ESV Expository Commentary: John—Acts (volume 9)

ESV Expository Commentary: John—Acts, Volume 9 (Crossway, 2019).

This volume is the second NT entry in the ESV Expository Commentary series. It features an exposition of the Gospel of John by Jim Hamilton and Acts by Brian Vickers. Both authors get straight to the point and do not engage much with secondary literature beyond the occasional supplemental citation. However, it is evident that both commentaries draw upon deep authorial wells of scholarship, reflection, and devotional commitment. This learned contemplation is especially significant for John and Acts, two of the most rich theological texts of the NT. Through their succinct analysis of these lengthy narratives, Hamilton and Vickers achieve a level of "lucid clarity" (John Calvin's benchmark for biblical commentary work). 

In his treatment of the Gospel of John, Hamilton especially highlights the literary features and theological themes that John utilizes as he writes his narrative. This emphasis on biblical theology is a result of Hamilton's own interest in this discipline but more profoundly because of Hamilton's conviction that John himself was a biblical theologian. "John's interpretive perspective," Hamilton argues, "has been quarried, hewn, sculpted, and textured by Scripture" (21). 

This biblical worldview is formed not only by the OT Scriptures but also by Jesus's teaching and the Spirit's guidance: "John's heart, mind, and soul were enlivened by the way Jesus taught him to understand the OT's accounts of how God created and redeemed, covenanted and promised. Jesus not only taught John, he also sent the Holy Spirit, with the result that the OT's commands, counsel and covenants, as well as its patterns, promises, and paradigms, determined how John approached the incomparably difficult task of describing what Jesus said and did, and why it matters" (21). Accordingly, throughout his exposition, Hamilton emphasizes the fulfillment of the OT's pattern of promises in Jesus as the Christ (see 23–26, 283–87, 307–08). 

In his exposition of Acts, Vickers likewise traces the shape of Luke's narrative treatment of the early church's mission and highlights the fulfillment of Scripture throughout the book. For Vickers, the book of Acts has areas of complexity and difficulty, but its big picture is eminently clear. This book of Acts "tells the story of the beginning of a new age: the age of the Spirit. This is the last age, the last chapter, so to speak, of God's work of salvation. This age will continue until the return of Jesus, the King . . . The book of Acts is all about how the disciples carry out the ministry Jesus has given them" (311–12). 

Through his commentary on strategic parts of the story, Vickers highlights that Jesus taught his disciples that his own life, death, resurrection, and ascension happened according to the Scriptures taken as a whole (Lk 24:26–27, 45). Further, though, Vickers points out the implications this has for the church's mission. For sure, "correctly reading and understanding the Scriptures was to be of core importance to their work of taking the message of salvation in Christ to the world" (311). 

Vickers concludes his commentary with a summary statement about God's unshakeable ability to complete his plan for the world: "Nothing in the story of Acts, be it prison, sickness, life-threatening disasters, vicious enemies, unfavorable governments, self-absorbed and arrogant rulers, beatings, threats, disagreements among believers, horrible theology, magic, mobs, lies, misunderstandings, ignorance, or stubborn unbelief, is able to stop or even hinder the kingdom of God" (581). This reality can then have a formative effect on how we live in light of Acts's message. Indeed, "the best measure we have for future ministry is what we do today with the time and circumstances God gives us . . . the future belongs to God alone; we must look around and see what he has put before us today" (581). 

Let it be so! 
Some Notes:

Book Review
May 22, 2024


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