feast 12:4-7 21:16-28
Both are delivered from prison 12:6-11 16:24-26
Conclusion: The word of God continues to spread 12:24 28:30-31

(based on Pheme Perkins, Reading the New Testament, pp. 264)

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; paul; peter

Questions for Review and Discussion:

  • How is the genre of "Acts" similar to, but also different from, most modern historical writings?
  • Why could the Acts of the Apostles also be called "The Acts of the Holy Spirit"?  What is the role of God's Spirit in Acts?
  • What are the four main elements of the common life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, as described in Acts?
  • In what ways are the Apostles in Acts portrayed as speaking and acting just like Jesus in Luke's Gospel?
  • How does the Acts of the Apostles describe the relationship between the apostles Peter and Paul?

For Further Reading and Study:  

1 posted on 04/22/2012 11:31:51 AM PDT by Salvation
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...
The First Readings for both daily and Sunday Mass are from the book of The Acts of the Apostles so I thought this was an appropriate post for all of us.

Catholic Ping!

2 posted on 04/22/2012 11:37:21 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Very fine post. I’m going to use it in RCIA next year. Thank you.

3 posted on 04/22/2012 12:48:20 PM PDT by Mad Dawg (Si cum canibus magnis currere non potes, sta in portico.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mad Dawg

And note the number of times “Peter” is mentioned. Clearly he was the leader of the apostles.

4 posted on 04/22/2012 4:05:07 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

He has risen indeed!

5 posted on 04/22/2012 4:23:45 PM PDT by mgist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mad Dawg
Another way to look at the Acts of the Apostles -- The “Acts” of the Holy Spirit

The “Acts” of the Holy Spirit

The Power of the Spirit in the Early Church

The “Acts” of the Holy Spirit

Throughout the book of Acts, the message that persists is very simple: Whenever the Holy Spirit fell, people’s lives were changed. We see this in the apostles who, together with the Virgin Mary, gathered in the upper room on Pentecost.

We see the same thing happen in the cities of Samaria, Antioch, and Ephesus. We even see it in people as far from Christ as Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the church.

In all these events—and so many more—we see the Spirit coming in power and igniting a fire that swept the ancient world. Let’s look at what the Holy Spirit did to turn regular, everyday people into joyful, committed followers of Jesus and fearless proclaimers of the gospel.

The Power of Revelation. St. John tells us that at the last supper, Jesus promised his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). A few years later, reflecting on his experience of this promise, St. Paul wrote, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Jesus’ promise had been fulfilled! The Holy Spirit had been poured out, and the outpouring had brought the first Christians an overwhelming awareness of the love of God.

God loved them! This revelation changed their whole lives. It was no longer merely a statement of fact. It wasn’t just something Jesus told them. The revelation of God’s love was so real to them that it removed guilt, freed them from fear, and overcame their sin. It warmed their hearts to accept one another—even the Gentiles, whom they had were never considered worthy of God’s attention (Acts 11:18). So great was the love they experienced that their love for each other was turned into action as they prayed together and cared for the poor among them (2:44-47).

This love of God, poured out by the Holy Spirit, is the foundation of the entire gospel message. It is the very reason for the church’s existence, the key to all theological questions, and the answer to every crisis that has visited individuals and nations. This love is unmerited, an affection from the Father that persists, despite our sin and rebellion. As Paul wrote, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The book of Acts is a constant testimony to the fact that when the Spirit reveals God’s love, all of life takes on a new perspective. Our past sins are fully covered and forgiven. Our future is secured. And we are given the courage to work through the cares and concerns of the present. Because we have experienced overflowing, divine love, we are filled with an “unutterable and exalted joy” (1 Peter 1:8) that suffuses every aspect of our lives.

A Life of Surrender. As they experienced indwelling Spirit, the disciples were compelled to surrender their lives to Jesus and to the mission of his church. Their interior lives were changed to the point that they decided to “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). It was not enough simply to take up a different, more idealistic, lifestyle. The Holy Spirit had so invaded them that—weak and sinful though they were—they wanted to set themselves apart for the Lord, offering themselves as a “living sacrifice” to him (Romans 12:1).

St. Paul explained this surrender to Jesus by making a proclamation that can still touch our hearts today: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me… . I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). For Paul, and all the early Christians, the Holy Spirit, who overwhelmed them, also convinced them to yield each day to Jesus. The Spirit had revealed Jesus to them, not only as someone who loved them deeply but also as the Lord of all creation, worthy of their obedience, love, and devotion. Describing this process of obedience, Paul wrote:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things… . in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. (Philippians 3:7-8)

Paul, Peter, and all the disciples sought to open every aspect of their lives to the Holy Spirit and allow the love they had received in their hearts to renew their minds, their desires, their decisions, and their relationships. They learned to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and allowed themselves to be “transformed by the renewal of [their] minds” (Romans 12:2).

To the Ends of the Earth. Despite arrest (Acts 4:1-4), beatings (5:40), and the threat of death (9:1), the early Christians continued to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen. As they continually opened their lives to the power of the Holy Spirit, they experienced a burning desire to share the gospel with others. Not two months after seeing his Master arrested and crucified, Peter boldly told those responsible for the cross, “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (2:36).

Similarly, having just seen their brother Stephen die at the hands of the Jewish elders, all the disciples who fled Jerusalem “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). In Samaria, “the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did.” As a result, “there was much joy in that city” (8:6,8). Later, Luke tells us, “Those who were scattered … traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word” (11:19). Because of this small group of men and women, the fire of revival spread through all of Asia Minor.

Why did the disciples risk so much, even to the point of persecution and death? Again, St. Paul gives the answer: “The love of Christ controls us because we are convinced that one has died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The ever-deepening experience of God’s love, coupled with an ongoing surrender of their lives to Christ, led the disciples to want to tell everyone they could about the salvation that was available to them in Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus! The Holy Spirit touched the disciples so deeply that they experienced a longing to be with Jesus and see him face to face. This Spirit, who is “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14), gave them a taste of what eternal life with Jesus would be like, and so the early church cried out, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

The first Christians understood that life in this world was only temporary, and that their true and final home was in heaven, united with the Lord. It was, in fact, this faith and hope in Jesus’ return that sustained the church in times of hardship and persecution: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). What could be more hopeful than the promise of life eternal, glorified with the one who has loved us so faithfully?

Ordinary People Transformed. In this season between Easter and Pentecost, we have a wonderful opportunity to open our hearts more fully to the Spirit’s transforming power. God’s purposes never change. Everything that the first disciples experienced is still available to us today. Just as it happened for them, it can happen for us.

We must understand that the disciples were not extraordinary people. They were just tradesmen, merchants, and government workers—parents, teachers, and political activists. They didn’t come together and devise a plan to turn their world upside down. They were weak and sinful, just like us, and they knew that only the Holy Spirit could do the work Jesus had entrusted to them. This is why, instead of striking out on their own, they followed Jesus’ words to remain in Jerusalem, praying and waiting for the Spirit to fall (Luke 24:49).

In this Easter season, as we celebrate the risen Lord, let us imitate the disciples and spend some extra time in prayer. Let’s ponder God’s word and ask him to fill us even more with the Holy Spirit. Let us all look forward to the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

6 posted on 04/22/2012 4:55:57 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Thank You! I have to bookmark this one!! Great!!

7 posted on 04/22/2012 7:35:36 PM PDT by johngrace (I am a 1 John 4! Christian- declared at every Sunday Mass , Divine Mercy and Rosary prayers!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johngrace

I thought so too. God bless.

8 posted on 04/22/2012 7:44:09 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Running On Empty


9 posted on 05/19/2012 3:01:37 PM PDT by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson