An Outline of Acts with the Lord Jesus at the Center

acts of JesusThe book of Acts has been known as “The Acts of the Apostles” for most of church history because of it’s focus on, well, the acts of the apostles. For the most part it’s Peter preaching here, Philip baptizing there, and Paul getting in fights everywhere. Scholars have alternatively suggested that it ought to be thought of as “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” given the prominent role played by the Spirit in empowering the Church throughout the narrative. Recently, though, Alan J. Thompson has suggested what I think to be a more appropriate way of understanding the book: “The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus.”

In this new study of the theology of Acts, Thompson demonstrates that Luke’s sequel volume really ought to be seen as a depicting the continuing  Kingdom-ministry of the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus through the Church by the Spirit.  Now, while it would be fascinating to go into the case, I think it might be more interesting to see how Thompson thinks this should shape our view of the outline of Acts.

Thompson notes that there are a couple of different typical approaches to the outline of Acts. One is the focus on Paul’s missionary journeys, which, while somewhat intuitive, ends up focusing more on Paul than on Jesus. And the other is to key in on certain programmatic statements as marking movement in the story, which is a bit truer to the literary style, but it still has some organization disadvantages when viewed as a whole. Instead, Thompson presents us with an alternative structure with the “reign of the Lord Jesus” at the center:

Acts 1:1 – 2:47  The reign of Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit

Acts 3:1 – 8:3   The reign of Christ the Lord over rising opposition

Internal and external

Acts 8:4 – 9:31 The reign of Christ the Lord over outcasts and enemies


Ethiopian Eunuch


Acts 9:32 – 12:25 The reign of Christ over all the nations

Peter preaches Christ in Lydda, Joppa, to Cornelius and household

The Jewish Gentile Church in Antioch is established

Peter is rescued from ‘King’ Herod Agrippa I and his prison

Acts 13:1 – 16:5 The reign of Christ the Lord proclaimed to the nations: part 1

Commission in Antioch (13:1-3)

Ministry in Cyprus, Pisidia, Lycaonia (13:4-14:20)

Nurturing the churches (14:21-28)

Evaluation in Jerusalem (15:1-16:5)

Acts 16:6 – 21:36 The reign of Christ the Lord proclaimed to the nations: part 2

Commission in Troas (16:6-10)

Ministry in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus (16:11-19:41)

Nurturing the churches (20:1-21:14)

Evaluation in Jerusalem (21:15-36)

Acts 21:-37 – 28:31 The reign of Christ the Lord vindicated before the rulers

Trial before the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 21-22)

Trial before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (Acts 23)

Trial before Felix in Caesarea (Acts 24)

Trial before Festus and Herod Agrippa II in Caesarea (Acts 26)

Final meeting with Jewish leaders in Rome (Acts 28)

The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan, pp. 69-70

So then, maybe take up the book of Acts this week and read it with new eyes, focused not so much on Paul or Peter, but the way the Risen Lord advances his Kingdom through the Church.

Soli Deo Gloria