In our study, we look back at the early church in hopes of applying it to our lives as believers in the world today. The book was written by Luke who was an associate of Paul. This is the same "Luke" that wrote the book "Luke". He used eyewitness accounts as well as written documents to present an accurate history of the life of Jesus (in the book of Luke) and the early church (in this book).
It is a transitional book that explains to us how Christianity grew from a small group of Jews that followed Jesus to a very large group that include Gentiles. Acts was completed in the year 62 AD which is about 30 years after Jesus was crucified.
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach" NIV translation
Most of us probably just blast right through this verse when we read this book but I think that in doing so we miss something. The former book that Luke refers to is The Gospel According To Luke.
There are two schools of thought about Theophilus. Theophilus, at that time in Biblical history, was often used as an honorary title and it's meaning is "friend of God" or "lover of God". Many people take this view in that the book was not addressed to a single individual but to the Christians of those days. Others believe that Theophilus, in this sense, was a person of that time. Many believe it to be addressed to Theophilus ben Ananus who was the brother-in-law of Caiaphas and the High Priest at the Temple from 37-41 A.D.
Personally, I believe that Luke is using Theophilus as an honorary title in this case. If you look at what was happening during the time of the writing of this book, the Christians of these days were being singled out and persecuted to the point of execution. For Luke to address the book to an individual it would effectively be a death warrant for "Theophilus".
I think that the question we each should ask ourselves is am I a "friend of God"/"lover of God". If our answer is yes, then, this book is a history book and it is addressed to us. It tells us how the church got to the point where we, as Gentiles (non-Jews) received the Word of God. If our answer to the question is no, then, we need to go back and read the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus Christ.
What does "friend of God"/"lover of God" mean to you?