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. Bock’s 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 Luke’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 aren’t these questions still relevant for where we’re 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 haven’t 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.
Mathew Sims is an average Joe who works a 9 to 5 and blogs on the side. He is an editor and writer for Grace for Sinners. He lives in Simpsonville, SC and loves spending time with his two daughters, Claire and Maddy, and wife of seven years, LeAnn. He has a BA in English/Creative Writing and attended Geneva Reformed Seminary for two years completing nearly 40 hours hours of an Mdiv program. He and his family serve and are members at Grace Church. He loves reading, writing, the outdoors, music, cooking, and is an Apple fan boy. You can find him on twitter @GraceforSinners and Facebook. Please email me with any questions or comment below.