Oct 20, 2009

Willimon on Conversions in Luke-Acts

"Conversions in Luke-Acts are stories about beginnings–the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the church, the initiation of a new mission, as well as the beginning of a new life for the individual person. Conversion is the beginning of the Christian journey, not its final destination. Moreover, conversions in Acts are stories about vocation–someone is being called for some godly work. Conversion is not for the smug individual possession of the convert, but rather for the ongoing thrust of the gospel. Finally, conversions in Acts are stories about the gifts of God–God is the chief actor in all Lukan accounts of conversation. Even the smallest details are attributed to the working of God. Conversion is not the result of a skillful leadership by the community or even the persuasive preaching or biblical interpretation. In many accounts, such as those of Philip’s work with the Ethiopian, the mysterious hand of God directs everything. In other stories, such as the story of Peter and Cornelius, the church must be dragged kicking and screaming into the movements of God. Manipulation, strategic planning, calculating efforts by the community aimed at church growth are utterly absent. Even our much beloved modern notions of ‘free will’ and personal choice and decisions appear to play little role in converserion in Acts. Conversion is a surprising, unexpected act of divine grace. 'By his great mercy we have been born anew to the living hope...' (1 Peter 1:3b; author's itals.)"

William H. Willimon, Acts, Interpretation (Alanta: John Knox, 1988), 103–4

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