Once I’ve decided to preach through a book of the Bible, I like to form some sort of a “homiletic outline” that helps me break a book up into sections to preach through. Sometimes chapter markers can be helpful and sometimes they are absolutely misplaced. Thus, it’s something I often find myself working on when I’m trying to take a “big picture” approach to a book of the Bible.
A friend of mine is planning on preaching through the book of Acts and I was thinking about someday preaching on it. As I was thinking about it, I started to remember that I had put some work into researching whether or not there was a structure to the book of Acts. Here’s what I found somewhat interesting if one were going to approach Acts looking for a structure:
Two Sections – In this theory, it’s suggested that Luke structures Acts around two main characters (Peter and Paul). Perhaps Luke was writing with the hopes of preventing two separate churches developing (one for Jews, the other for Gentiles). If you look at Acts, you’ll notice that the first section covers Peter (Acts 1-12) and the second section covers Paul (Acts 13-28). Through the book of Acts, you’ll notice that both Apostles perform miracles through the power of the Spirit, see visions, suffer, preach powerfully, and were imprisoned and later miraculously set free. They also were involved in casting out demons and raising the dead. Therefore, Acts can be read in two sections: one covering Peter and the other covering Paul.
Three Sections – This theory takes Acts 1:8 as the “center piece” of the entire book. What’s Luke’s structure? His structure is to provide a narrative of how the gospel was preached from Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), Judea and Samaria (8-10), and to the ends of the earth (11-28).
Six Sections – This theory is based on the idea that within Acts, Luke is using a “literary device” to help give us an indication of what the structure of the book is; this is his way of giving us his chapter markers. As you read Acts, you’ll notice that there are six “progress reports” (6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30-31). Each of these sections shows what went down as the gospel spread throughout the known world: 1-6:7 (Jews in Jerusalem), 6:8-9:31 (Hellenists & Samaritans), 9:32-12:24 (Gentiles & Antioch), 12:25-16:5 (Asia Minor), 16:6-19:20 (Europe), and 19:21-28:31 (Rome).