Acts: Prescriptive or Descriptive?

In a desire to create multiple layers to my preaching, I’ll be supplementing my sermons with a few blog articles too. I pray they are useful to you.  Here is the first article: sunday-extra

There are many ways to ask this question: Is the Book of Acts theological or historical?  Are the events in Acts only describing historical events which mean nothing to the church today or are they prescribing specific theological truths the church should emulate?  Are the events recorded in the Book of Acts normative or unique?  No matter how you ask the question, my answer is always the same; Yes.  The events in Acts are both descriptive and prescriptive.

There are some events which are undoubtedly historical and thus, unrepeatable.   Acts chapter 2 is describing a unique and unrepeatable event.  Like the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the Day of Pentecost is a one-time event describing the clothing of the church with power from on high (Luke 24:49).  “You could no more have Pentecost over gain than you could have the Crucifixion and the Resurrection over again” (Acts: An Expositional Commentary by Donald Grey Barnhouse, page 26). Is Paul’s salvation experience normative for you and me?  Should we see a great light and hear the voice of Jesus when we are saved?  Should we elect our deacons, elders, and team members by casting lots the way the early church chose Mathias?  These are just a few examples of historical one-time events described in the pages of Luke’s writing.  John Stott says, “It should be clear from these examples that not everything that people are recorded in the Acts as having done or experienced is meant to be replicated in our lives” (The Message of Acts by John Stott, page 8).

There is no doubt Luke describes events God has no intention for the church to recapture or recreate.  However, I think there is much in Acts Luke prescribes for the church today. We are to be filled with power from the Holy Spirit.  We are to be a bold witness for the Gospel.  We must model Paul and take the Gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue.  Like the members of the early church, we must be committed to the cause of Christ, we must proclaim the Gospel boldly and with passion, we must be willing to sacrifice everything we own for the good of others and the glory of God, and we must be willing to even die for the sake of the Gospel.  Furthermore, the same God who breathed life into the church on the Day of Pentecost is the same God that breathes life into His church today.  Like the early church, God clothes us with power from on high. Therefore, go and live in that power, being a bold witness for our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

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