The Purpose Of Acts And The Mission Of God -- By: Stephen J. Strauss

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 169:676 (Oct 2012)
Article: The Purpose Of Acts And The Mission Of God
Author: Stephen J. Strauss

The Purpose Of Acts And The Mission Of God

Stephen J. Strauss

Stephen J. Strauss is Chairman and Professor of World Missions and Intercultural Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

The Book of Acts has long been a popular source for missionary sermons and missiological reflection. However, seldom do those who use Acts as a basis for the theory and practice of mission root their findings in the overarching purpose and message of Acts.1 As a result, much of their work can seem to be expedient proof-texting. Theologians and missiologists who seek to build theory and practice on sound biblical theology should ensure that the missiological use of Acts is grounded in the purpose, message, and theology of the book.

Some scholars have contended that mission is not a central part of Luke’s purpose in Acts. Franklin, for example, flatly states that Luke’s “aim was not to encourage the Church in her missionary role.”2 Instead, he says Luke wrote Acts to strengthen the faith of doubting believers in the light of the delay of the parousia and mainstream Jewish rejection of Jesus. “Against this background, Luke’s purpose was not to encourage a missionary outlook, for Christians were living in the last hour and the universal witness had already taken place. . . . The Church was in Rome; Paul had witnessed there; Jesus’ sway was therefore being universally

proclaimed.”3 To what extent was mission part of Luke’s purpose, and how should Acts be used to do mission? How does the purpose of Acts support the larger biblical theme of the mission of God?

Background: The Message Of Luke’s Gospel

Acts was written by the same author as the third Gospel, and it is also the second volume of a two-part work.4 Luke-Acts “is the product of one author telling one story in two volumes.”5 An accurate statement of the purpose of Acts should therefore seamlessly connect with the purpose of Luke’s Gospel. Furthermore, while Luke’s purpose was “to explain in a reliable way the story of Jesus and of his movement”6 (Luke 1:1-4), he also intended to do more than write another history of Jesus. Seeking to do more than inform, Luke was using history to teach theology and to inspire confidence, conviction, a...

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