A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, Realized for All Nations
Respected scholar Darrell Bock delivers in this volume on his topic of the theology of Luke and Acts. Mr. Bock, already hailed as having given us the best modern exegetical commentary on Luke, writes on a subject here he has given many years of his life to study.
You will find all the usual suspects on the study of Luke and ActsÃ¢ÂÂthe connection of Luke and Acts, salvation, Christ, the Holy Spirit, women, and the poor. But thereÃ¢ÂÂs more. Things I hadnÃ¢ÂÂt thought much of in regards to Luke and Acts, all laid out in a cogent, clear, persuasive form. As you would expect, he interacts much with other scholars and their opinions as he travels along his subject. As a pastor I canÃ¢ÂÂt help but see some of that as the straitjacket the scholarly world has wrapped around itself. Still, he is concise enough that his text holds interest. If you are like me, you so think of Luke as one of the Gospels that you at times forget its special connection to Acts.
Zondervan asked we reviewers to pick one chapter and particularly review it. I chose the one that I felt I had the least knowledge ofÃ¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂThe Law in Luke-ActsÃ¢ÂÂ (Chapter 18). It really didnÃ¢ÂÂt seem to me Luke or Acts had a lot to say on that subject.
Mr. Bock shows us that the scholarly world has had occasion to analyze the subject recently. He laid out the basics clearly in 3 paragraphs. I appreciate Mr. Bock fairly representing other viewpoints while telling his conclusion. In doing so he dodges the problem of becoming so immersed in details, as many do, that they forget a conclusion was why we went digging in the first place. I donÃ¢ÂÂt have to agree to enjoy the evidence being weighed and a conclusion being drawn.
He concludes that Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂ¦ in the end law-abiding for Luke is only a consideration for Jewish believers, while Gentiles must be sensitive to certain practices tied to the law.Ã¢ÂÂ His idea seems to be Ã¢ÂÂlaw-sensitiveÃ¢ÂÂ is the orientation of Luke and Acts, and that it carries Ã¢ÂÂrealized promiseÃ¢ÂÂ but no Ã¢ÂÂsalvation benefit.Ã¢ÂÂ Of course it has no salvation benefit, and I doubt Luke is really Ã¢ÂÂconservativeÃ¢ÂÂ in regards to the Law. More likely, to my mind, itÃ¢ÂÂs Jewish person-sensitive since Christ has uprooted what has been deeply ingrained into the very fiber of their people. IÃ¢ÂÂd say itÃ¢ÂÂs more a sensitivity to the complications of a progressive revelation.
He also masterfully discusses the issues of whether or not the Law failed, or at least how should what Jesus did be accounted for with the Law. He lays out all the possibilities available to form an opinion. I left it thinking that the Law failed in doing what people imagined it would while it fully succeeded in all the Lord planned for it to do.
He traced things like Sabbath incidents and gave us the data that is needed to form our opinions. Mr. Bock succeeds because he gave me what I needed to decide for myself. And he did it well. The whole book delivers in this way. I suspect this book will be popular among scholars, students, and pastors. As for me, it will hold a prominent place on my shelves and will be the first volume I reach for on questions of Luke-Acts theology. What better recommendation could a pastor possibly give?
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade CommissionÃ¢ÂÂs 16 CFR, Part 255 .
July 26, 2012
The reactions Jesus generated
I reviewed this book as part of Zondervan's blog tour of A Theology of Luke and Acts. Blog tour participants each select a chapter on which to focus their review, i.e., a major theological theme.
I focus my review on chapter 16, "How Response to Jesus Divides: The Opponents, the Crowds, and Rome as Observer of Events in Luke-Acts." But first, the book more generally.
A Theology of Luke and Acts consists of three parts. Part One briefly addresses introductory matters (context, unity of Luke-Acts, extensive book outlines, etc.). Part Two covers the theology of Luke-Acts.Part Three then briefly concludes with Luke-Acts's place in and contribution to the New Testament canon.
Bock has spent the last 30 years in Luke and Acts. Many (myself included) consider his Baker commentaries on each book to be the standard among recent evangelical Luke-Acts works. (See Luke (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (2 Volumes) and Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).) Bock writes that this new volume "has allowed me to put together in one place many things I have said before in many distinct volumes."
The author balances in-depth scholarship (extensive footnotes and a 16-page bibliography give the reader more to explore) with winsome, practical insight into the Biblical text. Of "discipleship and ethics in the new community" (chapter 15), for example, he writes,"Discipleship is both demanding and rewarding. According to Luke, it is people-focused, showing love for God and then treating others with love that parallels the love of the Father. In Acts, one sees little of the church serving itself and much of the church reaching out to those who need the Lord. For Luke, the people in the highly effective early church look outward."
For the preacher, teacher, or student working his or her way through Luke and Acts, this is a book to have at hand.
Chapter 16 addresses "How Response to Jesus Divides: The Opponents, the Crowds, and Rome as Observer of Events in Luke-Acts." Bock notes that in his pre-Jerusalem ministry, "it is the Pharisees and teachers of the law who interact the most with Jesus among representatives of official Judaism," often occurring together in Luke as a pair: "Pharisees and teachers of the law." The Pharisees, who ridicule, question, and oppose Jesus, are "the key foil for Jesus until he gets to Jerusalem." At that point, says Bock, "the chief priests and teachers of the law take over that role with much more hostility. ...Their opposition is part of the picture of a divided Israel for Luke." Jesus' "new way" and claims of authority "brought reaction from those who liked the old wine."
"Crowds," by contrast, "often note Jesus' presence or press upon him in his ministry" in a non-oppositional way. Noting the blind man's cry from the crowd of "Son of David" ("a messianic confession of great significance"), Bock says that those "on the fringe" or margins of the crowd are "often more sensitive" to the mission and message of Jesus. Jesus interacts with the crowd, Bock says, as teacher and healer, and yet "the crowd as a group thinks of him only as a prophet (Luke 9:18)." In Acts, the crowds are more easily swayed, "being incited or worked up to oppose the new movement."
Rome is a mixed bag. "After Jesus, her actions protect the Christians from the hostile desires of Jewish leadership, but do so with an injustice that will not recognize their rights or release them." And yet they are still for Luke "the unseen agent of providence in their acts," even though they may not be aware of it.
It is easy to imagine Bock's chapter on varied reactions to Jesus aiding the preacher or teacher, especially one who wants to elaborate on the famous "Who do you say that I am?" question of Jesus. Bock guides the reader through key texts in Luke and Acts to survey various Jewish, crowd, and Roman reactions to Jesus, whose coming, if nothing else, "generated a reaction."
I can also easily envision someone referring to other similar chapters for a quick yet thorough overview of how Luke treats other theological themes: women and the poor (chapter 17), Israel (chapter 12), salvation (chapters 10 and 11), and so on. A Theology of Luke and Acts is worthy of Bock's other work on those two texts, and serves as a useful reference guide.
As a blog tour participant, I received a free review copy of the book from Zondervan, but without obligation to write a positive review.
July 24, 2012
Great help for pastors
Zondervan is offering a new series, Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Its aim is to contribute a holistic study of introductory materials, biblical themes, and interpretative guides for pastors and theologians. Needless to say I was intimidated upon receiving this voluminous book. However, what I found was that my dust covered memories from seminary New Testament book classes were resurrected to new life. Bock has done a wonderful service for pastors and theologians.
The book is broken into three section: introductory matters, major theological themes, and Luke and the canon. Part 1 deals with all the common questions you might expect from a New Testament survey. BockÃ¢ÂÂs standard operation is to look at multiple arguments (the strengths and weakness of each) before offering his position. I found him fair and thorough. The bulk of the book is consumed with part two exploring themes in these complementary New Testament books. Bock examines sixteen different themes covering almost 300 pages. In part 3, he concludes with a thorough examination LukeÃ¢ÂÂs place in the canon looking at his unique contributions as well as unifying points with the other New Testament Scriptures and closing with a discussion of the normative nature of the supernatural in Acts.
A Light to the Nations: We Are the Gentiles
I gleaned many wonderful truths from Luke-Acts from reading this volume but the one refreshing note was the scandal of GodÃ¢ÂÂs inclusion of the Gentiles into the church. In America, we forget we are the Gentiles. We were the minority. Especially white Americans with our sense of entitlement and self-worth (we are red-blooded Americans, right?), have missed the scandal of what God did by including us. By making salvation deep and wide enough to include people from every nation. Bock highlights this from the beginning when he says,
Since the church was undergoing persecution, as Acts so vividly portrays, Theophilus, or anyone like him, might have wondered if that persecution was GodÃ¢ÂÂs judgment on the church for being too racially broad with his salvation. Was God really at work in the church, and was Jesus really at the center of the plan? How did the promise become so broad and how could a dead Savior bring it to pass? These are core questions of community identity that Luke-Acts explains. (p. 29 also see pp. 60-61)
No one can say the church in America is experiencing much physical persecution but arenÃ¢ÂÂt these questions still relevant for where weÃ¢ÂÂre at today? Was God really at work in the church, and was Jesus really at the center of the plan? How did the promise become so broad and how could a dead Savior bring it to pass? This theme and these question are imperative for understanding Jesus and the early church and should not be easily swept aside, pastors, as you study these books. Do our churches make the salvation offered by Christ more racially narrow? Do our churches reflect this broad working of Jesus amongst all nations? Luke-Acts pictures what a church that is gripped by the gospel of Jesus and is devoted to sharing that news with ever nation would look like. We would do well to inspect carefully.
If You Desire to Rightly Handle the Scripture...
While you would benefit from having some college or seminary background in New Testament studies, the writing is accessible and the headings are well laid out which makes it easy to digest smaller sections of this much larger work. If you havenÃ¢ÂÂt committed to a particular book study, I would encourage you to take up Luke-Acts and use this book to lead your path. I would highly recommend this book for pastors wanting to ramp into a sermon series. Bock does a thorough job looking at Lucan themes which would be hugely beneficial in developing the structure of your preaching series. My copy is littered with underlines, highlights, and notes. As a matter of fact, after reading Bock you might decide it would be beneficial to preach through Luke and Acts together.
May 18, 2012