Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Random Stuff from Our Acts Study, Part 1

On Tuesday nights, I convene Bible studies at our church building. This Tuesday, we began a new study of the New Testament book of Acts. In these notes, I'll be sharing some of the highlights.

A Mini-Overview:
1. Acts is the second volume of two books written by an author identified as Luke, sometime between 70 and 100 A.D. The first volume is the Gospel of Luke. Acts chronicles the advance of Christ's Church, as it sought to be faithful to His call to be His witnesses, in the early decades following His resurrection and ascension into heaven.

2. Acts shares many of the same emphases found in the Gospel of Luke. Several are particularly important: prayer and the Holy Spirit.

3. Historically, authorship of Acts has been attributed to the Luke who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. This notion is buttressed by the appearance of several clusters of passages in Acts in which the narrator switches to the first-person plural voice ("we") to describe missionary journeys.

4. The book is addressed to Theophilus, a name that means friend of God. Many scholars believe that Theophilus is not an individual, but a title for all who follow Jesus Christ. The term, friend of God, is used of Abraham in the Old Testament. According to Jesus, as quoted in John's Gospel, all who follow Him and do His commands are His friends.

5. William Willimon, in his fine commentary of Acts, identifies the purpose of the book in this way:
Acts is proclamation, not in the sense of evangelical preaching to convert unbelievers but catechetical proclamation to strengthen believers...
6. Luke is at pains to demonstrate the consistency between Old Testament Jewish faith and faith in Jesus Christ. The early Christians didn't see themselves as breaking with Judaism. Jesus, they believed, fulfilled the plan of God for the salvation of the world which God initiated in the first covenant with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

7. Because of Luke's sympathy with Judaism and his desire to demonstrate that the proclamation of Jesus as crucified and risen Messiah was consistent with Old Testament faith, Willimon believes that Luke was himself Jewish.

8. Luke portrays Christ and His Church as being inseparably intertwined. Paul talks about the Church as the "body of Christ." But Luke shows us through the lives of Christians filled with the Holy Spirit sent by Christ how Christ lives in His people.

9. Throughout the book, Luke tends to use the terms God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit interchangeably, taking the doctrine of the Trinity, one God in three Persons, for granted.

[Next installment: A consideration Acts, chapter 1]

No comments: