Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nagging questions at the end of Acts

Peter Leithart suggests:

The canonical ordering of the NT does not carry the authority of the text itself, but it is not irrelevant. [...]

The narrative of Acts, especially its concluding chapters, sets up the theme of Romans. When we get to the end of Acts, the question on our minds is not "how can I find a gracious God?" but "what is God doing with Israel?" (I am not, however, suggesting that these are unrelated questions.)

Without even getting onto Romans, I feel like chipping in that as an ordinary work-a-day Christian in the world, what I think when I finish reading Acts is: 'I stand in the ripples of the spread of the Gospel out from Jerusalem to Rome. How then am I to fit into this continuing story?' More than any other book of the bible, when I read Acts I wonder about how Dave Kirkman fits into the story of God's plan for the world. I want to stand in the footsteps of Stephen, Peter and Paul. I may like them just be one of the tools of God in his mission, but it is a great mission to be part of. One that despite numerous seeming-step-backs is actually always moving forward to it's destination. I know we shouldn't read our experience into that of the original readers, but I think my thoughts will be closer to that of the early Christian hearing Acts, than 'what is God doing with Israel?', as important as that question is. In fact, that is a question rarely asked by the characters of Acts themselves.

Of course the question at the end of Acts should be broader than the me-centred one that I have suggested. I think it should be 'what is Jesus going to do next?', when you consider what we read in Acts he has already done. (As Chris Green says 'The Acts of the Apostles' could easily be renamed 'The Acts of Jesus Christ')

PS. Speaking of the canonical ordering, I must remember to share Iain Provan's great thoughts on the ordering of the Minor Prophets. I spent a good 20 hours or so listening to his introductory lectures on the OT recently, and there was much that was thought-provoking in them.


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