Acts for Everyone

John ArmstrongBiblical Theology

Readers of this blog know that I am appreciative and positive about the biblical theological contributions of Bishop N. T. Wright. They will also know that I profoundly disagree with his social and political views. I written about both in the past.

For those who do not yet know who Tom Wright is you owe it to yourself to get into his biblical theological material. If you are an ordinary reader, and thus not technically trained, you will find that he writes about 50% of his material for an academic audience and about 50% for the non-specialist audience. He is a churchman and thus he clearly feels a deep responsibility to feed ordinary people and to serve the whole church. I am deep grateful for this commitment and believe that Tom Wright is a rare gift.

Some readers only know about Tom Wright from negative reviews of his work on blog spots or through off-handed and off-putting comments by ministers and academics who simply do not like him. I will not go into this matter here, except to say that many of those who attack Wright have not read him carefully at all. I was once such a person so I know how this works. A friend told me that I was full of you know what and said I should stop talking about Wright so negatively until I read him carefully for myself first. What a novel idea, eh? I purchased Wright’s major books and began to read his N. T. theology and the rest of the story is that I could not stop reading him, even though I sometimes still disagree. He has that rare ability to stir my mind and my heart together!

This all reminds me of a visit I had one day with the famous conservative preacher and writer Warren W. Wiersbe. I went to meet him for lunch at Moody Church when I was about 24 years old. I walked into his study and he was reading the Lutheran commentator R. C. H. Lenski on Revelation. I said, "Dr. Wiersbe, why are you reading an a-mil writer like Lenski when you are pre-mil?" His answer changed me. "John, why should I read only people that I agree with? I can learn a lot more by reading those writers I do not agree with."

N. T. Wright has been producing a series of simply written New Testament commentaries from several years now. He has now almost completed the whole New Testament. These volumes are designed for everyday people. They include a fresh, non-technical translation of the New Testament that Wright has made, as well as a two-to-four page commentary on each section of the text. I use these commentaries often and almost always find them rich and moving. I also find them an excellent way to get into Wright for readers who can not, or will not, read his more technical work.

Read, as a sample of this work, a section taken from Acts 9 in Acts for Everyone, Part One (page 148):

[Acts 9:19b-31, "He is God’s Son"] Actually, of course, Luke means a lot more than that. There was a new energy about the place, a new spring in the step. The fact that someone like Saul of Tarsus, with the reputation he had had, had been confronted by Jesus himself, stopped in his tracks and turned around, and was now using his very considerable biblical skill and way with words to demonstrate to all and sundry that Jesus really was the Messiah—well, this was bound to encourage all the Jesus-followers who heard about it.

And not just encourage them: inform them, show them more clearly how to read the scriptures, how to understand the vast sweep of God’s promises on the one hand and the fascinating but telling details on the other. And, in particular, this is the first time in Acts that we find Jesus being referred to with the title which became standard right across early Christianity: he is the son of God (verse 20).

The book of Acts is "full of the energy and excitement of the early Christians as they found God doing new things all over the place and learned to take the good news of Jesus around the world" (viii). Wright is able to show how the early church grew and faced problems and then how this impacts what we do today as God grows his people around the world. His treatment is first-rate scholarship joined with heart-warming insight. I highly recommend these two new volumes.

If you know nothing about N. T. WrightNtw_in_study
you can try out the Wright page online. If you would like to read his biblical work in a simple, readable and helpful way these two volumes would be well worth your time. Wright is a rare talent and one whose work is valuable to all Christians. Whatever someone has told you read him for yourself. Remember, Dr. Wiersbe’s counsel was right even if you find you disagree. And my friend who told me about myself also got it right. I am glad to this day that he spoke so plainly with me. I needed it and a true friend can deliver it.