The acts of the risen Lord Jesus
Luke's account of God's unfolding plan
From his throne above
THE ACTS OF THE RISEN LORD JESUS
Luke’s account of God’s unfolding plan
By Alan J. Thompson
Apollos. 232 pages. £12.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 357
This is the latest book in the consistently excellent Studies in Biblical Theology series from Apollos (IVP). Once again, they have produced a richly informed, biblically faithful, and eye-opening contribution.
Alan Thompson’s starting point is that, the Book of Acts being long, it can be hard to keep a grip on Luke’s developing material. More than that, although there is a healthy range of commentaries and other tools, there is a significant lack in the area of a consistent but useable thematic studies. The only equivalent resource is the heavyweight multi-authored Witness to the gospel, edited by Howard Marshall and David Peterson (Eerdmans, 1998).
So he has written this excellent resource, to be on the shelf alongside both commentaries and introductions. The key motif of Acts, he argues, is inaugurated eschatology: that is, that the risen and ascended Jesus is the promised Davidic king who fulfils all his promises as his acts unfurl. A sequence of careful and thoughtful chapters look at the Kingdom of God, Israel and the last days, the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit, the temple, and the law. Thompson moves easily from close exegesis to making connections between different sections.
Thompson’s book would be excellent study material for a preacher beginning to carefully develop a series on Acts, going much deeper than the ‘preachers’ guides’ available are able to do (although he is very generous towards them). To wait until the next Sunday’s deadline is looming would be too late, because the very thematic nature of the book means that it consistently arcs across the chapters, and it would be hard to use as merely another commentary.
I have minor quibbles: for instance, I am more persuaded than Thompson about the significance of the literary markers that Luke places. But my major disappointment is that the book is only half the size it should be, and the intense reading does not go much beyond the Council of Jerusalem. There remains work to be done on the significance of the church in Antioch (a deliberate partner to the church in Jerusalem, but less examined), Paul’s adaptable missionary work, and the curious legal ending to the book.
Finally, if I were a pastor wanting to be consistently stretched, a habit of working through all the books in this series would be a wonderful gift to the congregation.
Vice Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London