Over the last days I have given you the Gems I wrote when I started the Book of Acts related to Luke’s purpose.
In Gem 1895 I drew your attention to David Pawson’s theory that Acts was written as the preparation for Paul’s Defence in the case against him and ultimately before Caesar. I am not so sure. David Pawson is also convinced that although Luke wrote to Theophilus in both his Gospel and in Acts in fact Theophilus is all of us “God Lovers”. I totally agree on this matter.
In Gem 1896 I laid before you Baur’s theory that Acts is centred around Peter and Paul and the conflict between them and sundry other ideas. [I strongly don’t agree with Baur].
In Gem 1897 I laid out the ideas of many that Luke wrote Acts as a manual for Christian practice. Ah but a manual for what?
- A Church Growth Manual?
- A Missionary Manual?
- Some other manual perhaps?
While writing the Gems on the book of Acts over four years and four months and spread over 568 Gems I have been “treasuring these things in my heart” to coin a phrase from Luke to test in my own mind which of these theories are correct? And giving myself the task of pondering why Luke concludes his gospel in the way he does in the light of all the theories. Here are my thoughts:
As much and all as I highly respect David Pawson having met him personally on three occasions and read and listened to a lot of his teaching, I can’t agree with David on the matter of Acts being the Defence lawyer’s notes in preparation for the trial. The main reason for that is the absence of the detail. If indeed Theophilus was Paul’s defence lawyer and Luke’s purpose was to catalogue or provide a summary of the main arguments then why are the key points absent? I find one aspect of Luke’s work frustrating and something he does a number of times.
When Jesus was walking with the Cleopas and his mate on the road to Emmaus and when the two went back and told the disciples all that Jesus had said.
When Jesus appeared and took the other disciples through the proof texts of the Old Testament.
When Paul explained to the Jewish believers in Rome the proof of Jesus being Messiah.
On each of these occasions or even just for one of them it would have been exceptionally helpful for us to hear from the Messiah’s mouth an expansion of the explanation. Especially in the case before the Sanhedrin. To have spelled out the Old Testament proof texts that Jesus was Messiah or to have given us God Lovers the details of what Jesus himself said in his defence would have enhanced Paul’s case significantly. But it is not mentioned once.
Furthermore Acts is not written as a defence lawyer’s brief. Having read through Acts with these questions in mind I have reached the following conclusion.
I think what we have here are not the Acts of the Apostles but the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Peter, Paul and therefore Luke took great care to constantly remind of us of the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God. With each step along the way we are told clearly when the Holy Spirit was involved. Luke’s summary or refrain “and the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” is always added after significant divine intervention or Holy Spirit activity. It is my conclusion therefore that the Luke’s book “The Acts of the Apostles” would better have been called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”.
As to whether Peter and Paul were in focus (a lá Baur) I would say “no”. The ones in focus are the Witnesses (a lá Acts 1:8). Peter and Paul were prime early witnesses but not the only ones. We too are witnesses and implicated in the same story. Why does Luke finish the story as he does? In my mind simply because the story is not finished. It is now up to the present day witnesses to take the movement on. You and me. I have caught the significance of the need for me to be involved. What about you?
It is ironic that the first phase of the story Luke gives us is not to the ends of the earth but rather to the centre of the Roman Empire. From there it went to the ends of the earth. Well, almost but not quite. There are still 1600 to 2000 people groups [ethnē] who haven’t received the message in a form they can understand. We still need to be His witnesses. It is the task of every generation until He comes. Why does Luke suddenly stop the story? Because the story is unfinished. I think he has a laid a strong case for the involvement of the witnesses of whom you and I are included.
Why does Luke not tell the details of Paul’s death? Perhaps firstly because it was too personal for him having spent all that time with Paul. But I would add secondly and more importantly, Acts is not about Peter and Paul. Acts is about God’s people being God’s witnesses. Peter and Paul were merely the first two key witnesses. Many have now followed in their footsteps and yes maybe benefitted from the “manual” inspired by Peter and Paul. But I am now convinced that Luke didn’t write his work to God lovers as a manual nor as case notes for a trial. Rather he wrote Acts so we would get the message that hand in hand with the Holy Spirit of God we too can be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. The book is unfinished because the task is STILL unfinished.
Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you!Ian Vail
The strongest people aren’t always the people who win, but the people who don’t give up when they lose!Rick Godwin
Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.Senny Linggarjo
The Acts of the Apostles or The Acts of the Holy Spirit? The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight.Dwight L. Moody