Sunday School Bible Survey:      ACTS

Theme: The power of the indwelling Holy Spirit

Key word: witness ("witness," "witnesses," and "witnessing" 20 times)

Key verse: "But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8)

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: In the Acts of the Apostles Luke continues the account of Christianity begun in the Gospel which bears his name. In the "former treatise" he tells what Jesus "began both to do and teach"; in the Acts, what Jesus continued to do and teach through His Holy Spirit sent down.

DATE: The Acts concludes with the account of Paul's earliest ministry in Rome, A.D. 65, and appears to have been written at or near that time.

THEME: This book records the ascension and promised return of the Lord Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter's use of the keys, opening the kingdom (considered as the sphere of profession, as in Matt. 13) to the Jews at Pentecost, and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius; the beginning of the Christian church and the conversion and ministry of Paul.

The Holy Spirit fills the scene. As the presence of the Son, exalting and revealing the Father, is the great fact of the Gospels, so the presence of the Spirit, exalting and revealing the Son, is the great fact of the Acts.

Acts is in two chief parts: In the first section (1—9:43) Peter is the prominent personage, Jerusalem is the center, and the ministry is to Jews. Already in covenant relations with Jehovah, they had sinned in rejecting Jesus as the Christ. The preaching, therefore, was directed to that point, and repentance (i.e. "a changed mind") was demanded. The apparent failure of the Old Testament promises concerning the Davidic kingdom was explained by the promise that the kingdom would be set up at the return of Christ (Acts 2:25-31; 15:14-16). This ministry to Israel fulfilled Luke 19:12-14. In the persecutions of the apostles and finally in the martyrdom of Stephen, the Jews sent after the king the message, "We will not have this man to reign over us." In the second division (10:1—28:31) Paul is prominent, a new center is established at Antioch, and the ministry is chiefly to Gentiles who, as "strangers from the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12), had but to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" to be saved. Chapters 11,12, and 15 of this section are transitional, establishing finally the distinction, doctrinally, between law and grace. Galatians should be read in this connection.

The events recorded in The Acts cover a period of 32 years.


  1. The Great Commission given in the four Gospels is confirmed in the book of Acts (1:8).
  2. The book of Acts is a bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles. Dr. Luke, who also wrote the third Gospel (Acts 1:1).
  3. The book of Acts traces the history of the church from its beginnings on the day of Pentecost to its spread throughout the Roman Empire.
  4. The prominent preachers in the book of Acts are Peter, Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Paul, James, Silas, and Apollos. The apostle Paul is converted in Acts 9, and he dominates the second half of the book of Acts.
  5. Luke wrote the book of Acts, as well as the Gospel of Luke. Luke traveled with the apostle Paul and the other missionaries (cf. Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1--28:16).
  6. Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) was a Scottish archaeologist and Bible scholar. He went to Asia Minor to prove that Luke was not an accurate historian. After making a thorough study, Ramsay concluded that Luke had not made one inaccuracy. Ramsay's studies led to his conversion to Christ, and he went on to write several outstanding books about Paul's missionary journeys.
  7. Sir William Ramsay said that Luke is the greatest of all historians, ancient or modern (The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170; St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen).
  8. The Lord Jesus Christ is prominent in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit is prominent in the book of Acts. A.T. Pierson referred to the book as "The Acts of the Holy Spirit."
  9. "Actually the book describes not the 'acts of the apostles,' for only a few of them are given any degree of prominence, but the acts of the risen and ascended Lord through the Holy Spirit" (John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures).
  10. The Lord Jesus Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; John 14:16, 17; Acts 1:4-8). This is emphasized throughout the book of Acts (cf. 2:4, 15-17, 38; 4:8, 31, etc.).
  11. The book of Acts teaches that the church age is the age of the Holy Spirit. J. Vernon McGee said, "The great fact of this age is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)" (Thru the Bible).

Outline (from J Vernon McGee):

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ at work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Jerusalem
    (Chapters 1 — 7).
  1. Preparation for the coming of the Spirit (Chapter 1)
  1. Introduction, verses 1, 2
  2. 40 days post-resurrection ministry of Jesus verses 3-9
  3. Ascension and promise of the return of Jesus, verses 10, 11
  4. Waiting for the Spirit, verses 12-14
  5. Appointment of an apostle, verses 15-26
  1. Day of Pentecost (Chapter 2)
  1. Coming of the Holy Spirit, verses 1-13
  2. First sermon in the church age by Peter, verses 14-47
  1. First miracle of the church; Peter's second sermon (Chapter 3)
  1. Healing of lame man, verses 1-11
  2. Appealing and revealing address of Peter, verses 12-26
  3. Believing 5000 men (results), Cf. 4:4
  1. First persecution of the church; power of the Holy Spirit (Chapter 4)
  2. Death of Ananias and Sapphira; second persecution (Chapter 5)
    (Discipline within and persecution without)
  3. Appointment of deacons; witness of Stephen, a deacon (Chapter 6)
  4. Stephen's address and martyrdom (first martyr), (Chapter 7)

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ at work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Judea and Samaria (Chapters 8 — 12)
  1. Conversion of Ethiopian Eunuch (son of Ham), (Chapter 8)
  2. Conversion of Saul of Tarsus (son of Shem), (Chapter 9)
  3. Conversion of Cornelius, Roman centurion (son of Japheth), (Chapter 10)
  4. Peter defends his ministry; gospel goes to Antioch (Chapter 11)
  5. Death of James; arrest of Peter (Chapter 12)

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ at work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles to the uttermost part of the earth (Chapters 13 — 28)
  1. First missionary journey of Paul (Chapters 13, 14)
  2. Council at Jerusalem (Chapter 15)
  3. Second missionary journey of Paul (Chapters 15:36 — 16:40)
  4. Second missionary journey (continued)
    Paul in Thessalonica, Athens (Chapter 17)
  5. Second missionary journey (concluded)
    Paul in Corinth; Apollos in Ephesus (Chapter 18)
  6. Third missionary journey (Chapters 18:23 — 21:14)
    Paul in Ephesus (Chapter 19)
  7. Third missionary journey of Paul (continued), (Chapter 20)
  8. Paul goes to Jerusalem and is arrested (Chapter 21)
  9. Paul's defense before the mob at Jerusalem (Chapter 22)
  10. Paul's defense before the Sanhedrin (Chapter 23)
  11. Paul before Felix (Chapter 24)
  12. Paul before Festus (Chapter 25)
  13. Paul before Agrippa (Chapter 26)
  14. Paul goes to Rome via storm and shipwreck (Chapter 27)
  15. Paul arrives in Rome (Chapter 28)
    (Last seen preaching to Gentiles)

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —