Acts (EP Study Commentaries) Paperback – 20 Jun 2014
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He opens up his commentary with an admission: since he began work on this commentary in January 2009, at least four exegetical on Acts have been published. This begs the obvious question: What makes this one any different?
Waters offers three reasons, each of which has merit. He mentions that his commentary is relatively brief. Bear in mind that it stands at around 600 pages. The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series prides itself on being concise, but even its volume on Acts is 447 pages. I recently purchased the Acts volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, which has 1168 pages. Waters looks at every verse in Acts, but he doesn’t belabor his readers with so much detail that only scholars and the deeply inquisitive would find helpful.
Second, the commentary is aimed at clearly explaining the text for people who want to understand it better for themselves or for explaining it to others. Ultimately this is the purpose of most any commentary, but I think its conciseness makes this easier to see. When it takes a number of pages to explain a verse, it can be difficult to see the message the whole passage is trying to convey.
Third, Waters in unapologetically Reformed. He is, after all, a professor at a reformed seminary and an elder in a Presbyterian church. His Reformed background comes out when he includes quotes from people like John Calvin, but nothing he says feels out of place, as though he were pushing an agenda. He didn’t make a case for infant baptism.
It’s still a hefty volume, but one that any pastor or believer with a desire to learn more about the book of Acts can benefit from.
I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing a review.
While Waters writes from a Reformed perspective, quite self consciously, he does not do so in a sectarian way. He doesn't spill any ink arguing for the veracity of infant baptism over believers' baptism. His doctrine of election is not the central feature to this text. Many of his doctrinal distinctives would be felt more sharply in one of the epistles than in Acts. This is a close reading of Acts with exposition in view. Waters draws out the meaning of the text for the preacher. This is not a technical commentary but a good mid-level commentary (with footnotes to more detailed treatments).
Where Waters's theological heritage is most evident in the text is in the application section in each subsection (below his comments on the passage). There cites the Westminster Larger Catechism and John Calvin to warn against unfruitful speculation about the future (44). He also goes to pains in places to explain his understanding of redemptive history. His cesassionism means that he is careful to hedge the fence of Holy Writ. What we read in Acts was historical describing a moment in redemptive history. Waters argues that the outpouring of the Spirit evidenced by signs and wonders and tongues is not 'the normative pattern of Christian experience for all generations (74). This was a unique apostolic age that died with the apostles (39).
I have more charismatic leanings than Waters and think that he overstates his case, but I applaud his attentiveness to scripture and the words on the page. He has a different theological lens he does illuminate features of the text I would otherwise miss. I also appreciate that while he relegates supernatural manifestations of the Spirit to the distant past, he doesn't treat this first century church account as 'merely descriptive and never prescriptive.' When he reads an evocative account in Acts, such as the life sharing in response to Peter's sermon in Acts 2:42-47, he parses those aspects as he sees as unique to the apostolic-age (signs and wonders in v. 43) and those aspects that apply to us--namely, devotion to apostolic teaching, life sharing and evangelism (100-101).
On the whole, Waters is balanced and a careful exegete. I found plenty I disagree with, but I think he does a great job through out of capturing the Spirit's mission in the first century. I give this commentary four stars and plan to use this further as I plan towards Pentecost.
Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.
Guy does a wonderful job bringing the spiritual road of Luke to life in a way that the common person can understand and delight in. Guys application is vivid, thought provoking and applicable to us today as it was when Luke preached. It amazes me every time at how what was happening then in our church's is still happening now, but how we are called to handle has not changed. As we walk through each chapter of Luke, we gain more insight into how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and in each other, the church's history, and Paul's mission journeys.
The book is wrote from a Christian perspective. That the scriptures are the living, breathing, word of God. The author dives into background information, purpose of the writings, estimated date of writings and how it is relevant to our lives today.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Evangelical Press through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Now, however, the publisher seems intent on publishing the remaining volumes in a nice, but rather generic, paperback cover. Obviously, this aims to save some money for both the publisher and the purchaser (which is always appreciated), but since hardcover editions aren't even being produced for these volumes, it will likely appear to some book buyers that an entirely new series has been started and will be less likely that they will quickly associate these volumes with the numerous hardcover volumes that have already been published in the series. Furthermore, since frequently used paperbacks are more likely to develop cracks and creases and to have pages come loose from the spine, some buyers may (unfortunately) opt for other Bible commentaries simply because they're available in hardcover editions.
Of course, personal opinions vary about these things - and growing numbers of pastors and teachers would prefer electronic versions of books, anyway. I only hope that the publisher's decision to begin publishing this series in a cheaper format does not reflect any thinking on their part that the new volumes are less significant contributions to the series! From what I know of Evangelical Press, I trust that this is not the case.
Personal gripes aside, though, this book is in every other way an excellent contribution to this commentary series! In his previous published works, Dr. Waters has consistently demonstrated both his vast knowledge of God's Word and his pastoral skill in applying Scripture and helping others to understand it. In this book, those same qualities are on full display, presenting a text which is both extremely well-informed and accessible to all mature readers.
The author explains up front the three distinctive features of this commentary. First, it is "relatively brief" (8). Second, it "strives to offer exegesis in the service of exposition," meaning simply that the primary goal of the commentary is to "elucidate the text" (9). Third, it is "Reformed in its orientation" (9). Though written more for "the person in the pew" than for scholars, all of the most urgent questions about the book of Acts are answered convincingly and succinctly, with ample space given in footnotes for further references to larger, more scholarly works.
In the introduction (of just over 11 pages), the author makes it clear that Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts (13), that Luke is "the only viable candidate for authorship of Luke-Acts" (15), and that Acts was written sometime between AD 61-100 (16). In discussing the title of the book, he explains that "the apostles are not technically the chief actors of this book. The chief actor is the exalted and reigning Jesus Christ, who has sent his Holy Spirit in power upon the church. The apostles are servants of, witnesses to, and instruments of the Lord Jesus" (17). Waters considers the various suggestions regarding the possible purpose of Luke - Acts, concluding that "Luke has authored both books primarily to edify Christian audiences..." (21). Finally, the author briefly considers the overall flow of Acts, explaining that "there are at least three legitimate and complementary outlines to the book" (21-22), each of which is directly drawn from the biblical text and helps us learn more about Luke's chief priorities throughout the book.
Throughout the rest of the commentary, the text is divided into brief sections and then studied almost verse-by-verse (considering between one and approximately five verses at a time). Yet, every verse is viewed - as it should be - in light of the surrounding context of the entire book. At the end of each section, brief but stimulating thoughts regarding application of the biblical text are also provided, reminding readers that God's Word is meant to be not only learned, but also obeyed and lived out on a daily basis.
Rich theological insights may be found on virtually every page of this book - even in regard to topics that might not have previously captured our attention. For example, in his comments on Acts 1:1, Dr. Waters calls attention to the fact that Luke is introducing this book - his second canonical work - by explaining that the first book (the Gospel of Luke) concerns "all the things that Jesus began to do and to teach" (emphasis added). It is clear that Luke intends his readers to recognize that, while the beginning of the teaching and miracles of Jesus were recorded in Luke's Gospel, the miracles and teaching of Jesus will now be continued for readers in the book of Acts.
However, as we move through the book of Acts, we notice that it is not our risen Savior who is seen doing most of the teaching and healing, but rather his apostles who are increasingly governed and guided by the Holy Spirit. Dr. Waters explains: "Jesus continues to teach and work through the ministry of the apostles and by the Holy Spirit. We are to understand, then, the ministry of the apostles and of the Holy Spirit in this book to be the ministry of the risen, glorified Saviour in heaven" (27). How it should enrich our reading of the book of Acts to simply remember that as the apostles faithfully served Jesus and fulfilled his purposes, it is the very ministry of Jesus being exhibited through their work! In a similar way, of course, our Lord intends that those of us who belong to him should continue to serve as living witnesses of our risen Savior!
Undoubtedly, this excellent book will serve as a fine and very thorough introduction to the book of Acts for generations of believers, and will prove especially useful for teachers and pastors who desire a deeper understanding of this biblical book so that they will be better equipped to then teach it to others. Though this commentary is not really aimed at scholars, I imagine that even biblical scholars would be sure to find some profound and inspiring insights throughout the pages of this book. I offer it my highest recommendation to any who want to become more familiar with the book of Acts - and better equipped to live out the gospel truths which the book proclaims!
First, the book is incredibly well-written for a study commentary. It is not overly technical or academic, and it will benefit teachers and pastors looking for clear and practical insight from Acts. The book is not as detailed as the commentaries of Bock (BECNT), Schnabel (ZECNT), or Polhill (NAC), but Waters is certainly aware of the issues surrounding each text. He simply chooses not to get bogged down in tertiary issues. For example, when discussing Peter’s vision in Acts 10, Waters wrote:
Peter ‘became hungry.’ Again, commentators differ as to whether meals were customarily served at midday in the first century. Peter’s hunger, however, establishes a point of contact between his present circumstances and the vision he is about to receive.
Waters acknowledges the issue but refuses to get sidetracked. I very much appreciated his focus and ability to stay on track.
Second, the book is well organized and incredibly practical. The outline of Acts is clearly marked in the titles and subtitles, and each section contains explanation and application. The application sections always contained helpful teaching and preaching insights, like the following quote from Acts 2:
Lastly, Peter’s sermon is characterized by specific application. He is not afraid to identify the sins of his audience. But he does not simply declaim those sins. He shows the sinfulness of their sin in light of the majesty and glory of the Saviour against whom they have sinned. He then invites them to flee from those sins in repentance and to turn in faith to the Saviour who is willing to receive them.
Peter’s sermon helps provide a model for contemporary preachers, and Waters shows how. Declaim sin, point to the majesty of Christ, and call them to repentance and faith in Christ.
Bottom line: this book is a must have for preachers. While not going into great depth concerning the Greek language or covering every secondary issue, it covers all the main issues and will help teachers and preachers understand and communicate biblical truth from the book of Acts. Pick up this book and add it to your collection.