Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig (eds.)
Mission in Acts: Ancient Narratives
in Contemporary Context
American Society of Missiology Series 34
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004. Pp. 324. Paperback.
$36.00. ISBN 9781570754937
Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig edited
a bookin the series of the American Society of Missiology on mission in
Acts. Yet, this is not a pure exegetical exploration of the concept of mission
in Luke’s second volume. Rather, as the subtitle suggests, it combines modern
and ancient contexts.
Twenty-three authors have
contributed to this project. These contributors have various denominational
affiliations (Christian Missionary Alliance, Baptist, Anglican, United Methodist,
Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal) and come from different
professional as well as academic disciplines. The book contains twenty-six
chapters. As it is written by a variety of authors, the in-depth analysis of
both the primary as well as secondary sources differ. Some chapters are written
with scholarly attention to both, while others show a lack thereof.
In the first chapter, the
authors, Paul Hertig and Robert L. Gallagher, set the stage for the entire book
and give us some insight into introductory matters. The purpose of the book is
to “introduce students, scholars, biblical interpreters, and mission
practitioners to the Book of Acts through the interpretation of key passages
and to demonstrate their relevance for contemporary mission practice”. Having
taught the book of Acts they found a lack of textbooks on Acts with a “full
missiological investigation that it deserves”. According to Hertig and
Gallagher “Acts is the most explicitly missional book in the Bible, and it
deserves scholarly, missional attention balanced with practical implications”
Hertig and Gallagher focus their
study theologically on Acts alone and explore “its emerging missiological
themes” (p. 4), yet structurally they examine Acts in its relation to the
Gospel of Luke. They lean toward Lukan authorship relying on Col 4:10-14, the
Muratorian Canon, and early church tradition (Clement of Alexandria, Origen,
Eusebius, and Jerome). For them Acts 1:8 “lays out both the thesis and
geographical outline for Acts” and hence “the overarching purpose of Acts is to
explain the initiative of the Holy Spirit in the spread of the gospel
throughout the Gentile world” (p. 8).
Concerning the unique genre of Acts,
they (as others before them) maintain that the Holy Spirit is the main agent of
the book and hence the title should be “Acts of the Holy Spirit” rather than
“Acts of the Apostles” (p.3).
It comes as a surprise, however, that they have not really defined the genre of
Acts but rather described its content. They conclude this section by stating
that “the mysterious and somewhat mystical inner and outer workings of the Holy
Spirit provide a unique twist to Luke’s two historiographical accounts” (p. 3).
Only here at the end have they introduced the notion of Greco-Roman
In their last section, Hertig and
Gallagher focus on the nature of the reader. For them their study is not
complete if the practical application from the new insights found in Acts is
not accomplished. Again, the role of the Holy Spirit is emphasized – in the
book of Acts as well as in contemporary situations. Further, as Paul encounters
believers in Rome, Hertig and Gallagher remind us of the missio Dei: “[M]issionaries
do not carry God in their suitcases. God is already at work before Paul
arrives” (p. 10).
In ch. 2 “The Launching of
Mission: The Outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost Acts 2:1-41” Eddie
Gibbs intertwines personal accounts with the study of the text. There seem to
be some underlying assumptions of a “true NT ecclesiology” when Gibbs asks “how
can the churches move from a bureaucratic, hierarchical institution to become
the dynamic, decentralized, hub-and-spoke movement that it was during the period
covered by the New Testament?” (p. 18).
Gibbs sees Acts 2:1-41 as the first
time where the new Israel (represented by the Twelve) speak to the twelve
tribes of Israel. It is not certain, however, that the twelve tribes were
present. The text merely says: “Now there were devout Jews from every nation
under heaven residing in Jerusalem” (2:5). Gibbs reminds followers of Jesus
that everything depends on the work of the Holy Spirit. For Luke, baptism of
the Spirit is truly missiological. The emphasis is not salvation but the
empowerment of the Spirit to witness. The corporate movement is also emphasized
by Gibbs (p. 22; see also p. 27).
In his shorter essay (ch. 3;
“Dismantling Social Barriers through Table Fellowship Acts 2:42-47”),
Santos Yao works out the implications of table fellowship, which are important
in any culture. Table fellowship and having a meal together are socially and
religiously significant and carry “social symbolism” (pp. 29-30).
Regarding the first century
Palestinian context, Yao observes Jewish exclusiveness and particularism in
which the attitude towards non-Jews was unfavorable. Therefore, the kind of
table fellowship Luke portrays is remarkable.
Yao also maintains that table fellowship had “an impressive evangelizing
influence” demonstrating the oneness of the community, mentioning Acts
(2:44-45; 4:32-35) (p. 33).
Concerning holistic mission, Yao
writes that the Christian community “reached out to the marginalized in
holistic mission” (p. 33). To my mind this seems to be a doubtful reading as
table fellowship is an inner-church community activity.
At the end of his essay Yao points to contextual implications in Chinese and
Filipino society regarding table fellowship.
Evvy Hay Campbell (“Holistic
Ministry and the Incident at the Gate Beautiful Acts 3:1-26”; ch. 4)
sees the healing ministry of Peter in Acts 3 as an integration of word and deed.
In developing countries, the ministry of word and deed “are inseparably
related, with the first often preparing hearts for the second” (p. 38). She
also points to OT texts (like Exod 22:22-23, 25-27; 23:6) showing that justice
for the poor, the needy, and widow and orphans was a duty of God’s people.
Campbell indicates that Peter’s
using of Jesus’ name was to demonstrate Jesus’ presence, therefore, showing continuity
of the churches’ mission which is grounded in Jesus’. She maintains that the
specification “of Nazareth” accentuated “Jesus’ humanity” (p. 40). This may or
may not be the case in this instance.
In terms of application Campbell
points out that 1) holistic ministry needs to be holistic (proclamation, deed
and power) and that 2) people in ministry need to be mature (spiritually), able
to contextualize the message, and incisive in ministering being grounded in
Robert L. Gallagher starts and ends his
essay (“From ‘Doingness’ to ‘Beingness’: A Missiological Interpretation Acts
4:23–31”; ch. 5) with personal reflections on his own life and
ministry and how Western culture rather than Scripture influenced his work
ethics and views of ministry. The major point of this essay is that one’s
ministry/mission (he uses the terms interchangeably) flows out and depends on
one’s relationship with God: being rather than doing.
Gallagher points out that Luke again
emphasizes the unity of Jesus-followers (as in 1:14; 2:44-46; 4:32; 5:12a,
15:25) and that the prayer is “addressed to the Father” (p. 47), having three
sections emphasizing God’s sovereignty: 1) over creation, 2) over humanity, and
3) over the current situation. Further, Gallagher maintains that Christ’s union
with the church is through the Spirit. In Luke-Acts there is a strong
connection between the Holy Spirit and “human proclamation” (p. 50). He further
sees the oneness of the followers as a strong testimony.
Gallagher writes that the people of
God by prayer “allowed the Spirit of God to bring forth God’s mission” (p. 54).
This is also seen in Jesus’ baptism where Jesus prays, the Holy Spirit
descends, and the Father’s voice speaks quoting from two missional texts from
the OT (Ps 2; Isa 42). Thus, God and his mission (missio Dei) takes
In ch. 6 “Cross-cultural
Mediation: From Exclusion to Inclusion Acts 6:1–7; also 5:33–42” Young
Lee Hertig sees conflict as a universal phenomenon, despite its being
manifested differently in various cultures. The chief issue, according to Y.L. Hertig,
is that of inclusion or exclusion. Her main thesis is that “dealing openly and
wisely with conflict can reduce the level of violence” (p 60). Conflict has to
be dealt with and be confronted in a timely manner—which the apostles have
Y.L. Hertig further states that the
food distribution issue is just the outer expression of an underlying
historical-philosophical/theological struggle of Judaism and Hellenism and
identity issues: “How do Jews maintain Jewishness in a dominant Hellenistic
culture? What is nonnegotiable and what is negotiable in such a changing
world?” (p. 63). The open and clear approach of the apostles and their giving
the wounded group part in the mediation is for Y.L. Hertig a model to pursue.
Yet, she also raises the question of whether this solution kept the one group
as “other”. She further contrasts Gamaliel’s mediation in Acts 5 to that of the
apostles in Acts 6 before writing up implications for local immigrant churches
In his essay (“Dynamics in Hellenism
and the Immigrant Congregation Acts 6:8-8:2”; ch. 7) Paul Hertig
comes from his experience as a minister in second-generation immigrant churches
in relation to first-generation immigrants. Like the essay before, a tension
between Hellenism and Judaism is seen, though Hertig sees the episode with
Stephen more as an intramural-Hellenistic issue. His goal is to explore “tensions
among Hellenists over issues of contextualization” by examining Stephen’s (a
Hellenist) clash with the (Hellenistic) synagogue and to apply that to today’s
ecclesial situation of first- and second-generation immigrants (p. 74).
P. Hertig asserts that “Stephen
sought to move Judaism from a static belief to a dynamic one, from the Temple
to the world. He shattered the static walls of the Temple and opened the way
for the contextualized mission of the church” (p. 75). This is saying that
Judaism was a static belief. While one can appreciate P. Hertig’s explanation
of the issues interrelated to his contexts, it is not necessary to see Judaism
a static belief – or even speak of Judaism as if there were only one dimension
He insightfully observes that in
Stephen’s speech both the incident with the calf (7:41) as well as the temple (7:48)
are described as something being made by hand (ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν
and ἐν χειροποιήτοις respectively). Thus, the idolatry of the Israelites in the
wilderness is linked to the temple by Stephen.
It is not clear to the reader if P. Hertig
speaks of his own opinion or that of Stephen when he states: “The presence of
God was embodied in the tent of testimony. Therefore, the building of Solomon’s
Temple reflected a distorted understanding of God (7:47)” (p. 81). This might
reflect Stephen’s understanding; yet it surely does not reflect Solomon’s
“distorted understanding of God” (see 1 Kings 8:27 and Solomon’s repetitions of
heaven being the dwelling place of God).
Another uncertainty in his essay is
found when he states: “A possible generational split existed between the
Hellenists whom Stephen confronted, who had returned from the Diaspora, and
Stephen, who did not hold to the fixed traditions of some Hebraic Jews” (p. 83).
P. Hertig rightly states cautiously that the generational split is only
“possible”. What one wonders is why he brings in Hebraic Jews into this equation
at the end. Has the issue not been introduced as an intramural one? And yet, the
challenge that Stephen brings to old views is applied by P. Hertig to immigrant
Mary E. Hinkle brings the speeches
of Acts into relevance in a smooth manner – transitioning from the “then” to
“now” (ch. 8; “Preaching for Mission: Ancient Speeches and Postmodern
Sermons Acts 7:2-53; 13:16-41; 14:15-17”). She maintains that speeches
like stories create a narrative to pull their listeners in.
She examines these speeches
answering two questions (taken from p. 90): 1) What stories are the speeches telling?
and 2) How is the story told in such a way as to include the audience? She finds three features concerning the second
question in Stephen’s and Paul’s speech: 1) the usage of first-person plural, 2)
the merging of past events with the current situation, and 3) direct address. Content
and delivery are somewhat different in Paul and Barnabas’ encounter in Lystra.
The starting point there is creation (and not the OT per se, though tradition
guides their preaching without quoting it). In terms of “connecting” with the
audience Paul and Barnabas show the Lystrans that they pertain to the same
story and that their experiences illustrate this as well.
Concerning implications for today
Hinkle names three aspects: 1) preaching means telling God’s story (creation,
Israel, Jesus), in such a manner that 2) hearers find themselves in or experience
that story, and 3) can give an answer to God’s promise in Jesus. She further
points to preaching with our life in Christian community which in a postmodern
context might be the “most persuasive story” to tell (p. 100).
In ch. 9 (“The Magical
Mystery Tour: Philip Encounters Magic and Materialism in Samaria Acts 8:4-25”)
Paul Hertig explores motivations of those seeking Christian power in analyzing
Philip’s encounter with Simon. Again, the holistic approach (word and deed) as
a missiological approach in Luke-Acts is stressed. Yet, P. Hertig names additional
missiological approaches like the Spirit’s superiority over magic.
After detailing the encounter, P.
Hertig moves to the contemporary scene where he detects an unhealthy “blend of
faith and prosperity” (p. 107): recounting numerous accounts of
tele-evangelists and the like. The danger he sees is amazing people into God’s
kingdom and not helping them to fully trust and depend on him.
P. Hertig rightly points out that
Luke does not narrate an end to the Simon-episode and states that thus the
“reader has been warned of the choice between two divergent paths—to submit to
the Holy Spirit’s authority or to suffer the dire consequences of submitting to
self-centered interests” (p. 110). This is like Mark’s shorter ending though
with a different emphasis.
Keith H. Reeves argues in his
chapter (“The Ethiopian Eunuch: A Key Transition from Hellenist to Gentile Mission
Acts 8:26-40”; ch. 10) that the Ethiopian eunuch serves as
another example of Luke’s concern for the “outcasts”. The two primary questions
for his investigation are: 1) “What is the ethnicity of the Ethiopian eunuch?”
and 2) “How does the story fit within the overall narrative of the Book of
Acts?” He further clarifies that Luke identifies the man as neither Jew nor gentile.
Looking at external contexts Reeves states
that this does not shed light on the man’s identity. The best clues, according
to Reeves, are found in the overall narrative of Luke. One of the major hints
that the Ethiopian is not a Gentile, is Luke’s emphasis on Cornelius being the
first Gentile convert (10:1-11:18; pointing to 10:45 and 11:18). As a eunuch
the Ethiopian is “unfit to worship in the Temple” (p. 120). Reeves maintains
that the eunuch is portrayed by Luke as somebody like the Samaritans. Both were
second class citizens – Jews, but not truly so.
In her essay Nancy J. Thomas starts
and ends with her experience as a missionary mobilizer in Bolivia (ch. 11;
“Worshiping, Working, and Waiting: Exploring Paul’s Call to Mission Acts
9:1-22”). Seeking advice from Paul’s missionary call, she has some
recommendation for young Latin Americans wanting to be involved in God’s
mission. N. Thomas mentions some research investigating missionaries’ early
return from the field. In the study among the majority world sending forces it
is shown that there are two major causes for attrition: 1) lack of support from
home and 2) “lack of a clear call” (p. 124).
She tries to use Paul’s missionary
call as a role-model for today. Hermeneutically (descriptive narrative) and
salvation-historically in my opinion one could question using Paul as a “role-model”
for a so-called missionary call. His role and ministry were quite unique and
may not serve to help modern day discernment.
There are five implications N. Thomas
draws from Lukan narrative of Paul: 1) foundational to all is God’s
sovereignty; 2) God calls differently and in variety of ways; 3) oftentimes it
can be a process; 4) God calls personally; and 5) he calls through community.
The essay by Charles E. Van Engen entitled
“Peter’s Conversion: A Culinary Disaster Launches the Gentile Mission Acts
10:1-11:18” (ch. 12) could benefit from further investigation. Van
Engen recounts a horse-back story of his missionary experience in Mexico,
pretty much re-tells the story of Acts, and then relates “Do not despise what I
have called clean” to a godly elderly woman of the mountainside of Mexico.
The Antiochene model is what drives
the essay of Norman E. Thomas (“The Church at Antioch: Crossing Racial,
Cultural, and Class Barriers Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3”; ch. 13). The
global challenge as well as his own experience in urban ministry lead him to
Before summarizing the Antiochene
model I wish to mention some problematic passages in his essay (which do not
detract from the overall model). He states for example that it was in Antioch
where the gospel had been preached “for the first time to Gentiles” (p. 146).
But what about Cornelius? Even though he was a φοβούμενος τὸν θεόν (a
God-fearer) he was still a Gentile. Also, he makes this point about laymen
movement in Antioch. This seems to me anachronistic and an unfair comparison to
the apostles as if they were the clergy. N.E. Thomas also calls Barnabas a
layman. But he, as a Levite, could qualify as “clergy”. Hence, I think the
distinction is a bit off. Maybe something along the line of “main characters”
in the early church and “other followers of Jesus” (or something alike) would
be better categories.
Anyway, the eight parts of the
Antiochene model are (these are the subtitles given by N. E. Thomas): 1)
evangelism through lay leadership, 2) every member a minister, 3) care for new
believers, 4) witness to oneness in Christ, 5) compassion for the poor, 6)
balanced leadership, 7) elimination of racial and ethnic barriers, and 8)
mission for others.
In ch. 14 “Hope in the Midst
of Trial Acts 12:1-11” Robert L. Gallagher relates his wife’s suffering
and ultimately her death due to cancer to Peter’s prison escape. After giving a
short background to Acts 12, he looks at 12:1-5 and 12:6-11 exegetically. Gallagher
argues that Luke included this story to demonstrate the shift in focus from
Peter to Paul (also seen in 12:17b – Peter’s last appearance in Acts other than
at the council in Jerusalem).
According to Gallagher, Luke portrays
Herod as the first enemy of the church and his “miserable death served as a
warning to the enemies of Jesus and an encouragement to the believers (Acts
12:23)” (p. 159). It is debatable, however, if Herod was the first enemy of the
church (Paul could take that place as well). Gallagher further portrays the
parallel between the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt (their exodus)
with that of Peter’s escape. And then later the parallel to Jesus who also dies
at the time of Passover.
In this excellent essay (“The
Cursing Paul: Magical Contests in Acts 13 and the New Testament Apocrypha Acts
13:6-12”; ch. 15), Clark A. Walz introduces magical practices and
beliefs of the ancient world and demonstrates how such knowledge might lead us
to read certain passages from the Bible differently. For Walz, Luke “utilized
concepts drawn from Greco-Roman popular religious practices” and those related to
magic, and reasons that this “was part of a contextualized message” demonstrating
the superiority of the Christian faith (p. 168).
Paul (Walz refers e.g. to Gal 1:7-9;
3:1; 4:3, 9; 5:10; Rom 1:18) was familiar with the language and concepts of
paganism which he then utilizes to contextualize the Christian message. He then
proposes that something similar happened here in the Lukan account where the
encounter between Paul and Elymas is portrayed as an ancient literary motif:
the magical contest (174; see also Exod 7-8; 1 Kgs 18:19-40 mentioned by Walz).
In ch. 16 (“Success in the
City: Paul’s Urban Mission Strategy Acts 14:1-28”) Roger S. Greenway
mentions that about one out of ten in Roman population in the first century was
Jewish. Many Gentiles accepted Jewish belief and were soon identified as Jews
themselves. He detects a kind of missionary zeal (contra Riesner and others) among
the Jewish population. He attributes this to OT passages like Gen 12:3; Pss 66,
67, 10; and Isa 49:6.
Greenway further states five aspects
which Jewish religion offered Gentiles: 1) worship of the on true God, 2) God’s
law (which applies to all) and its condemnation of idolatry and unethical
behavior, 3) the Torah as divine revelation with authority, 4) “Justice, truth,
and mercy are to be practiced by all who worship God”, and 5) sabbath-keeping
and circumcision (p. 186).
Two critical observations concerning
his essay are that he does not mention kosher food in the last category
(alongside sabbath-keeping and circumcision), and on p. 187 Greenway almost
portrays Paul “using” his preaching in the synagogue to reach Gentiles. Is his
outreach in the synagogues merely a means to reach Gentiles? (see Paul’s
thought in Romans with the “to the Jew first” and chs. 9-11).
As an advice Greenway encourages us
not to forget that God is always ahead of us and that He will still be working
long after we are gone.
So, what are the strategies?
City-centeredness, making converts, a display of “compassionate meta-narrative”
(p. 190), enduring persecution, as well as starting and organizing churches.
In his essay David K. Strong defines
contextualization as “the relationship of the Christian faith to its cultural
context” (p. 196; “The Jerusalem Council: Some Implications for
Contextualization Acts 15:1-35”; ch. 17). The Jerusalem Council
is an interesting passage because these issues often come up in cross-cultural
settings. Acts 15:1-35 stands structurally and perhaps theologically at the
center of the book.
Strong thinks that for Luke, mission
is prioritized “over cultural constraints” whereas in modern times we often times
have the opposite tendency. He further maintains that in contextualization,
culture needs to be addressed from Scripture. But he also stresses that change
is necessary not primarily in one’s culture, but primarily in one’s allegiance.
Exegetically he points to three
positions concerning the apostolic decrees (Acts 15:20): 1) with the background
of Lev 17-18 (and its regulations for foreigners living in Israel) some see the
decree as helping to create fellowship of Jew and Gentile (the Gentile is not
under the Law but forsakes her rights); 2) there is a change in the Western
text, giving the decree a moral overtone; and 3) leaning on Witherington, the
setting of pagan worship (which Strong prefers).
Contextualization is always
difficult as cultural identity and other deeply rooted issues are involved. Though
it is difficult and problematic, it is of utter necessity in the communication
of the gospel.
The question for young Christians
“What is the will of God for my life?” is as common as breathing air. Gene L. Green
seeks guidance from Acts 16:1-30 (“Finding the Will of God: Historical and
Modern Perspectives Acts 16:1-30”; ch. 18). For this he also
looks at how Romans, Greeks, and Jews understood “divine guidance” (a universal
How did Paul and his companions
experience divine guidance as their travel was interrupted? The text does not specify
but Green thinks that Silas, a prophet in the early church, might have had a vision/revelation.
Green questions the modern-day notion of an “inner prompting”. Later Green
writes that Acts is silent on that issue and that usually the Spirit guides
through external circumstances.
In contrasting Christian “divine
guidance” with its first century cultural context, Green points out that
“Christian revelation was marked by clarity and directness” – pointing as well
to Pauline passages like 1 Cor 14:6-12 and 14:23-25 (p. 215). Further, Luke’s
portrayal of Silas and Paul being in jail, demonstrates to Theophilus that
being in adverse circumstances does not mean that one has strayed from God’s
will. In general Luke portrays mission “as an endeavor guided by God from the
very outset (Acts 13:1-3) and given divine direction at significant junctures
(16:6-10)” (p. 217; missio Dei). Green argues that guidance often was “more
community oriented than individualistic” (p. 218) which in (post)modern times
is often absent in our discussion of God’s guidance.
Lynn Allan Losie explores the
possibility of “natural theology” (variously defined; e.g. general revelation) in
Paul’s speech in Acts 17:16-34 (“Paul’s Speech on the Areopagus: A Model of
Cross-cultural Evangelism Acts 17:16-34”; ch. 19). Losie wants to
see if Paul’s speech might shed some insight in using general revelation in
He sees the philosophical traditions
of Greco-Roman society and not their religions as the starting point of
conversation. Losie further draws on similarities between this speech and the
one given in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (13:13-41). For him, Paul’s
remarks in Athens are used as a bridge-builder rather than being critical comments
by the apostle.
At the end, Losie maintains that Paul’s
speech in Athens does demonstrate the use of general revelation in evangelistic
outreach. His question of how ministers and theologians can use insights from
other traditions and cultures to further Christian theology is of interest –
specifically for me, serving in a more Andean context.
Grace Preedy Barnes explores Paul’s
leadership style in terms of servant-leadership and how Paul finished his
course well (“The Art of Finishing Well: Paul as Servant Leader Acts 18:1-28
and 20:17-38”; ch. 20). She describes Paul’s ministry as
“incarnational”. I think that theologically this adjective should be reserved
for the Christological content. Nevertheless, the concept is often used
otherwise. Because Paul was working in his trade, he could “identify with
common people” and this also demonstrates to Barnes that all work can be as
sacred (“if done unto the Lord and for God’s purposes in this world”; p. 242).
Paul was able to contextualize his message
with his lifestyle. Barnes remarks that for Paul evangelism was “the beginning
stage of discipleship” and not the end (p. 243). For Paul to be an apostle is
to be a servant; thus, the aspects of servanthood and leadership come together.
Stephen J. Pettis, in this more
anecdotal essay (“The Fourth Pentecost: Paul and the Power of the Holy Spirit Acts
19:1-22”; ch. 21), tells us of his lack of experiencing the Holy
Spirit. Although he was a firm believer, he did not truly experience the
Pettis maintains that in Acts 19:1-7,
the twelve men lack an experience of the Holy Spirit rather than a lack of
knowledge. To my mind Luke indicates otherwise when he writes ἀλλʼ οὐδʼ εἰ πνεῦμα
ἅγιον ἔστιν ἠκούσαμεν as the response to Paul’s question if they have received
the Holy Spirit. Pettis also states that Jesus’ disciples in John 20:21-23 have
only been baptized in John’s baptism. But where do we read that? I generally
find it interesting that we never read of the disciples’ baptism.
As the Ephesian believers receive
the Holy Spirit, Pettis again makes a curious observation: “The key element
here is that the knowledge of Christ was transformed into a dynamic
relationship. The personal struggle for growth and accomplishment was replaced
by a total surrender to God” (p. 252). Again, where do we read that? For Pettis,
the key to powerful manifestations is a relationship with God.
In his essay “For Missionaries and
Leaders: Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders Acts 20:17-38” (ch.
22) Dean S. Gilliland sees Acts 19 as a perfect “case study for missions”.
In Acts 20, Paul recounts principles out of his own life as a model for the
leaders in Ephesus.
Gilliland divides the speech into
two: 1) Paul and his personal example (20:18-27) and 2) Paul’s exhortations of
the elders (20:25-35).
A. Scott Moreau writes about his own
failures in cross-cultural ministry, and that following Christ brings no
guarantee “except perhaps the guarantee that life will blow up” (275), in his
essay “Do the Right Thing—But Results Are Not Guaranteed Acts 21:17—22:36;
24:10-21” (ch. 23). He also talks about the concept of
“accommodation”. Moreau reasons that “as long as the ritual does not demean
Christ or contradict the essentials of the gospel, Paul showed flexibility in
what he practiced and allowed” (p. 278).
The next chapter (ch. 24)
entitled “The Contextualization and Translation of Christianity Acts 9:1-9;
22:3-33; 26:2-23” is written by Shawn B. Redford. He sees Paul’s conversion
accounts in Acts 9, 22, and 26 as an integration between contextualization and
the translation model. Further, he argues that Acts 1:8 is narratively
illustrated through the conversion accounts: “Beginning in Jerusalem and Judea
(Acts 9), moving thematically to Judea and Samaria (Acts 22), and onward to
Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 26)” (p. 283). Although he later
recognizes that in Acts 9 Paul is on his way to Damascus (far from Jerusalem
and Judea). He argues that Paul and those with him represent Jerusalem and
Judaism. Again, one could also say that in Acts 22 Paul is in Jerusalem, but
Redford argues that “Acts 22 represents a mixture of ethnically Jewish and
Gentile people (21:27, 29) that includes Jewish Christians (21:20) and Gentile
Christians (21:25)” (p. 288). In my mind, the narrative-illustration of Luke is
not as clear or obvious as Redford makes it appear.
Redford describes the translation
model as “the effect that takes place when indigenous Christians move away from
any original missionary influence (often this takes multiple generations) and
freely allow their own interests and concerns to bring new questions, shape,
meaning, and focus to the Christian message” (p. 285). And then he reads
through the conversion accounts with these two missiological models—contextualization
and translation—in mind. One wonders, however, how the translation model can at
all be seen in Acts. Do we truly see “indigenous Christians mov[ing] away from
any original missionary influence”? I find that hardly to be the case.
In his chapter “The Apostle Paul’s
Acts of Power Acts 22—28” (ch. 25), Robert C. Linthicum tries to
demonstrate that Paul “turned Christianity from a Jewish sect into a worldwide
religion” (p. 297) and how he rightly used power. I am not sure that we can
talk of Paul in those terms (or of Christianity for that matter!).
Linthicum stresses that power can be
misused and used rightly and that “[m]uch of the Book of Acts is a textbook on
Paul’s use of power in behalf of Christ’s kingdom” (p. 300). For this he looks
at Paul’s claim to Roman citizenship;
Paul’s divide-and-conquer method among the Sanhedrin; as well as Paul’s appeal
to Caesar, which for Linthicum was “a very deliberate act of power” (p. 306).
To me, this all sounds a bit far-fetched and a definition of power would
probably clarify some of the issues. Also, his statement that “Paul knew how to
utilize power to protect himself, advance the gospel, and position the church
to influence profoundly both the present and the future empires” (p. 310) seems
to go too far.
Lastly, Paul Varo Martinson (“The
Ending Is Prelude: Discontinuities Lead to Continuities Acts 1:1-11 and
28:23-31”; ch. 26) looks at the beginning and end of Acts to see
Luke’s theology of the book
– a “threefold dynamic—Spirit’s activity, divine plan, christological content”
Martinson also points to the missio
Dei. Further, he equates Rome with “the ends of the earth” and points to
Lukan usage of YHWH texts applying them to Jesus. He also points to a lacuna in
stating: “Third, in Luke-Acts the context of the language about the divine plan
for Jesus’ suffering is always in connection with God’s relation to Israel, not
to the Gentiles” (pp. 319-320).
Overall this is a helpful book in
several aspects. It gives a good overview and examples of missionary work in
the book of Acts. It further demonstrates (sometimes better than at other
times) hermeneutical moves from ancient to contemporary contexts. Further, it
also shows contemporary issues in missiology and missiological praxis. This
book stimulates the reader to think further and accomplishes its goals: i.e.,
to “introduce students, scholars, biblical interpreters, and mission
practitioners to the Book of Acts through the interpretation of key passages
and to demonstrate their relevance for contemporary mission practice” (p. 1).
 But see Steve Walton, “The
Acts – of God? What Is the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ All About?” Evangelical
Quarterly 80, no. 4 (2008): 291–306.
 See also Joshua W. Jipp, Saved
by Faith and Hospitality (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017).
 But see Ulrich Wendel, Gemeinde in
Kraft: Das Gemeindeverständnis in den Summarien der Apostelgeschichte. NTDH
Neukirchener, 1998, esp. 183-86, as pointed out to me by Steve Walton.
 See also Dean Flemming, Recovering
the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013).
 See also the section on
“Framing Narrative” in Steve Walton, “The Acts of the Apostles as the Mission
of God.” Public Lecture, Laidlaw College, August 17, 2015