This represents the third in a three part series in which I intend to show how I think Luke constructed the Book of Acts. He did so by presenting the theology and then the practicality of specific problems the Church had to face in its infancy—from Pentecost 31 CE to the culmination of Paul’s mission cir. 62 CE or roughly a span of about 30 years. When Luke adds what he does to Acts, he always ends his submission by giving a summary of the growth of the Church. He does this six times showing he organized his thesis into three two-part summaries of what the Church began to do and teach (cp. Acts 1:1).
We begin Luke’s third section and his fourth summary of Church history at Acts 16:6, and this entry will end in Acts 19:20, where he offers his fifth progress report of Church growth, a time span of about 6 years or cir. 50 to 56 CE. In Acts 16:6 we discover that Paul and company may have decided while they were in Galatia that they would embark on a new mission, but the Holy Spirit through some means prevented their first choice, to evangelize the province of Asia and their second choice to preach Jesus in Bithynia (Acts 16:7). It may be that Paul had hoped to begin his original plan to evangelize Asia by traveling southward by sea when they got to Troas. However, Paul received a vision to go to Macedonia, and all agreed that this was from the Lord, so off they went to evangelize Europe!
In Macedonia Paul was brought before magistrates in Philippi (Acts 16:20-23), and Jason, one of Paul’s converts, was brought before the politarchs in Thessalonica (Acts 17:6-9). Afterward Paul sailed to Achaia (Acts 17:14-15) where he appeared before the Areopagus Council at the command of the Epicurean and Stoic teachers in Athens (Acts 17:18-19); and later he appeared before the proconsul, Gallio, at Corinth (Acts 18:12). Through all this Luke shows that the Gospel and the Church are socially and politically innocuous. The word of God is harmless and does not aggressively attack the social structure of any society nor does it seek to topple any governing body. Its whole work is upon the heart of the individual who after becoming a believer testifies of his new found faith in a public manner as seen in Acts 19:17-20, when Paul was concluding his third missionary journey. The Gospel is inoffensive among men. Although men reject it and rise up against the Gospel and those who believe it, the believers, themselves, are shown in Acts 16-19 as harmless and inoffensive to all men.
Luke’s final entry in Acts begins in Acts 19:21, cir. 56 CE with Paul gathering another offering from the Gentile churches for the poor and persecuted Church in Jerusalem. In this entry the legality of the Gospel, itself, comes into the foreground. It was broadcast in Jerusalem that Paul’s activity throughout the Empire taught Jews to forsake Moses and the Law (Acts 21:20-21). Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-10), the Roman governors Felix (Acts 24:1-23) and Festus (Acts 25:6-12) and finally before King Agrippa (Acts 26:1-32) who was an expert on the Jewish faith, because Festus had nothing to write by way of an accusation, since Paul’s case would be brought before Nero Caesar (Acts 25:14-27).
All in all, no one in authority was able to find any guilt in Paul, that he had been doing anything illegal in preaching the Gospel of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, Lord of the Kingdom of God. Luke ends his final entry to his thesis as he did with each other entry, with a progress report, telling us of the Church growing in the word of God as Paul preached unhindered from his rented home where he was under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31).