1. The original title of the Book was probably simply "Acts" (praxeis), as in Codex Sinaiticus (a), and there is no reason to doubt that it owes its human authorship to Luke, "the beloved physician" (Col. 4:14). Tradition from very early times ascribes it to him. Eusebius (fl. A. D. 300) in his Ecclesiastical History says, "Luke ... a physician has left us two inspired books ... one of these is his gospel ... The other is his acts of the apostles which he composed not from what he had heard from others (like his gospel), but from what he had seen himself" (Bk. III, ch. 4).
2. The Book is a record of the "Acts" of the Holy Spirit through "witnesses chosen before of God" (10:41) during the period of the final offer to the children of Israel of national restoration and blessing, on condition of national repentance and obedience. In the O.T. the offer was made by the Fathers, as Jehovah, through the prophets (Heb. 1:1), and was rejected (cp. Zech. 7:12-14; &c). In the Gospels the offer was renewed in and by the Son, and was again rejected (Matt. 23:37-39; &c). "Acts" records the third and final presentation by the HOLY SPIRIT, and its final rejection by the Nation (28:25-28; Rom. 11:25, &c). Of these "chosen witnesses" no mention is made of "works" done by any save those through Peter and John of the Twelve, and later those through Paul.
3. The Structure (p. 1575) shows that the Book consists of two main
divisions (cp. the Structures of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, &c), each
being divided in beautiful correspondence (see detail Structures).
The FIRST portion, consisting of the first twelve chapters (after the introduction 1:1-5), concerns the "witness" (1:8) of the apostles in Jerusalem, Judaea, and Samaria (Ap. 180). Peter, the apostle of "the circumcision" (Gal. 2:7), is the central figure, and this section ends with his imprisonment at Jerusalem (A. D. 44).
The SECOND division, i.e. the last sixteen chapters, carries on the "witnessing" "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (cp. 1:8; Col. 1:23), Paul being the chief personage (Gal. 2:7). This division terminates with his imprisonment at Rome in A. D. 61 (Ap. 180). "Acts" was most probably published towards the end of that imprisonment, i.e. A. D. 62-63.
The period covered by the entire Book is therefore as follows:
i. From Pentecost A. D. 29 to Passover (12:3, 4) A. D. 44;
ii. From Pentecost (?) A. D. 46 to A. D. 61.
Consecutively, from A. D. 29 to A. D. 61 = 32 years (4 x 8 = 32. Ap. 10). This must not be confounded with the whole period between the Crucifixion, the climax of the national rejection of the Lord as Messiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, viz. from A. D. 29 to A. D. 69; that is, 40 years (Ap. 10).
4. The DISPENSATIONAL TEACHING of "ACTS" is of profoundest import, and
is significantly set forth by the Structures; cp. also Ap. 180.
In the earlier section, the "witnessing" of the Twelve, as recorded from 2:5 to the end of chap. 12, was to "Jews and proselytes" (2:10) alone; "unto you (Jews) first (3:26), &c. Their subject was that Jesus ("the Nazarene") is the Messiah; cp. 2:31, 36; 3:18, 20; 4:10, 26; 5:42; 8:5, 37 (see Note); 9:20, 22.
At Damascus, after his "Conversion", Saul (Paul) "preached (kerusso, Ap. 121. 1) Jesus (see Note on 9:20) in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God", and proved "that this is very Christ", i.e. Jesus as the Messiah. There was no proclamation to Gentiles as such (see 11:3). The preaching of the Word was to the Jews only (11:9), and to the Gentile proselytes, that the crucified "Nazarene", Jesus, was in truth the Messiah (see Note on 10:48). The duration of this witnessing was about 15 years; see above and Ap. 180. The second part of "Acts" records the apostleship of Paul, and his "witnessing", which was to Jews and Gentiles alike. He was the "chosen vessel" separated by the Holy Spirit "to bear My Name before Gentiles and Kings, and sons of Israel" (huion te Israel, 9:15). His subject was "Jesus and the resurrection" (17:18). Not, be it marked, Jesus as Messiah, but Jesus (Saviour-God), raised from among the dead, and made the federal head of a new race of beings by resurrection, as announced in Ps 2:7, with which comp. 13:32-39, and see Notes. This "witnessing" lasted the 15-16 years (see 3 above) of the labors of Paul and those associated with him till the imprisonment in A. D. 61. And to the Jew was given priority of hearing the message (13:5, 14, 42, 43; 14:1; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4, 7, 19, 26; 19:8).
5. Throughout the whole period of the "Acts", the witnessing was accompanied by the miraculous gifts promised (Mark 16:17, 18). Cp. 3:7, 8; 5:5, 10, 15, 16; 6:8; 19:6, 12; 20:9-12; 28:3-6, 8, 9. At the close these gifts ceased, as is plain from the significance of Phil. 2:26 (A. D. 62); 1Tim. 5:23 (A. D. 67); 2Tim. 4:20 (A. D. 68). See Ap. 180. Thenceforward, the privilege of proclaiming and "witnessing" (Isa. 48:10; 44:8, &c) was taken from the Jew, and "the salvation of God" (see Note on Isa. 49.6) was "sent (*1) to the Gentiles" (28:28). The proclamation is now by witnesses taken out from among "all the Gentiles upon whom My Name is called" (15:17), including of course the Jewish members of "the body".
6. Having now before us all the "sequence of fact" (cp. also the
Structure, p. 1575, and Ap. 180), we can trace "the progress of doctrine",
the development of dispensational teaching in Acts, as well as in
the complementary "Church" Epistles of Paul, and the limitations of the
strictly Hebrew Epistles (Ap. 180, and Introd. Notes to each). Our
Lord's words in John 16:12, 13, are precious, and they are precise (see
Note in loc.). The Gospels record what the Lord "began to
do and teach" (1:1); after His resurrection He continued "speaking of the
things pertaining to the Kingdom" (Ap. 112); and after His Ascension the
teaching is carried on by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the truth (John
14:16, 17, 26; 15:26), Who was to guide (lead on) into "all the truth"
(see Notes, John 16.12,13). During the "Acts" period, believers were
guided into much truth, truth in advance of what had previously been revealed.
They were instructed in much that they had been unable "to bear" before
the coming of the Holy Spirit to instruct them. But not even yet
had they been guided into "all the truth". This was reserved, and
not permitted to be revealed, until the public proclaiming of "the kingdom"
had ended, after the close of the "Acts". (see Notes on the Epp.,
specially Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians.) Then it was,
at the commencement of this present interim period during which "blindness
in part is happened to Israel" (Rom. 11:25), that "the church which
is His body" (Eph. 1:22, 23) began to be formed "to the praise of the glory
of His grace" (Eph. 1:6, and Note on 15:14). As above stated, and
as the facts show, this church did not begin at Pentecost as is
so commonly taught and believed.