Why is Acts an Incomplete History?

G. Campbell Morgan

To one taking up the book for the first time, the title, “The Acts of the Apostles,” would seem to suggest that in the book we should find a chronicle of all the doings of all the apostles. We know that this is not so. As a matter of fact the Greek title of the manuscript is “Acts of Apostles.” That is more indefinite, suggesting only that it records some acts of some apostles, which comes far nearer the truth. Some of the apostles are never named beyond their inclusion in the list given before the account of the Pentecostal effusion. Further, not all the acts of any one apostle are recorded.

The book as history is merely a fragment, and in some senses a disappointing fragment; but in the incompleteness of the story is part of the method of the Spirit. When we come to its last sentences, we inevitably put it down, feeling that there are a hundred questions we want to ask. The last picture we have in the book is that of Paul in his own hired house in Rome, receiving all that came to him, teaching them the things concerning Jesus, and preaching to them the Kingdom of God. Before he went to Rome he wrote to the Romans that he hoped to go on by them unto Spain, for his eyes were ever fixed on regions beyond. We should like to know if he ever did pass on to Spain; yes, and more, whether the feet of the intrepid apostle ever actually stood on the soil of Britain. These things the book does not tell us. It is an unfinished fragment.

Nevertheless in the imperfect nature of the book there is a perfect system. It is the story of the first movements of the Christianity in the world; revealing principles, indicating methods, showing failure; and all in order that there might be at least one page of inspired Church history, which, men reading, might know the true meaning and mission of the Church in the history of the world.

Adapted from The Acts of the Apostles, Acts 1:1-5, by G. Campbell Morgan.

Originally published September 14, 2010.