Keeping the Church in Its Place
This work focuses on the church or group of Christian believers and its function as a character or character group within the narrative of Acts.
- Offers an important alternative reading of Acts that asks important literary questions and examines significant communal descriptions and language.
- Provides careful explorations of significant Acts passages that pastors can use in engaging New Testament understandings of the church in their current ministries.
- Offers useful ways of balancing the larger Acts narrative with corporate aspects of specific passages not typically addressed in commentaries or monographs.
This work focuses on the church or group of Christian believers and its function as a character or character group within the narrative of Acts. Most scholarly considerations of the subject of the church within New Testament studies either address significant questions about the respective situations and contexts of groups of earliest Christians or examine textual materials regarding the church without due regard for the literary context of those materials. Within Lukan studies, such tendencies are obvious. However, few if any works deal specifically with the descriptions and function of the church as a character within the larger narrative context and plot of Acts. This study offers a fresh reading of Acts that keeps the church in its literary places within that narrative.
What this study uncovers are descriptions of the church or Christian believers with repetitive emphases on certain characteristics that are presented in the initial scenes of the narrative: the blessing and presence of God, the unanimity of the believers, the communal caring for one another, and the proclamation of the gospel. Within the narrative, however, the portrayal of the Jewish people stands in sharp contrast, so that opposition to God and divisive behaviour are the typical Lukan descriptions of that group. The progression of the Acts narrative presents an evolving image of the church that eventually includes both Jewish and non-Jewish believers of the gospel, with growing opposition from the Jewish people and even from the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. This dynamic portrait of the church in the book of Acts contrasts three different views concerning what one might call "the people of God": the Jewish people as the historical people of God, Jewish believers as represented by the Jerusalem church, and the church including both Jewish and non-Jewish believers. Acts encourages its readers to define and identify the church or Christian community as the people who belong to God, rather than those whose identity as God's people was based on historical or religious categories and distinctions.