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A Proper Way to Interpret Acts

>This is based off the book The Message of Acts by Dennis Johnson PhD.


In the book of Acts we see so many unique events. Sometimes they are unique only to the book of Acts. The question is how are we to discover and apply the message of Acts in light of these events? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind while studying Luke’s second book of Acts:

1. Read Acts in the Light of Luke’s Purpose
Luke is writing about the climax of God’s redemptive acts in history. Just as in the OT and Gospels, when God acts it is center stage. If we try to turn the book of Acts into a manual of church polity or mission policies we may only end up in frustration. The purpose of Acts is more profoundly practical. God’s Spirit unveils the identity of the church between Jesus’ two comings, the divine power at work in this church, the results of that powerful Presence, and the environment in which we are to pursue our mission until “this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heave. 1.11
2. Read Acts in the Light of the New Testament Epistles
Luke is both a historian and a theologian. He interprets the events and indicates their significance. The fact that he communicates this significance through the genre of historical narrative rather than essay has both advantages and limitations. One advantage is that as Luke shows how different the Christian faith is from religions rooted in mysticism, mythology or speculation. The gospel of Christ is not abstract theory or poetic symbol. It is the account, attested by witnesses. of the personal God’s intervention in history to rescue human beings.
One limitation, on the other hand is that the genre of historical narrative itself permits theological explanation only indirectly, through the placement of material, the recounting of sermons, and verbal allusions to OT text and themes. Luke doesn’t jump in to clear up all possible misunderstandings.
3. Read Acts in the Light of the Old Testament
Luke not only mentions OT passages and their fulfillment. He has embedded in his own narrative style echoes of Hebrew ways of speaking. This reinforces that he is wriitng in the tradition of Hebrew prophetic history pointing to the climax in the work of the Messiah.
OT themes are common occurences as well. the Spirit, the servant, holy judgment, dispersion, persecution of the prophets demonstrated the risen Lord in his church.
4. Read Acts in the Light of Luke’s First Volume
You must see how Acts draws together Luke’s other volume (the Gospel of Luke). Luke’s Gospel closes with Jesus prophesying and the anticipation is answered in Acts.
In the Gospel Jesus receives the Spirit when anointed in his baptism to proclaim good news. In Acts the church receives the Spirit from the glorified Jesus and declares the wonders of God.
In the Gospel Jesus is the servant of Isaiah’s Servant Song. In Acts the church is the servant-witness foreseen by Isaiah. In the Gospel Jesus is “the Lord” in Acts his glory and authority as Lord are displayed by his resurrection from the dead.
5. Read Acts in the light of Its Structure
Luke writes Greek really well. As a result we must pay attention to the way he has crafted his works together. It is wise to note four structural signals which Luke points our way through his account.
1. Acts 1.8 and 9.15 – promise of spirit and witness to the ends of the earth.
2. Summary statements – snapshots of the church life
3. Repeated Accounts – device from narration in OT
4. The Prominence of Preaching – illustrates growth with samples of preaching