Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Applying Acts

The following musings are from a "pep talk" I gave my Acts students midway through last semester:

At the risk of overstating my case, I think it is absurd to go to Acts, derive timeless principles from stories and proclaim them as the Word of God for us—unless they are tied into major themes in Acts. God is gracious. He can use our misreadings. But, to state it positively, we are on much firmer ground if we are able to lock onto a practical application we are confident was important to the author.

A test: Could we get the same point from Aesop’s Fables, Plutarch’s Lives or The Office? If so, we’ve probably got an illustration sanctified by its source (like this example), rather than something Scripture actually teaches.

Another related test, courtesy of Dale Harris, is addressed to preaching:
But today I'm remembering another word of advice a friend gave me about preaching. Preaching, he said, must be a public proclamation that depends fundamentally on the death and resurrection of Jesus to give it meaning. Put differently: would you still say what you're about to say if the cross and the empty grave had never happened? Could you still say it if Jesus was still in his grave? If the answer is yes to that question, then whatever else you're doing-- entertaining, exhorting, educating, moralizing-- whatever else it is, it's not preaching.

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