Apr 22, 2010
Acts: Prescriptive or Descriptive
“A major issue in interpreting Acts is the extent to which it is prescriptive, saying how the church is always meant to be, or descriptive, telling us how the church was at this particular period (Marshall, Acts, 101–5). One helpful tool in deciding case by case about this issue is to consider how far Luke presents clear patterns of events. For example, 2:38-42 presents a fivefold pattern of what it means to become a Christian, involving repentance from sin, water baptism, receiving forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit, and joining the renewed people of God. This pattern keeps reappearing in Acts, not always in the same sequence as in 2:38-42, but with the same elements present (e.g., 8:12–17; 10:44–48; 19:l–20). Using this ‘patterning’ tool, we may identify three themes that address the theology and practice of today's churches.”
Steve Walton, "Acts," in Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 80.