The Acts of the Apostles. The fifth book of the N.T.
The common title, which is as old as the second century, does not mean that the book relates all the acts of the apostles. Its purpose was to show the establishment by the Spirit through the apostles of gentile Christianity. The Apostles were commanded to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The apostle James, in the first century addressed his epistle to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad."
At the time of the crucifixion we read that "there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour" (Luke 23:44). In far off Ireland, Conor Macnessa, king of Ulster, who died in A.D. 48, is said to have inquired of his Chief Druid as to the meaning of the event. The Druid, after consulting the Druidic prophecies relating to the Messiah then gave the king a correct explanation for the darkness. It might seem strange that the Irish Druids should have prophetic knowledge of Christ until we realize that the Druids were closely related to the "Magi" or "wise men" who visited Jesus shortly after His birth. The word "Magi" is merely the Latin equivalent of "Druid." In many Celtic records the word Magi is used instead of Druid. In some early Irish histories Simon Magus (Acts 8:9) is known as "Simon the Druid." A work conducted in these regions would have been quite in keeping with Christ's command to His apostles to take the Gospel to "the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The Book of Llandaff records that Elfan was appointed second Bishop of London in A.D. 185. About this time he wrote a book on the origin of the British church. One of the "disciples of the Apostles" may have been Aristobulus (Romans 16:10). According to Cressy: "St. Aristobulus, a disciple of St. Peter or St. Paul in Rome, was sent as an Apostle to the Britons, and was the first Bishop in Britain, he died in Glastonbury, A.D. 99." The Greek Martyrologies mention that: "Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him. He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race. By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity. He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island."
Further we find the story of Joseph of Arimathea in the Ecclesiastical Annals of the sixteenth century Vatican librarian, Cardinal Baronius. A historian of great integrity, Baronius relates how he discovered a document of considerable antiquity in the Vatican archives. The manuscript related that in the year A.D. 35 a group of Christians including Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Joseph of Arimathea, and several others were cast adrift in a boat from the coast of the Holy Land by persecuting Jews. "In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles Joseph and his company passed into Britain and after preaching the Gospel there, died." According to the Recognitions of Clement, which is thought to have been written about A.D. 150-200, the group lived for a time at Caesarea prior to their voyage. Caesarea was the major port in Palestine. It was a cosmopolitan city and a home for many foreign seamen and merchants. As such, a much greater measure of religious freedom existed there than at Jerusalem. It would have proved an ideal place of temporary refuge for those fleeing from the persecutions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. It is recorded in Acts 11:19 that many Christians were driven by persecution into Phoenicia. Caesarea lies on the route between Jerusalem and Phoenicia. As the city is mentioned several times in the book of Acts the indications are that a Christian community of some size existed there. This city was also the home of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8), a man closely associated with Joseph in the early records. According to tradition he was the man who ordained Joseph and supervised much of his later work. According to Isidorus Hispalensis, this Philip who was formerly "one of the seven deacons" carried the Gospel first to the Samaritans and later to Gaul (France). Elsewhere he states: "St. Philip preached to the Gauls, and persuaded the neighbouring and savage tribes on the borders of the ocean to the light of knowledge and of faith."
Other members of the church driven by persecution traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19).
At first Peter and afterwards Paul are most prominent; but frequently the apostles as a body are represented as taking action (Acts 1:23-26; 2:42; 4:33; 5:12, 29; 6:2; 8:1, 14; 15:6, 23). The book is addressed to a certain Theophilus, probably a gentile Christian of distinction. The author refers (1:1) to a previous treatise by him concerning the life and teachings of Christ, which was clearly our Third Gospel, because
(1) it was addressed to Theophilus;
(2) it consists of a narrative of Christ s life and teaching until his ascension (Luke 24:51);
(3) it presents the ministry of Christ with special reference to its universal mission, which would naturally be the point of view adopted by the author of The Acts;
(4) the vocabulary and style of the two books are notably alike. Further, while the author does not name himself in either book, he uses the first person plural in certain portions of the narrative of Paul's journeys (Acts 16:10-15; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16), and by this intimates that he was a companion of the apostle; that he joined him on his second journey at Troas and accompanied him to Philippi, again rejoined him at Philippi in the third journey and went with him to Jerusalem, and traveled with him from Csesarea to Rome. Paul spoke of those, including himself, who would spread glad tidings "unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18).
The warning given in Revelation that nothing should be added to, or taken from, "the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:19) might lead some to assume that all of the inspired writings of the New Testament Church are included in the canon of the Bible. Internal evidence from the New Testament itself, however, clearly disproves any such assumption. Luke records that many accurate and authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ were in circulation at the time that he began his narrative (Luke 1:1-2). Paul mentions in his "first" epistle to the Corinthians that "I wrote to you in that letter" proving that at least one other epistle had been written to the Corinthian church before his so called "first" epistle (I Cor. 5:9).
An epistle was also sent to the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16) which is not included in the canon of the New Testament. Several commentators have expressed their surprise at the obviously "unfinished" state of the book of Acts. It stops in the middle of the story, with some seven years of Paul's life yet to be covered. Luke, although an experienced and polished writer, does not even end with the usual "Amen."
Some scholars feel that Luke had intended writing a third volume covering the remaining years of Paul's life. Perhaps a more logical view would be that he would write a continuation and conclusion to Acts. Paul mentions that Luke was still with him about A.D. 67, shortly before Paul was martyred (II Tim. 4:11). The clear implication is that Luke remained with Paul for at least a part, if not all, of the remaining years between the conclusion of Acts in A.D. 61 and Paul's martyrdom in A.D. 68. It would seem hardly logical that Luke would not fail to complete his narrative; the question should perhaps be asked, if the book of Acts was completed what became of the final section, and why was it left out of the New Testament canon?
Daniel records that some information relating to the history of the nation of Israel and the "holy people" or Church of God was to be "closed up and sealed" -- that is kept secret -- until "the time of the end" or our modern generation. The concluding section of Acts could well have been deliberately omitted, under God's inspiration, from the New Testament canon only to be "discovered" at a later time in history, near the time of the end of this age.
A Greek manuscript has indeed been discovered in the archives of Constantinople which purports to be the concluding portions of Acts, and reads like a continuation of it. Its origin is uncertain but it was translated into English in 1801 by C.S. Sonnini.
The fact that the M.S. was discovered at Constantinople could well be significant. Jerome records that Luke's remains were brought to this city in A.D. 357 and buried there. The Monarchian Prologue also seems to imply that Luke spent the later part of his life in this general vicinity. "He never had a wife or children, and died at the age of seventy-four in Bithnia full of the Holy Spirit."
Constantinople, also known at times as Byzantium and Istanbul, lay at the border between the provinces of Thrace and Bithynia (sometimes spelled Bithnia). It was also at Constantinople that a great many New Testament manuscripts were preserved, at least from the fourth century onwards. It was upon this Byzantine text that the later English versions were largely based.
The Long Lost Chapter
The Acts of the Apostles
Although one cannot be dogmatic regarding the authorship of Sonnini's translation of what has been called "The long lost chapter of the Acts of the Apostles," it should be said that there is a great deal of information contained in this M.S. which can be verified by reference to other independent sources.
The terminology and style of writing in the M.S. is very similar, if not identical to that used by Luke in Acts. The earliest tradition of the post-apostolic age assigns both the Third Gospel and The Acts to Luke, and the allusions to Luke in Paul's epistles accord with the above references to his movements in The Acts, while no other of Paul's known companions will fit into them. From Col. 4:14, Philem. 24, we learn that Luke was with Paul in Rome, and no mention of him occurs in epistles written when, according to The Acts, its author was not with the apostle. Moreover, the use of medical terms (see Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke) and the classical elements in his style, as well as his evident acquaintance with the Roman world, indicate that the author was an educated man such as a physician would be likely to be. There should be no doubt, therefore, that Luke wrote both the third Gospel and The Acts as well as the M.S.
The text of the M.S. begins at the point that Acts finishes, and reads as follows:
"And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time purposed to journey thitherward, and was minded also to go from thence into Britain.
"For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to `the isles afar off,' as spoken by the prophet, and called by the Romans Britain.
"And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to the Gentiles, and to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
"And no man hindered Paul; for he testified boldly of Jesus before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him certain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took shipping at Ostium, and having the winds fair were brought safely into a haven of Spain.
"And much people were gathered together from the towns and villages and the hill country; for they had heard of the conversion of the apostle, and the many miracles which he had wrought.
"And Paul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle sent from God."
Commentators have noted with interest the special attention that Luke, in Acts, gives to sea itineraries and ports of arrival and departure. A similar tendency is found in the text of the M.S. Ostium was the port used by sea travelers from Rome during the first century. It was Paul's stated intention to visit Spain after leaving Rome (Rom. 15:24 and 28), and not only Spanish tradition but also the testimonies of many early writers confirm that Paul did indeed visit that area after leaving Rome.
The "haven of Spain" mentioned in the M.S. was almost certainly the port of Gades or Cadiz. A colony of Israelite and Phoenician peoples was established here from very ancient times. This was probably the port of Tarshish (Spain) that Jonah was heading for centuries earlier, when he tried to escape from God.
Cadiz was the commercial centre of Western Europe, and was no doubt the place St. Paul had in mind when, writing to the Romans, he spoke of his `journey into Spain. His journey into Spain is mentioned, as if it were a well known historical fact by Jerome, Chrysostom and Theodoret... There was ample opportunity for St. Paul to visit Cadiz, and to found a church there, during the six years that elapsed between his first and second imprisonment at Rome; and among his Spanish converts there could hardly fail to be some who traded with the British Isles.
There was nothing in the least unusual about a sea voyage between Rome and Cadiz during the first century; the commercial and passenger traffic with Gades was intimate and constant.
Anyone who visits Cadiz and the surrounding countryside can readily equate this area with the "haven of Spain" and its nearby "hill country" described in the M.S. The commission given by Christ to Paul was to take the gospel to "the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). When Paul left Rome the first two parts of this task had already been completed, the people of Cadiz and the surrounding area were largely of Israelite and Phoenician stock who had settled in the region for commercial reasons over a period of centuries. They (the Israelite element) represented a small part of the "lost ten tribes" of Israel, anciently as Gaul, during apostolic times. Not only Paul but also Luke and Crescens are said to have had a part in this work.
In the second century (A.D. 179) Iranaeus speaks of Christianity as propagated to the utmost bounds of the earth, by the Apostles, and their disciples; and particularly specifies the churches planted in Spain and the Celtic nations. By the Celts were meant the people of Germany, Gaul and Britain.
Trophimus is said to have preached and established a church at Arles; a cathedral was later built over the site of his tomb.
Epiphanius (A.D. 315-407) relates: "The ministry of the divine word having been entrusted to St. Luke, he exercised it by passing into Dalmatia, into Gaul, into Italy, into Macedonia, but principally into Gaul, so that St. Paul assures him in his epistles about some of his disciples -- `Crescens,' said he, `is in Gaul.' In it must not be read in Galatia as some have falsely thought, but in Gaul."
Several other authorities support this interpretation of II Timothy 4:10, including the Codex Sinaiticus, which translates Galatia as `Gallia'. The exact location of the port of Raphinus, mentioned in the "Sonnini Manuscript" is uncertain. Some identify this as the Roman name of Sandwich in Kent. A port in this vicinity is known to have been used by the Romans during the first century A.D. An old house is said to have existed at Sandwich until Saxon times which was known as "The House of the Apostles." Roman roads linked this part of the coast with London.
The text of the M.S. continues as follows:
"Now when it was noised abroad that the apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Paul courteously, and he entered in at the east gate of their city, and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own nation.
"And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud; and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Christ unto them, and many believed the word and the testimony of Jesus.
"And at even the Holy Ghost fell upon Paul, and he prophesied, saying, Behold in the last days the God of Peace shall dwell in the cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered; and in the seventh numbering of the people, their eyes shall be opened, and the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. And nations shall come up to worship on the Mount that testifieth of the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.
"And in the latter days new tidings of the Gospel shall issue forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice, and behold, fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more plague.
"In those days there shall be wars and rumours of wars; and a king shall rise up, and his sword shall be for the healing of the nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his kingdom a wonder among princes.
"And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were descended from the Israelites which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace.
"And Paul abode in his lodgings three months, confirming in the faith and preaching Christ continually.
"And after these things Paul and his brethren departed from Raphinus, and sailed unto Antiurn in Gaul."
The "Mount Lud" mentioned in the M.S. can probably be identified as the modern day Ludgate Hill, located in the City of London. A variety of objects dating to the first century have been unearthed in this area showing that it was a spot used by Romans and the local Britons during Paul's day.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lud-Gate was built by King Lud in 66 B.C. Several early writers confirm the existence of this ruler of pre-Roman Britain.
Holinshed states that "Lud began to reign in 72 B.C. He made a strong wall of lime and stone and fortified it with divers fair towers, and in the west part of the same wall he erected a strong gate which he commanded to be called after his name, `Ludgate,' and so unto this day, it is called Ludgate."
Another spot where Paul, according to tradition, is said to have preached is the district of Gospel Oak, a part of Hampstead Heath.
A charter given by King Canute in 1030 would also seem to confirm the story of Paul's visit. It reads: "I, Cnut, king of the English, grant lands for the enlargement of the Monastery of the blessed Apostle Paul, teacher of the peoples, and situated in the City of London."It can hardly be denied that the former Mount Lud did become the site of a national place of worship. One only has to witness a state occasion such as the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 to realize that the representatives of several nations do come to worship on this spot. This great cathedral does indeed bear Paul's name and in a sense testifies of his visit and preaching.
The reference to Paul's meeting with the Druids is probable enough. Although they suffered persecution at the hands of the Romans, it is likely that at this early stage in the Roman occupation they still had great influence with the people and by means of their very efficient system of communications were made aware of Paul's arrival.
It was Paul's policy to establish friendly relationships with civil and religious leaders, whenever this was possible, in order that the progress of the gospel would not be hindered. Although he probably noted with interest the similarities between the Druidic and Jewish religions, he would certainly not have approved of or condoned the many elements of paganism that had influenced the religion of the Druids by this period.
The mention of a visit to Britain by Paul lasting three months is a point of some interest as it seems to have been Paul's policy on several occasions to visit an area for this period of time (Acts 19:8, 20:3, 28:11). It is also quite possible that he paid more than one visit to Britain. The six years which elapsed before his final arrest and death would allow adequate time for two or more visits.
An old history of the Isle of Wight speaks of Paul arriving "with several other Christians, some of whom had been in personal contact with our blessed Lord Himself. He landed at Bonefon in the Isle of Wight. The exact spot is now Sandown Bay, which was a mouth of the harbour of Brading. He passed to the mainland from Rhydd, the ferry or passage now called Ryde, to Aber Deo, the port of God, or Godsport -- Gosport."
"This is not so fantastic as it may seem, for nearby Paulsgrove, north of Portsmouth, is said to be named because St. Paul visited there." The exact dates for these visits cannot be determined but, if they did take place, would almost certainly have been made between Paul's release from Roman captivity in A.D. 61 (some authorities place this event a year later, in A.D. 62), and his arrest in A.D. 67.
Some early writers insist that his first visit must have taken place before the war between Boadicea and the Romans (A.D. 60-61). In the absence of any conclusive evidence, however, one can only admit that our knowledge of chronology relating to first century Britain is incomplete. The final section of the "Sonnini Manuscript" concludes the story of Paul's travels as follows:
"And Paul preached in the Roman garrisons and among the people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins.
"And there came to him certain of the Belgae to enquire of him of the new doctrine, and of the man Jesus; and Paul opened his heart unto them, and told them all things that had befallen him, how be it that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; and they departed, pondering among themselves upon the things which they had heard.
"And after much preaching and toil Paul and his fellow labourers passed into Helvetia, and came unto Mount Pontius Pilate, where he who condemned the Lord Jesus dashed himself down headlong, and so miserably perished.
"And immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain and washed his body broken to pieces into a lake.
"And Paul stretched forth his hands upon the water and prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations that here Pontius Pilate, which condemned thine only begotten Son, plunged down headlong into the pit.
"And while Paul was yet speaking, behold there came a great earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of the Lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the cross.
"And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come, for he washed his hands before the multitude at the blood shedding of the Lord Jesus.
"When, therefore, Paul and those that were with him saw the earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God, and were mightily strengthened in the Spirit.
"And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius, where stood two pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by Caesar Augustus.
"And Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up between the two pillars, saying, Men and brethren, these stones which ye see this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations, neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations.
"And they went forth and came unto Illyricum, intending to go by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches; and they prospered and had peace. Amen."
Eusebius confirms the suicide of Pilate, although he does not record where this event took place. "It is also worthy of notice that tradition relates that that same Pilate, he of the Saviour's time, in the days of Caius... fell into such great calamity that he was forced to become his own slayer and to punish himself with his own hand. These who record the Olympiads of the Greeks with the annals of events relate this."
There is one tradition, perhaps the one to which Eusebius referred, which tells that Pilate, falling out of political favour during the reign of Caligula (Caius) went to Helvetia (Switzerland) where he spent his remaining days in great sorrow on Mount Pilatus (called Mount Pontius Pilate in the M.S.). He is said to have taken his own life by plunging into the dismal lake at the base of the mountain -- Lake Lucerne.
Some of the Waldenses, a church of the Middle Ages which probably can be identified as the Thyatira era of the Church of God (Rev. 2:18), traced their origin to the Apostle Paul's preaching in the Alps.
Eusebius also confirms Paul's journey through Illyricum. "Why should we speak of Paul, spreading the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and finally suffering martyrdom at Rome, under Nero?" Eusebius recorded that "Some of the Apostles" (not just one single Apostle) "preached the Gospel in the British Isles."
Scotland too seems to have received the gospel at an early date.
"The antiquity of the Irish and Scottish churches is without question. The Scottish church claims an Apostolic foundation which would account for that branch of the Celtic Church possessing eastern traditions. In an old Scottish history entitled History of Paganism in Caledonia is the passage, `During the reign of Domitian, disciples of the Apostle John visited Caledonia and there preached the word of life".
Some have linked this reference to a strong local tradition which relates that "the three wise men" came to Sutherland. A fact of perhaps greater significance is that the first Catholic monks to reach the islands to the North of Scotland, including Iceland and the Faroes, reported that a much earlier generation of Christians had at one time settled in those parts and that books that had been abandoned revealed that they had adhered to "Judaism," almost certainly a direct reference to the seventh day Sabbath.
Many people have assumed that the weekly and annual Sabbaths (Feast Days) of Israel were done away by Christ and perhaps "nailed to the cross," that new days such as Sunday, Easter and Christmas were introduced to take their place. History clearly reveals, however, that these days, classified by some as "Jewish," were observed by the true Church of God for centuries, not only in Palestine and Asia Minor but even in remote Britain and Ireland.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept these days and instructed his Gentile converts to do likewise. He even refused valuable opportunities to preach the gospel at times saying that "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will" (Acts 18:21).
Luke speaks of sailing from Philippi "after the days of unleavened bread" (Acts 20:6), and of Paul making haste to be at Jerusalem to observe Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
Gentile Christians at Corinth were urged to "Purge out therefore the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:7-8).
The annual Sabbaths were not a part of the law of Moses, but were observed before the ritualistic ordinances contained in that law were given.
Formerly pagan, Christian converts at Colosse were criticized by false teachers in respect of their observance of these days (Col. 2:16). Paul makes the point that it is the leaders within the Church of God, not unauthorized outsiders, who should determine how these days should be kept. There is no mention of the abolition of these days but simply guidance as to how they should be kept.
Christians were still keeping this festival in A.D. 58 when Paul took his sea voyage to Rome.
In Acts 27:9 it is recorded that "when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past...." The "fast" mentioned here was the Day of Atonement. Shortly after this festival, Christians observed the seven day long Feast of Tabernacles. This pictures the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, also known as the Millennium. This doctrine of the Millennium was believed, as looking forward to a literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth, for centuries.
During the second century Papias of Hierapolis stated that "There will be a period of some thousand years after the first resurrection of the dead, and the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth." Other "church fathers" of the second and third centuries such as Iranaeus and Tertullian held similar views relating to this doctrine.
Another early source on church history quoted by Stillingfleet is Bale, who mentions one Elvanus of Avalon (known in Welsh records as Elfan), who "was a disciple to those who were the disciples of the Apostles;" it was said that "he preached the gospel in Britain with good success."
According to Bale, the preaching of the Gospel by Elvanus brought a strong reaction from the Druids. As Elvanus had received this "Gospel" from the immediate followers of the Apostles, he was almost certainly preaching the same message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that had been preached by the Church of God in the previous century.
The Druids took the matter to Lucius in order to receive a settlement of the controversy. Lucius is then said to have contacted Eleutherius, the Bishop of Rome, in order to receive guidance.
The footwashing ceremony instituted by Christ (John 13:4-12), was also carried out. Some sources indicate that the Celtic Christians observed Pentecost and perhaps some of God's other Holy Days or "feast days".
Repentant adults were baptized by immersion for the remission of their sins and any practice or belief found to be at variance with the Scriptures was rejected.
The Celts believed in a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of the creation of man and the universe. Free moral agency was stressed, salvation could not be forced on anyone. Obedience of the Ten Commandments was a vital requirement for one wishing to obtain salvation, but even so, the Celtic Christian did not believe in salvation by works. Salvation was a process that started with repentance, then baptism followed by a life of striving to "overcome" and grow spiritualy, resulting in the "greatest" reward, "To him that overcometh" that Christ will grant to sit with Him on HIS throne, when He returns to earth (Rev. 3:21).
Prayer and Bible study were considered to be of great importance. Sincere prayer was advocated as vain repetition was not acceptable.
There was no invocation of saints, angels or martyrs in the early Celtic Church. It was believed that Satan along with one third of the angels had rebelled against God and had been cast down to the earth; following this event Satan's main objective was to influence human minds.
Many of the most well-known ministers of this period were Sabbath-keepers.
There is strong incidental evidence that Columba, the leading minister of his time among the Culdees, was an observer of the ancient Sabbath of the Bible. His dying words as preserved by Gilfillan are as follows:
"Today is Saturday, the day which the Holy Scriptures call the Sabbath, or rest. And it will be truly my day of rest, for it shall be the last of my laborious life." (Even Patrick, "the apostle of Ireland," is believed by several authorities to have kept the Sabbath.)
"In the Senchus Mor, ancient Irish laws believed to have been framed with the help of Patrick... These Christianized Brehon laws required that `every seventh day of the year' should be devoted to the service of God. This code also mentions the payment of tithes and offerings.
"The early life of Patrick by Muirchu has two stories indicating Patrick's attitude towards the seventh day. These traditions had persisted for more than two centuries after the saint's death."
Muirchu records that Patrick met with another minister on every seventh day of the week for worship and spiritual contact.
The purpose of The Acts has been already stated. The first chapter recounts Christ's last interviews with the apostles through forty days, his promise of the Spirit and his command to preach to all the world (ver. 8), followed by his ascension and the actions of the disciples until Pentecost.
Then follows an account of the church in Jerusalem after Pentecost (2:1-8, 3), in which certain representative facts are described (the first conversions, the first opposition, the first discipline, the first persecution, the first organization, the first martyrdom), and, after each, a brief notice of its effect upon the Church (see 2:41-47; 4:23-37; 5:11-16, 41, 42; 6:7; 8:1-3). Here Peter is most prominent, though the first martyr and the man who prepared for the following period was Stephen.
Next we have an account of the transition of the Church to a missionary religion, preaching the Gospel of the Coming Kingdom of God and baptizing many (8:4-12:25).
Here five significant events are described :
(1) Philip s work in Samaria and the Ethiopian steward s conversion (8:4-40);
(2) Saul s conversion and earliest preaching (9:1-30);
(3) Peter's missionary work in Syria, leading to the conversion of Cornelius and the conviction of the Church that the gospel was for gentiles (9:31-11:18);
(4) the founding of the gentile church of Antioch, a new center for further gentile work (11:19-30);
(5) the Herodian persecution whereby the Jewish state finally repudiated Christianity (12).
Then follows the establishment of Christianity, chiefly through Paul, in the principal centers of the empire (13 to the end). This was done in three great journeys: the first, to Cyprus and the interior of Asia Minor (8; 14), led to the Council of Jerusalem (15:1-35), when the standing in the Church of uncircumcised gentiles was formally recognized; the second, to Macedonia and Greece (15:36-18:22); the third, to Ephesus as well as Greece (18:23-20:3), followed by Paul's last visit to Jerusalem (20:4-21:26), where he was arrested, and, after defending himself before the Jews, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, and after two years imprisonment in Csesarea (21:27-26:32) was sent, on his appeal to the emperor, to Rome (27:1-28:16), where he preached for two years (28:17-31).
Many think that The Acts was written just at the close of these "two years"; (i.e. A.D. 63). Others think Luke ended there because his object was attained in bringing Paul, as an apostolic preacher, to Rome, or because he intended to write a third book descriptive of later events, and that The Acts should be dated a few years later than 63.
The remarkable historical accuracy of The Acts has been proved by modern research (see e.g. Eanisay's Church in the Roman Empire). It's harmony with Paul's epistles has been much debated and successfully defended. It is written with much artistic power, and supplies the information necessary to explain the rise of Christianity as a universal religion during the thirty-three years from the death of Christ covered by its narrative.