Last year Zondervan published A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Andres Kostenberger which was the first volume in a new series edited by Kostenberger, Biblical Theology of the New Testament. This year the second volume has been released titled A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell Bock.
As part of a blog tour for Zondervan I will be giving an overview of chapter twelve on Israel in Luke -Acts. Later this week I will be posting a full review of the book.
ISRAEL IN LUKE
As I will mention in my full review of the book, Bock interprets Israel in Luke-Acts from a Progressive Dispensational viewpoint. With this in mind Bock is clear that Israel was the primary people whom Jesus was coming for. It was to Israel as a people that the promises were made and to whom they will be kept (p. 280).
As with the book as a whole, Bock roots this focus on Israel within the infancy material of the first two chapters of Luke. We see the focus in the words of John the Baptist (1:16), Mary’s hymn (1:46-53), Zechariah’s hymn (1:67-75) and finally Simeon’s hymn (2:25). Israel has been waiting for its Messiah and He has come!
But as the Gospels bear out much of Israel did not accept Jesus as their Messiah. Bock points out that there is “division in God’s people” (p. 282):
So God’s program is doing two things at once. It is diving Israel as we know her, but it is also forming a new people made p of Israel and the nations. The new thing is what Luke will refer to as the church, a church that still has roots in God’s old promises because of the faithful in Israel who respond to Messiah. What is new also is really old. (p. 282)
For Bock, though Israel is a national entity was not restored at Christ’s first coming, there was still a remnant that responded. Through the church, the multi-ethnic people of God, Israel is being called back to God and will one day be restored (Rom. 11:11-32).
LUKE IN ACTS
So we see Israel divided in Luke but reconstituted in Acts. The key verse is Acts 1:6 when the disciples ask Jesus if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Following chapter one is the Pentecost event in chapter two with the audience being dispersed Jews with “all the house of Israel” present (2:9-11). From here, throughout the book of Acts we see the Apostles continually going to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. God is not done with Israel. Though their earthly kingdom has not been established the kingdom (rule of God in the hearts of His people) has been inaugurated in Christ and Israel is to take part in this. This hints at the already/not-yet eschatology which Bock discusses in chapter twenty. The kingdom has come, will grow but will not be fully realized until later.
Acts carries this Israel emphasis as we are given the account of Saul’s conversion. In 26:17 Jesus, addressing Saul, tells him that he would deliver him from “his own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them.” Jesus gives Paul his ministry target which includes Israel whom he evangelizes till the end of his life.
“Luke’s story about Jesus is Israel’s story.” (p. 289) Throughout Jesus’ earthly life and ministry He is reliving the life of Israel. Bock does not go so far as to say Jesus is the true Israel in that He replaces the nation of Israel but this is pretty close. Here is how Bock finished out the chapter:
She (Israel) is a divided people. Some respond; others do not. All through the two volumes, those who preach the message present it as Israel’s story and identify with Israel’s God and hope. Nothing in any of this shows that Israel has been set aside. What is seen instead is a persistent effort to continue to reach out even in the face of intense opposition and rejection. It is for Israel’s hope that Paul contends at the end of Acts as he preaches a message man Jews reject. For Luke,Israel is still to turn to Gentiles. The church, filled with a believing remnant, is doing in outreach what Israel’s story also had always promised, being people out of Israel who became a blessing and light to the world (Acts 13:46-47). (p. 289)