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Chapter 08

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Chapter summary

Chapter 08

Luke's Second Volume: The Acts of the Apostles

Chapter Summary:

The Genre of Acts and Its Significance
The book of Acts is the first history of the Church. It traces Christianity from Jesus' resurrection to the arrest of the Apostle Paul. History, like any other literary genre, is told from a particular perspective. Accordingly, we can assume that Acts reflects the concerns of its author. As modern readers, then, we should approach the book of Acts as another channel to Luke's view of salvation history.

The Thematic Approach to Acts
This chapter introduces another method for the study of the New Testament, the thematic approach. When scholars approach texts thematically, they look for recurring ideas that can shed light on an author's emphases. With Acts, we are particularly well positioned to use the thematic approach because we can trace the development of particular ideas from the Gospel through the history of the church.

From the Gospel to Acts: The Opening Transition
The book of Acts narrates the missionary enterprise that begins at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles and empowers them to work miracles and speak foreign languages. Just as the Jews reject Jesus in the Gospel, so the apostles are rejected in Acts. Some Jews, however, do convert, the most important of whom was Saul, also known as Paul. It is through him that the Gospel is spread among Gentiles in many of the provinces of the Roman world. Luke goes to great lengths to explain why the gospel ceased being a message only to Jews. The cycle of Jewish rejection of the gospel and Gentile acceptance of it allows Luke to show how Gentiles came to be a part of the people of God. One issue that Luke addresses is that of the relationship of Judaism to Gentile converts: must Gentiles become Jews? The author insists that Gentiles need not convert, but he is equally adamant that the gospel is not contrary to Judaism.

Themes in the Speeches in Acts
A study of the speeches delivered to believers in Acts reveals several Lukan themes. First, Christianity is a continuation of Judaism and, as such, it fulfills Scripture. Second, the Christian mission is an extension of Jesus' own ministry. The center of the faith continues to be Jerusalem, the city in which the disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus' ascension.

In Acts, Luke also continues his emphasis on the sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of the world. This innocent man was a victim of injustice. God reversed this injustice, though, by raising Jesus from the dead. As we saw in the Gospel, Luke does not believe that Jesus' death itself is atoning. Rather, the miscarriage of justice brings about guilt, which, in turn, brings about repentance-the necessary action for salvation.

Conclusion: The Author and His Themes in Context
In Acts, Luke narrates the opposition Christian leaders received as they preached the gospel. It is possible that these narratives were intended to give direction to Luke's readers who were also confronted with hostility. Luke attributes the delay of the end of the world to the necessity of spreading the gospel to the "ends of the earth." Since the end is not imminent, moreover, Luke insists that his audience focus on the present, specifically on social issues.

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