Six Key Theses about Luke’s Theology

From Andy Naselli:

The concluding chapter of this new book lays out six key theses about Luke’s theology:

Darrell L. Bock. A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

“Although there are many themes,” Bock notes, “six issues within the scholarly conversation are most important” (p. 448–50):

1. Divine Direction, Salvation History, Continuity of Promise, and Mission

The predominant idea in Luke-Acts is that Jesus’ coming represents the inauguration and culmination of a program of promise God introduced to Israel through the covenants to Abraham, David, and the offer of a new covenant. This salvation history did not replace eschatology as Conzelmann claimed, but rather was the eschatology of divine promise outlined in the program of Scripture and event that was a part of the Hebrew tradition. Israel’s story was about promise, including the promise to include the nations in blessing. Jesus and the mission of the new community involved announcing the coming of the realization of that promise in Jesus’ coming and work. In a sense, Luke-Acts is a Missionsgeschichte(“history of mission”). It explains why the new faith and its new community exist and what drives it.

2. Israel’s Story Includes the Nations and Is Not Anti-Semitic

This theme makes the point that the conflict one sees in Luke-Acts is not a reflection of anti-Semitism, as J. T. Sanders claimed. Rather, it reflects the kind of in-house debate about legitimacy that one also sees the prophets engage Israel within the Hebrew Scripture. Israel’s story is the key concern of Luke from the infancy material, where the hymns are drenched in the language of Israel’s hope, to the final remarks of Paul in Acts 28, where he says that he is in chains for the hope of Israel. . . .

3. The Spirit as the Sign of the New Era

. . . Jesus’ bestowal of the Spirit is a sign of the arrival of the new age. The Spirit is not merely a spirit of prophecy but is an enabler, the arrival of divine power that also purges humanity and enables mission. The Spirit’s coming also is evidence that Jesus has been raised, vindicated, and shown to be the Messiah-Lord. The community’s reception of the Spirit means that Jesus sits at God’s right hand, sharing in the execution of the divine program.

4. Salvation and Identity Tied to Jesus’ Work

Luke spends little time explaining how Jesus saves. Death for sin is mentioned explicitly only twice in these two volumes (Luke 22:18–20Acts 20:28). Rather, what Luke seeks to achieve is a sense of solidarity and identification with Jesus through what he has done, and Luke highlights Jesus’ unique position in the offer of salvation. Salvation is an act of God’s grace. It is obtained by seeking God’s mercy. It is not an entitlement that comes automatically because of effort or heritage. . . .

5. A New Era and Structure in a Trinitarian Story

Without using the word, these two volumes tell a trinitarian story. God is the main actor as he sends Jesus as his key representative agent. Jesus in turn gives the Spirit to energize his people and to rule the kingdom from within the hearts and souls of his people. All of this is the result of forgiveness and grace, rooted in divine promise. There is continuity in promise and hope, even as there is discontinuity in structure. . . .

6. Realized Promise in Prophecy and Pattern

All that has been done is what was promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. Events tied to Jesus have made these connections clearer, but they are a part of what God had always revealed he would do. The new community is really an old faith. Blessing has come to the world with Jew and Gentile in a reconciled community for which Jesus has cleared the way. In that community resides the Spirit, who not only sanctifies this newly organized social group, but who also calls them to a mission and life that represents God well. The calling is to live in a manner he always had designed people to reflect—to love God and one’s neighbor. Both the Messiah’s glory and suffering were outlined in the sacred texts of old, as was the hope that one day the promise to Abraham would result in blessing for the nations.

[Summary]

These are the core themes of Luke-Acts. There is much more than the few paragraphs indicate, but these are the most central points around which Luke builds his theology.

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