You will find an introduction and outline of Acts, here.
Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use with your reading.
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
IV 13:1-28:31 The Gospel Spreads Westward ”To the Ends of the Earth”
E. 23:31-26:32 Paul in Caesarea
1. 23:31-35 Paul’s Transfer to Caesarea
2. 24:1-27 Paul’s defense before Felix: There is a formal statement against Paul by prosecutor Tertullus and a formal response by Paul. Both speeches exhibit the standard Roman legal procedures and use they rhetorical style of professional orators. Felix is a Roman Procurator and not Jewish. What does Tertullus accuse Paul of? What is Paul’s defense? Notice that Paul is has “some freedom” (v23). Felix is presented as an ambivalent figure, he is interested in what Paul has to say (v 24) and yet also hopes for a bribe (v 26) which was illegal. Recall that in Luke and Acts the appropriateness of a person’s response to God was reflected by their proper use of money. There was a 2 year limit on the imprisonment of Roman citizens without a verdict.
3. 25:1-27 Paul Before Festus: Festus is Felix’ successor. Even after two years, the chief priests and leaders still want to kill Paul. In the last chapter we learned that Paul had some freedom and could receive visitors even though he was imprisoned. We don’t know for sure, but scholars suspect that Paul was still active via his visitors in the church. We don’t know what favor Festus believed he was granting (v9). Why do you think Paul appeals to Caesar now? Is Paul tired of being a pawn between Rome and Jewish leaders? Is Paul motivated by his call to “bear witness also in Rome” (23:11)? Bernice is the sister of King Agrippa and they, along with Drusilla (Felix’s wife) are members of the Herodian family. Festus is a pagan and Agrippa and Bernice are secular Jews. Their visit is a political visit, a show of solidarity between Roman rulers and pro Roman Jewish leadership.
4. 26:1-23 Paul’s Defense before Agrippa: How is this speech different than Paul’s speech to Felix? What is Paul trying to establish in this speech? Paul tells the story of his conversion again. How is this telling different than earlier ones? What does this telling emphasize? Verse 21, Paul claims he has been arrested because of his faithfulness to God, not as his accusers charge his lack of faithfulness.
5. 26:24-32 Paul Vindicated: In Acts, speeches are often interrupted as a way to emphasize important statements. What is being highlighted here? Verse 30-32 Paul’s innocence is acknowledged.
F. 27:1-28:15 Paul’s Journey to Rome
1. 27:1-8 Getting under way: Why do you think the reader is given such details about the journey and the weather?
2. 27:9-12 Paul’s first Prophetic Word: “the Fast” was probably the Day of Atonement which was celebrated in late September or early October. Voyages after mid September were considered dangerous.
3. 27:13-20 Getting Off course in the Storm:Paul was right.Readers familiar with sea travel on the Mediterranean would realize this was a desperate situation.
4. 27:21-26 Paul’s Second Speech: Once again God is directing events.
5. 27:27-32 Approaching Land: A dangerous landing.
6. 27:33-36 Paul’s Third Speech: Verses 33-38 Eucharistic overtones? The passengers and crew members were not Christians, so this is not a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but what is the author telling us by the way this story is told?
7. 27:39-44 Getting to Shore: A centurion is the one (again) through whom God’s plan is carried out.
8. 28:1-10 Paul at Malta: While the text does not tell us that Paul preached the gospel in Malta, it is difficult to imagine that he did not.
9. 28:11-15 Completing the Journey to Rome: Paul was not the founder of the church in Rome. There are Christians there to greet Paul. The Roman guards seem to give Paul a great amount of freedom.
G. 28:16-31 Paul in Rome: While Paul has come to Rome as a citizen with a legal case to present to the emperor, what happens is different.
1. 28:16-22 Meeting with Jewish Leaders in Rome: There was a substantial number of Jews in Rome, Wall says there were “many thousands” and “a dozen or more synagogues” (360). There are Christians in Rome, why do the Jewish leaders seem perplexed and wanting to know more? (verse21-22)
2. 28:23-29 Preaching to Roman Jews: Once again some believe and some do not.
3. 28:30-31 Paul Vindicated. Paul spends two years in Rome but we are not told if he appears before the Emperor or not. There are several reasons suggested for this. Some think the author intended to write a third volume, others think the meeting was either anticlimactic (Paul is released in an anticlimactic fashion, perhaps on a technicality or because of a statue of limitations) or too tragic (Paul is martyred) or something embarrassing happened ( embarrassing testimony, the church fails to support Paul) or the legal outcome is not the point of the story and thus unimportant. What matters is that the gospel was preached “boldly and without hindrance”.
Read More About It:
Holladay, Carl R. “Acts”, in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 9 “Luke-Acts”.
Johnson, Sherman E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Acts” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible,Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Wall, Robert W. “The Acts of the Apostles” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume X, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)2002.