Outline: (1.) Question Restatement; (2.) Answer - A Defense to Preach to the Gentiles; (3.) Greek Definitions - Gentile, Account, And Theophilus; (4.) Argument Against - Is Acts an Apologetic Defense for Christianity? ;
1. Question Restatement:
What was the writer's purpose in writing the book of Acts?
2. Answer - A Defense to Preach to the Gentiles:
Fortunately, the purpose is Explicitly Stated -- In both Luke AND Acts:
Both "Accounts" end in the same exact way: that salvation was going to be preached to the Gentiles.
The Distinction between the two, is that in Acts: it is demonstrated how the Gentiles accepted the Gospel - though rejected by the Jews.
Both Luke and Acts are consistent in their conclusions -- The writer arguing:
Based on all of the facts, and evidences presented, and witnessed --
NASB, Luke 24:48 - You are witnesses of these things.
That the conclusion must be sound, and is completely understandable:
NASB, Acts 28:28 - THEREFORE let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”
Note 2: As an earlier comment pointed out, a similar "legal document" argument can be found here, Wordpress Link.
3. Greek Definitions - Gentile, Account, And Theophilus:
3.1. Regarding - Gentile, (ἔθνος):
In the 28 chapters of Acts,
Gentile / ἔθνος is used more than 30+ times, more than any other book, (32 Instances, NASB, Greek Instances).
Gentile appears in "Romans" just 19 times.
3.2. Regarding - Theophilus, (Θεόφιλε):
Contemporarily with the earliest manuscripts of Acts, (Link to Acts Manuscript Dating) -- there is historical evidence that establishes that the "Theophoric" name,
Theophilus was used as an honorific for a King or Emperor, (Julian the Emperor, Oration II, and Eusebius in reference to Constantine, Eusebius History of the Church Book X, 8:16), perhaps a High Priest, (Joseph. AJ 19.297 ), or even an Advocate.
Regardless of who "Theophilus" was - because it is used in the context of a Legal Argument, then: - it is reasonable to infer that Acts was written in support of some defense - to a person with authority.
Hyperides speech 1: Will you please come up, Theophilus, and say what you can in my defence? The jury ask you to do so.
Moreover, this person was probably a "higher rank" than either Festus or Agrippa -- because those "hearings" had already occurred:
NASB, Acts 25:22 - Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he *said, “you shall hear him.”
3.3. Regarding - Account, (λόγον):
This word also carries with it a "Legal Connotation" - a "Legal Declaration or Statement".
NASB, Acts 1:1 - The first account [Testimony, λόγον] I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
NASB, Acts 2:40: other words (λόγοις) he solemnly testified
Acts, and the Previous Document -- were "Legal Declarations, (λόγον)" -- of what was witnessed. This term is used -- all throughout Scripture -- in legal contexts.
NASB, Luke 24:48 - You are witnesses of these things.
4. Argument Against - Is Acts an Apologetic Defense for Christianity? :
Acts is certainly a "Formal Argument" - evident by its "Therefore" conclusion - with each narrative being told as "evidence" in support of its conclusion.
The entire book "Exhibits Evidence" - over and over again - in Support of its conclusion - that the Salvation of God should be preached to the Gentiles.
4.1. Three Findings in Support of its Conclusion:
The book of Acts contains three sub-arguments, seen throughout the text, to support its conclusion:
- That both Peter and Paul's defenses - for the Jews - were ultimately rejected - that the promise of God remained for the Jews - despite having crucified the Messiah - (By Peter in Acts 2, 4, 5, etc; By Paul in Act 13);
- "The Messiahship" of Jesus was not-debated, (in the text) - but rather presented as an incontestable, self-evident fact, his miracles, crucifixion, etc., -- Peter reminding them that they were all witnesses themselves, (Acts 2, etc).
- The Acceptance of Jesus, as the Messiah, by the Gentiles.
Incredibly - Acts documents that the Jews repudiated the promise -- but not who Jesus was claimed to be :
4.2. Peter's Defense of the Jews, and the Promise:
Peter makes a defense for God's love, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Jews - even upon the same ones who had knowingly rejected the Messiah -
NASB, Acts 2:38 - Peter said to them, “Repent ... For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.
NASB, Acts 3:17 - “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand ... that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
Also In: Acts 4, Acts 5:31, etc. The promise of Salvation remains - despite their rejection - and continued rejection.
4.3. Paul's Defense for the Jews, Rejected:
NASB, Acts 13:46 - “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
NASB, Acts 13:47 - For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’”
4.4. In Acts, Only a Limited Defense of Jesus as the Messiah:
A Scriptural defense, any supporting Evidence, are very limited - arguably: blatant - intentional - omissions, in both Luke and Acts:
NASB, Acts 9:22 - But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. [ ... ???]
Luke 24:44 - Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [... ???]
Luke 24:45-47 - Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures [???], 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
4.5. Stephen's Sermon - Not a defense, An Accusation:
In Acts 7, Stephen Raises an Accusation, Rather than a Defense :
He began by testifying how the Jews systematically rejected "judges" appointed over them -- and concludes testifying about the Jews' consistent rejection of the Messiah, even the prophets that foretold of him:
NASB, Acts 7:51 - “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?
Note: See Polemics vs. Apologetics.