Luke tells us who Jesus was, gives reasons for believing those claims, and provides Jesus’ guidance for following him. Acts shows us what Jesus’ followers were all about.
Christianity is the work of God. From Jesus’ arrival to the end of Acts, Luke notes that what has happened would simply be unexplainable were God not personally involved. Jesus is God. What he does, only God can do. What his followers do can only be accomplished if God is moving with them.
Christianity is innocent. Written at a time when official Roman persecution of Christians was just beginning, Luke emphasizes that Christians are law-abiding citizens. Though often mistreated by public officials, and hauled before kangaroo courts, Jesus and his followers are never convicted of any crimes – because they are not guilty. At the end of Luke Jesus is pronounced innocent four times – once by a Herodian king. At the end of Acts, Paul is likewise pronounced innocent of any crime four times. Again, one of those is a Herodian king.
Christianity is unstoppable. Reviewing the evidence, no clear-thinking person should imagine anyone would be able to stop or destroy Christianity. Lots of people try. They all fail. They all fail because God is supreme, these are His people, and they are involved in His will. If the first reader was a Christian, the presence and power of God as revealed in these pages would be a tremendous incentive to faith. In the last section of Luke, Jesus determinedly goes to his death in Jerusalem. But repeatedly, Luke shows none of this is happenstance. God is in control and what is happening, is by his hand. The same is true in the last section of the book of Acts in the life of Paul.
Christianity is concerned with helping others – particularly those who cannot help themselves. The poor, the ill, the marginalized of society are the people Jesus is most attentive to, and that continues as a characteristic of God’s people as the book of Acts unfolds. In a world where social standing played a huge role, Christians, men and women, rich and poor, stand alike in God’s sight, and interact and live as equals.
The followers of Jesus are a people who take ethics seriously. Lying, stealing, immorality, mistreating others in a variety of ways, is not tolerated among Christians and the consequences of such behavior is often serious.
The followers of Jesus are a people who take unity seriously. Christians do not always behave as they should. But when they do not, their leadership takes special pains to address difficult matters and, as a group, unity prevails. They may not all always agree, but they do make the effort to get along. It may be only a coincidence, but in Acts 15, two Christians have a falling out that seems irreparable. It results in division among them. One completely disappears from the story. The other goes through a period of great difficulty.
These are not the only themes, but they are repeated ones, ones we should pay attention to as we work our way through this very important book.