Understanding Acts: The Summary Statements
The first thing to know about Acts is that it’s second.
Luke begins, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day that he was taken up…” (Acts 1:1–2). He lets us know right away that this is “Part Two” of another story — the Gospel of Luke, and he is picking up where he left off.
But there’s more. The Gospel of Luke, rich in allusions to the Old Testament, isn’t just a narrative about the life of Jesus; it’s a narrative about the life of Jesus in line with the Old Testament story. Luke shows in his Gospel, and then in Acts, that there is really one, great story — a story with God at the center, one that begins in the Old Testament and the story of Israel, climaxes in Jesus, the promised Messiah, and then continues on through the Spirit of Jesus in his church, which we are a part. He is writing for us, the church, to tell us who we are, what God has done and is doing for his name, and how it involves us. “The main concern of the author for his readers is that w ebook to see what God is doing in the narrative, how God is accomplishing his purposes and how we may embrace and identify with these purposes and so glorify the God of the biblical narrative” (Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, 22).
And in this great story, there are several themes that are especially important to Luke, and therefore, to us. These are seen in topics, words, or scenes that Luke will emphasize often by repeating it for us and carrying the story forward. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll highlight some of these key pieces. For today, consider the repeated summary statements that Luke uses to transition sections.
Check out how Luke does routine summary statements to highlight important events.
Acts 2:46-47 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Acts 12:23-4 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied.
Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
Acts 28:30-31 He 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 without hindrance.
These statements help move the story along and highlight Jesus’s work by his Spirit through his people. Even in the midst of conflict and opposition, the word of God prevails, the church continues to increase, the gospel advances. This is meant to give us hope. Hang in there, church. He’s got this thing.